Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, a masterpiece of the PlayStation 2 generation, is a little bit less than eight years old. In those eight years it has already seen two rereleases: Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence and an HD upgrade bundled with last fall’s Metal Gear Solid Collection on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. This year, Snake Eater is receiving yet another port for the Nintendo 3DS, aptly titled Metal Gear Solid 3D: Snake Eater.
You may have noticed that the last paragraph contained exactly five uses of the Metal Gear Solid namesake; that, my friends, was intentional. In a short amount of time, the third game in a franchise of only four major entries has already amassed more ports and rereleases than any title of the time should feel entitled to. Metal Gear Solid 3D: Snake Eater represents the tail end of an effort now spanning just less than eight years and as such brings with it the least incentive for purchase. With that in mind, Konami has made available a demo for download on the Nintendo 3DS’s eShop to hopefully entice players whom are likely already comfortable with their time spent in Cold War-era combat as Big Boss to give the game one last, final last try.
The demo shoots players right into the midst of the action that kicks off the game; you are a highly-trained operative, Naked Snake, alone in the wildlife of the Soviet Union. Here you crawl amongst the overgrown shrubbery, sneaking around from hidden location to location taking out enemies on your way to a small outpost containing an important prisoner. Or, to say it in a way that is shorter and more conducive to saving time and energy, it is Metal Gear Solid.
Little has changed in the transition from console to handheld; Snake still runs, rolls, and crawls as well as he ever has. One slight, appealing change made to the basic mechanics is that you can now maneuver around the environment from a crouched position. Before Metal Gear Solid 4, Snake’s motion was limited to recklessly running about or crawling slowly about the terrain. The added method of traversal makes some of the portions in which corners are packed tightly with opposing forces go by a little more smoothly and keeps the flow of the game at a slightly elevated pace.
There is, however, another change to the formula, but this time it’s more of a concession and less of an innovation. The Nintendo 3DS noticeably lacks a second analog stick, and for those without the monstrous Circle-Pad Pro accessory control of aiming and the camera is left to the four main face buttons. This system is as old as handheld, three-dimensional gaming itself and works adequately, but I could see several occasions popping up that have players panicking as this clumsier method of interface slows them down in battling off an onslaught of Soviet soldiers.
Obviously, though, it isn’t gameplay renovation that is meant to bring players back into the fold for Metal Gear Solid 3D; the appeal is meant to lie almost exclusively in the title. Yes, this is Metal Gear Solid 3, but it is also the first game in the series to feature eye-popping 3D effects. In the short sampling, a trial run that includes minimal cinematic scenes, the only use of the 3DS’s unique toolset is in the fact that the grass you’re crawling in comes off the screen in a way that is routine to the platform. Turning off the 3D didn’t seem to make much of a difference in my eyes, and actually turned out to be a boon for the game when a short segment had the player using the gyroscope feature to balance on a shaky bridge. This is another case of bipolar development; there needed to be a decision here whether to pander to the 3DS’s visual appeal or its gyroscopic capabilities, and Konami went with both in a move that makes everyone suffer.
Metal Gear Solid 3D’s demo is a small sampling that doesn’t leave the player with much promise for anything beyond the expected. Granted, the segment presented is the worst, most uninteresting part of the game, but even still the 3D effects touted to make this game worthwhile seem null and void in the scope of the game. It’s hard to say whether or not the game is worth a purchase based off of a twenty-minute scenario; it isn’t hard to say, though, that for the same price players can get this very same game, alongside two other titles in the franchise, in a visual style that genuinely does improve the experience: HD.
Metal Gear Solid 3D: Snake Eater launches tomorrow, February 21, for the Nintendo 3DS.