Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance is a fascinating game -- a frenetic hybrid between Metal Gear and Bayonetta that trades in the cardboard box for a cyborg katana. It's also gone through some serious trials and tribulations. For Rising, or Revengeance, or Raiden's Rad Rampage or whatever you want to call it, development has not been easy.
Before it was Revengeance, it was Metal Gear Solid: Rising, a stealthy action game that was supposed to tell the story of Raiden between the events of MGS2, in which he starred as an easily-manipulated rookie soldier, and MGS4, in which he came back as a badass cyborg ninja.
Then, according to producer Yuji Korekado, the whole thing was scrapped.
"A lot of things went kinda sour and we halted our project," Korekado told me through a translator during an interview in Los Angeles last week. "From there it was a new start. The main reason we halted the project and had a lot of trouble was that we couldn't solidify a concept for the game design."
So the folks at Metal Gear Solid studio Kojima Productions decided to collaborate with Platinum Games, best known for their work on snappy action games like Bayonetta and Vanquish. This led to some issues.
"Both of our studios have things that we specialize in," Korekado said, "and we had to put that all on the table. We did butt heads a lot. We had a lot of fights here and there. But that ended up being the best thing that happened, and we were able to bring out the best in both studios."
One of their biggest arguments was triggered by the game's story. Korekado says Platinum shot down the script that Kojima Productions had written for the original Rising, and they had to start the whole thing from scratch.
"The script really didn't match the game design that Platinum Games wanted to go with," he said. "And it was very binding because it was between Metal Gear Solid 2 and Metal Gear Solid 4, and we moved it past 4 for the next script. It really gave them a lot more freedom.
"That was our first fight right there, and of course we did have fights. In the end it makes sense that we make our story based on the game design. When the core concept was allocated, our scenario writer, our script writer from Kojima Productions threw away his other script and started the new one."
"Any plans to revisit that script or tell the events between MGS2 and MGS4 in some other way?" I asked.
"For now, probably not," Korekado said. "Especially thinking that the script needs to be based around the game design. Our game design fell apart, so it's kinda hard to think about what sort of game designs we'd need to include for that script. So for now it's hard for us to imagine."
It's easy to imagine something entirely different for Metal Gear, though, especially after seeing this game. Revengeance is like nothing we've seen from a Metal Gear game before -- it emphasises fast-paced button-mashing action over stealthy operations and strategic attacks. But it still feels like Metal Gear game in some ways: that familiar WARNING/CAUTION meter will appear on the top of your screen, some enemies and items are straight out of MGS4, and there are tons of little tidbits and easter eggs that will be recognisable to any series fan.
So I was curious to hear from Korekado: if it's not the stealth, what exactly makes Metal Gear Metal Gear? Is it the characters? The world? Nanomachines?
"We really designed this game around action, and that's how we move forward," he said. "That's really the first element that we built on. We wanted to redefine Metal Gear, really add to the saga. There's a new character, it's a new genre, it's action-based. It's more an expansion of what Metal Gear would be.
"We would like to change your definition of what a Metal Gear game is. Not just stealth, but redefining it based on what this game is all about."
There are still a few elements of stealth in Revengeance -- Raiden can sneak up behind an enemy and slash his brains out, for example -- but this is almost all action to its core.
As for Raiden, not exactly a fan favourite protagonist, Korekado said that people who might not have loved him in Metal Gear Solid 2 or even MGS4 might enjoy his evolution over the years. Korekado said Raiden made sense as a protagonist based on his background and his weapon -- the katana that plays a huge part of Revengeance's slice-and-dice gameplay.
"Raiden we think is very cool," he said, laughing. "There's a lot of things that were frowned upon I guess by the fans and reviews at the time, but Raiden's a special character...
"People who didn't like Raiden, we think they can enjoy the development, the growth of Raiden in this new game. We hope that fans can enjoy the growth of Raiden as a character, as a human -- cyborg -- and enjoy the game entirely."