It’s hard for me to look so far back in time and remember my mind sets as they have changed through the years. My introduction with the Metal Gear (Solid) series cultivated after staring at many box covers of the original and the at the time newly released Sons of Liberty, as well as many titles that familiarized me with super star franchises throughout my youth in the late 90’s and early 00’s. I eventually picked up Sons of Liberty with my parents at Costco, escaping to the games display while they completed their errands. The thing most prevalent in my mind was “the sword wielding chick” whose artwork was scattered throughout the strategy guide. Since I wasn’t adept enough to progress past the introductory Tanker level, I would peek ahead in my guide to learn that I would take of control of the katana equipped femme fatale that got me interested into the series. After scores of attempts to explore past the Tanker, I eventually was allowed access to the Plant level, and access to control that “sword wielding chick” I had been hoping to accompany.
Man was I wrong. Immediately after hearing her speak as she rose from the oily ocean sludge into the Disposal Facility, it hit me. “That’s a Dude!?!”
Now this was a bit disorienting for my enthusiasm, but it couldn’t dissuade me from the brilliance of Sons of Liberty. Snake’s infiltration of the Tanker to expose another Metal Gear threat, Raiden’s walk into hell of an introduction to Dead Cell, Grey Fox(Mk II), Revolver Ocelot’s ulterior motives, that (stupid) escort of Otacon’s sister, and the duel with Solidus. I could talk endlessly of what excels, but that’s not my point. Being my first entry, Sons of Liberty rings something special between Metal Gear and me, causing me to become somewhat of an evangelist for Raiden. Before Metal Gear Solid’s 4 revamp, Raiden became a joke in the series, not just among the fans, but rising up to developments, reaching its peaks with the rightfully hilarious Major Ivan Raidenovitch Raikov and his infamous thong. I laughed along but I still remember my faith in Raiden’s potential to be a badass.
Then came Metal Gear Solid 4. As Hideo Kojima toiled away on the conclusion to his epic tale, he teased his community of fans with many trailers, hinting at what we would be gifted with. One of the more popular trailers was Raiden’s Return, which revealed a complete change for Raiden, from espionage rookie to cyborg ninja. I didn’t have a Playstation 3 until the first Redesign, which led to quite a bit of speculation to how the change had taken place, but nevertheless I was proud to shout “I told you, I knew he was cool”. After subsequently playing MGS4 several times more than too much I had a general understanding of Raiden’s transformation, but I still wanted a blatant explanation. Luckily Hideo had some news.
After relishing on the success of the forth addition to his popular series, and in between some Playstation Portable titles and other works, Hideo and his team at Kojima Productions revealed Metal Gear Solid Rising sometime in 2009. I was ecstatic, I could finally relive some of my childhood. Another big thing that got me excited staring at the pictures of the “chick” in the Sons of Liberty artwork was in fact the sword, as even I was an industry ignorant child, I noticed the saturation of gun-toting heroes and just wanted a game about chopping up things. The fact that you were given said sword about a half hour away from the last boss could be my only complaint looking back on the game. MGS Rising was my chance to redeem that complaint tenfold as well as get some more story on my favorite character in the series, so I began to wait.
And there was nothing, no word of progress. There was another trailer at the next E3, E3’10, describing a more refined demonstration of what the product would, but was still cryptic and unrevealing, showing a conceptual cut scene and light display of gameplay involving watermelons, but didn’t give any release information or product details. Nothing substantial that could ease the fear that meet the hands of players, instead leaving a message of “Please. Keep faith” rather than “There’s no reason to lose faith”.
And in fact, faith was rightfully lost, as quietly and without public notice Kojima canceled the project sometime in 2010. With everyone from fan to press in the dark, people began to speculate that MGS Rising had joined the likes of Team Ico’s The Last Guardian, in development limbo, never to see the light of day.
And then something happened nobody expected. Metal Gear Solid Rising had changed hands. Hideo Kojima took stage at the Spike Video Games Awards in December 2011, to state Platinum Games had taken development while revealing Rising’s cancellation. Included in the announcement was the drop of “Solid” from the title, signifying the lack of Hideo’s presence. The new title, Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, explained to signify the revenge and vengeance of Metal Gear Solid: Rising’s fiasco as well as the rising of Raiden’s tale. The series tag line of “Tactical Espionage Action” has also been altered to “Lightning Bolt Action”. Now rightfully the tag was changed under Kojima rule, but in the house of Kojima Productions it kept its traditional mind sets of stealth, where action has been unleashed by studio known for high paced over the top action title such as Vanquish and Bayonetta.
I was one among the upset, but not to any lack of qualification to Platinum. I’ve played and enjoyed both of the aforementioned games, I know what Platinum is capable of, and of all the choices of developers and with the number of bad decisions that usually accompany these situations, I’m quite happy they were picked, they were a good choice. My only complaint with Vanquish, a game that Rising: Revengeance has been compared to since the transfer, was a lack of coherence, something the Metal Gear has always had fluent. With two play through clocked playing Vanquish, I got the sense that they couldn’t cope with Hideo’s idea of design. Those who have grown receptive about Rising: Revengeance, that I’ve met, always manage to add an asterisk into the conversation: “*All I expect is a sweet over the top game in Vanquish or Ninja Gaiden fashion” which puts a bad taste in my mouth. “At this point, it’s not Metal Gear Solid. I don’t want it anymore” I thought.
Late 2012, I’ve had some time to be angry and steam over the piling news of what I considered a bad decision. Whenever someone would ask my opinion I would say “The story isn’t going to be good, I won’t like it, I’m not buying it” but then I started to investigate. I read every bit of information about the transition I could find to learn what happened. And one piece l found was that due to a concern to be able to acceptably assimilate into Metal Gear canon, Platinum would only develop gameplay while Kojima Productions will handle everything in the story, albeit taking place in a new stage in canon to represent the change of guard.
After playing the Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance demo that’s included in the Zone of the Enders HD Collection, I’m pretty excited. From what I’ve played things feel new while retaining some of its old essence. It’s evident that Kojima and his crew are still in control, as cut scenes drag to they’re expected featurette lengths, scenes still retain the explanatory exposition of its predecessors. Swordplay retains some of its DNA from Sons of Liberty, as the Free Cut mode is the obvious and logical progression of its system. Basic combat in understandably compared to Ninja Gaiden, as its system of light and strong attacks is similar. What’s different is Raiden’s acrobatics, as Raiden fights like his cut scenes from Metal Gear Solid 4 rather than stick to the ground and fight traditionally like he did back in 2001. One thing that became apparent was that Raiden was the only familiar face. While disappointed by the lack of fanfare, I can see the reasoning, this is Raiden’s story, and being distracted by more prevalent characters isn’t the idea. The script has been rewritten to accept new players, and excessive fanfare excludes them. Keeping the theme of the metaphorical reasoning behind the name, the cast change becomes apparent, would Raiden rely on the friends of friends that are Snake’s allies, or would he form his own team? I’d think I’d go with the team that won’t constantly compare me to my mentor, too.
Everything looks and feels like Metal Gear, which is to say good. With four months away from release and things going into production, I’m hoping Platinum and Kojima Productions have proved a good synergy, and mainly I’m hoping the spirit of Metal Gear lives beyond the mind of Hideo Kojima.