Monday 7 January 2013

Metal Gear - MSX - 1987

This is the twelfth game for the MSX I have played from my shortlist (including Vampire Killer/Castlevania) yet the first to make it onto the blog.  It's not a great hit-rate by any standard but this game is a good 'un.

Metal Gear is the start of yet another long running series making it's début in 1987.  The original game was designed by Hideo Kojima and released for the MSX2-standard home computer.  The game was subsequently converted to the NES in 1988 without Hideo Kojima’s knowledge or involvement.  He has been quoted expressing his disappointment with the changes made to the console version including the removal of the titular Metal Gear.  Commodore 64 and PC versions followed in 1990.  Both of these used the NES version as a basis but had inferior graphics.

I will be playing the MSX2 Japanese release of the game translated courtesy of NekuraThere was an official English language version released in Europe but nearly half original text was removed and the translation of what remained wasn't great.

The manual states there is a heavily defended fortress in South Africa called Outer Heaven where they have developed the ultimate weapon - Metal Gear.  The improbably named Grey Fox, a member of a covert special operations unit call Fox Hound, was sent to gather information about the weapon but contact with him was lost. As the equally improbably named Solid Snake, your task is to infiltrate Outer Heaven, investigate Grey Fox's disappearance and destroy the Metal Gear. 

Metal Gear is a top-down flick screen stealth 'em up.  You begin the game at the entrance to the enemy compound carrying only a walkie talkie and a packet of cigarettes.  Until you find a weapon your only form of attack are your fists - there's nothing like being prepared!  You immediately receive a message from the singularly unhelpful Big Boss who reminds you of your mission.  Big Boss regularly calls during the game with messages beginning with "I forgot to tell you..." or containing the "resistance leader Schneider will know...".  Of course, he forgets to tell you on which frequency to contact Schneider (I've since discovered this is a bug and Schneider should have called you first).

Now there's a surprise.
The initial enemy you encounter will be guards.  These use a line-of-sight mechanic so as long as they are not directly facing you they can be evaded.  The guards patrol in a fixed pattern and it only takes a few moments to work out a safe route through the screen. If a guard catches sight of you and a ! appears next to him, you can leave the screen and he will forget he ever saw you.  If a !! appears then other guards come piling onto the screen and start taking pot shots at you.  At this heightened state of alert it can take a while before you are able to return to 'sneak mode'.  Alarms are also raised if you are spotted by a security camera or trip an infra red sensor.
Making a run for it after being spotted.
There are many weapons and an array useful items you can collect to help you on your mission - items such as a gas mask, body armour, binoculars, a cardboard box and the essential numbered card keys.  A pistol can be found in one of the early screens and the ammo a little later, but using it before finding a silencer will attract the guards.  Ration packs can be collected to restore your health.  If you re-enter a screen after picking up an item, they will usually regenerate so you pick up as much ammo or rations as you can carry.

A few of the many weapons and items.

As you make your way through Outer Heaven you will come across prison cells.  When you release a prisoner he will give you some useful information.  Additionally your rank will increase for every five (I think) prisoners you release.  An increase in rank not only allows you to carry more ammo and rations, but it also increases your health bar.  If your health bar should reach zero you will die, but the game seems to offer unlimited continues taking you back to a previous checkpoint.  The MSX game also allows your progress to be saved.

Released captives can give helpful advise.

Overall Metal Gear is a very good game and deserves a place on my list.  The graphics are fine for the time as are the sound effects.  The music also adds a suitable atmosphere to the game.  Due to social commitments over the New Year period I have not been able to put as much time into Metal Gear as I would have liked.  I did put in a few hours and will continue to do so until I complete it.

Cunningly disguised as a cardboard box.


  1. What exactly happened to the European translation of the game?

    what exactly was removed? And what's wrong with what was left?

    1. This is from Wikipedia which quoted Nekura Hoka (whose translation I used) as the source....

      Most of the radio messages were edited or removed in the English version, including Big Boss' comments on every item and weapon found by the player. According to a fan-translation project, only 56% of the original Japanese text was translated in the English version. The translation contains many examples of erroneous English, such as consistently misspelling "destroy" as "destoroy."