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Year in Review: Nintendo Awakens From its Slumber

Nintendo has had a dramatic year with the launch of the Nintendo Switch, but has it been the triumphant return it needed?

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As the tale from Xenoblade Chronicles 2 would tell us, Titans have been falling from the cloud sea and perishing, creating a war for resources. Not that it’s always the end, as a special Titan is able to resurrect itself, revert back to its youth like a jellyfish and start its life again. We had been witnessing the slow death of a beloved Titan called Nintendo for almost a decade. The Wii U had failed, its market share had shrunk, and it was relying on an aging – albeit successful – handheld console called the 3DS.

Just when the walls of Constantinople had begun to crumble, the Byzantine flame set fire to the waters around it, preserving itself for another generation. While the invention of gunpowder would eventually leave the Byzantine story with an ending full of tragedy, the Nintendo story seems to have begun its resurrection; a Titan that has reverted back to its youth and looking revitalized.

The Breath of the Switch

It’s easy to forget that at the start of the year, we didn’t even have a Nintendo Switch in our lives. It wasn’t until the middle of January that we really came to realize the Switch’s potential with the ability to…switch. A gimmick in appearance, but one which would actually take the unique differences of people’s lives and allow them to define their own gaming experience. Clever. A stroke of genius that adapted to the diverse modern world that forever changes.

The child that played Ocarina of Time was the adult that wanted to play Breath of the Wild.

The clever marketing campaign was a self-reflection of Nintendo itself. The old man looking at his reflection in the water and seeing a young boy was no more, instead, the old man saw what he truly was and embraced it. No more did Nintendo target the children of today, instead, targeting the children of yesterday. The child that played Ocarina of Time was the adult that wanted to play Breath of the Wild.  The adult lives in an era of irregular shift patterns and a life of constant travel, the concept to switch from a home console to a handheld console allows for flexibility in the busy, modern-day life.

Strangely, the old man that finally realized he, and everybody else, had grown older, had actually found his youth once more; a resurrection. Nintendo, now understanding where the market for their console was, could reinvent the experience and deliver what they needed. Suddenly the boldest Legend of Zelda title was to be released on launch day, and a new Super Mario was in the works for later in the year. It was honest ambition, a recognition of the old-age concept that software sells hardware; it does help when the hardware is available though.

A Soft Approach Prevents a Hard Fall

Before the Nintendo Switch’s release in March, there were already concerns about its hardware. The battery isn’t particularly powerful, playing Breath of the Wild in handheld mode would probably drain the battery completely after two hours. The Joy-Cons were known to lose connection and the screen could be scratched when removed from its dock. Every console has early problems with its hardware but such issues are usually avoided by Nintendo. The Nintendo Switch is perhaps the biggest hardware problem Nintendo has ever found itself in.

The frustrations were understandable, the gimmick that Nintendo had marketed was facing huge scrutiny and could be jeopardized by some really troubling faults. After its release, some consumers even had numerous issues that resulted with it breaking down completely, and with the Nintendo Switch designed in a way that makes taking it apart more difficult than its predecessors, some even lost all their save files.There is no easy fix to a Switch breaking down with sending it off to Nintendo’s workshop and hoping for the best the only chance of fixing your investment.

What’s remarkable is, after all the negative implications surrounding the Nintendo Switch’s hardware, the console remains sold out. All expectations for sales were surpassed and Nintendo can’t supply the demanding fast enough. Intriguingly, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild sold more copies than the Switch itself, boosting the concept that software sells hardware.

Breath of the Wild was the best reason to buy the console on launch day, with Super Bomberman R and 1,2, Switch rather weak titles to its initial roster. However, by the end of the year, the choice of games on the Switch has grown to a decent level, with a good variety of indie games to match the strong exclusive titles. After the first year, it’s becoming obvious that the strongest aspect of the Switch isn’t its flexibility but the games it offers. The experience of playing the most expansive Zelda title on the go is the equivalent of releasing the master sword from the Great Deku Tree’s grasp, suddenly the world feels much more open.

The Legend Continues

Ever since the first trailer was released, Breath of the Wild was going to be one of the greatest games of the year. There was no doubting its courage and ambition to take the Zelda formula and manipulate everything that the fans had become to love to produce one of the most breathtaking games of all time. From a technical standpoint, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is Nintendo’s greatest achievement.

Breath of the Wild isn’t a book as told by the author, but a story found by the adventure of the player.

Now the year is closing and other games have been released, it wouldn’t be a stretch to say it’s the greatest game released this year. An open world with secrets that don’t want to be found, a blithesome landscape with an agitated environment scratching at its surface, the opportunity to save Hyrule in your own unique way.

There’s this curious assumption that Breath of the Wild had no storyline, a tired argument based on the reasoning projected by its predecessors. Breath of the Wild isn’t a book as told by the author, but a story found by the adventure of the player. You capture the heart of Hyrule through the memories of Link and Zelda, from these the story is pieced together and experienced. It is some of the best storytelling Nintendo has ever achieved which is just one reason why its the best game of 2017.

The problem for Nintendo is it has now set such a high bar for itself, every big title it releases will now have to try and jump higher than Breath of the Wild; an ambitious 2018 should be pursued. Did Super Mario Odyssey come close to overtaking Breath of the Wild as the game of the year? Not even close, but it certainly had its own creative merits that have helped cement 2017 as Nintendo’s year of resurrection.

Super Mario Odyssey

Came Back Cap in Hand

Super Mario Odyssey was easily the most anticipated title Nintendo had revealed after the release of Breath of the Wild. Caught between the success of the franchise and the excitement the Nintendo Switch was generating, it had a huge cap to fill.

Super Mario Odyssey is a tasteless soufflé, eager to be looked at but much harder to swallow.

Odyssey is a visual masterpiece, with some truly breathtaking worlds to tour on your voyage across the globe. From the delightful beach of the Seaside Kingdom to the mysterious palette of the Lost Kingdom, there is a beautiful world for everybody’s imagination. Each world has some unique creatures that Mario can throw a cap at, with the power of possession to gain unique abilities to help Mario find power moons across the landscape.

It sounds rather seductive, and the look and feel of Odyssey does remarkably well at drawing the player in, but what it has in style it lacks in substance. Super Mario Odyssey is a tasteless soufflé, eager to be looked at but much harder to swallow. Once you’ve completed the game you’re probably done with it, you’ve enjoyed the moment but there’s not much to keep you in that moment. It’s a crying shame that Odyssey couldn’t follow in the footsteps of Breath of the Wild and improve on its franchise’s formula, but there’s enough there to consider it a successful addition to the Switch’s growing catalogue of games. It is perhaps a victim of its own hype more than a hopeless plumber on the toilet seat. Nintendo has set its standards at an all-time high and it’ll now have to satisfy the expectations that come with it.

Earth Atlantis

Along Came One, Then Another

Before the release of the Switch, Nintendo was really trying to push the indie movement onto the public. It was having a hard time convincing the world that indie developers had embraced the Switch and was embarking on a new relationship. It was easy to see why, the initial trailers showed old games like Skyrim and remakes of Wii U games being ported across to the new system; difficult to argue the case of a revolutionary system without fresh content.

When the Switch launched and the Switch sold out – and remains sold out in many countries – indie developers soon turned their heads and realized that this was a system with a great opportunity for their product. Along came a Nintendo Direct focusing on indie games and the rest is history, indie games have found a very comfortable home on the Nintendo Switch.

The flexibility of the Switch gives a lot of creative liberalism for the indie developer. The opportunity to create unique games that the player can enjoy wherever in the world they happen to be is exciting, and the diversity of indie games that are either already there or in development to be there is very encouraging. The beautiful world of Rime, the artistic parchment of Earth Atlantis, and the Golden Axe inspired Wulverblade have all found a place in the Switch’s new indie home. With games like Mulaka coming shortly next year, the Nintendo Switch has opened up a different market for indie games, where before they relied on the stationary existence of Steam; the Switch has opened the market for a more casual gamer.

Nintendo on the Go

Anybody remember Pokémon Go? It wasn’t strictly a Nintendo game but it sure gave Nintendo enough inspiration to enter the mobile market last year. Swiftly followed Super Mario Run with some genuine success, and then at the beginning of this year, along came Fire Emblem Heroes, introducing new fans to a less known franchise – it was a success.

It was fertile ground ready to be tilled.

Fire Emblem Heroes had a much more subtle but enduring success than its mobile predecessor Super Mario Run. Fire Emblem Heroes has actually been a much more lucrative investment for Nintendo than Super Mario Run, a testament to its success and its influence to push Fire Emblem closer to the front of priorities. Suddenly, Fire Emblem Warriors was on the agenda, not so much a true Fire Emblem title, but one that utilizes that popular characters in a setting that those new to the franchise could appreciate. There is now a working title for true Fire Emblem game for the Switch, an acknowledgment that the franchise has gained a much greater following because Fire Emblem Heroes became a fantastic introduction for so many people.

This is one of the many beauties of Nintendo’s stray into the mobile market. It’s an opportunity comprising of close to seven billion cell phone subscriptions; the world at your fingertips. When you can cast your net into the world, you’ll be sure to pick up something new and that’s the prize of the mobile market. One day they find Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp on the App Market, the next they’re buying a Nintendo Switch because they want to experience the next Animal Crossing game.

The foray into the mobile market is Nintendo’s most understated marketing achievement and it shouldn’t be dismissed. Sony and Microsoft fans had largely forgotten about Nintendo until Pokémon Go gave them a surprise market share rise. It was fertile ground ready to be tilled. A gentle approach to plant the appropriate seed in the correct season to produce another Harvest Moon. The careful approach into this new market has left Nintendo with unnoticeable success. They’re there before their competition has even created a game plan, a success that is as equally accomplished as the release of the Switch.

In the future, don’t be surprised to see a Metroid mobile game make its way to your App store. With Metroid Prime 4 known to be in development, it would be in line with Nintendo’s new approach to the mobile market, using the cell phone as a tool to market something bigger. It would be a clever attempt to introduce new fans to the Metroid franchise, which isn’t as well known among the younger generations as those that grew up with Metroid might believe.

Nintendo 3DS

End of an Era

2017 will probably mark the end of an old favorite, the Nintendo 3DS. While Nintendo seems hesitant to let it go – which is understandable when the Wii U failed – the longer it sticks around the less likely consumers will make the switch.

Whether Nintendo will produce a true replacement for the 3DS is unclear, but for this year, it is the end of an era.

There were some high profile games released on the 3DS this year. Metroid: Samus Returns is a fantastic game and deserved its critical acclaim, Pokémon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon was, on the contrary, a cash grab. And that was perhaps the final punch for the 3DS, one final heist before it retires and goes down as one of the most successful consoles of all time.

Handhelds have been a staple for Nintendo ever since they launched the Game Boy in the 80s. It’s not surprising that the Switch would have a handheld capability as it’s the most consistently successful aspect of any Nintendo console. The Switch was the replacement for the Wii U, but with the Pokémon games heading to the Switch either next year or 2019, then it could also be seen as the replacement for the 3DS. Whether Nintendo will produce a true replacement for the 3DS is unclear, but for this year, it is the end of an era.

Mario

The Attack of the Titan

The Wii U had left Nintendo sleeping too long and now its awoken with new hope and vigor in its step. A change of fortunes that had arisen through the success of the Nintendo Switch and entry into the mobile market, but the battle certainly isn’t over. There are so many metaphorical comparisons between Nintendo and Byzantium that it’s still possible for Nintendo to become overwhelmed by the much bigger competition.

2017 has been an important year for Nintendo, and 2018 might just become even more important yet. 2017 stands as the year Nintendo resurrected itself as a Titan of gaming and it’s exciting to see what they can come up with next to keep the momentum going. Nintendo’s ambition must be to somehow surpass the quality of Breath of the Wild, that’s the benchmark, but if it can do it then it’ll be a stronger announcement than ever of its triumphant return.

 

Lost his ticket on the 'Number 9' Luxury Express Train to the Ninth Underworld. Has been left to write articles and reviews about games to write off his debt until the 'powers that be' feel it is sufficiently paid.

9 Comments

9 Comments

  1. John Cal McCormick

    December 11, 2017 at 4:17 am

    I’m glad it’s not just me that feels this way about Odyssey. I finished the main storyline to the point where the credits rolled, and then I continued looking for moons for a few hours and just gave up. I was actually bored. It was fine, and there were moments of magic, but they were spread out amongst a sea of annoying busy work. Less is more – 250 moons that were fun to find would be so much better than 999 in which three quarters of them are a chore.

    I played Zelda after Mario and the difference is enormous. 120 shrines or whatever but each one has a great little idea tucked into it and each one feels at least slightly unique. It was a joy to hunt them all down.

    • James Baker

      December 11, 2017 at 5:30 am

      Collecting moons in Odyssey is like finding the Koroks in BOTW. It becomes meaningless after a certain point. The difference is, finding Koroks isn’t the entire point to BOTW, finding moons was to Odyssey.

      • John Cal McCormick

        December 11, 2017 at 5:46 am

        That was exactly the point I was going to make when I started talking about Zelda but I got distracted at work. Zelda has a few dungeons, a few more shrines, and a billion of the Korok things. No way on this earth I was going to hunt down all those things, but the dungeons and the shrines were all fun and unique in their own way – although, to be fair, I didn’t enjoy the dungeons as much as the shrines.

        Mario feels like the meat of the game is the thing in Zelda you cared least about. That’s my major gripe with it. So many of the moons require so little skill. There’s a bunch of them just thrown around at the far flung corners of maps and you just have to trudge over and collect them. Do we really need so many of those? It boggles my mind that Mario reviewed as well as Zelda.

  2. Brent Middleton

    December 21, 2017 at 11:51 am

    Really interesting read James. I actually really loved Odyssey, but I haven’t played Zelda so I can’t compare the two. I do agree that finding all of the moons became a chose, but I suppose it didn’t hamper my enjoyment of the game since finding them all isn’t required.

    I think we’ll see a couple more “big” releases for the 3DS next year before they finally call it quits. Miitopia was quite good this year, and I heard FE Echoes and Samus Returns were also great, but it’s time for them to move on and focus on the Switch. If anything, I foresee a Switch Mini at a lower price point aimed at the current 3DS market in the next couple years.

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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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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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