Metal Gear Solid Master Collection Vol. 1: The Kotaku Australia Review

Metal Gear Solid Master Collection Vol. 1: The Kotaku Australia Review

I have an unusual history with the Metal Gear series. 

For years, the only one that I’d really liked and played most of the way through was Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes, the unfairly maligned (but highly collectible) GameCube remake of the landmark Metal Gear Solid. I’d dabbled with the PS2 games in subsequent years but found them too immediately frustrating, and a desire to push through their respective prologues faded. It wasn’t until years later when I found myself on a flight from Melbourne to London with a PlayStation Vita and a copy of Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker, that the franchise’s whole ‘thing’ clicked with me. I never did end up finishing it, but I decided I should one day make time to properly play through at least the core Solid titles in the series.

When Konami announced the Metal Gear Solid: Master Collection Vol. 1 earlier this year, I saw my chance to finally be able to start making good on this promise to myself.

I’m glad I did because it turns out that these are indeed very good video games.

The Package

Konami has made no secret of the fact that much of what appears in the Master Collection Vol. 1 are repackaged, slightly improved versions of existing remasters found in 2011’s Metal Gear Solid HD Collection. I’m glad Konami was upfront about this: the very first thing I saw when booting up this collection’s MSX version of 1987’s Metal Gear was a brief loading screen bearing the HD Collection logo. This logo reappears in front of the other games previously featured in that release, giving away how much of it has been repackaged.

A very weird first impression to have from a new, full-priced product, but alright.

Master Collection Vol. 1 includes the first five games in the storied franchise helmed by creator Hideo Kojima. Missing from this package are the heavily modified NES ports of the original Metal Gear and its sequel, Snake’s Revenge, both of which were produced without Kojima’s oversight. Neither would be considered a notable omission were it not for the fact that, within this package, Konami appears to have done its best to downplay Kojima’s entire involvement with the series. This isn’t terribly shocking, given the very public drama that surrounded his departure. Nevertheless, it feels weird not having his name front and centre, given how heavily his design sensibilities and worldview drive the entire Metal Gear saga.

In addition to the aforementioned MSX Metal Gear games, this collection also includes the 1998 PlayStation 1 megahit Metal Gear Solid, its regionally varied VR Missions and Special Missions spin-offs, and Metal Gear Solid Integral, the slightly altered 2000 PC version. Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty appears in its expanded multiplatform Substance package, and similarly, Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater appears in its Subsistance package from 2006.

The HD Collection was widely criticized on release for featuring the PSP prequel Peace Walker instead of the original MGS. Considering the Master Collection Vol. 1 is an open repackaging of the HD Collection, I can’t help but feel annoyed at Peace Walker‘s removal. Maybe they’re saving the multitude of handheld instalments for the inevitable Vol. 2, who knows? Still feels crummy in the here and now though.

Naturally, some of the gimmicks featured in the original releases don’t really translate. During the famous fight against Psycho Mantis in the original MGS, it’s no longer possible to plug your controller into the Player 2 port, diminishing one of the game’s great lightbulb moments.

‘It’s all made from currently existing technology’

The games look good and run well on the PlayStation 5, and the new Master Collection menus attached to them give the package a stylish and premium feel. However, the more time I spent with it, the harder it became to ignore the signs that Konami had slapped a new label onto a product it’d had sitting around for over a decade.

I’m not suggesting that Konami should have fixed what wasn’t broken. The work that Bluepoint Games did on the HD Collection back in the day was clearly top-notch. But it is strange to have a full-priced, current-gen collection that blatantly reveals itself to be little more than a repackaging of existing, decade-old remasters the second you peel the ‘New!’ sticker off.

Some of the smaller decisions also harm the ‘Criterion Collection’ feel that Konami seemed to be aiming for. Making the original Japanese voice tracks a separate download isn’t hugely surprising, but is still a disappointment. Making the instruction manuals available on external websites rather than bundled-in digitized scans of the original booklets is plain odd. Maybe it’s my fault for expecting something truly archival from this release when Konami never explicitly stated it would be. On the other hand, calling the damn thing the ‘Master Collection’ sure as shit implies it. 

Despite these quibbles, the incredible design and pacing of these older games still shine through and is what ultimately won me over. The original MGS has a few extremely dated sexist jokes and stereotypes (which now receive the old ‘products of their time’ warnings up top), but it’s astonishing how well it otherwise holds up 25 years later. Shadow Moses Island feels like more of a real place than the settings of most contemporary games. The trust Kojima puts in the player to fully leverage the tools given to them — ones that seem weird at first blush but always resolve in logical problem solving — is as satisfying now as it was then. Sons of Liberty and Snake Eater fare slightly worse mechanically, but only really due to their reliance on first-person shooting, which was still in its relative infancy on console at the time.

His name is Snake and he is a sneakyman and he is also my friend now and my dad

Despite my many little disappointments with Master Collection Vol. 1, I’ve had a damn good time finally playing through these undisputed classics over the past week. I’m always glad to see any piece of media put back into print on modern devices, and I’m already looking forward to the inevitable release of Vol. 2 and beyond. The decision to release it at close to top AAA dollar can’t help but elicit a sigh and a groan, especially as this time around, we’re not even getting a lovely physical art book to justify the expenditure. The price tag is doubly bewildering when you factor in both the sheer onslaught of Q4 video game releases and the general cost of living crisis assaulting us all right now.

As I sit here and write this, though, my strongest feeling is that I finally did what I told myself I was gonna do. I made the time, I sat down, and I played them all. I’m truly glad to finally be able to call myself a Metal Gear fan.

Image: Konami, Kotaku Australia

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