Hideo Kojima’s titles have always made an impact once they’re released for several reasons; not only are they well crafted, but they also push a console’s limits to show both technical prowess and imbue games with exciting new gameplay features. When Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater was first released in, it had already turned heads for its meticulous systems that required gamers to do more than just sneak around enemies. With its rerelease on the 3DS, it delivers the same great experience on the portable and in stereoscopic 3D.
As a prequel to the main Metal Gear Solid canon, Snake Eater stars Big Boss or Naked Snake in place of Solid Snake. During the Cold War, he’s sent on a mission to retrieve a Soviet scientist; as he was about to succeed, he discovers that his mentor, The Boss, has defected to the Soviet Union and taken the scientist with her so that the Soviets could finish developing the nuclear tank, Shagohad. This sends Snake on another mission to both stop the tank’s development and kill The Boss. As an individual story, it’s chock full of political intrigue and conspiracies; as a supplemental story to the main storyline, its inclusion of characters like Ocelot flesh out their origins and adds some closure to the universe.
While the game already looked impressive on the PS2, the stereoscopic 3D and widescreen resolution only enhance the visuals. Overall, there’s quite a bit of details in the game, including blades of grass that could be swiped aside by a knife and solder’s bodies that react realistically to the environment. However, there’s also some noticeably bland textures and a sporadic slowdown during both gameplay and cutscenes, whether the 3D slider is on fully or off, that show some flawed design.
Every aspect of the gameplay screams attention to detail. Unlike other iterations of the Metal Gear Solid series, where the importance lies in hiding behind corners and avoiding the enemy at all cost, Snake Eater puts players in the jungle and challenges them to find the correct camouflage that will allow them to hide in plain sight. Because players will be camouflaged, not stealth cloaked, taking out enemies feels somewhat akin to hunting prey – small movements and minimizing one’s presence as to remain undetected. Like other games in the series, players are presented with minimal ammo, which places an emphasis on stealth and strategy rather than the running and gunning that other war games may glorify.
As one of the first games to take advantage of the Circle Pad Pro, Snake Eater does so brilliantly and recreates the console experience that players had with the game perfectly. With both shoulder buttons and an extra analog pad available, no control function is left unavailable. However, anyone who did not want to shell out the $20 for that accessory will be at a loss when playing this game. It is awkward to say the least, placing important functions like ducking on the same side as the left analog pad’s character control through the d-pad and using the face buttons to control the camera. While I can’t imagine any other setup with the 3DS’s limited controls, it’s disappointing to once again see a game’s optimal experience be held back by the lack of an accessory.
Those who are excited about the recreation of the console experience will be happy to know that everything from boss fights to unlockables are also included. Anyone who’s played Snake Eater before will remember them for both the realism and unique brilliance that Kojima injects into every boss battle he has designed. Unfortunately, aside from the complete single player story mode, nothing else is included. As a result, only the hardcore players or completionists looking to unlock everything will find lasting value with this title.
For both the hardcore Metal Gear Solid fan and those who have not tried Snake Eater yet, this game is a great purchase. The experience of being able to play one of the best games in the series on a portable is an undeniable thrill; however, technical issues like the iffy framerate and a lack of replay value holds the game back from being a masterpiece of the same caliber as its previous release. For the optimal experience, fans may want to look to the console counterparts instead.
Available on: 3DS; Publisher: Konami; Developer: Kojima Productions; Players: 1; Released: February 21, 2012; ESRB: Mature; MSRP: $39.99; Official Site
Note: A retail copy was provided to Denkiphile for review purposes by the publisher.