Metal Gear Solid: HD Collection
Platform: PS VITA
Hideo Kojima’s Metal Gear Solid is arguably one of the most important and popular exports of Japanese videogame development over the last 25 years.
Starting off with its humble roots on the MSX home computer, Metal Gear Solid emphasized original stealth espionage gameplay mechanics, mixed with deep political and interweaving plots throughout the series. To explain the entire game’s story without spoilers is to commit journalistic seppuku, as the review or article would be the size of a book by the closing chapter, and contain far too many sub-plots. So here is a summary from the two games included in the Metal Gear Solid: HD Collection
You play Snake, who is an American spy with all the combat qualities and training of a super soldier. Your job is to infiltrate without being seen and incapacitate the enemy, finishing your mission by any means possible.
Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater takes place in 1964 and canonically is the earliest, or “beginning”, of the entire Metal Gear story arc. The game was originally released in 2004 on the PS2 and introduced elements such as survival by hunting animals for food and Rambo style battle surgery that can be performed on Snake if he becomes injured.
The game contains fantastic cut scenes and subplots. However, it is not the best game to start playing the series, as the understanding of plot holes developed in the earlier Metal Gear games will have a lesser “impact” for the player. Nevertheless, a lot of fans argue that Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater is in fact the strongest game in its whole series.
The Vita version of Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater is “Subsistence”, which is seen as the definitive version of the game. It includes all difficulty modes, all unlockable secrets and most importantly the first two MSX Metal Gear videogames, entitled Metal Gear and Snake’s Revenge Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake respectively.
The other game included in the Metal Gear Solid HD Collection is Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, which takes place in 2007-2009.
A lot of fans argue that this entry in the Metal Gear Solid franchise is the weakest link, but for its time (it was released in 2001 on the PS2) it was a gorgeous and supremely complex game. However the main criticism for many people is that you don't play as Snake through most of the game. Instead the protagonist is Raiden, a young rookie who was raised as a child soldier.
This game is a little more “regular” in its gameplay mechanics, reflecting the majority of the other titles in the franchise. Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater had a more unique gameplay style and some would say it felt more “refined”. Environments were also a little more open, however consecutive play-throughs will show you that there is in fact not much area to explore compared to the latter and later titles in the series.
Metal Gear Solid HD Collection on the PS Vita is a direct port of the earlier release for the PS3. The upscaled high definition graphics really bring out the gorgeousness of these two games. Having played now both the PS3 and PS Vita version, I can safely say they are on an identical par, with maybe the PS3 having a little more anti-aliasing capability over the PS Vita.
Frame rate is also very consistent between both versions. The original PS2 releases of these games suffered from some drops in frame rate that caused stuttering. The PS3 version completely annihilated this problem, with the PS Vita coming in 2nd place with its attempt to smooth the frame rate. Earlier this year Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater was released on the Nintendo 3DS which suffered from constant frame rate issues. If you compare the Nintendo 3DS version with the PS Vita version, they night and day in terms of frame rate quality and graphic fidelity.
There are however two major differences to consider between the PS3 and PS Vita versions and they are the controls and the exclusion of Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker in the latter version. However, first we will talk about the PS Vita’s new control scheme.
Metal Gear Solid: HD Collection boasts the use of touch screen controls. Although the game’s main menu doesn’t use the touch screen, the gameplay itself integrates them more so as a feature to aid you in the game itself. Usually selecting items or weapons was handled via the left and right secondary bumper buttons, however now you can select your inventory by holding down your finger over the “Item” or “Weapons” icon to select what you want.
Other than this, admittingly the touch controls feel a little tacked on. For example when you place Snake against a wall, you can drag the touch screen left or right to move snake to that corner and peak around it. In cutscenes you can tap or pinch the screen to zoom in, however the effect is mostly uncomfortable to look at.
Some weapons such as the sniper rifle allow you to swipe the touch screen up or down to change zoom settings, which does feel satisfying, however if you are in need of a quick change in zoom settings, it can delay you ever so slightly in the process.
Back touch controls are utilized for interrogating or killing enemies. When you grab an enemy you can tap the back touch screen to interrogate or swipe left or right to slit their throat with your knife. However, as most people know with the PS Vita, back touch screen controls are usually awkward to utilize as most people’s fingers are already resting on the back of the touch screen, so it's easy for accidents to happen.
Generally the controls stay true to their original counterparts, so overall it feels and plays well. However it really depends on preference and your familiarity with the games. I've speed ran (speed ran? speed run?) these game’s roughly four times each and achieved the platinum trophies on them twice each, so I would say that if you want a better feel of control, play the PS3 version as the touch screen element feels a little tacked on.
Now onto the most important and crucial factor of this videogame, which unfortunately is its horrendous weakness. The exclusion of Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker.
Japanese publisher, Konami, made the stingy decision of excluding Peace Walker in this version of the HD Collection. It was originally released for the PSP and was critically acclaimed by fans and critics alike for its boisterous use of the limited control scheme offered by the handheld, it’s ambitious graphics and hours upon hours of content, which for a portable videogame was outstanding.
Logic dictates that the PSP’s successor should be crowned with an HD remake of this portable gem. However, someone decided to remove it from the HD collection, thus depriving portable game fans of the most solid portable entry of the Metal Gear Solid franchise to date.
It makes absolutely no sense that the portable version of the HD collection doesn’t include a game that was designed for portable consoles. It's frankly ridiculous and the fact the developers want you to purchase the old PSP version for an extra charge from the PSN store just adds insult to injury.
To rub salt into the wound, the PSN version of Peace Walker can't utilize the much hyped “transfarring” technology when played on the PS Vita (without a convoluted workaround). Transfarring allows the ability to transfer your save game from the PS Vita and PS3 version and vice versa so you can continue your gameplay uninterrupted on either console.
I tried to find out why this decision was made, but I can only conclude that it was for reasons of space on the Vita's cartridge. It still leaves a very sour taste in your mouth, with no attempt by Konami was made to reconcile with its consumer and fan base.
The PS Vita includes trophies for the game. They are practically identical to the PS3 version, however the descriptions are sometimes awful. For example one of the secret trophies gives away a major spoiler in the storyline and almost a step by step guide of how to complete the game. Another interesting note is that these trophies are listed separately from the PS3 version, so you can obtain double trophies for both versions.
In summary I would say Metal Gear Solid: HD Collection runs beautifully on the PS Vita. However, it is a really strange game to port onto a portable console since most of the cutscenes are longer than the gameplay itself in some cases. Nevertheless, it was somewhat of a dream come true to see these games re-mastered and released for a portable experience.
However, if we were comparing the HD remakes side-by-side, the clear winner is the PS3 version in terms of graphics, frame rate, controls and content. It's really sad to see Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker absent from the this version; it really should be there.
Although, I was pleasantly surprised to see the original MSX games actually play and look far better on the PS Vita – but then I think seeing two really old retro games letterboxed on your Widescreen TV is almost blasphemous and ugly. On the PS Vita, it looks and feels just right.
For fans or collectors this is definitely a must have. For people who want to save their money, the PS3 version is the superior iteration of the HD remakes.
For those who do not know anything about Metal Gear Solid, buy this game then play the PS1 Metal Gear Solid game released in 1998 (or preferably the “Twin Snakes” version on the Gamecube), then take it from there by the release date of each game in the series (excluding the two earlier MSX games, which are nice additions however not extremely important to the story).
For all its Japanese TV-movie like campiness, awkward dialogue and sometimes embarrassing characterization, Metal Gear Solid still remains prevalent, original, genuinely thought provoking and most importantly a solid and fun experience, taking the best of Japanese manga/anime pop-culture and infusing it with Western political ideology and historic military events which will inspire future generations not to just play these games, but to also think deeply and question the use of war and people’s exploited roles in them. Undoubtedly, Metal Gear Solid is one of the most influential and legendary videogames of our times, now in the palm of your hands.