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Top 10 Games with Staff Writer, Brent Middleton

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Top 10 Games is a new, semi-regular series that hopes to offer a bit of insight into the twisted minds of Goomba Stomp’s writers, editors and podcasters by allowing them to tell you about their all time favorite games, and why they love them to such an unhealthy degree. 

About Brent: 

I play games because they make me happy. They give me a joy that no other medium ever has. I look at gaming as a way to escape from the monotony of everyday life and visit fantastical worlds that I could only dream of. If it wasn’t apparent by now, there’s a special place in my heart for RPGs and anything fantasy. But more than that, I’m a lover of games with color and creativity. Aside from racing games, I tend to shy away from anything too gritty or realistic. You’ll definitely see that reflected in my list. With all that being said, let’s get started!

Animal Crossing: New Leaf

Similarly to Splatoon with the Wii U, Animal Crossing: New Leaf was the game that pushed me to finally pick up a 3DS XL. I’d never played a previous entry in the series, but from the minute I saw gameplay–again, just like Splatoon–I knew I would love it. There was something so enticing about moving to a new village and trying to improve it for the lives of the townspeople. The way players start out in a tent and can gradually work their way to owning a mansion blew my mind at the time and, for better and for worse, became my primary focus in the game.

New Leaf was the perfect summer love title. Home from college, I was free to play it for hours on end–and I did. It was the first game alongside Mario Kart 7 that I’d played since upgrading from my DSi, and the graphical bump was truly startling. Not only did New Leaf look beautiful, but the characters (simple as they were) were all animated well and really stunned me with how emotive they were. I couldn’t help but feel compelled to help deliver a letter for one friend or take a neighbor up on their offer to check out their new home layout. As silly as it might sound for a series as cartoony as Animal Crossing, New Leaf really nailed player immersion. Every morning I’d wake up and think to myself “Okay, so what’s on the list for today? Harvest fruit from trees, pick up sea shells on the shore, maybe stop by the shops if they’re open…” It became–and arguably still is–the quintessential lifestyle game.

Unfortunately, summer love never truly lasts. While New Leaf remains one of my favorite games of all time, it has one glaring flaw that I alluded to earlier: managing all of the systems and constantly trying to pay off your debt can lead to the game feeling like more of a chore than a relaxing escape. 200+ hours later I dreaded opening my 3DS to do what felt like just going through the motions. If I left my fruit trees alone for too long, their fruit would go bad. If I didn’t go and collect shells every so often or scour every inch of town for fossils on a daily basis, I’d just be leaving all that money on the table. By trying to play as efficiently as possible and making paying off my debt my main goal, I effectively ruined the game for myself. In the end I did manage to pay off my debt to Tom Nook in full and then some, but by then it was too late. Is this a fault of the game itself? Partially. But I loved it immensely while it lasted.

Brutal Legend

There are few games that remind me of my high school days as strikingly as Brutal Legend. I’d just bought an Xbox 360 (the first console I’d ever bought myself) for Final Fantasy XIII and went on the search for complimentary games I could sink my teeth into. When I learned about the premise of Legend and the fact that Jack Black was starring in the leading role, I had to try it out. And man, I had never been happier to be a metal fan.

Brutal Legend is a metal fever dream of epic proportions. Everything is metal–its sprawling overworld, the different enemies and NPCs, your vehicle, and of course the killer soundtrack. The sheer production values melted my face off (actually a move in combat) and completely enthralled me as I followed Eddie throughout his epic quest. Aside from FFXIII it was the first game that really blew me away with its picture quality and animations. More than that, there’s just this feeling of “if it’s metal, nothing is off limits” that makes Legend so amazing from a purely creative standpoint.

My friends always used to clown me (and still do even to this day) about never finishing games. And, well, it’s true–I still have a hard time completing most of the games that I start. But something that made Brutal Legend so special was the fact that I actually did finish it. I was so enamored with the story, so amazed by the world, that I really wanted to see what happened next. It was probably the first game that I’d beaten in years aside from Pokemon. Beating the game at the time was a monumental personal achievement, and made me treasure my time with it that much more. I know it sometimes gets flack for its psuedo-RTS segments, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t love Legend from top to bottom.

Fire Emblem: Awakening

Fire Emblem: Awakening is one of the more decisive entries in the franchise. It lived up to its name and singlehandedly revitalized the series, but it also served as a turning point from the cruel, mandatory permadeath gameplay Fire Emblem had become known for. This opened the series up to millions of new players while simultaneously frustrating the core fanbase that’d been following the series for decades.

All of that is to say, I absolutely love Awakening because of its accessibility. The prospect of permanently losing a character I’ve fallen in love with and invested heavily in was always a huge turnoff for me. The Casual Mode Awakening introduced was exactly the safety net so many gamers (myself included) desired. Being able to enjoy the ridiculously addicting combat (I’d play random battles constantly because they were just that much fun) without having to stress about losing someone was a godsend.

Awakening also brought with it a deep, surprisingly meaningful relationship system. I spent almost as much time battling as I did strategizing exactly which characters I would have fight together to create bonds, fall in love and have super-cool time traveling children. The writing for all of these interactions was superb and really got you invested in the characters and their families. You could also just try pairing complete opposites together to see their dialogue trees!

I consider beating Awakening’s campaign one of my personal greatest gaming achievements not because I played on Classic Mode, but because I managed to finish a beautiful journey with characters I’d fallen in love with. Fire Emblem: Awakening stands as a testament to the fact that there’s no substitute for great writing in video games.

Harvest Moon: A Wonderful Life

Games have a strange way of bringing people together. It might’ve been an old Donkey Kong arcade cabinet for some, or perhaps Smash Bros. or Goldeneye for others. But for my friends and I in middle school? We came together over Harvest Moon: A Wonderful Life.

It’s crazy to even fathom that a few 11-12 year-old kids could be so enthralled by a farming simulator, but it happened. A Wonderful Life served as a peaceful respite from our fierce bouts of Melee and One Piece: Grand Battle. There was just something about how simple and easy the gameplay was that made it so enjoyable. Could you easily mess up and have your crops wilt if you didn’t tend to them? Sure, but losing crops never meant the end of the game.

Whereas Animal Crossing: New Leaf sometimes teetered on the verge of feeling like an obligation, the lazy, slow-paced feel of A Wonderful Life encouraged nothing but steady maintenance of your farm and trekking into town to talk to the super “colorful” townspeople. The dating aspect of the game ended up being the crux of my friends’ interest in it. Whenever I had them over they were amazed by the romantic interactions I was able to have with the local ladies. Eventually we each had our own copies of the game, pursued a different love interest and had very different sons. I would’ve loved all of this on my own, but the fact that I was able to share the experience with my best friends made it so much sweeter.

Mario Kart 7

Everyone has different games for different situations. Have a few hours free over the weekend? Perfect for an RPG or adventure game. Have some time to decompress after work? Fire up a shooter and let off some steam. But what about when you’re crunched for time and have a ton of podcasts to listen to/YouTube videos to watch? That, my friends, is where Mario Kart 7 comes in.

MK7 is the perfect zone-out game. Once you’ve played the maps enough to essentially get them memorized, you can build your ideal kart, hop into a 150cc cup and turn off your brain. Based on that description it might sound like I don’t care for the gameplay, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. MK7 looks and controls like a dream even to this day. Sure, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe blows it out of the water visually, but it just feels good playing MK7 on the 3DS XL. The shoulder buttons feel more comfortable and finely attuned to making tight drifts than the ones on the Joy Con, and the stereoscopic 3D is actually really well done. The 32 tracks included provide a good deal of variety too, considering it’s running on the 3DS.

When all is said and done, I put about 250 hours into Mario Kart 7. Aside from Splatoon, there’s no game I know better front-to-back. While Mario Kart 8 Deluxe has since taken over as my zone-out game (mainly because I’ve been moving away from my 3DS), MK7 still stands not only as one of my most infinitely replayable games of all time, but as one of my favorite games of all time, period.

Mario Party 6

Whenever the Mario Party franchise is brought up in discussion, it seems like there’s either praise for the early games or disdain for the latest ones. But what about the gems in the middle of the pack? Mario Party 4 might’ve been the first game I ever played in the series, but as soon as I got 6 there was no contest for my favorite entry.

 

I primarily play Mario Party games because they’re colorful and fun, and 6 is both of those in spades. Though there are only 6 party boards in total, they’re easily the most replayable Mario Party boards I’ve ever come across. The day/night cycle does a good job of shaking things up, and the different mechanics of each board really made each one feel special. I rarely had friends over, so I got quite used to playing co-op Party Mode with the surprisingly impressive AI.

And then there are the mini-games. Oh man, the mini-games. Some of the best games in the entire franchise are here: Rocky Road, T-Minus Five, Something’s Amist, Memory Lane, and Granite Getaway, just to name a few. My favorites, though, were the 1 vs. 3 games. Snow Brawl, Dust Til Dawn and Crate and Peril are total classics in my book. The battle mini-games also did a great job of being challenging/scary enough to really make you feel nervous whenever one came up. It’s a testament to the variety of games, great boards and pure fun factor that I was able to enjoy a multiplayer game by myself for so many hours. For several years there were few games that made me as happy and comfortable as this one.

Mario Tennis: Power Tour

Out of all the recently-announced indies for the Switch, Golf Story completely blew me away as an homage to the classic Camelot GameBoy titles I loved so many years ago. The resemblance is both striking and welcome, and seeing as Camelot has fallen from grace as of late, it was tough not to reminisce on my favorite title of theirs from that golden era: Mario Tennis: Power Tour

Saying that Power Tour is one of my favorite RPGs of all time might sound like an exaggeration, but it’s incredibly on-point. In a world with so many beloved fantasy and dystopian RPGs out there, something as lighthearted as Power Tour served as the breath of fresh air that the genre so desperately needed (and, quite honestly, still needs). There’s no grand adventure or sprawling narrative that drives the player forward, but rather one of the most simple and engaging game premises I’ve ever experienced. The idea of going to a tennis school to work my way through the ranks (while making both friends and enemies along the way) immediately struck a chord with me, and that was only aided by the incredibly tight and addicting tennis gameplay. The matches were nuanced and on point enough to be standalone content (like subsequent entries in the series), but the leveling system, training mini games and stat-tracking really made me aware of my growth into a top tier tennis player throughout the campaign.

Aside from the great sense of progression and rock solid game mechanics, though, the real hook for me was the school environment and the surrounding characters. Camelot shined at creating living, breathing worlds, and those world-building chops were evident throughout your stay at the Royal Tennis Academy. Whenever I wanted to leave the troubles at my own school behind, the RTA was the first place I’d run to. In terms of escapism, Power Tour nailed it.

Pokémon Yellow 

Nostalgia is often a cruel mistress. It’s easy to be blinded by what you remember being amazing so many years ago. For a good while I thought that this was the case with Pokemon Yellow–I loved it growing up, but it surely couldn’t have been that great. Then last year, to the joy of millions around the world who grew up on the original anime and whose first games in the series were Red, Blue or Yellow, the first three games were re-released on the 3DS eShop. And just like that, all of my skepticism was quelled.

Yellow wasn’t only the start of my love of RPGs, but the start of my adoration for getting lost in adventures. Embarking as Ash (he’ll always be Ash to me, anyway) with Pikachu by my side across Kanto is one of the most exciting, memorable experiences of my gaming life. I still remember my first punishing battle against Lt. Surge’s Raichu, the first time I rode my bike (and that amazingly catchy music), and my final face-off against Gary after struggling through the Elite Four. That winding journey through what is my favorite region took over 100 hours, easily the longest I’d ever spent on a game up until that point.

Revisiting such a monumental moment in my gaming life last year was at once both strange and cozy. It was like playing through a dream; I remembered some details perfectly, while others took me by surprise. Having just finished Pokemon White earlier that year, it was almost shocking seeing how far the series had come over the last two decades. But despite its primitive sprites and “Psychic-type-trumps-all” structure, the fact that I was able to have such a wonderful time with Yellow after all these years speaks volumes for its quality.

Splatoon

Anyone who’s been following my Splatoon 2 coverage this year saw this one coming. As someone who loves color and cheerfulness in his games, Splatoon was the perfect entry point into the shooter genre for me. The beauty of the game was that it wouldn’t force you into any one role. Oftentimes in Turf War I’d choose to stay back and lazily cover the base, and other times I’d rush headfirst into combat; both gameplay styles were equally as viable. Depending on the weapon and game mode, there were loads of different ways to play.

Sometimes a game just clicks with you. From the moment I saw the Splatoon coverage before its launch in 2015 I knew that I’d love it. I ended up buying a Wii U bundle just for that game alone, continuing my short history of buying game consoles for one core game. In the end it became my most-played game of all time, and for good reason. Its easy pick-up-and-play nature, goofy mood, wonderfully cheerful aesthetic, and that perfect “just one more” hook all came together to form my perfect game trifecta.

I could go on even more about my love for Splatoon‘s weird lore and Japanese-inspired in-game culture, but I’ll spare you. What it really boils down to is this: Splatoon somehow introduced me to a game genre that I’ve never imagined I’d enjoy. Where so many other dark, more “realistic” shooters have failed, Splatoon succeeded. For someone like me, a primarily single-player gamer who favors fantasy and color, it was a godsend.

Xenoblade Chronicles

If Pokemon served as my introduction to the RPG genre, Xenoblade Chronicles felt like the culmination of everything that I’d ever wanted from it. Mind-blowingly released on the Wii of all consoles, and towards the end of its life at that, Xenoblade redefined storytelling, characterization and world-building in gaming. Whenever I went back to it, it truly felt like I was stepping back into the world of the Bionis and Mechonis myself. It felt like a real escape from reality.

If you’ve never played this game, I won’t spoil anything for you–you deserve to either play it for yourself, or watch what is perhaps the greatest let’s play ever created here. What I can express is just how meticulously well-crafted this game is. At the time, this thing was pushing the Wii to its absolute limits. Character models aren’t the prettiest, mouths don’t sync up exceptionally well, and there are plenty of muddy textures everywhere. But what does any of that matter in the face of fleshed out characters, brilliant voice acting and a world that truly feels like it’s alive?

I fell in love with these characters. I’d never been so swept up in a game narrative in my life. The sheer vastness of the environments in the game completely astonished me for years until Xenoblade Chronicles X came along. In a genre that I mainly play to feel like I’m on an adventure with the protagonist(s), Xenoblade Chronicles completely knocked it out of the park. This is, undoubtedly, one of the greatest JRPGs ever created.

Honorable Mentions: ATV Quad Power Racing 2, Elite Beat Agents, Fable II, Final Fantasy III, Harry Potter: Quidditch World Cup, One Piece: Grand Battle, Pokémon White, Sonic Heroes, SSX Tricky

Brent became infatuated with manga and anime after randomly stumbling upon Vol. 3 of Yu Yu Hakusho on a childhood roadtrip. Today he has a soft spot for colorful JRPGs, cozy anime, and both games and shows that indulge his innate love of adventure. Find him (im)patiently waiting for Animal Crossing: New Horizons and incredibly fulfilled by Fire Emblem: Three Houses @CreamBasics.

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1 Comment

  1. Joanna

    November 2, 2017 at 1:52 pm

    I hear so many good things about Splatoon. I’m not terribly into Nintendo games, but this looks like something that could pull me back to their games.

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‘New Super Lucky’s Tale’ is Polished, Pleasing Platforming

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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.

New Super Lucky's Tale carnival

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.

New Super Lucky's Tale factory

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.

New Super Lucky's Tale farm

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. 

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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.

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max raid battles

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.

max raid battles

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.

max raid battles

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.

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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.

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Metal Gear Solid 3

“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

Metal Gear Solid 3
“Snake, try and remember some of the basics of CQC.”

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 PatriotsSnake 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.

Revolver Ocelot’s gun-slinging pre-boss cutscene was completely animated through motion capture footage.

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

Fun Fact: Kojima has gone on record saying that Naked Snake’s favorite CalorieMate Block is the chocolate-flavored line (rightfully for promotional reasons!).

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.

Snake Eater 3D Limited Edition Bundle included a ‘Snake Skin’ themed standard 3DS (only released in Japan).

2011 saw the release of the Metal Gear Solid HD Collectiona 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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