The first portal back to Mars is guarded by an army of hellspawn trying to rip you limb from limb. Agile fireball throwing imps and dual wielding Mancubus, burly Hell Knights and rocket-launching Revenants all converge on your location, employing a wide assortment of tactics while you unleash the concussive blast of your shotgun and unload mag after mag from the assault rifle and unleash its micro missile alternate fire. You weave between shots and sidestep claws barely missing your face, jump to the stunned body of a Cacodemon and tear out its eye only to be knocked down and witness the centaur-like Baron of Hell’s fatal finishing blow. The fight is an exhilarating and tense struggle for your survival.
God Hand’s penultimate fight pits Gene against his rival Azel in a knuckle-breaking slug-fest that demands that the player understands every pillar of the games mechanics. To stop him from resurrecting the ancient devil Angra, you need to pick and choose your moves to beat his, to reposition to gain a tactical advantage, and to bob and weave around counter attacks that can lead into a button mashing power struggle you’ll feel all the way down your arm. And just like main character Gene, Azel can activate the supreme powers in his arm and execute a fast-action barrage thanks to his God Hand. To beat him, you need the full cooperation of a focused mind and tuned body.
The Legend of Zelda opens with Link in the small clearing of a lush Hyrule forest. At that point, the entire world is a single plot of land that exactly fits the dimensions of modern 1987 television screens. Take a moment to survey your surroundings and you’ll notice four options; you can travel north, go west, or head east, but you enter the cave first. There you get the most classic of all weapons to aid you, a trusty sword. You’re going to need it as the fate of a Princess and her Kingdom rests in your ability to reassemble the eight scattered pieces of the mythical Triforce of Wisdom and defeat the sinister Ganon.
Adam Freeland’s ‘Fear’ is an inspired anthem for the push into Rez’s fifth area. The true expression of its ideas, Rez uses its slow opening tempo to kick start a metaphor for the beats of early life, the sample ‘Fear is the mind killer’ scratched over the vacant landscape of a vast digital world as you blast a squadron of enemy planes out of the sky. The techno-trance composition builds as the environment does, the basic geometry evolving terrain and developing an ecosystem of flora and fauna. But it’s also a lyrical representation of its central theme. Rez is a sensory saga of sound and light, a metaphor for the pursuit of knowledge and the quest for enlightenment.
Considering how Other M picks up directly after the events of Super Metroid, it’s easy to assume that it will be a faithful 3D interpretation of that seminal classic. However, Samus Aran’s long opening monologue that recalls her memories of the baby metroid’s sacrifice quickly reveals that Yoshio Sakamoto and Nintendo SPD Group No. 1 are willfully neglecting that influential game’s intuitive storytelling. Other M is the logical conclusion to the misguided ideas introduced in Metroid Fusion that break the series’ careful harmony between player and gameworld to ultimately exert its authority over both.
Over the course of the Cold War, the man known as Snake developed from a lone soldier caught in the struggle between Capitalism and Communism to the living symbol of a nation free of ideology called Big Boss. By the close of Peace Walker, he had become a man with two bodies – one physical, the other conceptual. Ground Zeroes, the first part of Metal Gear Solid V, continues soon after, as word arrives that Paz, the Cipher Agent who infiltrated Mother Base under the guise of a pacifist student to frame the MSF as terrorists, survived and is being held at an American prison in Cuba. Fearing that she’ll reveal their secrets and in time for a United Nations inspection of Mother Base, Snake infiltrates Camp Omega. Safely aboard their chopper, they discover a bomb implanted inside Paz. Though disposed of, one Trojan horse begets another – the UN inspection was a cover to sneak Skull Face’s XOF forces, who proceed to blow the supporting columns and collapse Mother Base from inside. Another explosion rocks the chopper, sending it down in fire and metal. Both of Big Boss’s bodies were destroyed.
It’s said that the eyes are the window to the soul, an idiom Metroid Prime explores from a different angle. If Super Metroid’s greatest achievement was creating a cohesive world, where the majority of the game was told organically through the events on screen rather than by traditional cinematic techniques, moving that series into three dimensions needed more than translation, it needed reinterpretation. The most honest move would be to maintain the naturalness of perspective, the harmony of self and environment, and Retro Studios made the wisest, boldest move available to them, designing a first person shooter to capture the spirit of that classic and letting players strap themselves directly into Samus Aran’s suit. The first time an energy beam glances off our intrepid bounty hunters helmet and the flash reflects her eyes off the inside of her visor, it becomes apparent that the old adage holds true.
*This revised and expanded version of the essay originally titled ‘Peace Walker’s Military Industrial Complex (Or The Bosses Metamorphosis)’ is part two of a continuing series exploring how the last three Metal Gear Solid games analyze the shift in political strategy that arose in the modern era.
The modern day concept of the nation came about as a byproduct to the spread of enlightenment ideals across the globe. Based on philosophies that defined individuals as absolute agents of their own lives, it ended the subservience to monarchies and united people along territorial, economic, or ideological lines, pooling their resources to live in an economy of production in the knowledge that their collective abilities would greatly outmatch their separate talents. With the advancements in communication and transportation that made the world a smaller place, nations became actors in global politics.
The Individual And The Society
A textual read of the elements of the first three Metal Gear Solid games reveals an analysis of the creation of both the individual and the societies they form with others. So complete was the deconstruction that they exist thematically separate from the entries that followed, in essence comprising their own complete trilogy. But there was a problem: there was still much story to be told.
With the close of this first ‘identity’ trilogy, Hideo Kojima embarked on a second, expanding on the epistemological convergence between the individual and the society as he’d already explored them – politics. Starting with MGS4, the series worked towards completing its narrative loop while examining the rise of a new type of political strategy that came into vogue in the modern era with the development of a workable model of proxy warfare. Though there are recurring themes throughout these three works, most notably the ideas of transformation and rebirth, the concept of political proxies is the thread that ties them together, first portraying its characteristics and then showing its range of applications.
The first great fight in Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga is against the corrupted form of the matriarch Queen Bean. The brothers Mario have several offensive targets to select, her crowned head and her two gigantic, body-builder-caliber arms that pound the ground and send shockwaves that injure any plumber that doesn’t properly jump over it. Pouncing on her noggin’ awards you nothing more than damage thanks to those pointy golden spikes, so you quickly decide to avoid that strategy, choosing instead to deflate her arms to knock the thing off and reveal her soft skull underneath. In this dazed state, she takes full damage and hacks up beans that hatch into additional enemies if the timing of your jump is off by more than a few frames of animation and you crack one open.