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Myth: Big Boss told Snake about their relationship during Zanzibar Land

The elephant in the room.

Fact: Nothing actually states that he did.

By Ravi Singh Posted on March 16, 2007; updated May 13, 2011

As the Metal Gear series ages and the series becomes larger and larger due to new installments being added without any long term planning, it is not surprising to see contradictions and retroactive continuity (or retcons). It should be noted that contradictions and retcons are not synonyms—added background information which do not actually contradict established facts within the canon can still be considered retcons. Most of the time, these are not the types of retcons fans discuss as they do not harm the fictional continuity.

So it is true that Metal Gear Solid retcons Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake by establishing the genetic link between Solid Snake and Big Boss. Neither Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake nor Metal Gear established any sort of relationship past Big Boss being Snake’s former Commander-In-Chief in FOXHOUND. However, this is a retcon by addition; it does not actually contradict the events of Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake. This includes both the original MSX2 version, the synopsis given as part of the “PREVIOUS OPERATIONS” text in Metal Gear Solid, the mobile phone and PlayStation 2 re-releases for the classic titles and even the damn Metal Gear Solid 4: Database. The myth that it is contradicting comes from misinterpreting a line of dialogue between Solid Snake, Naomi Hunter and Colonel Roy Campbell in Metal Gear Solid after Snake gets captured and tortured:

Snake: I don’t have any family. No wait, there was a man who said he was my father…

Naomi: Where is he?

Snake: Dead. By my own hand.

Campbell: Big Boss.

Naomi: What!? Big Boss!? I had no idea.

Campbell: There was no way you could. It happened in Zanzibar 6 years ago. Only Snake and I know the real truth of what happened there.

Many fans see this as evidence that according to Metal Gear Solid, Big Boss did tell Solid Snake of their true relationship at Zanzibar Land. The logic is tied to Campbell’s comment about “it” happening in Zanzibar Land. If we are to look only at these lines above, this logic is sound. However, the next few exchanges between Naomi and Snake breaks the common interpretation:

Naomi: So, is it true? Was Big Boss really your father?

Snake: That’s what he said. That’s all I know.

Naomi: And you were able to kill him, knowing that?

Snake: Yup.

For those who still do not see my point, you have to break the conversation down and see what Campbell’s interjection is related to. He did not jump in earlier when Snake talked about the “man who said he was [Snake's] father.” He does it later when Snake talks about killing this man. It is possible at this point that Campbell was referring to Big Boss telling Snake that he was his father at Zanzibar in 1999, but as the conversation continues, this possibility makes little sense as Naomi uses the word “so” as a transitional word at the beginning of the sentence, which introduces the idea that she is not talking about what Campbell is talking about.

Taking into consideration that the original Japanese script may have made things clearer, I got a hold of a copy of Metal Gear Solid: Integral which uses the Japanese script with the English voice-overs. I then got into contact with Marc from Junker HQ, known in the fan community for his translation work on the Metal Gear Solid 2 Game Plan and Policenauts, so that I could have him give me his opinion on the matter.

Snake: 俺には家族はいない・・・。いや、一人父親を名乗った男がいた・・・。

Naomi: その人は?

Snake: 殺した。俺がこの手で。

Campbell: ・・・ビッグボス、か。

Naomi: え?ビッグボスが?

Campbell: 君が知らないのも無理はない。6年前・・・ザンジバーランド・・・。真相を知る者は、今では私とスネークだけだからな。

Naomi: そんな・・・。ビッグボスは・・・。本当にあなたの?

Snake: ・・・奴はそう言った。それだけが事実だ。

Naomi: あなたは、それを知っていて、彼を?

Snake: ・・・ああ。

Nothing new to see here folks.

Marc told me that the only difference between the English translation and the original script is that Zanzibar is referred to as “Zanzibarland.” Out of curiosity, I also took a look at the Spanish script and while my Spanish is not that great, like the English and Japanese scripts there is no reason to believe that “the real truth of what happened” in Zanzibar Land is Big Boss’ Darth Vader moment.

Would it have made sense for them to have just thrown this in the PREVIOUS OPERATIONS and the re-releases? Probably. It’s a bit strange to have this father-son relationship avoided during the heavy dialogue between Solid Snake and Big Boss prior to the excellent boss battle in Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake.

As with most retcons, the reality is that Hideo Kojima never planned on Solid Snake having any sort of blood relation to Big Boss until Metal Gear Solid. However, unlike most retcons, this is merely an addition to the established canon and not a contradiction. It is possible that Big Boss told Solid Snake of their blood link before Operation: Intrude N313. Big Boss was Snake’s commanding officer in FOXHOUND after all, so there were plenty of opportunities. Whether or not the omission was strange or not is a completely different argument.

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