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‘Xenoblade Chronicles X’: The Best-Worst Game of 2015

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When Xenoblade Chronicles first arrived on the scene, it was one of the biggest surprises of 2012. A JRPG at heart, Xenoblade broke the mold by injecting the stale formula with the more modern trappings of an MMO, creating a best of both worlds scenario that played to a wide swath of gamers. The fact that it appeared as a gigantic RPG on the, by then, starving Wii console, certainly helped matters, and in the end Xenoblade emerged as one of the sleeper hits of the generation.

Cut to three years later, and at long last we have the long awaited sequel, Xenoblade Chronicles X. How has it delivered on the success of its lauded predecessor you ask? Well, that’s a tough question to answer. In fact XCX might be one of the most carelessly mixed bags in terms of quality to grace consoles this year, which is saying quite a lot after the way Batman Arkham Knight, Metal Gear Solid V, and a host of others managed to divide gamers in 2015.

On the one hand, Xenoblade Chronicles X offers more of exactly what everyone wanted from a Xenoblade sequel: an even bigger open world, even more quests to tackle, and a better fleshed out yet still addictive battle system. It also added mechs to the equation, a long-standing part of the extended Xeno-universe which makes a welcome return here (more on that later). But what about the cost of hammering such a staggering amount of content into a single game on the Wii U?

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Hi, I’m a 13 year old genius scientist. Also humanity will establish interstellar space travel and giant mech combat by 2050. Welcome to JRPGs.

Unfortunately, it isn’t pretty. XCX has a laundry list of problems, and some of them are big ones. The first, and most noticeable, of those is in the plot department. Joining Xenogears, Xenosaga, and the original Xenoblade, XCX had pretty big shoes to fill in that department, and so far it is lagging hard behind its forebears. Full disclosure, I’m only about two thirds of the way through, but by this point in any of the other five games in this series, players were all in on an epic and involving quest. Not so this time around.

Instead of the religious and philisophical debates of Xenosaga, or even the man vs. machine dynamics of Xenoblade, a war which was fought on the living bodies of literally titanic Gods, we have a standard sci-fi story of humans settling on a new planet. The cast is made up entirely of Americans, anime stereotypes though they might be, while the aliens are just the standard run of the mill sci-fi tropes. In a game this big, that’s a problem. If you want players to invest hundreds of hours of time into your world, you’d better give them a world they care about and characters they want to spend time with, which brings us to the next problem with this game—because wow these characters are bad.

Let’s start with the two worst offenders: Tatsu and Lin. Tatsu is a Nopon, a race we first met in the original Xenoblade, and if you thought these cartoonish nincompoops were obnoxious three years ago, get ready to double down on that. Meanwhile, Lin is a 13 year old girl (?!?) as revealed a few hours after you meet her, who happens to be a genius scientist and master chef. Okay so I’ll just get to it, are you ready, here’s the joke: Lin wants to eat Tatsu. Funny right? No? Not even a little? Okay then, get ready to hear that same joke whether you like it or not for the next 200 hours. Before missions, after battles, in cut scenes, text dialogue exchanges and on and on it goes. If you were playing a drinking game where you had to take a shot every time you heard that joke over a three hour session, you’d find yourself in a ditch or in the hospital.

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Combat takes some getting used to but is ultimately pretty rewarding. Also, the creature design is ace.

Now, there are less irritating characters in the cast, though at least a couple of the others fall into this category of absurdity (I’m looking at you L), so the obvious solution would be to just swap these characters out for ones you like right? Well, you’d think so, but that’s because you’ve been playing games since the 90’s right? Ya know, back when this idea first popped up. Well, too bad loser, because any quest that has cut scenes, character interactions, or any bearing on the story requires the same three characters. Two of them I mentioned above, and the third is the most stoic character in the game, Elma. Who’s the fourth member of the party? Well, that’s you, but unfortunately you’re basically Link this time around, so don’t expect to say much. Fancy switching characters up anyway? Get ready to smash your head against the wall.

Xenoblade Chronicles X has 21 playable characters including your custom avatar, but if you want to switch out, you’re going to have to go and find them. You read that right- you have to go look for a character if you want to take them on a quest with you. Need a specific character to accomplish something? Just look down at the overwhelmingly large map of New Los Angeles, a huge hub made up of six areas where your 20 companions are just scattered about with nothing special to differentiate them from the other icons on the map.

Maybe you recall a game called Chrono Cross; it was the sequel to Chrono Trigger and remains one of the best RPGs of all time. That game had a staggering 40+ playable characters in a quest that was only as long as that. Sounds crazy right? Hold on. It also had a weird system that allowed you to access all of them from the pause menu and swap them out at will. What sorcery is this!? Bear in mind this game came out 15 years ago.

La-famille-de-Tatsu

Start tying the noose, because this little idiot is with you for the next 100 hours or so.

One could go on all day about the design flaws in this game, really. Xenoblade Chronicles X promises you mechs from the start, but it forces you to play for 30-40 hours before you can finally get one. There’s no percentage counter or completion ratio for its ridiculous amount of quests so you have no idea how far you are along in completing the game. The main story is incredibly short in the grand scheme of things and seems to have little bearing on the world whatsoever. The cut scenes are static and the voice acting is uninvolving; just a lot of talking heads and ‘pan the camera wherever you want’ type scenarios.

There’s also way, way, WAY too much to do. Playing Xenoblade Chronicles X is like running a small business in terms of micromanagement, and even the most stalwart of players will be overwhelmed almost immediately. May the Mechonis help you if you’re an OCD completionist, because this game will make your eyes bleed.

Get ready: there are five continents, hundreds of destinations, over 700 achievements, dozens of affinity quests, hundreds of square miles to thoroughly explore, data mining probes, mech management and maintenance, art and skill upgrades, soul voices to swap out, characters to mix and match, and much much, more. Now to be fair, some of these things are optional to a certain degree, but the sheer volume of information and responsibility that is thrown at you over the first 10-20 hours is daunting to say the least, and it only gets more overwhelming as the game continues on.

The long and short of all of this makes for a clear and obvious shorthand: Xenoblade Chronicles X is a game with a lot of problems, but what might surprise you, if you haven’t played it yet that is, is that this also might be one of the best games released this year. If that sounds like a sort of riddle or conundrum to you than you’re not alone—rarely have I found myself so conflicted with a game as this.

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Whatever you think of the whole package, these mech battles are pretty amazing,

Cresting the 50 hour mark, I have no plans on abandoning this title, even with the bevy of great games released over the last year that I still have yet to catch up on. The reason for this is that even with its mountain of problems, XCX is still a very compelling and magnificent experience when it works. Exploring living, breathing ecosystems made up of predators and prey, with creatures that range from the size of a small bird to the size of a brontosaurus, is intensely involving and leaves the player filled with excitement as they wonder what new creature, docile or deadly, is waiting around every corner.

The same can be said for the environments. As I mentioned before, this game is staggering in its size and scope, and that means there’s a lot to take in on the visual spectrum. Roaring waterfalls that go on for miles, a giant series of rings balanced impossibly against the horizon, an alien set of moons and stars that change and blend in seamlessly with the scenery, and tree roots so large that you can walk up them as if they were stairways. There’s a lot to love here; it’s just too bad that its so frequently held back by XCXs many problems.

So, is Xenoblade Chronicles X a game that you should play? Well, if you had a lot of love for the original, than the answer is probably yes, but in an age with so many huge games, and many of them much more well refined than this, the game becomes a tougher sell. If you like JRPGs and the Wii U is your console of choice, than the answer is a resounding but slightly hesitant yes. You’re going to need to have a pretty big tolerance for JRPG bullshit to get through this journey.

Playing this game is like watching the kind of television show where you’re on the edge of your seat one minute, and rolling your eyes a few minutes later. For me, that puts it in a similar neck of the woods as say, Dexter, Smallville, Heroes, or The Walking Dead. Sometimes you’ll love it, other times you’ll wonder what the hell you’re still doing here. As with that comparison, there are going to be rewarding moments for those who stick through the lower points, but, to keep with the analogy, don’t expect this to be your Breaking Bad or Game of Thrones. A show like Supernatural is still going and will continue until 2018 at this rate, but that doesn’t mean most of us are still going to be with it by then.

Mike Worby is a human who spends way too much of his free time playing, writing and podcasting about pop culture. Through some miracle he's still able to function in society as if he were a regular person, and if there's hope for him, there's hope for everyone.

12 Comments

12 Comments

  1. David Scheele

    July 7, 2016 at 11:55 am

    I was sorely disappointed by this game. Sorely sorely disappointed. It was heartbreaking for me. I got a wiiu bundle with the game and was ready to sink another 120hours into it, like with the predecessor who i oh-so loved.

  2. Adeolu Adeoye

    July 27, 2016 at 5:24 pm

    I have to disagree with you on the story. It’s not just a generic JRPG plot. The main themes of the game are discovery, loss and inter-species relations (which can be seen as an allegory for race relations). The main story doesn’t flesh all of this out. These themes come through in the missions. There are many over the course of the game where a character is struggling with the loss of their family, friends and planet. There are many where the different races you meet during the game either choose to befriend and work with each other, or go out of their way to kill each other, and reject any kind of unity between races. One mission even sees you helping out an inter-species couple get married. Several missions teach you about each species’ culture and beliefs, and have you participate in ceremonies like burials and marriages. This game really captures these themes, but you have to go out of your way to talk to the planet’s residents and learn their stories. Characters aren’t just going to show up at your door and offer you their life stories.

    • Mike Worby

      July 28, 2016 at 1:24 am

      While I understand what you’re getting at, I would argue that a game like Mass Effect 2, for example, did a much better job of exploring the themes you’re talking about. The fact of the matter is that the writing just isn’t very strong for the side quests or the main quest in XBX.

      • CommonSense

        September 19, 2016 at 5:35 am

        Replaying this game and wanted to revisit this.

        Story wise, it could be the lightest on the cerebral story the xeno series is known for, falling below series peak xenoblade (Gottfreid Leibnitz’s monadology, functional programming with monads, divine geometry, pythogorean religion, and pretty much anything else that uses the monad as a concept). Below gears, and its incredibly on the nose interpretation of basic freudian concepts mixed with sci fi wtf awesomeness… and seems to just level off around Xenosagas overly verbose and yet somehow pointless and impotent take on Friedrich Nietzsche’s works…

        The main problem seems to be a truly God-awful localization. Seems the translation team was completely oblivious to the source material, which this time around was jungian concepts like logos, eros, (or anima/animus) the collective unconcious, the shadow, transformation… And just completely butchered the underlying meaning of the game… You can see the visual allegories of the logos or eros (this is actually the player character… the avatar of humanities collective unconcious) the collective unconcious, the shadow of mankind… but none of it makes any sense with the dialog because of the butchered localization.

        It would be as if the Monado (named primely after the monads in functional computer programming… Which is amusingly exactly how the monado works in game… Shulk literally re-programs reality.) Was named beam saber in the localization instead… The overt story would still be the campy shonen boy with magic sword story… But the signature Xeno understory, the ability to see whats really going on… would be crippled….

        So we don’t really know how X’s story is really doing… Unless there is a Carl Jung buff who is fluent in japanese… All we know is that what was localised… Is full of holes dead ends and unexplained absurdities…

        On a design level, the world is simply aces. Complete and utter perfection. Unfortunately, that was ruined by the fact none of it mattered. Exploring was nutered in X compared to the original because of X’s Extreme adherance to mission structure and level locks.

        In the original exploring offered huge rewards. You would often find a treasure chest, (yes the original Xenoblade had normal chests for those with the skill to find them) high level gem, or high level enemy, which if the player defeated above his level was rewarded with high level weapons or armor well beyond what they would normally get at that point in the game. It was fantastically designed so that almost all areas stayed rewarding for revisits throughout the adventure.

        X destroys this… The level lock and mission structures are awful. Even if you discover some crazy beasty and manage to take it down, you cant equip your rewarc for 30 levels/dozens of hours. BOO!!

        So what if you find some awesome landmark, you wont be able to interact with it until you are on the specific quest, and then pretends its the first time you ever came across the super important artifact… BOOOOOO!!!!

        Those are my main gripes with X, which like the author and others i still somehow truly love. The potential is just so potent… Just mix the best aspects of X, with the best aspects of its predecessor, and well be all set for another impact like the original xenoblade.

        • Mike Worby

          September 19, 2016 at 1:23 pm

          It really is too bad, with a few tweaks here and there this game could’ve been something truly special, like its forebear.

          • CommonSense

            September 19, 2016 at 3:11 pm

            Yeah. But I really dont feel like it was in the cards… The bad design choices all seem like hasty compromises, to reign in a massive project that simply had to come out someday. The silver lining i see here is invaluable experience creating and managing projects of the size and scale o XcX… The evolution of a long long long overdue open world design that finally doesnt rely on ‘potato world’ land/space/time compression (the hardware technology has been capable for over a decade…) This experience seems to have paid off in spades with monolithsofts work on the new Zelda being a clear show stopper.

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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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