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Nintendo 3DS Review: Metal Gear Solid – Snake Eater 3D

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Snake Eater’s script is so bulky, they wouldn’t sell it at Costco. Looking back on what was once a revolution in videogame storytelling reveals head slapping decisions. Staring down the electrified boss Volgin, he pauses before the battle–this occurring while timers tick down on C3 explosives–to reveal his plan, clearly the moment for expository monologues. It’s a wonder why he doesn’t divulge a series of Christmas gifts he received a child too.

Snake Eater doesn’t know when to end either, a spectacular chase against the nuke-tossing Shagohod is an explosive, intense finish… except it’s not. Bringing players down from that high is a maddening friendly AI escort fest, so deliberately irritating, players found it easier to tranquilize and carry Snake’s female counterpart than pull it off legitimately back on the PlayStation 2. The fact someone even had the idea to do that in the first place says it all.

Despite a layer of patina that is aging Snake Eater, the title remains a singular, if slightly scattered vision of a single person. With ballooning budgets and expanding staffs, videogames rarely can center around one mind. Personality brings Metal Gear to life, from those kooky easter eggs, random camouflage, and boss characters who use bees as armor to a deeper, meaningful message centered around the unseen tragedies of war.

The mixture should collapse, yet Metal Gear remains endearing. By not centering emotions, subtext isn’t forced. At times, you almost have to find it. No one is being pandered to or forced to accept ideals. Material, despite the lack of a competent editor, is digestible.

Pushing onto the 3DS, the olive greens and dusty browns bring back an era we’ve thankfully moved away from. War was more than dirty a generation ago, it was forced into a palette it never escaped from. Snake Eater earns a pass for the specific tinge of decades old age, and blossoming for a finale that brings with it a swell of emotion. Color is sporadic but purposeful. Art direction here means to do more than push polygons.

Still, even without a focus on the technological, this hardware finds an early match in this third Metal Gear Solid entry, the polish level unable to compensate for chuggy frame rates and skipping cinematics. That’s with or without 3D mind you, the added dimension pushing Snake’s pervy first-person looks directly at the player, and giving scale to levels that are, in reality, quite restricted. Environments are never laid out for their spectacular designs so much as they are to allow freedom and innovation within open ended mechanics. Guard encounters, even over the course of 12 hours, could be bypassed in uniquely strategic methods each time.

What hampers the transition most are controls, maddening in the midst of boss fights or in scenarios requesting utmost precision. Fumbled, oft confusing touch screen inventory management can cost lives, equal to those lost in the line of face button controlled cameras. Snake Eater is crammed onto a button set it was never intended for, the Circle Pad Pro practically a requirement to salvage an hour or so lost time otherwise. Who knew eating a raw snake to survive could be so difficult?

Maybe the 3DS edition exists to prove a point: that dedicated portables can still amaze with their capabilities. Even with the myriad of technical shortcomings, the breathtaking, dazzling final scuffle in a sea of waving flowers is visual majesty. What was once inconceivable on anything other than top tier gaming platforms has been condensed onto hardware a fraction of the size. It’s a shame they couldn’t figure out a means to trim down the script in the same way.

Metal Gear Solid – Snake Eater 3D is rated M (Mature) by the ESRB for Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Language, Sexual Themes. This game can also be found on: PS2.

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About Matt Paprocki

Matt Paprocki has critiqued home media and video games for 13 years and is the reviews editor for Pulp365.com. His current passion project is the technically minded DoBlu.com. You can read Matt's body of work via his personal WordPress blog, and follow him on Twitter @Matt_Paprocki.