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If you asked me to sum up the Metal Gear series to the best of my ability, I would enthusiastically ramble on about stealth action, mechs, political intrigue, ninjas, mullets, cardboard boxes, enemies that read minds, lengthy story breaks, posters hung on locker doors, the crazy stuff that happens when these locker doors are closed, and at the end of it all, I likely wouldn’t be able to paint a definitive picture for you. I’m not crazy, and my memory of the series remains razor sharp. My takeaway: The Metal Gear series is always changing. Gameplay commonalities tie each game together, but most of the content doesn’t adhere to a consistent framework. That’s what makes this series so exciting. You never really know what Kojima Productions is going to deliver next. We even find ourselves second guessing if Snake will remain the protagonist, thanks to a brilliant (and controversial) character switch in Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty.That being said, I haven’t enjoyed my time with Metal Gear Rising, a gonzo, action-focused spin-off starring Raiden. Even when I’m racking up huge combos that shower the battlefield in foes’ body parts, the action isn’t clicking for me, and I’m not engaged by the brutality of the fights. I don’t like how blocking is handled. Raiden’s basic moves are a little too loose for my liking. I’m not a fan of wiggling the left analog stick to regain consciousness. I’m a cyborg who gets concussions…how is that even possible? My lack of interest in Rising reminded me of another gaming misstep: Square Enix’s Dirge of Cerberus, a Final Fantasy VII spin-off starring Vincent. The issue isn’t about quality (Rising is a better game than Dirge) as much as it is a comparison to a series losing its identity and not getting it back. Final Fantasy and Kingdom Hearts are two series that I feel are suffering from identity crises. I lost interest in Kingdom Hearts when Square Enix decided to continue the series through confusing naming conventions and canonical placement, such as 358/2 Days, a game set between Kingdom Hearts 1 and 2, and Dream Drop Distance, a continuation of the epilogue in Re:coded.I can probably spend an entire day telling you where Final Fantasy went wrong, and why my excitement for the series is practically nonexistent now. It was one of my favorite series coming into this console generation, and it went off the rails to such a degree that I still haven’t played Final Fantasy XIII-2 and have no interest in Lightning Returns.Metal Gear has had a few spin-off games before – from card games to portable chapters – but Kojima Productions’ vision hasn’t changed. Metal Gear Solid 4 hit the target.
Rising successfully delivered many of Metal Gear's traits, but also became a red flag for me, and it isn't the only one I see. Ground Zeroes is looking like another new wrinkle for the series. And let’s not forget about The Phantom Pain, a game everyone believes is a Metal Gear title, but Konami refuses to comment on at this point. There are rumors of it being Metal Gear Solid V or another spinoff that ties into that continuity.
I’m okay with periodic experimentation in a series. Getting more of what we love is always a great thing. I just hope Konami remembers how to count to five, or establishes a new vision for the series that fans can latch onto. The last thing I want to see is the series getting tangled in its ever-expanding web of side stories and games.
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