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A Few Things to Clear Up Before Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain

First off, Shinkawa art is better than CG renders. Glad we got that out of the way.

Editorial by Ravi Singh, Posted on August 31, 2015


Soon we will see if all of this hype pays off. Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. Will it be too taboo for us? Will this finally depict the moment Big Boss turns into a batshit insane war criminal hellbent on imposing his militant will on the world? Will this be Hideo Kojima’s magnus opus? Is Chico actually Quiet who is actually Gray Fox who is actually D-Dog having a doggy dream during a nap? We will find out soon enough.

I have a feeling this will be the biggest Metal Gear yet in terms of popularity. Based on previews and my own observations it also seems like the most welcoming of newcomers. Hideo Kojima has already indicated that he is focusing more on telling the story he wants as opposed to keeping track of the “lore” of the series. Hell, most of the narrative will be told within cassette tapes as opposed to numerous lengthy cutscenes that the series became famous for since Metal Gear Solid.

With that said though, there is a lot going on in the series that relates to The Phantom Pain. People get confused and while a lot may change within The Phantom Pain, there are a few things that I can help clarify. Some of it you may already know and its all widely available information on the internet. Then again, with one of Metal Gear Wikia’s major contributors fully admitting to not even being a fan of the series and gaming journalism self-indulging in its own gated community with even on the the best writers on the subject of Metal Gear blocking constructive criticism, sometimes you have to take things into your own hands. Otherwise, you end up with an overly-confused fanbase and, well, shit like this.

Is Portable Ops necessary to understand Metal Gear Solid V’s plot?
How Portable Ops fans react after reading this.

When it comes to the question of canon in the Metal Gear series, some titles are clearly established while others, well, not so much. As Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain takes place in 1984, some may wonder if the events of Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops which take place in 1970 bear any significance to the story. Is it necessary to experience Portable Ops sometime before you jump into The Phantom Pain?

The answer is, no.

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Okay, okay, it would be a dick move to just say “no” and carry on. So before you send me that angry e-mail you half-typed up, may I explain the reasoning?

On the question on canonity, some things are rather vague. There was a time when Portable Ops was unquestionably canon, even with its inconsistencies with established canon and overall uselessness to the series narrative. Heralded as “the missing link” and everyone was told to just deal with it. Then Peace Walker came and it became the “missing link” instead. An interesting note is that now The Phantom Pain is being called “the missing link.”

A lot of people use the Twitch interview with Hideo Kojima had with Geoff Keighley as an argument that Portable Ops is indeed canon.  This is based on quoting him without any context. Yes, Kojima did say Portable Ops was “part of the saga.” Just like how it was not fair for me to go “no” to Portable Ops being necessary prior to experiencing The Phantom Pain without an explanation, its not fair to ignore the rest of Hideo Kojima’s answer.

KEIGHLEY: “Is Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops considered canon?”

KOJIMA [translated by FoxTropus]: “Umm, what was it… If we’re talking small details, umm, there’s quite a bit where it deviates from the Metal Gear Saga. So, umm, how do i put this, umm… In terms of the overall storyline, umm, it’s part of the saga but in terms of the small details, it’s a little, it would appear to be a little off from the main story. Umm, how to say this… rather than saying whether it’s main story or not, uhh… It’s more like, within me things are expressed as a division between those “A Hideo Kojima Games” that I directed/wrote/designed, and those things where I was producer.”

“Hideo Kojima: Ask Him Anything” Twitch interview

Hideo Kojima further cemented this idea that games he directed are within their own “saga” when he talked to IGN earlier this year about how Metal Gear Solid V will be his last installment in the series–and thus, the last installment in the saga for him:

“I always say this will be my last Metal Gear, but the games in the series that I’ve personally designed and produced… Metal Gear on MSX, Metal Gear 2, Metal Gear Solid 1, 2, 3, 4 and Peace Walker, now Metal Gear Solid V are what constitute a single Metal Gear saga. With Metal Gear Solid V I am finally closing the loop on that saga. On that sense this will be the final Metal Gear Solid. Even if the Metal Gear franchise continues, to me this is the last Metal Gear.”
- Hideo Kojima, IGN, March 4, 2015

Hideo Kojima’s take is simple enough: Portable Ops is kind of canon. While he produced it, within his concept of the Metal Gear series he divides games he directed, at times with the moniker ‘A HIDEO KOJIMA GAME,’ from games he only produced such as Portable Ops, the Acid titles, Ghost Babel or Metal Gear Rising.

As shown on the official Japanese Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain website.

In short, the basics are canon but the details probably are not. This does grant it far more credibility with regards to canon as opposed to say, Metal Gear Rising which Kojima labeled as “Platinum Games’ interpretation” of what happens after Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots,” but considering how much of Portable Ops is contradicted in Peace Walker, it’s safe to say that it is not a very integral part of the canon and will continue as so with regards to The Phantom Pain.

This might be canon. Or its not. Whatever.

Now am I telling you to not play Portable Ops? No. If you have a PSP lying around or can figure out how to emulate one, go for it… just make sure to avoid the expansion pack which will not do you much good as the servers are down. All I am saying is that when it comes to the plot, there’s nothing important here and in terms of plot there is plenty that can and will be changed. If I were to guess, I’d say the parts of Portable Ops that are probably canon happen in the end, with Big Boss establishing FOXHOUND and joining The Patriots.

Knowing my admiration for the classics you may now say, “But wait, what about Metal Gear and Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake?” Yeah you got me at my weakpoint and I must admit that the classic games are also not necessary to experience at all before jumping into The Phantom Pain. The important bits are summarized in Metal Gear Solid and outside of Outer Heaven existing and Big Boss being its leader, is there anything more you need to know?

Active Decoy in Zanzibar Land? You better believe it!

Maybe not for the first Metal Gear outside of those basics. Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake though, while still not necessary, I would actually recommend. The Phantom Pain explores Big Boss’ downfall into a complete villain. In Metal Gear, Big Boss is just a guy telling you to turn off your MSX console. Metal Gear 2′s Big Boss though conveys the fully transformed Big Boss that The Phantom Pain may depict or at least will show him becoming. His full anarchomilitant ideology, justification for child soldiers, goofy-as fuck military technology and overall admiration from his crew may end up enriching your experience during The Phantom Pain as it is looking to be a dark look at men becoming demons.

Still, if Metal Gear 2 must be skipped, it very well can. Unlike Portable Ops though, it is “A Hideo Kojima Game” and thus, in Kojima’s mind, significantly more significant to the series. Just ignore the shit about the world actually getting rid of their nuclear weapons, as you may know from Metal Gear Solid, that shit never happened. Ignore the stuff about the Soviet Union existing too.

So what games are essential prior to playing The Phantom Pain?
The Phantom Pain won’t be the first time we see a Metal Gear with genitals.

My best recommendation is the series as directed by Hideo Kojima, in release order. With that said, some of you may not enjoy some of these installments, and you honestly probably do not have time. So here’s what I would say is essential: Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake (if you have time), Metal Gear Solid, Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker and Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes. It seems like these games will enrich your experience with The Phantom Pain in some way.

Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater depicts a seemingly innocent Big Boss prior to him even getting his codename while Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker shows Big Boss’ first private army along and introduces Miller, albeit in a much better mood. Ground Zeroes, of course, is the prologue of Metal Gear Solid V, where everything you put together in Peace Walker has gone to shit. Your Ground Zeroes save file will also give you bonuses in The Phantom Pain. If you are limited in time with regards to what games you should experience before The Phantom Pain, these are the games I would recommend as necessary.

This looks exactly like the Mammal Pod from Peace Walker.

In fact, as we are going to get into a little bit later, a lot of Peace Walker is outright necessary to know in The Phantom Pain if you do not want to get all of your backstory from cassette tapes. From what has been shown to us before, not only are characters such as Huey Emmerich and Paz Ortega going to play a role in this–Ground Zeroes alone is a direct sequel to Peace Walker–but there has also been shots of what looks like the Mammal Pod AI from Peace Walker suggesting that what happened in 1974′s Costa Rica may still very well play a role in 1984. In fact, it almost seems like The Phantom Pain itself acts on Peace Walker’s theme of deterrence to discuss cycles of revenge. Then there is the gameplay which is essentially the prototype version of The Phantom Pain with Mother Base building, supply drops, weapons development… you get the picture.

Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake would be a great addition for reasons I’ve already discussed and Metal Gear Solid seems like it may be referenced, so perhaps that might be a good addition to what makes for an essential playback prior to The Phantom Pain. If you got the time to fit in Metal Gear, Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty and Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots, more love to you. Hell, if you still got time in between Snake Eater and Guns of the Patriots to play Portable Ops, more power to you.

How many comas has Big Boss Been In?
How the fuck did he survive nearly everything?

Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain supposedly starts with Big Boss waking up from a nine-year coma after the events of Ground Zeroes. At this point fans are probably thinking that Big Boss gets a coma as frequently as Liquid Snake kept on beating death in Metal Gear Solid and Hideo Kojima promises to leave the Metal Gear series… okay too soon, sorry about that one.

Liquid wins this round though because based on everything we know so far, Big Boss has only suffered from two comas in his entire lifetime, and the second one barely even counts.

During a very unfair match with Solid Snake in Zanzibar Land, Snake managed to beat all odds and burned Big Boss to a crisp in 1999. Much like how he survived rockets to the face at Outer Heaven back in 1995, Big Boss still manages to survive the severe burns. This time Big Boss’ body was taken in by the United States government–revealed to be controlled by a shadowy organization named The Patriots.

Big Boss still being alive was good news to the leader of The Patriots, Zero. Zero did believe Big Boss was nonetheless a pain in his world-dominating ass so he ordered him to be kept in a nanomachine-induced coma to keep him from causing any more trouble. After fifteen years and, may I say, fabulous plastic surgery skills by an untrained amateur using tissue samples from non-consenting clones, Big Boss finally wakes up only to more or less kill himself because he realized what a douchebag he has been all along.

Feels like we’ve been waiting nine years, am-I-right?

Going back in time, in 1975 Big Boss suffers from another coma which he does not wake up from until 1984. We know very little about this coma right now as it serves the background to The Phantom Pain. In fact, with the release of Ground Zeroes, we cannot say for a fact what causes this coma due to the abrupt ending, though a helicopter crash seems likely. Still, something did happen and Big Boss gets comatose and luckily manages to wake up just in time to get the fuck away from… all of the crazy shit that happens in the hospital that we have seen so far.

Suffering from a coma twice in your lifetime is pretty rare as it is. What about three times? Irrelevant, since this does not happen to Big Boss based on what we know so far.

Ah, yes. Liquid Snake in Metal Gear Solid claimed that Big Boss was in a coma when they got his cells to be used in the Les Enfant Terribles project. This is not a reference to the 1975 coma though, since the project successfully produced clones in 1972. So did Big Boss suffer from a coma sometime before 1972? Nope.

We covered this in a myth article but for those who have not read it, the line spoken by Liquid is different in the original Japanese release.

In the Japanese release, Liquid explains that Big Boss was cloned because he is sterile due to some kind of injury. This actually makes more sense anyways because simply being in a coma, as the English version claims, does not make it impossible to extract functioning sperm from the subject you want offspring from. Being sterile though? That absolutely can make things difficult, so cloning would be the way to go.

So there you have it. Big Boss suffered from a coma in 1975, and then gets put into a nanomachine-induced coma in 1999. The second coma seems questionable due to the use of technology to maintain his comatose. I don’t want to be accused of “ableism” or whatever you kids wanna hate me for though,  so let’s just say from everything we know so far, Big Boss has suffered from two comas in his lifetime, with the coma he wakes up from in the beginning of The Phantom Pain being his first one.

Why does Big Boss still wear the FOX Unit patch in Ground Zeroes?

Since Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker, there has been some confusion over the FOX Unit patch that is on the upper right shoulder of Big Boss’ sneaking suit. Or there would have been if more than three people played Peace Walker. Sorry Kaz. The game opens and ends with no involvement from the FOX Unit, and deals entirely with Big Boss’ building his anarchomilitant Militaries San Fronteirs. So naturally fans were a little confused by the FOX logo, with some theorizing that it was stolen or kept from Big Boss’ FOX Unit days.

The FOX patch is presented much more visibly in Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes, being displayed in the center of a shot in the opening scene. The suit Big Boss wears in Ground Zeroes is in fact be the same sneaking suit from Peace Walker actually. This is important because some fans concluded that, due to the FOX Unit patch, the sneaking suit is the same as the one in Portable Ops, the game with the plot that heavily involved the FOX Unit. A comparison of the two however shows that the Portable Ops sneaking suit is not the same as the sneaking suit used in Peace Walker and Ground Zeroes. In fact Portable Ops sneaking suit completely lacks any shoulder sleeve insignia.

The MSF sneaking suit, then, has the FOX Unit patch on its upper right shoulder then, right? Not exactly. While Ground Zeroes only has Big Boss as a playable character, Peace Walker did allow players to play as other MSF soldiers players recruited much like how The Phantom Pain will. Have them wear the sneaking suit and, well, there is no FOX Unit patch. There is only a FOX Unit patch when Snake is wearing the sneaking suit. This puts aside the claim that FOX Unit has fuck to do with MSF. What about Big Boss?

Insignia on the upper right shoulder of military uniforms is used to display former wartime service. These are known as “combat patches.” Big Boss is simply showing his former service in the FOX Unit by placing its patch on his upper right shoulder. For narrative purposes, the combat patch is prominently displayed in Ground Zeroes’ opening simply to illustrate the contrast between Snake’s former special operations group and… whatever the fuck XOF is. This contrast might be explored in The Phantom Pain.

Spilling some ashes for all his MSF homies.

Speaking of, as Big Boss is a member of Diamond Dogs in The Phantom Pain, he no longer sports the MSF patch on his left shoulder. There have been shots of him actually wearing it on his upper left shoulder though; it has effectively replaced the FOX Unit and has become his new “combat patch.” Other shots however seem to show a “DD” emblem, so who knows. Either way, my point is that the FOX Unit patch Snake wore in Peace Walker and Ground Zeroes are not something you should be looking too much into outside of the FOX/XOF imagery used in Ground Zeroes.

What is the deal with Miller?

The box art for Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes has Miller looking off at a distance while Big Boss glares at you as he always has done. Actually, that is the original Japanese box art. For the western releases Konami decided to get rid of Miller because Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker apparently did not do as well here. And… I guess most people would have no idea who this guy is… and somehow that would make them less likely to pick the title up? I really do not understand video game marketing at times.


The idea that people wouldn’t know who this guy is though is somewhat true because, when you think about it, who the fuck is he exactly? Yeah, perhaps you have played through Peace Walker or even Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake. Then there’s Metal Gear Solid except that’s not actually him. McDonell Benedict Miller? Kazuhira “Kaz” Miller? Now Kazuhiura “Benedict” Miller? To quote Solid Snake when he runs into Liquid Snake in his Hind D, “Who the hell are you?”

I wonder if Miller ever ended up taking Snake to that cheese fondue place he was ranting about?

Miller was introduced in Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake as a FOXHOUND survival instructor who went by “Master Miller.” So he would give survival tactics to Solid Snake over the transmitter, like how cheese can attract rats, why you should drink your own saliva, and… chemistry involving chocolate and sulfuric acid which makes me wonder if Miller had a decent knowledge of chemistry or was a Macgyver fan. The interaction with Miller that I feel is relevant is what he tells Solid Snake during the confrontation with Big Boss.

“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

Indeed, if called after picking up a lighter and spray can, Miller is the one who suggests combining them which leads to Big Boss’ demise. That’s …weird considering Peace Walker… but we’ll get to that later.

Miller appears in Metal Gear Solid once again to give survival tips to Solid Snake except, well, its not Miller. It’s Liquid Snake with his hair up and sunglasses. The real Master Miller seems to have been killed around this time. [SPOILER: MILLER DOESN’T DIE IN 1984] So as far as fully voiced and well-rounded appearances go, Peace Walker is the first.

And man, what a bromance this guy has with Big Boss in Peace Walker. Even if you discount Date With Kaz for it’s questionable canonicity, you can’t ignore Paz’s tapes.

“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.”
- Paz’s Dairy – 8th Entry (1974), Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker

All of this naturally causes Paz to conclude that

“Miller really only trusted one person, and that was Snake. There was no way I could ever come between the two of them.”
- Paz’s Dairy – 8th Entry (1974), Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker

Instead it seemed like Paz ended up coming between Miller and Zero. If the amount of people outside of Japan who have played Peace Walker is low, the amount of people who have seen the true ending and have listened to the “wiretapped” call must be extremely low as these important plot elements are hidden within the game. The Phone Call reveals a lot about Miller.

People mistake this conversation as taking place after Chapter 5. It is much more likely that the conversation takes place right after Chapter 4, when Peace Walker drowns itself into the sea.

“Smoothly, naturally. No, Big Boss doesn’t know the truth… No, Langley hasn’t decided what to do yet. Their hands are full with their own mess. True, Lubyanka is in the same boat… Yes, other eyes continue to watch, but no sign of contact so far.”
- Miller, The Phone Call (1974), Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker

Who is Kaz talking to?

“Yes, I’ll be in touch… my dear Zero (CIPHER).”
- Miller, The Phone Call (1974), Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker

Plot twist indeed. Kaz may in fact be the same “someone”  Cipher has at MSF that Paz refers to when she notes that she was ordered to immediately execute her plan:

“Cipher found out that ZEKE was complete. He must have someone inside Mother Base besides me.”
- Paz’s Dairy – 10th Entry (1974), Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker

But this is not Kaz working for Cipher for a common goal. This is Kaz working with Cipher for his own ends. He even warns Zero:

“But I’m only interested in the business angle. Like I said before, I’m neither an enemy nor an ally. I’m merely a business partner. Don’t forget it.”
- Miller, The Phone Call (1974), Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker

Well it seems like Zero likes to forget things because Chapter 5 reveals that Cipher’s plan was to build up Big Boss’ army and then force him back by using ZEKE. At this point its pretty simple. Kaz was working with Cipher, feels betrayed when Paz is willing to destroy MSF because Big Boss refused Cipher’s demands, coughs up the truth to Big Boss and the bromance lives on, even against the times!

There is still something Kaz is not really open about though.

“Speaking of which, any news on the “sons”…? Two already… Really… …But they’re strictly an insurance policy, yes? Mmmmm… So that’s the idea… I wonder how Big Boss will respond…”
- Miller, The Phone Call (1974), Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker

It is possible that Kaz reveals this information to Big Boss later. However it seems more like he simply told Big Boss that he colluded with Cipher in order to increase the size of MSF and then carried on being a charming yet creepy commander at MSF. Maybe Miller was terrified of how Big Boss would react. Or maybe The Phantom Pain may reflect this somehow, especially if you consider the strong possibility that one of the characters Big Boss will encounter is looking to be one of these sons.

Who the fuck knows what is going on with Miller considering that he did literally lose an arm and a leg because of Cipher.

It should be noted that in Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots it was the Les Enfant Terribles project that ultimately made Big Boss realize that Zero’s methods of achieving his interpretation of The Boss’ will was not acceptable. Wither or not he knows the outcome of this project is up in the air, although it is clear that Miller knows and at least believes Big Boss does not know. Either way, Miller is definitely going to be someone of interest in The Phantom Pain.

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