The Metal Gear Solid lineage is one of reverence that has now spanned four generations and as many as nine fully-featured games. Of that prestigious selection, no title is more noteworthy than Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater. I say that not because it is the objective best entry into the franchise, but because of the fact that, in a span of just under eight years, it has racked up an astonishing total of four re-releases; this means that, statistically, every other year has seen an iteration upon the basic groundwork of Metal Gear Solid 3. Metal Gear Solid 3D: Snake Eater is the latest attempt by Konami to enrich the formula and, with the implementation of stereoscopic 3D and upgrade mechanics, quite easily the most ambitious.
Ambition is great and we’ll get to those innovations in a moment, but where any proper review of Metal Gear Solid 3D must begin is in an examination of the original product at the core of its design document. Metal Gear Solid 3 is, in this writer’s humble opinion, the most well-done, emotionally-gripping piece out of Kojima Productions. The story told here is a rescue mission that rapidly escalates into a conflict with dire consequences for the entire world but, unlike many games bearing the Kojima namesake, it does so in a way that is concise without paying too much attention to pointless minutia. By the end of the campaign (which approximates to about 8 or 9 hours of playtime), I was so caught up in the expertly crafted narrative that I was hanging on every last word that dripped from Snake’s grizzled lips. It bears mentioning that the ending, a confrontation that has long echoed as one of the industry’s finest cinematic moments, is very much one that can and will bring players to the verge of tears.
Snake Eater was also different in that it was the first game to actively integrate elements more common to role-playing games into the stealth-based franchise. Players are tasked with sifting through their inventory to perform such tasks as changing the camouflage that Snake is wearing to better disappear into the surroundings, mend injuries suffered during combat, and find proper food to aid in quenching the war hero’s undying hunger. Camouflage in particular was an innovation long overdo for a series built on sneaking through vast territories unseen, but it can be said that the other two additions only work to take players out of the game more than they already are by the profuse number of story segments and codec conversations.
We’ve established what Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater is, but what is it that makes Metal Gear Solid 3D separate itself enough to warrant a purchase? The first and most obvious answer to this question is in the title: 3D. Indeed, every last detail and asset of the original PS2 classic has seen a full conversion into the third-dimension. When previewing the game last month, I was initially distraught to find minimal merit in the highly-touted feature. It isn’t long before you step into the shoes of Naked Snake in the retail game that you find out exactly why a game like this is on this particular platform; the first cinematic demonstrates what is known as a HALO Jump, a stunt in which the protagonist leaps from his CIA helicopter and lands in the midst of a dense Soviet forest. As soon as this segment kicked off I became certain of the necessity of 3D in recreating this classic experience. At this point in the life of the Nintendo 3DS we have yet to see a firm identity emerge for the handheld, but it is my hope and belief that Metal Gear Solid 3D is the first of many steps in the self-realization process that brings more cinematic experiences, a breed conducive to such visual gimmickry, to the platform.
It was expected that Metal Gear Solid 3D would bring the heralded saga into the third-dimension, but one cannot say it was expected for Kojima Productions and Konami to use ideas thought up in the later stages of the franchise in recreating the third game. Here we see the return of such features from Metal Gear Solid 4 as the ability to move while in a crouched position and third-person aiming. Both of these worked together to make the franchise’s conclusion a much more accessible, easy-to-navigate experience and, to a certain extent, they do the same for Snake Eater; crouching has, thanks to this addition, become the most strategically viable mode of transportation for sneaking around the environment while third-person aiming provides a less clumsy, more intuitive way to approach the combat portion of the game.
The latter of these two is, while useful, unfortunately a victim of the hardware. Though the Nintendo 3DS provides a control interface that works in large part it does not provide one suitable for precise aiming in tense situations; I can recall many moments in which the Snake character controlled by myself stood around awkwardly, fumbling around with his weaponry until finally getting off a shot that barely grazed the enemy’s arm. This is a problem that can be solved with the purchase of a CirclePad Pro accessory, but the combat featured in Metal Gear Solid 3D plays such a minimal role in the scope of things that it is best to stick with the known evil and not the $25 evil.
Outside of controls, very little exists in the way of negative effects brought about by the transition from Playstation 2 to Nintendo 3DS. The framerate does occasionally chug but it does it so infrequently that it becomes more of a minor irritant than a full-blown failing on the part of Metal Gear Solid 3D. Sound quality sees a similar dip (a rather unfortunate side-effect for when you are listening to the game’s ludicrously awesome theme song) when playing out of the internal speakers; headphones are a simple fix for that complaint, though.
When discussing Metal Gear Solid 3D: Snake Eater there is a shortage of bad adjectives to use in describing the game. Metal Gear Solid 3, the title from which this recreation spawned, was already a product very well on the cusp of perfection. This, a three-dimensional remake for the Nintendo 3DS, pushes the game a few steps forward and a few back in a move that amounts to little more than a wash.
There is no doubt that Metal Gear Solid 3D: Snake Eater is worth a look, and there is even less doubt that the title in question is worth the $40 asking price. The game is both the perfect Metal Gear Solid and the perfect embodiment of what the 3DS could very well become if it were to (hopefully) drift even further towards a library of cinematic masterpieces.