Exploring Freedom In Metal Gear

by Matthew Kato on Jul 04, 2014 at 10:00 AM

Freedom is precious, and that applies to our video games as well. For our July 4th features on freedom, I chose Metal Gear on the NES, a game that took me beyond what I expected from games at the time .

I don't remember precisely what grabbed my attention about Metal Gear when it came out in 1988. If memory serves, however, it might have been something as flimsy as it being on the Konami Ultra label or that Snake on the cover looked like Aliens' Corp. Hicks (even though the game obviously had nothing to do with that property).  I also remember reading the back of the box and being intrigued.

Whatever it was, my curiosity was paid back handsomely. In my experience, before Metal Gear, action games were simply shoot 'em ups or platformers. I had fun with games like Ikari Warriors, for example, but Metal Gear was a cut above the rest. It added a true sense of adventure and storytelling; imbuing a sense of freedom to a genre otherwise filled with by-the-numbers soldier killing.

The variety of weapons and equipment in Metal Gear enabled a lot of gameplay. Controllable rockets, goggles to see infrared alarms, a gas mask to avoid poison damage, a compass to find your way through a desert maze – are some of the ways in which the game opened up my horizon to what you could do in an action game.

The plot took control at various points and added its own twists. Being imprisoned and having to escape via a false wall or the game intentionally trying to lead you astray (including sending you back to the beginning of the game) elevated the narrative and made it more than a simple backdrop. At one point, the game even sticks a transmitter bug that alerts soldiers until you take it out of your equipment menu.

The freedom I enjoyed away from conventions of the genre and expectations at the time was augmented by the game's invitation to explore. Hidden areas contained gear, and the overall placement of items around the map rewarded players who searched everywhere. I even liked that I could scan the transceiver waveband and contact people. Of course, Metal Gear's stealth gameplay also gave me the freedom to approach enemies in different ways depending on my health or ammo situation.

I still value the accomplishments of Metal Gear on the NES to this day and how it opened my eyes to what was possible in a video game. Creator Hideo Kojima himself has even revisited many of the gameplay and story concepts from this original title even as the series has expanded through the years. Both are a testament to the power of freedom.


YouTube video from nenriki86