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A True Patriot: Examining the Ending of ‘Metal Gear Solid 3’

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Metal Gear Solid 3 is an odd game; on the one hand, it opens up with a thirty minute faux-history lesson submerging players into the dark world of fictionalized politics, subterfuge, and nuclear weapons. On the other hand, it also features the appearance of hovercrafts, a woman who talks movies with you whenever you save the game, and an extended sequence in which players can choke out the much-maligned star of Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty. When taken in as a list, none of the elements of this game should work well together. However, when the controller is in hand (or, as frequently happens, on the coffee table while you enjoy a cutscene), everything just *clicks* and the game’s unique flavor profile takes root. In no place is this more apparent than the game’s final hour; join me as I dive into what is perhaps my favorite sequence in any game ever, pointing out some of my favorite aspects of the final fight and cutscenes and doing some analysis while I’m at it.

Full spoilers ahead…

The most important element of Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater’s masterful finale is the setting. After trampling through lush forests, barren mountains, and hostile research facilities for ten hours, one might expect the final battle to take place in a similar locale. However, upon escorting EVA to our escape point, players are greeted with a change of scenery. The dark deciduous trees give way to open air: a lake, and, next to it, a field of white flowers. There are tree trunks bordering the field, but, in stark contrast to the vegetation of the forest we just escaped from, the trees have no leaves on them. They’re dead. The flowers, however, are still alive, whipping around restlessly, the Boss’ black overcoat standing stark against their white petals. This theming carries throughout the scene and, as the Boss begins her mournful monologue, it’s only expanded upon.

Juxtaposition like this is present throughout Snake Eater and, on a larger scale, the Metal Gear series in general. Everything about the setting and The Boss’ words are built around juxtaposition; her black coat over her white jumpsuit, her motherly role contrasting her infertility, a trip to outer-space fueling her idealism, when it filled The Fury with rage. Above all else, however, is the duality of life and death. Just as the trees exist with the flowers, just as the Sorrow was killed by the Boss, one must live and one must die. It is this concept that grants the ending of Snake Eater its incredibly poignancy. Whereas the destruction of the Shagohod and Volgin with it were accompanied with a thundering score befitting a video game boss fight, the battle between Snake and The Boss is scored with the faint rustling of flowers, punctuated by ostinatos of gunfire. There is nothing noble about what Snake and, by extension, the player is about to do, and the game makes sure that you know it. The Boss commences the fight with “Let’s make this the best ten minutes of our lives,” and players feel every word of it; the contrast of life with the inevitably of one of these characters’ deaths imparts this moment with a heavy sense of solemnity and players with full knowledge as to the emotional gut punch that is quickly approaching. If they would like to see the end of the game that they have poured so much time in, they need to beat the Boss in both senses of the word.

Metal Gear Solid III

It’s fitting and cruel, then, that even after players have pounded the life out of The Boss, the game delivers another twist of the dagger. Her mission completed, The Boss grants snake her Patriot. The camera pans out, a sorrowful French Horn begins to play, and players have to press X. Not content at merely killing off a much-loved character, the game makes players an accomplice in her murder, robbing Snake of his mentor, mother-figure, and friend.

The flowers, in addition to acting as a great visual hook for the whole scene, have a peculiar property that’ll force players to think. After the final shot is fired, the petals collectively pulse outward from The Boss’ corpse (or, alternatively, Naked Snake) and turn from white into a deep, blood-red. This transformation certainly lends the scene some visual panache, but just a few minutes later it’s made clear that the flowers are not permanently stained with The Boss’ blood; when flying over the scene of the battle in the WIG, we see that the flowers have all returned to their natural white color with the exception of a lone blossom clutched in the hand of Snake. Looking down, he releases his grip and the petal floats away, its deep red turning to a soft white.
The particular significance of the changing colors is decided by the lens the player is viewing through; the game doesn’t give us much to go off of. The way that I interpreted the coloration of the flowers is that it’s a representation of the emotional state of the characters. At the beginning of the battle, The Boss says that “there is nothing inside [her], no hatred, not even regret.” It’s hardly a coincidence that she is the only soldier among the Cobra Unit that isn’t named after an emotion (though she used to go by “The Joy”, she adopted the moniker of Boss after World War II while her comrades kept their old code names), and the whiteness of the flowers helps bring that home. She is totally and completely at peace. A few minutes later, when Snake kills The Boss, the flowers turn a deep red to show a shift. From the contentment of the boss, free from any emotional baggage, to the heaviness weighing down on a Snake going forward with the knowledge that he has killed his mentor. Then, as he lets go of the petal from the side of the WIG, the redness drains. This is indicative both of Snake letting go of The Boss and, in a funny way, continuing to follow her orders; earlier in the game, she admonished him for wearing her Bandana, citing it as an example of his inability to let go of the past. In letting go of the flower, Snake begins to fulfill the mantra that “emotions have no place on the battlefield” and in doing so lives up to the boss’ memory, though the addendum to this story forces Snake to carry on with even more painful barbs in his heart.

After this touching scene, players see something of an oddity. The ending of Metal Gear Solid 3 features three distinct parts, and this middle section acts as a bizarrely humorous interlude sandwiched between two great, interconnected tragedies. Revolver Ocelot, our harasser throughout the game, decides to interrupt Snake’s time of reflection by jumping off of his hoverboard (!) onto Snake and Eva’s aircraft and challenging Snake to a game of Russian Roullette. I suppose that it’s only fitting, given the setting of the game. There are four possible outcomes for this deadly game to have, but it matters not. All of them end with Ocelot describing his hard-earned respect for Snake and asking for his name. When Snake responds with “Snake”, Ocelot asks for his real name, citing the fact that they’re “not animals. I’m not an Ocelot, and you’re not a Snake.”

MGS3

This line does a great job at tying together one of the main thematic threads woven into Snake Eater. When describing her motivations for fighting, The Boss emphatically states that “our enemies are human beings like us. They can only be our enemies on relative terms”. Ocelot asking for Snake’s real name not only gives this idea one last, hardly-subtle push towards players, but sets up his character’s relationship for Snake later on in the series. And, as far as throwaway lines go, Ocelot’s screaming of “SNAKE! THIS ISN’T OVER YET!” prior to boarding the WIG is a funny little addendum to the story, hinting at things to come.

After this short, slightly off-kilter scene, it’s back to the political intrigue and forceful tugs at the heartstrings. Players are treated to the revelation that (surprise!) EVA was actually a Chinese agent this entire time but, though she may have been working for the PRC politically, she owed completion of a more emotional mission to The Boss and Snake by extension. Through a self-destructing tape, she tells Snake of The Boss’ final mission. This scene and those that follow are the closest to conventional prequel fare that the game gets, but that is by no means a bad thing. If Snake let go of The Boss as a person while in the skies over Russia, his new knowledge of how she died will drive him forward in all future endeavors. His disillusionment with the country that he fought for is shown when that very nation attempts to honor him for his heroic actions. His reluctant handshake with President Johnson and blatant disdain for various members of cabinet make it quite clear that he is not who he was at the beginning of the Virtuous Mission. He no longer views his mission as virtuous, if you will. It is important then that we cut directly from Snake blowing off some of the most influential men in the world to him in Arlington Cemetery, paying his respects to “A True Patriot Who Saved the World”.

Metal Gear Solid Three

Interestingly enough, it is in the way that the newly branded Big Boss honors his namesake that we see him begin to distance himself from her ideals; though he may have loosened his grip on his emotions towards the boss in the WIG, the way in which she died was simply too heinous for him to forgive. Big Boss salutes a fallen hero, and leaves two things at the unmarked grave: a bundle of white flowers, and his mentors Patriot. The salute and these two items have their own symbolic meanings, but their use in conjunction is what truly signals Big Boss’ shift towards where he would go in later games. This scene uses the salute as an acknowledgement that Big Boss respects his mentor and will carry on with her memory, but he follows it by leaving certain things behind with her, both figuratively and literally. The white flowers show the state of peace that The Boss died in, while her weapon, The Patriot, explains itself as a representation of the loyalty The Boss held towards her country. In adopting the title of Boss, Snake also adopts “an existence of endless battle” as was outlined by the names previous holder. His battles, however, are to be very different from The Boss’. While her devotion to her nation ran as deeply within her as her very life, Big Boss gives that up, just as he leaves The Patriot in Arlington. Whether this is an instance of dramatic irony in which the player is more aware of his future endeavors than Big Boss is, or Big Boss is fully conscious of the symbolic resonance of his actions is unclear. Regardless, this is a great nod towards where we all know Big Boss will end up. While he left The Boss in Rokovoj Bereg, he abandons peace and patriotism in the cemetery.

What are your thoughts on the ending of Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater? Do you love it as much as I do, or do you have more tempered feelings? If you have any disagreements with my interpretation of the game, I’d love to hear about it; multiple opinions make for interesting reading.

-Hal Olsen

I'm a musician, writer, gamer, and builder of things who enjoys fusing those passions together whenever possible. I hold a particular fondness for Metroid, Metal Gear, and JRPGs, but I'll play anything that's fun.

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Marcel Fröhlich

    July 28, 2016 at 9:46 am

    Great write up. There is truly very little to add after your thorough analysis. Snake letting go and turning his back to his country and becoming what we, as players, know he will become is a subtle hint at things to come. In many ways, to The Boss’s mother, he was the first Enfants Terrible.
    As much as Peace Walker, Guns of the Patriots and Phantom Pain expanded on the story and gave us great gameplay, ultimately they serve little more than to dilute the flawless ending that is Snake Eater. It would have been interesting to judge it as a stand-alone art piece, with no prior knowledge on Naked Snake becoming Big Boss and turning “evil”, if just by visual ques one would argue and debate on his ultimate fate post ending.
    Be that as it may, this game graced us with some of the most heart pounding (and string pulling) moments. While I wish some of the other Cobra Unit members would have gotten some better back story, I will forever remember my first playthrough of this gem and how every emotion I felt was real, all the way to that last tear when Eva says “She was a real hero. She was a true patriot”

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‘Tecmo Bowl, the Godfather of NFL Games

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Tecmo Bowl Retrospective

Tecmo Bowl was a big deal back in 1989!

With Madden growing more popular and even more complex every year, we sometimes forget about the game that started it all.

I cannot stress the importance of Tecmo Bowl twenty-nine years after its release. Originally an arcade game, Tecmo Bowl was ported to the Nintendo Entertainment System by the makers of such classics as Ninja Gaiden, Mighty Bomb Jack, and Solomon’s Key, and it took everyone by surprise by just how good it was. Nobody expected the Japanese developers of puzzle games and 2D platformers to succeed in creating a sports game, much less an American sports game, but they did. Named NES Sports Game of the Year, Tecmo Bowl provided players with the best football experience found on the NES console back in 1989 and it paved the way for what became the biggest trend in sports games to this day.

Although Tecmo didn’t have the official NFL license to use the actual team names and logos (the teams in the game are identified by their home city or state), the game features players from 12 NFL franchises due to being licensed by the NFLPA (National Football League Players Association). Nowadays this doesn’t seem like a big deal but back in 1989 it was huge! Tecmo Bowl features some of football’s greatest players including John Elway, Bo Jackson, Marcus Allen, Mike Singletary, Joe Montana, Ronnie Lott, Walter Payton, and Dan Marino, and when it shipped 29 years ago, it changed everything for sports video games.

Long before football video games became just as complex as real-life football, Tecmo Bowl laid the groundwork for what would be the standard moving forward. There aren’t many plays to choose from but you’re given the choice of 4 plays while on offense and another 4 while on defense. In addition, the game features three different modes: Single Player, Two Player, and Coaching mode which allows you to call plays while letting the CPU control the players on the field. The simple and responsive controls work perfectly within the framework of the game, and it is this simplicity that makes the game fun to play to this day. And regardless if you know don’t know much about the sport, anyone can easily follow along thanks to the broadcast camera view and two-button controls.

Tecmo_Celebration_1280w

Tecmo Bowl is a seemingly effortless game in which everything falls neatly into place. It stripped football down to its basic elements and created a fun arcade experience anyone can enjoy. Tecmo Bowl was Madden before Madden was a household name. It’s the game that started the football franchise craze in video games and laid the groundwork for the even better, Tecmo Super Bowl. American football games have come a long way over the years, but what hasn’t changed is the sheer enjoyment any football fan can have when playing Tecmo Bowl.

Tecmo Bowl is without a doubt the granddaddy of football games, and there’s something to be said for the back-to-basics formula that Tecmo Bowl employed. With technological enhancements in gameplay, graphics, power, and speed, the original Tecmo Bowl seems incredibly dated in 2016, but surprisingly the game holds up nearly three decades later.

Side Note: There were two NES versions of the game released in the U.S. The first release is easily identified by its black and gold seal of quality and the second version by its white and gold seal. It should also be noted that the names of players were removed on the virtual console release.

Tecmo Bowl
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Game Reviews

‘Coffee Talk’ Review: The Best Brew in Town

Coffee Talk is as quaint as your local coffee shop. It’s relatively short, wonderfully sweet, and absolutely committed to the art form of telling a story through a video game screen.

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It’s 9:00pm. The rain just started coming down softly a few minutes ago, and the street outside is reflecting the lights above it. Neon signs shine brightly in the distance, although it’s hard to make out the words. You unlock the doors to the coffee shop and wipe down the counters in order to get them clean for the customers. The rain makes a soft sound as it hits the glass and passerby speed up their walking pace to avoid it. The bells chime as a tall, green orc walks in and sits down at your table in silence. You wonder what their story is…

I wanted to set the tone for this review because of how important atmosphere and audio/visual design is in the world of Coffee Talk. While it’s easy to boil the game down as a visual novel-type experience, it’s honestly so much more than that. A unique cast of characters, incredible user interface, and a mysterious protagonist combine to form the most enjoyable experience I’ve had this year on Switch.

Coffee Talk
Some of the subject matter can be pretty serious in nature…

Coffee Talk is beautiful because of how simple it is. The entire game takes place within a single coffee shop. As the barista, you’re tasked with making drinks for the patrons of the shop as well as making conversations with them. The twist is that earth is populated with creatures like orcs, werewolves, and succubi. The relationship between the various races is handled very well throughout the story, and some interesting parallels are made to the real world.

Making drinks is as simple as putting together a combination of three ingredients and hitting the ‘Serve’ button. If a unique drink is made, it will be added to a recipe list that can be referenced on the barista’s cell phone. This is where the awesome user interface comes in, as the phone has a series of apps that can be accessed at any moment in the game. One app houses your recipe list, another acts as a facebook for the characters in the game, one allows you to switch between songs, and the other houses a series of short stories that one of the characters in the game writes as it progresses. It’s one of the coolest parts of the whole experience and helps it stand out from other games in the genre.

Coffee Talk is as quaint as your local coffee shop. It’s relatively short, wonderfully sweet, and absolutely committed to the art form of telling a story through a video game screen.

Coffee Talk cycles between talking with customers and making drinks for them. In the beginning, they will ask for basic beverages that can be brewed on the fly. Later on however, they may ask for a specific type of drink that has a unique title. These drinks often have certain descriptive features that hint at other possibilities in terms of unique dialogue. If the wrong drink is made, you’ll have five chances to trash it and make a new one. If the wrong drink is made, don’t expect the customer to be pleased about it.

The gameplay really is not the focus here though; it’s the characters and their stories that take center stage. An elf with relationship issues, a writer that can’t seem to pin down her next story, and an alien whose sole goal is to mate with an earthling are just a few of the examples of the characters you’ll meet during the story. There are tons of memorable moments throughout Coffee Talk, with every character bringing something unique to the table. The barista develops an interesting relationship with many of these characters as well.

Coffee Talk
Appearances can often be deceiving in this game.

Even though serving the wrong drinks can change some of the dialogue, don’t expect any sort of options or branching paths in terms of the story. It’s not that kind of experience; the story should simply be enjoyed for what it is. I found myself glued to the screen at the end of each of the in-game days, waiting to see what would happen in the morning. The first playthrough also doesn’t answer all of the game’s questions, as the second one is filled with all kinds of surprises that I won’t spoil here.


Coffee Talk is as quaint as your local coffee shop. It’s relatively short, wonderfully sweet, and absolutely committed to the art form of telling a story through a video game screen. It’s an easy recommendation for anyone who loves video games, not just visual novel fans. There are characters in the game that I’ll certainly be thinking about for a long time, especially when the setting brings out the best in them. Don’t pass this one up.

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The Magic of Nintendo: How Mario and Zelda Connect us to Our Inner Child

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Magic of Nintendo

Nintendo is special. Many excellent developers depend upon story or progression systems to entice engagement, but not Nintendo. Nintendo games captivate because of their immediate charm. There is no need for a payoff. The games, themselves, are enough: they elicit feelings, hard to find in adulthood. Through intrepid discovery, playful presentation, and unfiltered whimsy, the best of Nintendo connects gamers to their childlike selves.

The heart of any great Nintendo game is discovery and no encounter encapsulates this better than Breath of the Wild’s Eventide Island. First, finding the island requires genuine gumption. Found far from Hyrule’s shore, the island is only clearly visible from other islands, and even then, it’s only a speck in the distance. Reaching the island requires players to brave the open ocean and head towards something … that could be nothing. Then, upon arriving on the beach, a spirit takes all the player’s gear, including clothes and food. Link, literally, is left in his underwear. From there, players must make clever use of Link’s base skills in order to steal enemy weapons and make traps. The scenario creates a marvelous sense of self-sufficiency brought on by one’s own desire to discover. The player comes to the island purely of their own choosing, tackles the sea, and then overcomes obstacles without the aid of their strongest tools. The game turns players into plucky children who are discovering they can take care of themselves.

The intrepidity of Breath of the Wild and other Nintendo greats mirrors the feelings Shigeru Miyamoto, the father of many Nintendo franchises, experienced as a child. “I can still recall the kind of sensation I had when I was in a small river, and I was searching with my hands beneath a rock, and something hit my finger, and I noticed it was a fish,” Miyamoto told the New Yorker. “That’s something that I just can’t express in words. It’s such an unusual situation.” In sequences like Eventide Island, players don’t just understand what Miyamoto describes, they feel it: Apprehension gives way to exhilaration as the unknown becomes a place of play.

 Nintendo’s intrepid gameplay is often amplified by playful presentation with Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island being the quintessential example. The game’s visuals, defined by pastel colors and simple hand-drawings, appear crayoned by a child while the celestial chimes that punctuate the jubilant soundtrack evoke shooting stars. The overall effect cannot be understated. It takes the surreal and turns it real, allowing players to interact, tangibly, with imagination.

Super Mario Odyssey Wooden Kingdom

Even if one removes the presentation and gameplay from Nintendo’s masterpieces, an unabashed creativity remains that bucks norm and convention. The arbiter is fun; reason and logic have no say. For instance, Super Mario Odyssey’s Wooded Kingdom, takes place in a post-apocalyptic setting akin to Nier Automata. Players explore the metal remnants of a civilization that has become a lush home to robotic beings. However, unlike Nier, the dark undertones of the past have no bearing on the game or those who inhabit its universe. The post-apocalyptic setting is just a fun backdrop. It’s as though a bunch of children got together, began playing with toys, and one of the kids brought along his sibling’s adult action figures. There is no attention paid to the context, only unfiltered imagination.

When they’re at their best the creators at Nintendo invite gamers to come and play, like a parent arranging a play date. Pulled along by joyful gameplay that expands in unforeseen ways, players desire to play for the sake of play. It’s a halcyon state of being: No messy thoughts or contradiction, just joy.

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