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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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I really enjoyed Metal Gear Rising Revengeance and the only major complaint I had about it was its short length compared to other modern action games and its inconsequential story. I agree it isn't immediately intuitive in some ways (counter and dodging especially) but once I learned its quirks I really enjoyed it. Revengeance is such a spin-off that I don't think you have to worry about the rest of the series. If they do make a sequel to Rising I have faith it will be even better since Platinum could build it from the ground up rather than having to clean up a bad situation.
I agree to an extent about Final Fantasy. I don't think they should have made a sequel to XIII, but after we got it I found I really enjoyed the game way more than the original. Again I find myself not caring about Lightning Returns, but I hope since we are getting it that I'm wrong and it will be just as good if not better than the last game. I'd rather they just release Versus XIII (a game that was announced before I entered high school and likely wont be released until I graduate from 4 years of college) and Type 0 (which we know is super awesome) and then quickly move on to XV. I think the best part of Final Fantasy has always been that it changed directions constantly, so I'd like to see them make a big leap forward again.
As for Kingdom Hearts that series is in a good place now. I know some people just don't want to touch the portable games, but that it is a huge mistake. Birth By Sleep was probably the best Kingdom Hearts game ever made and confidently carried the full scope of a console game on a handheld. Additionally the latest game Dream Drop Distance is basically Kingdom Hearts 3 in everything but name as it serves as the true sequel to II. I'd really recommend those two in particular if you haven't played them.
The way Metal Gear Rising appears to have turned out, reminds me more of Metroid: Other M than Final Fantasy... probably still not a ringing endorsement.
I love the Metal Gear series. MGS4 is the game that convinced me to buy a PS3. I haven't had a chance to pick up Rising, so I can't comment on it's content. All I can say that I don't think it's a sign of the series losing it's way. Even though it's over the top action contrasts with the tactical espionage of the flagship games, it actually isn't anything we haven't seen in the series before.
It's understandable that a red flag might pop up, but I wouldn't worry too much about it. Though the insane hack and slash fits in Kojima's vision of the world (see any MSG4 cutscene), it doesn't fit into his gameplay. That's why he set Platinum to the task of developing Rising.
When Kojima's studio starts making ridiculous spin offs in house, I'll be worried the same as you. Even with the lack of a '5' next to its name, I'm fairly confident Ground Zeros is going to feel like a true Kojima-made MGS game.
That's my opinion at least. I can see where you're coming from, but I don't think the writing's on the wall just yet.
In Kojima we trust.
I highly doubt that MG will become another FF. The quality of main entries (Metal Gear, Metal Gear 2, MGS, MGS2, MGS3, MGS4, maybe MGS PW) has consistently been amazing. Ground Zeroes doesn't look like it's going to disappoint, either.
Waited for this once it was mentioned on the last GI Show. As many have stated, at this point I am not super concerned for the quality of the main entries. When KP puts out a defined MGS5 or console equivalent in weight and it is a complete bomb is when you'll get large "!" from me. I feel that Kojima's drive for outstanding visuals, nifty game mechanics, and overall pushing the boundaries will be enough to keep the series afloat. I can honestly say that MGS is one of the few series I think that the gameplay has a steady methodical evolution from the first main entry (be that MSX or PS1) to the last.
The question is for how long, though. KP seemingly had the sense to look at the cutting mechanic and not pursue it for themselves. That said, I do believe that the longer the series continues, the higher the likelihood of the game straying from quality. You either die a good series or live long enough to see yourself become terrible. Metal Gear has been my favorite game series for the longest time and it would be a shame for it to falter.
This is a trend I've been seeing with my favorite franchises: Final Fantasy, Metal Gear Solid and Resident Evil. These series are running out of creative steam, but they are still profitable, so, developers are running them into the ground just to prolong the success as long as they can.
And it makes me torn. Because I love stepping into these worlds again, but it's starting to come at a cost.
And it also makes me worried for other franchises that saw great conclusions such as Uncharted and God of War. Where I would love nothing more than to play a new game from those series, I don't want my memories I capped them with to be ruined.
This is why I tend to avoid off-shoots from the main story; I can't think of a series that succeeds at side stories more often than it fails them, except maybe Star Wars. And that argument's a tough sell for some people, I know.
Also Reiner, off topic I just wanted to say that I know you're busy, but it's always nice to read one of your blog posts. Keep 'em coming!