Pokken Tournament is coming out soon, and so what better way to greet a new fighter into our library than to create a list of our favorite fighting games from the past? This article isn’t intended to discuss what makes a fighting game good, nor are we going to even bother addressing the ongoing and silly debate about whether or not Super Smash Bros. is even a fighting game. Instead, we will list our 14 favourite fighting games available on any one of Nintendo’s many consoles. Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat are surely represented here, but despite their dominance in the genre, a few lesser known games also make an appearance. And although the Super Smash series does have an unfair advantage, many of you may be surprised that it doesn’t get the number one spot. Check out the list below and let us know which of these 14 games is your favourite.
14. Guilty Gear XX Accent Core (Wii)
Few franchises have the pedigree to them that Guilty Gear does. Inspired by Capcom’s fast-paced Dark Stalkers series, Guilty Gear eventually became the benchmark for quality in what to want out of a fast-paced anime-style fighting game. The Wii release of Accent Core suffered from the console’s lack of other fighting game support. While supporting the Wii Classic controller, and GameCube controller, the Wii lacked a dedicated arcade stick, something the rivaling PlayStation 2 release did not. It’s a shame the game was overshadowed in this way, as Accent Core is one of the most polished games in the Guilty Gear franchise. It’s colorful cast of characters and rocking soundtrack are offset by one of the highest skill floors for a popular fighter, but maybe it’s that aspect that makes Guilty Gear fun to play. Without a doubt, Guilty Gear XX Accent Core is one of the greatest fighting games of all time and an under-appreciated gem on the Nintendo Wii. (Taylor Smith)
13. Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 (Super NES)
Considered one of the best installments in the franchise, Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 is an update to the third installment that brings back everything that made the original good while adding a whole lot more. The third installment of Mortal Kombat retains the blood and gory attacks that defined the series and it also introduces new types of the finishing moves, including Animalities. This is the first Mortal Kombat that allows you to uppercut an opponent into a new arena, and new to the series were combos and predefined sequences that let players perform a series of consecutive attacks. Players could also now briefly dash toward the opponent, and Mortal Kombat 3 added some great characters, including a great boss in Motaro. On home consoles, Rain and Noob Saibot join the roster, and the boss characters are playable thanks to codes. Each console port has differences from the arcade original, but overall the SNES port was the better version thanks to the system’s advanced color palette and sound chip. Ultimate MK3, unfortunately, marked the beginning of a new era in which the creators started a trend of focusing more on the bells and whistles instead of the basics that make a good fighting game. (Ricky D)
12. Bloody Roar: Primal Fear (Gamecube)
In the fighting game heyday that was the mid-1990’s, Eighting’s Bloody Roar series was one of the standouts among the polygonal fighters. It featured a special “Beast Mode” where each character had an animal they could transform into and a breakable wall system which allowed for several combo and juggle possibilities. Released in 2002 and being the only title in the series on a Nintendo platform, Bloody Roar: Primal Fury was unleashed with 16 fighters, including returning favorites such as Yugo the Wolf, Jenny the Bat, Gado the Lion, Alice the Rabbit, Long the Tiger, and newcomers Chronos the Penguin and Ganesha the Elephant.
Bloody Roar: Primal Fury features a side story that takes place between Bloody Roar 2 and Bloody Roar 3, and is as nonsensical as your typical fighting game, but it boasts nice graphics, fast-paced gameplay, and plenty of modes to choose from. Hardcore fighting game veterans may be let down since there is only so much depth and immersion to the core mechanics (although the combos will satisfy) but newcomers will appreciate how accessible the game is for beginners.
Bloody Roar: Primal Fury has sold 180,000 copies around the world, a modest amount compared to its biggest competition at the time, Tekken 4, but in my opinion Bloody Roar: Primal Fury is one of the best fighting games available for the Gamecube. Unfortunately, we haven’t seen a new title in the series since 2003’s Bloody Roar 4, and with Hudson being absorbed by Konami, the future of the series is up in the air.
With the fighting game resurgence over the last few years, perhaps a new Bloody Roar game is due for a comeback on a current platform, like the Wii U or maybe even the NX? (Koru Taylor)
11. Street Fighter IV (Nintendo 3DS)
The spotty history of fighting games on handhelds has been due to awkward controls and/or a straight-up sloppy port, but thankfully Capcom proved a fighting game on a portable system can be done right! Capcom not only successfully ported its popular fighting game over to Nintendo’s handheld, but it also managed to pack in a ton of extra features not included in the version found on home consoles. Packed with 35 playable characters, bonus stages and cinematic combos, Super Street Fighter IV 3D expands the action by allowing you to challenge friends from around the world using Wi-Fi. New to the franchise is the figurine mode, which utilizes the Street Pass feature to add a collectible meta-game, and the 3D over-the-shoulder camera option looks great. It may not be the best platform to play the fighter on, but it’s certainly the best we’ve seen when it comes to playing on the go. It would be easy to point out all of the things that Super Street Fighter IV 3D Edition doesn’t do, but why bother? The bottom line is Capcom found a way to best squeeze every bit of bone-crushing fighting action onto the palm of your hand. Super Street Fighter IV 3D Edition easily stands toe-to-toe with its console editions and is one of the best titles in the 3DS library. (Ricky D)
10. Capcom vs. SNK 2: Mark of the Millennium 2001 (Gamecube)
While Capcom called the first Capcom Vs SNK the match of the millennium, the sequel ups the ante further with hi-res character detail and more characters from the venerable fighting houses. The dream matches got even dreamier when you could now pit Akuma of Street Fighter vs Iori Yagami from The King of Fighters.
Capcom Vs SNK 2: Mark of the Millenium 2001 made some rather vast changes in its control scheme and game mechanics from its predecessor. The original title featured a 4-button system common with the SNK fighters and also featured a Ratio system which enforced a sort of balance to the team of fighters you can build. In the sequel, the 4-button has now moved to a 6-button input set a la Capcom style and the Ratio system has been removed, allowing you to have any fighter for a team of 3 characters. The controls of the characters all remained the same, each responding as their original fighting base counterpart, which made it welcoming for fighting fans of SNK or Capcom.
CvS2 has a staggering total of 48 characters in the game at your disposal, ranging from the Street Fighter franchises and the unforgivably underrated Rival School franchise on the Capcom side, to King of Fighters, Samurai Showdown, and Garou: Mark of the Wolf on the SNK side.
CvS2 appeared in many top-10 fighter lists, and it’s no surprise why. It pits two fighting franchises against each other and sticks to controls and gameplay that makes them so great, while also creating a tight competitive atmosphere that gives the fans bragging rights to who’s really the greatest fighting company of them all – my money is on Capcom. (Aaron Santos)
9. Killer Instinct (Super NES)
This 1994 arcade 1-on-1 fighting game, developed by Rare and published by Midway and Nintendo, introduced the world to the infamous “C-C-C-C-Combo Breaker!” and the legendary “Ultraaaa ComBOOOOO!” It also brought us a full-motion video, insanely long combos (including Cinder’s soon-patched infinite), a kick-ass soundtrack, auto-doubles, and smooth pre-rendered graphics at a level unique to 2D fighters at the time.
Killer Instinct’s roster features a diverse cast of characters, including a killer cyborg, a cursed werewolf, and a warrior skeleton, and each come with unique moves and actions. The battle system is somewhat similar to other fighting games at the time, only without a best-of-3 round set. Instead, each player has two life bars, and the fastest to drain their opponent’s two bars wins. Killer Instinct’s move set is similar to that of Street Fighter II, and the fatality system calls to mind Mortal Kombat. Killer Instinct also adds humiliations, which make your opponent dance after defeat, and ultra combos, which are absurdly long attack strings and juggles, creating an unintentional plague of sorts over the future of the genre (i.e., Tekken Tag 2 and nearly every Anime fighter).
Killer Instinct was on course to becoming a launch title for the upcoming Nintendo console, the “Ultra 64,” which eventually would become the Nintendo 64, but in summer of 1995, the game was released instead on the SNES to critical acclaim, selling over 3 million copies. The SNES port released on a black cartridge and came with an arranged soundtrack CD, as well as some other goodies, and there was even a special SNES Killer Instinct console bundle, as well as a Game Boy port shortly after. Some fans were understandably upset that we weren’t quite getting our arcade experience at home, as from all technical aspects, this was, of course, an inferior port from an audio and graphical standpoint.
But technical shortcomings aside, the SNES port was extremely well done. The staff at Rare and Nintendo worked very hard to make the game as close as possible to the arcade original, and although the animation was not as fluid, the gameplay remained intact, with all of the crazy combos and several bug fixes. Modes like the tournament, training, and others were added for more friends to be able to join the battle. Killer Instinct’s legacy remains strong, especially with its revival in 2013, and the SNES version remains on of the best fighting games on the system. (Koru Taylor)
8. Super Street Fighter II Turbo (Gameboy Advance)
When Capcom’s timeless Street Fighter masterpiece made its way to the Game Boy Advance it was a big deal. Back in the day, we didn’t have many fighting games we could play outside of our homes, and so the port to the GBA was a blessing for fans of the series. Obviously, there won’t be many people wishing to return to this version in 2016, but it is on the list for two simple reasons: first, the game proved that fighting games can be fun to play on a portable system and second, the port was actually really good considering the limitations of the GBA. Nostalgia kicks in when making these lists and there is no doubt Super Street Fighter II Turbo Revival has a special place in our hearts, but nostalgia aside, the game is still a blast to play and can now be downloaded via the Wii U virtual console. (Ricky D)
7. Mortal Kombat 2 (Super NES)
After the commercial and critical success of the original Mortal Kombat, Ed Boon, and John Tobias set out to make a sequel that would somehow be better than the original. In what is now a staple for the series, Mortal Kombat 2 introduced new characters, new stages, and cranked up the fatalities to 11, making them bloodier and more gruesome than before. New to the series were Baraka, Jax, Mileena, Kitana and Kung Lao – while the previously unplayable evil sorcerer Shang Tsung was added to the roster, as was Reptile (who could only be unlocked in the original). Released in 1994 for the SNES, MK2 went on to become a massive success, selling well over $50 million in its first week alone and outselling movie blockbusters such as Forrest Gump, The Lion King, and True Lies. (Aaron Santos)
6. Street Fighter II: The World Warrior (Super NES, Gameboy, Wii Virtual Console)
Though people will often cite other games as kicking off the popularity of the fighting game genre, the impact of Street Fighter II cannot be overlooked. Sure, there were other fighting games that came first, but Street Fighter II was the first game that executed it well. Capcom’s groundbreaking game became a cultural phenomenon and single-handedly sparked a resurgence in the arcade in the early 90’s. Street Fighter II set up the blueprint of the modern fighting games and opened the doors for a spate of games such as Mortal Kombat and Tekken following in its wake. It was a massive success for Capcom, selling more than 60,000 cabinets worldwide, a record for the time, and it completely changed the video game industry.
Like most popular arcade games of the time, Street Fighter 2 inevitably made its way to home consoles. Given Capcom’s publishing history and relationship with Nintendo, it was first ported to the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. The SNES adaptation is probably one of the best arcade-to-console ports in history, and despite some minor changes to the graphics and audio (in order to fit into the cartridge), the port is extremely faithful to the original. It became one of the console’s best sellers and was so successful that Capcom just kept releasing more versions of it. From 1991 to 1994, there were 5 adaptations of Street Fighter II, and by 1995 the game had been played by at least 25 million Americans in homes and arcades, while the gross revenues of the console and arcade versions had exceeded $2.312 billion, making it Capcom’s best-selling single consumer game software at the time.
Street Fighter II set a standard, popularized the genre, and set off a renaissance for the arcade game industry in the early 1990s. At the time it was groundbreaking, and 25 years later it stands the test of time that any gamer, no matter what their age, can enjoy. (Ricky D)
5. Super Smash Bros. Wii U
If there were never another Smash Bros. game ever produced (which is highly unlikely, no matter what happens to its constantly retiring director), Nintendo fans could be content that they may have already played Sakurai’s ultimate version of the classic fighting game series in Super Smash Bros. for Wii U. If it seems like almost nothing was put into the creation of the bland title, maybe that’s because all Nintendo’s efforts were focused entirely on packing this entry with the most characters, content, and chaos possible, resulting in a game so stuffed with playability and replayability that it should live on long past the lifespan of its console home. A roster of 58 fighters, including several non-Nintendo characters like Bayonetta, Ryu, Mega Man, and Cloud Strife, 48 stages, 140 challenges, online tournaments, 743 trophies, amiibo support with fighter training, and the list keeps going on and on.
Despite the massive amount of content, though, the best thing about Smash Bros. for Wii U is how it plays. Whether an old pro or someone new to the series, the basics are still as satisfying and easy to jump into as ever, but this may be the most finely-tuned game in the franchise, thanks to Sakurai’s seemingly endless balance tinkering, making this one of the few entries where trying each character out isn’t done merely for posterity’s sake.
With more content than ever before that offers countless hours of entertainment, Super Smash Bros for Wii U is the pinnacle of the series so far. It will be hard to top this one, Sakurai. (Patrick Murphy)
4. Super Smash Brothers Brawl (Wii)
Easily one of the greatest games on the Wii and one of the best fighting games in general, Super Smash Bros. Brawl appeals to both hardcore and casual gamers alike. Regardless of how little experience you have with the series, anyone will find it easy to just pick up the controller and follow along, and with a roster of over 30 iconic Nintendo characters, any fan of Nintendo will find a character they adore. Brawl also marks the first time non-Nintendo characters were added, and while Sonic returns in the Wii U follow-up, Solid Snake is sorely missed. Brawl also features a single player mode with plenty of side-scrolling action, memorable bosses, and several other unique enemies to do battle with. Brawl can lag at times and it lacks features commonly found in many fighting games, but that doesn’t take away from how fun it is to play, and Brawl is easily one of the most exciting fighting games ever made. (Will Stroad)
3. Super Smash Bros. Melee (GameCube)
The sequel to Super Smash Bros. keeps the same basic premise as its predecessor, but for the second installment in the popular fighting series Nintendo really outdid themselves by adding better graphics, faster speed, and an even bigger roster of characters to choose from. Super Smash Bros. Melee is easily among the most inventive fighting games ever released and is often cited as the best in the series. Melee became a labor of love for game director Masahiro Sakurai, and anyone who’s played the game can tell he poured his heart and soul into it. Not only is it the GameCube’s best-selling game, but perhaps the system’s best game period. (Ricky D)
2. Tatsunoko Vs Capcom: Ultimate All-Stars (Wii)
Tatsunoko Vs Capcom was an arcade fighter released in arcades and on the Wii in Japan in 2008. Many fans in the West were disappointed when they realized that there was probably little hope for the game to get released outside of Japan, due in part to the licensing nightmare involving the Tatsunoko franchises. Because many of the games in the series were owned by various different entities, it would mean that by localizing the game, they would need to pay royalties to use certain characters. Thankfully, Tatsunoko and Capcom teamed up to make the dream a reality and released the title as Ultimate All-Stars stateside, gaining back most of the licenses they needed while promptly replacing characters they could not get approved. While the game’s life was short-lived, it is definitely one of the most enjoyable experiences on the Wii, and for several years it was a part of the competitive fighting game scene, generating one of the most exciting grand finals to happen at EVO or any other major gaming competition worldwide. (Aaron Santos)
1. Soulcalibur II (GameCube)
If you played fighting games in the early 2000s, then you’d better believe you played Soul Calibur II. Being the successor to the highly acclaimed Dreamcast exclusive, Soul Calibur, Soul Calibur II had some pretty big shoes to fill. Luckily for fans, Project Soul did the job admirably, and SCII is still fondly remembered by most as the best game in the series. The main reason for this is something that cannot possibly be overstated, and that’s just how damn well the game plays. With perfectly balanced fighters, and most of them featuring incredibly diverse weapons, styles, and move sets (there are a couple of character copies, as is a common malady of the genre), Soul Calibur II is the kind of game that total newbies and expert players alike can pick up and enjoy. It features a deep combo system, an unprecedented focus on weapons, fantastic character design, and a lore so rich as to be almost indecipherable. To boot, as a multiplatform title, each iteration featured a character that could only be unlocked on their specific console, and with Link as the character who popped up on the Gamecube version, the decision was pretty much already made for anyone who happened to own the purple powerhouse at the time. I mean, Spawn (Xbox) and Heihachi (PS2) are just fine, but they can’t hold even the end of a candle up when it comes to everyone’s favorite elven warrior. For these reasons and more, Soul Calibur II stands tall with the best of them when it comes to fighters, and even if it doesn’t have quite the brand recognition of classic franchises like Street Fighter or Mortal Kombat, that doesn’t stop it from pounding even their best entries into the ground with its hand tied firmly behind its back. (Mike Worby)
Editor’s Note: While Soul Calibur II was not voted number one on any of the individual ballots, it was the only game every writer voted for, thus accumulating enough points to top this list.
‘New Super Lucky’s Tale’ is Polished, Pleasing Platforming
Streamlined, focused, and tons of fun, New Super Lucky’s Tale is a fantastic reworking for the Switch that absolutely nails the lighter side of Nintendo-style 3D platforming. Tight controls and a nearly flawless camera support running and jumping challenges which more often than not emphasize creativity over complexity, and it’s all set against a colorful, pun-filled, charming world full of quirky characters and light satire. Though the experience is not as epic or razzle-dazzle as something like Super Mario Odyssey, developer Playful has wisely trimmed the collect-a-thon fat that so many others in the genre employ in order to pad play time. The result lasts long enough to satisfy, yet also instills a fervent desire to see more adventures from its fearless, furry hero.
In the fine tradition of its gaming ancestors dating back to the N64 days, the basics of New Super Lucky’s Tale revolve around acquiring arbitrary objects sprinkled through various stages in order to unlock doors and move on to the next area. This time it’s pages from the mystical Book of Ages, which contains the power to travel between worlds, and is the endgame of an nefarious cat sorcerer named Jinx and his gang of cartoonish thugs, the Kitty Litter. As part of a secret organization sworn to defending this kiddie-friendly Necronomicon knockoff, it’s up to Lucky to track down as many of these clover-embossed pages as he possibly can, and hopefully complete the book before his nemesis can get his claws on it.
It’s doubtful that the story will be what compels most players to keep going, and to that end, New Super Lucky’s Tale‘s simple setup also fits right in with its genre brethren. Still, Lucky is an amiable and upbeat fox to follow around, and Playful does an excellent job of surrounding him with a cast of gibberish-spouting weirdo goofballs that includes hayseed grub worms, supremely zen Yetis, loyal rock golems, and slick carny ghosts. Though their dialogue does little to drive any sort of narrative, it is endlessly amusing and often witty in its cheesy wordplay. In other words, the writing has a very Nintendo-like feel in its eccentricities that adds to the overall fun.
Those jokes would be less endearing without fantastic gameplay, but New Super Lucky’s Tale delivers some of the best running and jumping this side of Mario. Though this fabulous fox can’t quite match the plumber’s precision, Lucky does feel extremely responsive, and has a nice sense of weight and momentum that never feels out of control. He also comes out of the den with a well-rounded moveset, including a nifty double jump, a swishy tail (a la Mario’s spin punch), and the ability to burrow under ground. These moves can be chained together to create a satisfying flow both when exploring 3D stages and side-scrolling ones alike, and will surely inspire players to use them in creative ways in order to access seemingly out-of-reach spots.
And they’ll have to if they want to find all four pages hidden in each stage. New Super Lucky’s Tale requires a bare minimum of these leaflets to be found (and simply beating the stage merits one as a reward), but it’s in rooting around those nooks and crannies where much of the fun lies, and it gives the developer a chance to squeeze every ounce out of the unique mixture of environments they’ve created. From the assorted carnival games of a haunted amusement park to a beach party dance-off, there are a surprising amount of different things for Lucky (and players) to do here, with hardly any two stages ever feeling alike. One 3D level might task Lucky with casually exploring a farm as he gathers up the members of country jug band, while a side-scrolling obstacle course sees him dodging canon fire from an airship piloted by a feline Napolean. Some stages have a platforming bent, while others emphasize searching out secrets tucked away in mini puzzles.
It’s an absolutely delightful mix, and that sheer variety keeps New Super Lucky’s Tale fresh all the way through to the epic battle with fat cat Jinx himself. And though platforming veterans might find the overall challenge a bit too much on the friendly side, a few of the later bosses and and bonus stages may make that 100% goal a little tougher than it at first seems. And yet, it’s hard not to want to go back to incomplete stages or that block-pushing puzzle that stumped the first time around; the brisk pace and clever design will likely compel many players to find every scrap of paper out there.
No, Lucky isn’t the second coming of Mario, but there are few 3D platformers that offer such a polished, concise, joyful experience as New Super Lucky’s Tale. It may have taken a couple of efforts to get there (and for those who have played the original Super Lucky’s Tale, levels and bosses have been reworked here), but Playful has nailed a balance between creativity and efficiency that begs for more.
How Do ‘Pokemon Sword and Shield’s’ Max Raid Battles Measure Up?
Max Raid Battles are one of Pokemon Sword and Shield’s premier new features. Do they live up to their full potential? Let’s find out.
One of the most heavily promoted new features of Pokémon Sword and Shield have been their Max Raid Battles. These gargantuan fights are both a key part of the online experience and likely the first taste most players will get of Dynamaxed Pokémon in-game. So, how’d this take on Pokémon Go’s raid system pan out in the series’ first mainline entry on console?
Well, on the plus side, getting into the thick of a raid is super straightforward. After the opening hour or two, players are introduced to the Wild Area and can access Max Raid Battles straight away by walking up to a pillar of red light on the field. From there you can invite others, challenge the raid with NPCs, and choose which Pokémon you want to use.
Real Friends Raid Together
Playing with friends online, though, is a bit more convoluted. There’s no “Invite Friends” option to be seen. Instead, all social features are handled through the Y-comm (literally accessed by pressing the Y button). It’s here that players can Link Trade, Link Battle, exchange player cards, and more.
After actively connecting to the internet–which has to be done each play session and each time the Switch is put into sleep mode–it’s up to the host of the match to find a portal and send an invitation to everyone. A notification will pop for friends on the side of the screen, and then it’s up to everyone to join the match directly through the Y-comm interface.
If players want real people to fill in any remaining slots (all raids are four-person affairs), they’ll need to join before the room fills up. Setting a Link Code avoids this hassle by creating a room but, unlike Salmon Run in Splatoon 2, only computer players can fill remaining spots after friends finish joining this way.
After some experimenting and fudding about, my buddy and I were able to hop into matches fairly quickly without much issue. Nonetheless, it’s hard to shake the feeling that creating friend lobbies is only such a headache because it had to be tied to the Y-comm. Pair this with the fact that battling while waiting for a friend to create a room can cause the notification not to pop, and getting a group together is a bit more painful than it should be.
Max Raid Battle Rundown
The raids themselves are a surprisingly engaging twist on the classic Pokémon battle formula. Groups of four challengers work together to take on a Dynamaxed raid boss. Each raid boss has a different star rating, and even the 1-star battles are no joke the first few times around. These boss Pokémon are merciless, and regularly one-shot lower leveled ‘mons with ease.
To combat these monstrous foes, one random trainer in every group is granted the ability to Dynamax their chosen Pokémon and lead the charge. The Dynamaxed Pokémon gets the benefit of having extra-powerful moves and increased HP, though it’s rather disappointing that there only seems to be one Max Move per move type (one Grass move, one Dark move, and so on). Each of these has a secondary effect on the battlefield; some trigger sandstorms, others trigger a health regeneration field that heals everyone a bit each turn. Regular moves with type advantages deal a significant chunk of damage, but it’s Max Moves that can truly turn the tide of battle.
If one of the group’s Pokémon faints, that trainer has to sit out for a turn before it automatically gets revived (a smart design choice to keep all trainers actively involved). However, the fainting of each Pokémon triggers the storm above to become more and more vicious. After four faints or ten turns, everyone is booted out of the raid sans rewards.
The Fruits of Victory
Two of the easiest ways to better your odds are 1) Choose a Pokémon with a type advantage going into battle, and 2) Manage who Dynamaxes when. Each trainer’s Dynamax meter grows periodically and, though only one trainer can use it at a time, multiple players can activate it over the course of a raid. It also seems like each raid’s star rating is tied directly to the raid boss’ level, so bringing a generally powerful Pokémon to a lower-level raid is another viable strategy for success.
Aside from the chance to capture the raid boss itself (and some Pokémon are Max Raid Battle-exclusive), winning a raid nets players some very worthwhile rewards. These include everything from EXP candies and berries to nuggets and TMs. It’s not so much of a haul that it hurts the overall balance of the game, but there’s enough to make getting a few friends together and grinding raids for a couple of hours worth it.
Though Max Raid Battles are just a small part of the overall Sword and Shield package, they’ve ended up being a rather fun take on Pokémon’s traditional multiplayer offerings. For as unnecessarily complicated as playing with friends is, there are also a few cool ideas here, like being able to join a raid from anywhere on the map as long as the host is at the raid pillar. There’s some good fun to be had here if you prefer to battle alongside your friends instead of against them.
15 Years Later: ‘Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater’ Is Kojima’s Espionage Love Letter
On November 17th, 2004, ‘Metal Gear Solid 3’ was released, marking the first entry in what would become a major part of the Metal Gear Saga.
“After the end of World War II, the world was split into two — East and West. This marked the beginning of the era called the Cold War.”
On November 17th, 2004, Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater released in North America and Japan marking the first entry in what would later become a line of prequel games within the Metal Gear Saga. Big Boss’s story would finally be expanded upon in the Hollywood action game that forever changed the course of video game storytelling.
The legendary mercenary’s journey began in Kojima’s espionage love letter to the ’60s that broke the primordial gaming standards of both interactive design and visual storytelling through immeasurable gameplay depth piled onto a mind-boggling top-notch origin story. Snake Eater was only the beginning of a tale of how one of gaming’s greatest heroes descended into a villain through what is not only arguably the most compact and well-executed Metal Gear story, but Kojima Productions story ever conjured up to date.
Taking the Narrative Back
Snake Eater ditched Solid Snake and Raiden’s current predicaments in a postmodern world to provide audiences with background knowledge and explanations for the previous chapters that came before it in what was intended to be Hideo Kojima’s final Metal Gear game at the time. Cold War political fiction and espionage thrillers from the game’s time period such as the Sean Connery and Roger Moore James Bond 007 films became the foundation for this entry’s story and tone; a balance of both goofiness and seriousness that is simply unmatched when compared to the rest of the series.
Metal Gear Solid 3 marked the beginning of a prequel series of games that would later proceed to continue after Solid Snake’s story had concluded in Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots. Snake Eater threw players back in time to tackle the story of Metal Gear and Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake villain Big Boss, who was formerly referred to as three different names being John, Jack, and of course the iconic codename Naked Snake — the first character to take on the reptilian infiltration name.
Whereas Metal Gear Solid and Sons of Liberty questioned the fantasy aspects of the story, Snake Eater fully embraced the campiness that it provided. A gun-slinging, cat-growling GRU Major or a man who is able to manipulate bees are never questioned by the game’s characters. Nothing feels out of place due to how accepting everyone is of what is going on in their interpretation of history. The first fantasy aspect that players encounter is during the opening 5 minutes of the game when Naked Snake makes the HALO jump. The location the game takes place, Tselinoyarsk, is not the actual name of the location and isn’t an area of the world that has jungles.
Political fiction often comes into play during the story by incorporating real figures and the game’s characters into events that actually happened during the height of the Cold War. For example, Eva and Ocelot are depicted as the two NSA codebreakers, Martin and Mitchell, who defected to the Soviet Union. Weapons and designs featured in the game such as the hybrid screw-propelled metal gear, the Shagohod, are based on real blueprints for military weapons of the time period. While the story incorporates science fiction and fantasy aspects, the story still remains grounded and has its own limits even in gameplay.
A Whole New Meaning to Survival
When Hideo Kojima and Yoji Shinkawa saw the 1987 movie Predator, one concept from the film that stuck with them was how the technologically advanced alien Predator used camouflage within the jungle setting to stealthily take out a military rescue team lead by Arnold Schwarzenegger. Camouflage became part of the foundation for Snake Eater‘s gameplay that delved into the realism and campy side of the series. Players could swap outfits and face paints at any given moment to adapt to their current surroundings. The top right-hand corner has a camouflage index that constantly keeps track of how well-hidden you are in the environment.
Just as gadgets are a critical part of James Bond’s arsenal of weapons, Snake Eater saw the Metal Gear Solid series expand on the variety and utilization of items. The number of different ways to tackle standard environmental obstacles and boss battles was exponentially increased due to how many ways one could actually use their equipment. Grenades, lethal firearms, night-vision goggles, cigarettes, and even cardboard boxes all inherited a multi-functional philosophy that most players would never even discover unless they had experimented during their playthrough or were told to do a specific action. Even food became a weapon of war that could be used to poison and distract guards if it had gone spoiled.
On the topic of food, alongside the standard health bar, Snake has a stamina meter that must be ministered to constantly by eating foods found on-site and administering proper medical treatment. Animals, fruit, medicinal items, and various packaged resources must be collected and watched over throughout the game. All food items ran on a real-time clock leaving food to go unsanitary and rotten after a matter of real-time days.
The Beginning of Product Placement
The Metal Gear Solid series kickstarted Hideo Kojima’s constant usage of product placements within his games that are still ongoing today. These products include but are certainly not limited to clothing, accessories, toys, household items, and of course, food. Snake Eater began a trend of future Kojima Production games featuring real-life items that are purchasable in many small scale and large retail stores throughout Japan through the brand of nutritional energy bars and gels, CalorieMate.
The chocolate-flavored CalorieMate Block appeared in the original version of Snake Eater, while the maple-flavored kind replaced it in the HD Collection due to it being the latest flavor release at the time. Advertisements for CalorieMate during the game’s release showed Naked Snake holding a chocolate-flavored Block saying “If you wanna survive in the jungle, your going to need one of these.”
When initiating a Codec call with Paramedic after eating a CalorieMate Block, the character will question the legitimacy of the food. In reality, CalorieMate first released in 1983, contradicting the 1960’s setting of the story, therefore, making its placement in the game an anachronism; an object or person that is displaced in time.
A Legacy Worthy of The Big Boss Rank
At the time of Snake Eater’s release, although the game garnered a completely positive reception from critics with a 91 Metacritic score, it was highly debated whether the sequel-prequel was superior to the entries that came before it. Critics commonly praised the graphics and cinematics the game had to offer but questioned whether the gameplay was too complex for its own good. Snake Eater also had to ride the coattails of unsatisfied audiences originating from the previous entry’s lack of Solid Snake being the protagonist which ultimately lead to sales of the game being significantly lower than the previous Solid entries.
Over time, Snake Eater became the fan-favorite entry of the series and would go on to receive the most re-releases out of all the Metal Gear games to date. Most notably, in 2006 Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence expanded upon the online mode in the game and added a completely new third-person controlled camera system that enhanced the overall experience and became the right analog stick standard for future entries. Buyers of this version were also treated with the original two MSX Metal Gear games found on the main menu- the first time the original Metal Gear and Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake had ever been localized outside of Japan.
2011 saw the release of the Metal Gear Solid HD Collection, a compilation title that included an updated version of Subsistence — arguably the best way to play Snake Eater today. In 2012 the game also saw a release on the Nintendo 3DS dubbed Metal Gear Solid 3D: Snake Eater which included a new real-life camera camouflage system and multiple gameplay changes inherited from Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker to accommodate the 3DS’s lack of dual analog sticks.
Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater is a true patriot that definitively holds its ground against the rest of the series today due to its creative liberties that the series never quite revisited in complete depth. Hideo Kojima and his team of masterminds behind Kojima Productions are well deserved of a salute for the tremendous efforts they put into creating a groundbreaking title that forever changed what it meant to be a cinematic video game. From its action-packed plot to its cinematic orchestra inspired-score, even after 15 years the pure indigenous nature of creativity from the studio never ceases to amaze audiences.
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