You might not believe it, but the original Metal Gear Solid makes for a great portable game. I didn’t think it would when I got it for my PSP, mostly because there’s a lot of talking. And the more talking in a portable game, the less accessible it becomes.
There’s something about Metal Gear Solid though. This was Hideo Kojima before he was worshipped as a combination auteur and deity. Back when he still had something to prove. So when you boot MGS up on the train, you soon discover that the philosophical ramblings go quickly, and they’re oddly soothing. Of course, in my case, they’re also all in Japanese, which means that many of the words simply wash over me. But I don’t know that it would be any different in English.
As for the gameplay, every room in Metal Gear Solid poses an individual threat. Make it past the guards in one room, and suddenly you have to deal with a security camera, or maybe a boss. It makes it easy to tackle one room when you’re on the train, put the PSP on standby, and pick it up again a little later. Don’t ask me why it works. Some games just work well on portable systems, and Metal Gear Solid is one of them.
So far though we’ve only really seen adaptations and spinoffs on portable systems. Ghost Babel was a great game that hearkened back more to the original MSX episodes than its PlayStation predecessor. Portable Ops and Ac!d both have their fans, from what I’ve heard. But there’s nothing quite like the games that you’ll find on the Sony home consoles. I imagine that Kojima believes a game like Metal Gear Solid 4 can’t be done on something like the PSP or the Nintendo DS.
I wonder, though. It might be true that the tiny screen of the Nintendo DS and the PSP can no longer contain his awesome artistic genius. But then again, I would love to see the creativity going into something like GTA: Chinatown Wars poured into a portable MGS title instead. I would love to see an MGS that has more in common with its console forebears, but narrows its focus and cuts straight to the chase. Call it the anti-Metal Gear Solid 4. As luck would have it, there is indeed a portable MGS on the way…for the iPhone. And while it certainly looks pretty, it hard to say what it’ll be all about. Surely they can’t make anything that’s all that complex in a system that relies solely on title movement and its touchscreen for input? Well, we’ll see. But my spider senses tell me that this is just a side project, and that Kojima is focusing his attentions elsewhere, especially since he’s delegating production duties to a first-timer in Yasuyo Watanabe.
So for those yearning for a portable MGS, I guess we’ll just have to settling for Portable Ops. A dark prospect for some, I know, but I’m kind of keen to check it out. And, of course, I’ve still got the first Metal Gear Solid and Japanese Snake. If nothing else, sneaking through Shadow Moses on my morning commute can be a wonderful reminder of hopes that will most likely never come to pass.