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Wrongful Snake: The Problem With Yet Another Metal Gear Prequel

The PixlBit staff is quite diverse in their gaming passions, and it’s one of my favorite things about writing here. In addition to being “Mr. Final Fantasy” I probably also hold the title of biggest Metal Gear Solid fanatic. Well, I might tie with Patrick Kijek, but MGS is a series that I’ve followed religiously since playing the Japanese Famitsu demo disc way back in 1998. It follows, then, that I should be beyond excited at the announcement of Metal Gear Solid 5, right? While I’m always happy to hear of another main entry in the series directed by Hideo Kojima, I just can’t muster up much enthusiasm for this one. Even the shininess of new console hardware and the Fox Engine can’t get my blood pumping. Why? Chalk it up prequel fatigue, and a longing for what could have been. (Note: The following editorial contains major spoilers for Metal Gear Solid 4. You have been warned.)

Solid Snake should be dead.

The story of Metal Gear Solid 4 contained all of the bombast and sci-fi/military hoodoo that we’ve all come to love (or loathe) from the series. Yet at its core, MGS 4 was a much more intimate story of an old dog of war going out for one last hunt. If it wasn’t obvious from the rapid aging brought on from Snake’s cloning process, his dialogue throughout makes it crystal clear. Solid Snake’s time was over, and he wasn’t long for this future that Kojima envisioned, full of nanomachines, PMCs, and cyborgs.

There were plenty of wonderfully poignant ways to end Solid Snake. His struggle to shut off The Patriots, fighting down that radiation-flooded corridor, was not only a heroic deed of Herculean proportions, but could have been the perfect swan song for the former Fox Hound soldier. His epic fight with Liquid Ocelot was another place where our brave hero could have fallen. Lastly, and most obviously, Solid Snake could have taken his own life in that final scene, avoiding a slow and painful death from the FOXDIE virus.

There were plenty of ways to let Solid Snake go out like a hero, but Konami and Kojima Productions flinched instead of quite literally pulling the trigger.

Since Metal Gear Solid 4, we’ve had another prequel in the form of Peacewalker for the PlayStation Portable and later the Xbox 360 and PS3 with the MGS HD Collection. That was the fourth game to star Naked Snake, AKA Big Boss, the genetic source material for Solid Snake. Then we had the announcement of Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes, which was obviously another prequel that (at the time) was said to have story ties to the yet-to-be-announced MGS 5. Speculation at the time was that whatever Big Boss Snake got up to in Ground Zeroes would have a lasting impact on Solid Snake’s next adventure in the fifth Metal Gear Solid game.

Fast forward a bit, and Metal Gear Solid 5 is indeed announced, with the trailer showing a lot of the same footage shown in the Ground Zeroes teaser. Information is still hazy, but we know that Ground Zeroes and MGS 5 comprise a complete story. Whether these are two complete games that continue into each other or a way of splitting one game into two full retail games is unknown, but what is known is that both games feature the Big Boss incarnation of Snake.

I think this is a huge mistake. Ground Zeroes and MGS 5 will bring the total of prequel, “Big Boss” Metal Gear games to six. That’s more games than Solid Snake was in, unless you count spinoffs like Ac!d or Ghost Babel. In a world where God of War and Gears of War get chastised for going backwards, can we really say this is fine in the Metal Gear series? At this point, how many more stories of Big Boss can be told before we reach the inevitable remake of the MSX Metal Gear game that started it all?

The series needs to move forward, but I think Konami is scared. My gut tells me that Kojima wanted to kill off Solid Snake but wasn’t allowed to, so now he exists in this limbo while we get prequel after prequel. As much as I love Solid Snake, I’m well-past ready for him to retire.

I think video game developers and publishers get too attached to their characters, and let them continue until either the franchise or the development teams are run into the ground. There is plenty of potential for long-running series to reinvent themselves by introducing a new protagonist. Look at the success of the Assassin’s Creed games: a series that is about to have its fourth main series protagonist in seven years. It’s a lesson that the God of War team could learn, and I’ll put Kojima Productions in that camp, as well.

It’s time for someone else to slip into the sneaking suit, but who?

I’ve got two words for you: Johnny Sasaki.

Now, before you kick me off of the internet, I have my reasons. If the series is to move on from the events of Metal Gear Solid 4 without Solid Snake, then it should be a time to somewhat reinvent the series. To do so, you need a character that ties back into the history of the franchise without having a story that everyone knows. Johnny Sasaki has ties all the way back to the first MGS game, best known as the Genome soldier that’s sitting on the toilet and talking to himself about how hot Meryl is. He’s a total joke character throughout the series, known for his irritable bowel syndrome and being generally lousy around women.

He’s the complete antithesis of Solid Snake, and this opens up a whole new world of opportunities.

This idea isn’t without historical merit, and when you stop to think about it, it makes a ton of sense in what’s come before. Hideo Kojima surprised and pissed off a great deal of gamers in 2001 when he slipped in the untested, somewhat whiny, and effeminate character Raiden as the main protagonist of Metal Gear Solid 2.  Fans hated Raiden, but came to love him when he reappeared in MGS 4 and later in his own spinoff title. I think a large part of that reversal came from fans getting to see Raiden “grow up” in front of them. They controlled him as a boy and saw him become a man by MGS 4. Well, cyborg.

Johnny has even more modest roots, what with all the comedic and tragic moments he’s had over the course of the series. Even his grandfather got into hilarious trouble in Metal Gear Solid 3. However, by the end of MGS 4, Johnny is not only revealed to be somewhat of a badass soldier, but if you squint he kind of resembles a younger, blonder Snake. To pile on the awesome, he proposes to Meryl while in the middle of a firefight. I mean, how smooth is that?

By this point, you may be thinking that I’m kidding about this, but I’m dead serious. I imagine a game with a young Johnny taking up the Snake codename and going on his first sneaking mission. Maybe Solid Snake is on the Codec in Col. Campbell’s old role. Considering that Johnny Sasaki is a full-blooded human with not a hint of nanomachines or cyborg implants, the story could be this great “man vs. technology” adventure. Maybe we’d get a game that makes good on the dilemma that Too Human couldn’t execute on.

If you’re reading this and shaking your head vehemently, consider that many badass and powerful characters in media come from, er, less than awesome beginnings. When Wolverine’s origin was finally revealed, it was learned that he started out as a sickly, scrawny child that was almost always stuck in bed with some cold or other disease. Evil Dead’s Ash was some schlub that worked at S Mart before getting his hand replaced with a chainsaw. Darth Vader was an insufferable little brat that grew up into an insufferable young man before Obi Wan set him on fire. These meager beginnings don’t detract from where these characters ended up, and if anything add to their rich backstories.

Well, maybe not Darth Vader. That kind of ruined the magic.

I’m not asking you to jump on my Johnny Sasaki bandwagon, but surely the thought of yet another Metal Gear Solid prequel makes you yawn just a little bit, right? Don’t you want to see something new in such a beloved franchise? Or is Metal Gear only Metal Gear if it has Naked or Solid Snake in it? Let me know your thoughts on this and other long-running series, but for now, I’m #TeamJohnnySasaki!





04/26/2013 at 04:42 PM

I am sure that there is still some of big boss's genetic material floating around.  at the very leat they could go ahead in time and use a new clone.


04/26/2013 at 05:06 PM

I do admit one of Snake's defining traits as a hero is his vulnerability. We can see the age lines and sorrow on his face and there's something genuinely human about that. If he keeps showing up it's just going to make him seem "immortal" and to me that kills the best things about his characterization.

Yes, Kojima can justify his existence with another clone or even an android plot twist but when death no longer matters why should we care? Where are the stakes? Where's the true heroism of sacrifice?


04/27/2013 at 06:36 AM

This is actually kind of a cool idea. I agree that Konami probably held Kojima back from offing Snake in MGS4, but I'm ok with him surviving, especially since, ultimately, it was by his own choice, which is both cool and ties back into teh first Solid title. But....I'm not sold on Johnny. Honestly, I'd go with Meryl. Remember her? Kind of important in MGS, comepletely unmentioned in MGS2, kinda secondary throughout MGS4, which had teh interesting effect of leaving her very survival of MGS in question, thanks to that game's branching point? I keep hoping she'll get a little love attention. Maybe she could get her own title. It's unlikely, but I can dream. And hey, that means Johnny is likely to play at least some role, given their relationship.

Julian Titus Senior Editor

05/02/2013 at 05:52 PM

The fact that you're not sold on Johnny is exactly why I think he'd be awesome. If we had been told that Raiden would be the star of MGS 2 we probably would have felt the same way.

But Meryl would be FANTASTIC. I love the idea of a female MGS star, and she'd be awesome, both for legacy and story purposes.


04/27/2013 at 11:21 AM

kojima can do as he pleases...has never created a bad entry into the series and until he does nobody needs to be telling him how to do what hes obviously good at


04/27/2013 at 01:09 PM

I don't think anyone is "telling" Kojima how to do his job. It's just an opinion. I have faith in Kojima too but I also think Snake is getting old. Not as a character, I mean the guy really is aging at a rapid rate! That's part of the tragic hook of his character. Just seems as if that last part is conveniently ignored sometimes.


Julian Titus Senior Editor

05/02/2013 at 05:53 PM

I'd never dream of telling Kojima what to do. He's my game design idol, and I know I'm going to love MGS 5. I'm just ready to move on from Big Boss at this point.


04/27/2013 at 08:50 PM

There are at least two problems with doing prequels.  The first is that, by doing so, you're potentially meddling with the chronology of the franchise (TIME PARADOX--okay, there, got that out of the way).  We think of Star Wars probably most immediately for doing that, but growing up as a big Gundam fan, I've seen it happen there a bit, too.  All of a sudden there's these people, factors, and/or story threads that, while maybe not groundbreaking or anything, add just enough to throw off the continuity of the chronologically future titles.  Oddly, I think of MGS almost doing this in reverse; we get these support characters in MGS3 who are pretty cool and not necessarily that significant, but by MGS4 they're actually all THE WORST PEOPLE EVER AND THEY PAID FOR THEIR SINS WITH THEIR BLOOOOOOOD.

The other problem (as one article discussed) is that, by actually showing us the past, the creator sort of takes the mysticism and imagination of the character or story.  Again, using Star Wars as a reference, Anakin is turned from a good-spirited-Jedi-turned-bad into...uh, a kid and then a really underwhelming protagonist.  So far, I don't think MGS has done this, because Solid Snake's tale has pretty much been told, and I guess the whole continuity has by this point has been covered.  MGS3 demonstrated that a Big Boss game could be amazingly done, and the other games starring him (from what I hear) haven't been too shabby, either.

At this point, MGS is sailing into those rough seas currently battering the Resident Evil franchise: games which exist only to sell the label.

Julian Titus Senior Editor

05/02/2013 at 05:56 PM

Agreed on all points. The only possible Big Boss story I'd want to see at this point is how he became the head of Outer Heaven and how he went from patriot to enemy of the state. But they may have covered that in Peace Walker already...I couldn't deal with its multiplayer-centric gameplay.

Casey Curran Staff Writer

04/28/2013 at 02:30 PM

I can see what you're saying, but I don't think a double standard is taking place where people are more okay with MGS prequels than ones for both GoW's. With Gears, they gave us Baird to play as, someone who no one liked. At least MGS2 had its reasons for giving Raiden, Gears is all about feeling badass, something which Baird could not do like Marcus Fenix. Meanwhile God of War went from killing every God on Olympus to just fighting some weird sisters that felt a lot like weaker versions of GoW2's villains. MGS3 meanwhile is the fan favorite game despite not having Solid Snake. People are just going to accept it easier.

Truth be told though, I'm not sure if a new MGS is the right direction for Kojima period. I think he should move onto another series, keep MGS gameplay, but give a new world, new characters, even a new message. Nuclear war, a power elite, and what being a hero truly means. Good messages, but there's more of them out there and more ways to approach these ones in particular. I'll still play MGS5, but I have a hard time seeing a future where I do not consider 3 as where the series peaked.

Julian Titus Senior Editor

05/02/2013 at 05:59 PM

I think with Gears and God of War people had already witnessed the stories of those characters reach a good conclusion. I feel the same way about Big Boss and Solid Snake. I feel like I've seen their stories, and I'd like to see the story of someone new or at least newish.

But yes, I wish that Kojima could move on to something new. He could still address similar issues, but with a new setting, characters, and possibly even game mechanics. I sure wouldn't mind seeing a Snatcher update...


05/04/2013 at 08:52 PM
This comment has been removed.


05/04/2013 at 09:03 PM

Although Johnny Sasaki looks eerily and annoyingly like a young blonde Solid Snake...No. No. No. I think the prequels do offer something new that making a Solid Snake game can't. Solid Snake's character ran it's course even if he wasn't killed, despite the fact many feel the ending to Solid 4 was a huge cop out. Hell, it might have even cost David Hayter his job because even he complained about it. But it's over.

The prequels have moved along steadily in chronological order and have brought us closer to Outer Heaven in the original game. With the foundation laid down in MGS3, Naked Snake's story has been the most nuanced and the more compelling, mostly because that story came about during a more advanced era than it's predecessors that allowed it, but also because of what these divergent paths represent. Solid Snake games took on a quasi fourth wall quality where it was crtiquing the video game industry within the games themselves with character switching and plot lines that revolve around mind control and micro transactions, while the Naked Snake games stripped away the tech and lament of the loss of individuality and just went for the real grit of having to be be a hero that has to do things, which aren't very heroic. It's a compelling approach, rather than an action game that feels the need to apologize for being successful.

So I'm fine with prequels if the series keeps going in the direction towards Outer Heaven, eventually reaching a conclusion. But if they were to make a true sequel to MGS 4 I think you would have to start with a new operative in the starring role. I vote for Meryl. Sorry Johnny.


05/08/2013 at 11:10 PM

i read kojima said 5 is likely to be the last metal gear. in my opinion, it's a good way to end it, showing big boss' transformation into the lunatic he was in solid's story. and that very transformation is what kickstarted the series. so it'd be nice to end a great franchise in a perfect circle. those who think big boss is stealing solid snake's spotlight, i think there's room in 5 to bring a young solid snake and give him some pivotal role. and as for johny, it's a good idea, for a spin-off. the series should end with 5, as is currently planned.

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