Do we really need any more canon Metal Gear installments
to be "under construction"?
The Argument For A Freer Canon
By Ravi Singh
Posted on January 3, 2011
SPOILER WARNING: The following editorial discusses plot details from the
recently released Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker. If you have not yet played the
game and wish to avoid any spoilers please refrain from reading anything below.
Perhaps there is something else you'd
be interested in looking at for now.
The Metal Gear series seriously needs to end. Well, not really. Let me be more
specific: the main fictional canon that begins with Metal Gear and currently stands
at Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker with Metal Gear Solid: Rising looming in the near
future needs to be put to rest. Yes I know, it won't, but I think it should and
there are plenty of good reasons why it should. The first thing that pops up in any Metal
Gear fan's mind regarding this would be the fear that putting the storyline to rest
means no more Metal Gear games in the future. That's not what I'm saying though;
even if Hideo Kojima had went along with his plan to end the series at Metal Gear
Solid 2: Sons of Liberty in 2001, Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater in 2004 or even
Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots in 2008, that does not mean that there
would have been no Metal Gear games released since per se.
There are numerous options
available which allows new Metal Gear titles to start on a blank or relatively untouched
canvas and to leave the past behind so that the new generation of Metal Gear developers
have a lot more leg room to work with. While storyline is very important in the
make-up of a Metal Gear title, creating more games which will be placed within the
existing canon is actually crippling the series and prolonging the day when even the most
loyal of fans find it harder to take the storyline seriously, if not simply become
apathetic to it.
THE PROBLEM OF THE CONTROLLED CANON
"if u dont c how this is fucking van der waals at
work then u dont kno SHIT about fisix"
Characters, events and organizations that exist within the canon end up being
saturated with additional information with each installment. While information can
add depth to a character, it doesn't necessarily mean that it will. This
is especially true in the case of recent Metal Gear titles which spend far more
time giving you information rather than allowing viewers to perceive characters
through their actions.
A classic example of this is Vamp from Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty. We have
a creepy bisexual immortal running on water. While a conversation with Snake does
reveal some background information on Vamp regarding a crucifix and a church bombing,
his supernatural powers and ability to revive are never explained and indeed, despite
being lethally wounded numerous times, he appears in the streets of Manhattan during
If you have drifted along the fan community up until 2008, you may remember numerous theories
regarding Vamp. The most popular concerned the possibility of water reviving Vamp. Every
scene Vamp is seemingly killed, water somehow revives him; Fortune's tear drop,
high oxygen water and the ocean itself. Granted, in real life, water doesn't have
such effects, but then again, nothing actually has the power to revive you from such lethal
experiences. Not even... nanomachines.
Yet that is the official explanation given in 2008's Guns of the Patriots--nanomachines.
This isn't adding depth, this is just a desperate attempt to fill in a "hole" that
was never even dug up to begin with as Vamp was supposed to be a mysterious character,
not someone who is able to move the way he does due to special boots and revives
himself due to tiny machines running through his bloodstream. This explanation also
brings up another issue which plagues the canon whenever an attempt is made to just
add information which was never intended to exist: inconsistencies.
Vamp is now explained as a demonstration of the excesses of nanotechnology. Okay.
Fine. What about his superhuman abilities? His boots take advantage of van der Waals
force. Well, that certainly doesn't explain his abilities in Sons of Liberty, where he
does not wear the special boots. That's
because, once again, during the development of Sons of Liberty, Vamp was just part
of the paranormal. Now he's not because fans wanted an explanation from Kojima and
he didn't have one to provide. So he pretty much worked something in that does not
even apply to the original source material. No surprise here as Hideo
Kojima himself gets confused by his own story.
Eurogamer: "Given the volume of games that
you're involved in and the complexity of the subject
matter, how do you go about organizing your thoughts?"
Hideo Kojima: "I personally get confused
too about the whole timeline and saga of Metal Gear
Solid. This is especially tricky when you create
the future first and then go back in time to create
Kojima then admits at the consequences that this confusion can lead to.
"There are a lot of small aspects where sometimes
it doesn't match completely."
Thus fans take note of retcons and inconsistencies. Kojima would surely find it
much easier for him to tell a fucking story if such boundaries didn't exist. Such boundries have
hindered Kojima even in 1998. Some have criticized the so-called "science" behind cloning
within Metal Gear Solid as being full of shit. There's some truth in that, and it's
not necessarily Kojima's lack of understanding simple biology either. It's because
he wanted to make the main villain more intense than the mercenaries of Outer Heaven
and Zanzibar Land and Big Boss himself:
"Using cloning [as a plot device] was really
cheating. I wouldn't be working on [MGS4] if I thought
there was a sequel. I've said it numerous times,
but Solid Snake fought against a lot of strong foes
back on the MSX, so we should've started from scratch
when we worked on the PlayStation. But we released
it as a sequel, so we had to bring out even stronger
enemies. As a result, we had to create an adversary
with the same strength [as Snake] and we decided
to go with a clone storyline, but that's where things
Metal Gear Solid only had two titles to incorporate into it's story. Fast forward
to Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker and by then you have six--and that's not including
Portable Ops which is still officially considered canon! If "things got difficult"
with Metal Gear Solid, imagine how difficult things have been with the past several
installments in the series canon and how much more difficult it will be in the future!
No wonder Kojima's confused; the poor guy has to make all of this fit with each
other the best he can in addition to writing an actual plot. Even then, he
still either makes mistakes or simply disregards prior events established in the
canon. Look at Metal Gear Solid and some of the things regarding the classic Metal
DON'T: REMAKE THE OLD
Don't even worry about the minor details like this!
Some argue that the classics should be remade in order to address some of these
issues. This will only complicate the problem and will not get us any closer to
canon consistency. 2003 saw The Twin Snakes for the Nintendo Gamecube. The game
saw all-new cutscenes and voice acting and some minor changes made
to the in-game environments. So which game depicts the real canon? At this point,
it seems like later Metal Gear titles such as Guns of the Patriots acknowledge the
PlayStation original as canon, but use the voice acting from The Twin Snakes...
in the English version (let's not even get into this issue though as the Japanese
version of Guns of the Patriots has Liquid Ocelot still using Liquid's voice ala Sons of Liberty).
The Twin Snakes was still a third dimensional remake of a third dimensional game with the
original script practically intact. A modern remake of the 8-bit titles Metal Gear
and Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake would have to face a much grander scale of changes
from the original source. At that point, it's just like working on a brand new canon
Metal Gear title as there's bound to be new information that will be thrown in and
there to extend the length of the script and there will have to be some sort of
checking to see if it all ties in with the rest of the series.
Something "little" will still go through and all of the sudden, the main reason
to remake the classics are thrown out the window as a new error in continuity is
found. At best, in order to "fix" the originals they would simply have to keep the
game two dimensional and keep the script relatively the same while making minor
changes so that Gray Fox actually showed Snake "the ropes" and Zanzibar Land didn't
somehow steal all of the world's nukes. Then again, Kojima Productions had this
opportunity anyways during the ports to the mobile phone and PlayStation 2 platforms.
They had their chance and they merely adapted Yoji Shinkiwa's art style along with
a new translation. Even the fucking Zanzibar Land Poisonous Hamsters stayed put!
If remaking the classics is seen as a viable option to patch up any holes future
titles bring forth, this will only cause the canon itself to be unstable. At this
point any argument against a reboot holds little water as sequels can essentially
reboot the canon by completely disregarding what has already been established. Luckily,
remakes do not seem to be Kojima Productions' answer to addressing the problems
that continuing the current canon brings forth; it's just a wet dream certain fans
have and what they see as a solution to the inconsistencies future Metal Gear titles
have made. On the other hand though, Kojima Productions seem more focused
on making new games with new plots to explain shit that's supposedly "missing."
DON'T: FIND MORE 'MISSING LINKS'
Even before Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops was released and disfigured what
was already at the time a complete series, I knew the story would be completely
unnecessary despite the "necessity" of it being pushed by Konami's marketing. Metal
Gear Solid: Peace Walker was promoted in a similar fashion. Both titles were claimed
to be a "full-fleshed Metal Gear Solid title" and "not a spin-off" that reveals
the "missing link" between Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater and Metal Gear.
All of that turned out to be complete bullshit when it came to Portable Ops, which
while remaining officially canon, can truly be forgotten with no effect on the overall
storyline. Peace Walker on the other hand, does actually have some damn relevance
in the Metal Gear canon, but just like Portable Ops it created more plot holes while
it supposedly filled others. Such is the fate of these "missing links."
Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice...
While Peace Walker does depict Big Boss finally getting the fuck over The Boss,
recruiting children and building on the philosophy that turns him into the tortured
villain in Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake, it often times leaves behind broken links behind. I'm not talking
about something as trivial as Huey and Strangelove never revealing their real names
either. Why Huey ends up leaving Militaires Sans Frontieres though is of interest.
He had to have left considering that Outer Heaven has to kidnap Dr. Pettrovich Madnar
to build TX-55. Right? His son Hal didn't seem to have any idea of his mother (assuming
Strangelove is his biological mother) and father's escapades in Central America
with Big Boss. Fuck, Hal did not seem to even realize that his father worked on
nuclear weapons much like his grandfather did!
Then there's the whole thing with The Patriots giving Big Boss an ultimatum via
Paz, which he rejects. The bromance between Big Boss and Zero is apparently deep
enough for Zero to forgive Big Boss and allow him to be FOXHOUND commander once
again though, as such is the case in the first Metal Gear. As stated by Big Mama in Guns
of the Patriots:
"Big Boss returned to the US with a plan
in mind, and once again assumed command of FOXHOUND.
In Outer Heaven, and then Zanzibarland... Big Boss
plotted coups d'etat against Zero."
- Big Mama, Metal Gear Solid 4:
Guns of the Patriots
Could the "plan" possibly involve tricking Zero into believing that Big Boss was working
for The Patriots all along? Indeed, the revelation that Big Boss was the leader
of Outer Heaven is supposed to be a surprise to everybody. Maybe even Miller shat
a brick in disgust. That could explain why Miller hates the man so much nearly twenty-five
years after a playful and quite frankly homoerotic fist fight in MSF's showers:
"[Miller] and Snake got into one of their
rare fights, and I was there to see it. They burst
out of the showers, completely naked, trading punches.
I am no child - the sight of a naked man doesn't
make me blush. But this was something else. "Maybe
this'll teach you!" Snake yelled as he slammed his
fists into Miller's chest. [...] Miller argued back,
and what began as a shouting match turned into a
fistfight. "You son of a bitch!" Miller yelled as
he swung. "Not bad," said Snake, smiling. "But not
good enough!" And then he was back on the offensive.
"They had already been at it pretty hard in the showers,
and their bodies were covered with bruises. [...]
Miller took another swing, yelling, "Try this, then!"
Snake parried, then responded in kind. But I could
tell he was not aiming for anything vital. "You're
one tough bastard, Boss..." Miller muttered. A smile
crept across his face as he caught his breath. And
then they went right on fighting. Blood and sweat
flew off their glistening bodies. [...] At last,
the two men tired themselves out, and the bizarre
scene came to an end. They looked at each other's
battered bodies, and then burst out laughing, embracing
and congratulating each other on a good fight."
BRIEFING - Data Files - Paz's Diary - 8th Entry
"Snake, that guy is a monster. You can't beat
him with just your fists. Use your head! Isn't there
something you can use as a weapon?"
- Master Miller, December 24,
1999, Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake
...but wouldn't Miller have known that Big Boss was the leader of Outer Heaven? As
we know, MSF becomes Outer Heaven. Not only does Big Boss actually refer to MSF
as "Outer Heaven" throughout Peace Walker, he pretty much establishes it as it's
official name in the second post-credit ending. Now several people cringed at this
when it's revealed that The Patriots--under the name Cipher--knew the existence
of MSF and that Big Boss is it's leader. MSF's second in-command, Miller, is also
revealed to be a Cipher spy in an eavesdropped phone call conversation you can listen
to after finishing all of the missions the game has to offer. The phone call discusses
events which took place at the end of Chapter 4, but nothing that has taken place
since. So I guess at the end of Chapter 5 Miller could have really cut all ties
with Cipher as he pretty much told Big Boss he would. Yet he's in FOXHOUND in the
1990's and pretty much gives Solid Snake the hint that led to Big Boss' second erasure.
If he was still a Patriot spy, what was the deal with Outer Heaven, then? If he
severed his ties, how was he able to work his way into FOXHOUND, with Zero himself
overlooking Big Boss' return?
For a missing link, Peace Walker sure as fuck sets itself up for yet another sequel.
Hideo Kojima has already stated that Peace Walker "is a test" of sorts and talked
about a sequel to Peace Walker being planned, suggesting that his "test" was a success.
Maybe we'll see Big Boss in the 1980s where mullets and bandanas were actually in-style,
for once. If they make it take place in the late 80s we could even see at least
one of the young sons of Big Boss! Then who knows what else will be "missing" after
that which we will see in Metal Gear Solid: Yet Another Big Boss Prequel! The possibilities
BREAKING THE CYCLE
WHAT THE FUCK ELSE DID YOU GUYS REALLY NEED TO KNOW??!!!
The necessity of a "missing link" between Snake Eater and Metal Gear was simply
a marketing strategy with no basis on the plots of Snake Eater or even the paragraph-long
script for the original Metal Gear. Snake Eater's ending should be enough to give
a good idea of why Big Boss essentially tried to take on the world. Metal Gear doesn't
really explain why Big Boss was Outer Heaven's leader but it's sequel Metal Gear
2: Solid Snake gave us a speech by Big Boss justifying his mad views. Even if these
were not enough, with the release of Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots came
a full explanation of what happened between 1964 and 1995. Even then, it's revelation
of Outer Heaven being a challenge to the Patriot establishment in Guns of the Patriots
was pretty fucking obvious as it was.
So while Portable Ops and Peace Walker failed in it's mission to be a "missing link,"
there was never a damn missing link in the first place, let alone two! Alas, we got
them and now we must deal with what we got and we can expect similar marketing strategies
in future prequels. Economically, making additional games in the successful Metal
Gear series makes sense, but for the canon overall? The only claim that can be made
at this point is that a new prequel could fix all of the questions which Peace Walker
has ultimately brought out. Of course, that doesn't mean this new sequel won't do
the same thing Peace Walker did and create new issues. Thus, we have the Metal Gear
The cycle won't last though. Not particularly because it might be modified for sequels in general,
but probably because eventually nobody is going to give a shit by then. Since Snake Eater,
every new Metal Gear title that is announced polarizes the fanbase. Sure, there
are those who for some odd reason want to know what happened in certain parts of
the canon timeline, but most do not. This makes sense though. How many fans of Watchmen
beg Alan Moore into continuing the series? How many times do you hear people wishing
for a Blade Runner 2? Did we really need the fucking prequel trilogy for Star Wars?
Especially with a conclusive ending as seen in Guns of the Patriots, any unanswered
questions that are left such as what happens with the destruction of the Patriots
is seen as trite. Just like how Peace Walker was unnecessary, Metal Gear Solid:
Yet Another Big Boss Prequel will be as well, despite Peace Walker pretty much moaning
for a sequel made. The "missing links" are about as missing as you want it to be.
The "twenty-year gap" between Peace Walker and Metal Gear is actually smaller
than you think. Fans can discuss that which has not been explained--and they do--just as they did with
all of the unanswered questions from Sons of Liberty.
With plenty of thinking and discussion, you'll find an answer you'll be happy with.
If you have read my defense of Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots you'll remember
my discussion on how most fans had their own version of what the perfect Metal Gear
Solid 4 would be like. Chances are, whatever sequel is made will be less satisfactory
than how you see things. That's the beauty of a free canon. It allows fans to see
the series as it is. There's still some direction on Kojima's part due to existing
installments, but with less control over the canon, there is more room for critical
thinking, discussion and interpretations. Yes, Konami is naturally interested in
money and it's perfectly acceptable for them to continue to release new Metal Gear
games to please their stockholders and for us to enjoy playing. They can do this without continuing the cycle
by looking into adopting alternative canons... which they already have.
Alternative canons allow Kojima Productions to reuse
fan favorites. Mei Ling in Ghost Babel plays the
same exact role as she did in Metal Gear Solid.
Ghost Babel, released as Metal Gear Solid for the Game Boy Color, was actually
an alternative sequel to Metal Gear in which the events of Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake
and Metal Gear Solid do not happen. The game's plot thus is only concerned with
Metal Gear and writer Tomokazu Fukushima was faced with little established canon
to interfere with his work. Yet fan favorites such as Solid Snake, Roy Campbell
and Mei Ling still appear (they're simply not the same people in Shadow Moses though
they look like them). The point here is that new Metal Gear titles can be developed
without conflicting with the existing canon. Not only does it make plot development
much easier, it also can attract new fans who are otherwise turned off by the idea
that they have not played through the six-or-so games which take place prior to
the new title.
Instead Kojima Productions is seemingly trying to cover every single insignificant
part of the timeline, make it significant, and as a result ruin parts of the canon.
There's nothing wrong with a Metal Gear title that's dedicated to Ninja Raiden and
hell, the emphasis on action is okay too. It's just that incorporating it in between
two existing installments and marketing it as anything but a spinoff is asking for
trouble. If Hideo Kojima has trouble with his own fictional universe, how will newcomer
Etsu Tamari be able to handle it? He probably won't be able to. Tamari was a writer
for the Metal Gear Solid 4: Database which included many errors, took many liberties
with the canon and has already been rendered irrelevant by Peace Walker.
Tamari might actually be a very talented writer but the bloated canon is simply
holding him back much like how it's been holding Kojima back. Let the current canon
be free and just start fresh guys. While there will be fans who for some reason
want a game that takes place during World War II with The Boss and The Cobras, or
a game that takes place twenty years after Guns of the Patriots with Sunny and Little
John, or a game that takes place during the Gulf War with Liquid Snake... the truth
is that most of these fans are probably imagining these scenarios to be far more
grand than anything that would come about by an actual depiction through a new Metal
Gear title. The canon was supposed to end at Sons of Liberty... it had a great end
at Snake Eater... it was pretty much wrapped up in Guns of the Patriots... and for
fuck's sake, now we know who Otacon's mom probably is. Let it go already.