The official sequel to the original Metal Gear, Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake was released for the MSX2 home computer in 1990 exclusively in Japan. Following the overseas success of the Nintendo Entertainment System version of Metal Gear, Konami commissioned the development of a sequel titled Snake's Revenge without the involvement of Hideo Kojima. After learning that Konami has developed a sequel without his consent from another employee who was working on Snake's Revenge, Kojima immediately began working on his own sequel, resulting in one of the most critically acclaimed 8 bit games of all time, as well as securing the future of the Metal Gear series.With the world facing an energy crisis after the world's oil supply unexpectedly runs dry, Dr. Kio Marv, a Czech biologist, develops a microbe called OILIX, capable of synthesizing petroleum. Hoping to use OILIX to ensure their military dominance, a small nuclear-armed nation called Zanzibar Land kidnaps Marv during a trip to the United States to discuss his findings. FOXHOUND agent Solid Snake is sent in to diffuse this threat and rescue Marv from the clutches of Zanzibar Land. But Zanzibar Land has an ace up their sleeves: a new model of Metal Gear...Despite being released only three years later, Metal Gear 2 features a much elaborate game design than its predecessor with a completely redesigned engine. Many elements that would become mainstay in the Metal Gear series were actually introduced here such as the radar, the ability to crawl, the use of noise to attract enemies and peripheral vision for the guards. The narrative was also much more complex than the first game, with many more cutscenes and radio conversations than in the original game. Kojima would later use Metal Gear 2 to lay the groundwork for the original Metal Gear Solid.Released during the twilight days of the MSX2, Metal Gear 2 was Konami's final MSX release and its low print run ensured that it would become one of the most sought-after games by MSX collectors. A fan-translated version was completed in 1998 by the hobbyist group G&T Soft, along with an online version of the user's manual (which includes not only playing instructions, but extensive information on the game's story and setting), just in time for the release of Metal Gear Solid. Konami themselves would later release Metal Gear 2 officially outside of Japan alongside the first MSX2 game in updated versions that were included in Metal Gear Solid 3:Subsistence.
This game provides examples of the following tropes:
Anti-Villain: Going by some characters' statements, in spite of Big Boss essentially wanting to turn the world into an immense battlefield, he did nonetheless do non-villainous actions such as saving the Outer Heaven Resistance members, as well as forgiving them for their earlier opposition towards him and Outer Heaven, after the NATO bombings of Outer Heaven. This was alluded to in Kyle Schneider's dying speech. Gray Fox revealed that Big Boss saved his life twice, earning him his genuine loyalty. He also saved the children living in Zanzibar Land, although the last part is in the gray area.
Attract Mode: It has two. The first, upon booting, is a credits reel, going over the specs of the new model Metal Gear. The second, if the player waits during the title screen, explains the plot.
Back Tracking: You'll be doing a lot of it. In general, the two MSX2 Metal Gear games were more open to exploration than later games in the series, due to having a looser plot structure.
Bland-Name Product: Snake's favorite brand of cigarettes are not Lucky Strikes, but Lucky Strikers.
Blood Knight: Although it was initially believed that Big Boss intended to use OILIX and the stolen stockpiles of nuclear missiles to conquer the world, it is revealed that his true goal was actually just to make the world a war zone so he and his soldiers can have meaning in their lives. Big Boss also implies that Snake is not that different than him.
Bolivian Army Ending: Subverted: Snake and Holly White are fighting off against Zanzibar Land forces while waiting for Charlie (the pilot) to arrive to extract them, but then runs out of ammo and are then put at the mercy of the Zanzibar Land forces and presumably awaiting execution only for Charlie to arrive just in time and blast the soldiers to smithereens with the Sikorsky HH-64 Dragoon's machineguns.
Book Ends: If the novelization for Metal Gear Solid 4 is anything to go by, Zanzibar Land was originally Tselinoyarsk, the place Naked Snake infiltrated in Metal Gear Solid 3. In other words, his start of fame was in Tselinoyarsk, and his final defeat in this game is in Tselinoyarsk.
Boss Corridor: Once Grey Fox bites the dust, a familiar voice is heard calling, "Here, Snake!" Snake's old CO, Big Boss, is waiting at the end of this winding passage.
Broken Bridge: Like his father, Snake has poor luck with bridges. Snake will have to return to the Zanzibar Tower rooftop and hang-glide across the crevice to continue.
Child Soldier: Played with. There are several children within Zanzibar Land, and Big Boss alludes in his final speech to Snake that he plans to arm them for the wars of the next generation. However, their lack of antagonism towards Snake (or rather, lack of any interaction with Snake other than giving him hints), as well as Big Boss stating "wars of the next generation" makes it ambiguous as to whether they were actually intended to be deployed into the battlefield at that particular moment or if they they had to wait until they were grown up before it happened.
CIA Evil, FBI Good: Averted. One of Snake's allies, Holly, is an undercover CIA agent with no ulterior motive in helping Snake in his mission, and Snake himself was stated in the manual to have briefly worked for the CIA, although he left after he disagreed with its policies.
Copy Protection: When Colonel Campbell changes his frequency, he tells the player to check the back of the box to get the new frequency (in the fan translated version, Campbell simply tells the player the new frequency). Also, a few other frequencies can only be learned by deciphering tap codes through the use of a chart in the manual.
Darker and Edgier: The first game had a paper-thin plot with virtually no character development and only one notable plot twist. This game is where the series started to become what it is now by telling a very complex and dark story for the 8-bit era. Big Boss in particular, became a much darker villain with complex motivations.
Discontinuity Nod: During the final battle with Big Boss, George Kasler mentions a rumor that states that Big Boss underwent a cybernetic "Snatcher" transplant (a reference of a previous Kojima game) in order to replace the limbs he allegedly lost during his battle with Snake at the end of the original Metal Gear. Kasler clarifies that it's nothing more than a rumor and when Snake eventually defeat Big Boss with a makeshift flamethrower, he burns to "death" like a normal person would. The rumor is actually a dig at Snake's Revenge, the non-canon NES sequel which preceded Metal Gear 2, in which Big Boss' second form was a fire breathing cybernetic behemoth.
However, the notion of Big Boss being a cyborg (or at least having prosthetic limbs) by the time that Solid Snake encounters him has been un-Jossed with Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain depicting exactly that.
Disposable Woman: Gustava Heffner lasts all of ten minutes before getting a missile to the face.
Disproportionate Retribution: Let's see, apparently the American government wanted Dr. Drago Pettrovich Madnar to work on SDI, NEDW, and Brain Bombs, but he refused. What did they do? They had the scientific community ostracize him, and then act as though he never existed shortly thereafter. Suffice to say, Dr. Madnar was not too pleased with this treatment.
Doing It for the Art: This game was made after one of the developers of Snake's Revenge told Kojima that he should make a true Metal Gear sequel, and the game was released at a time when the MSX2 was practically dead as a gaming platform.
Down the Drain: A mine-filled canal runs beneath the Zanzibar Building. You may find yourself making several visits here if you choose to replenish rations in the basement.
Early-Installment Weirdness: Compared to the simplicity of the previous game, Metal Gear 2 is surprisingly very close to Metal Gear Solid, despite being hampered by the technical limitations of the MSX2. It still has a few odd moments and leftover game mechanics from the first game, such as the fact that Snake still moves only in four directions.
Face-Heel Turn: Pretty much every returning character who was on Snake's side in the original game ends up being an agent for Zanzibar Land this time.
Grass Is Greener: Let's just say that Dr. Madnar was sorely disappointed when he did defect/immigrate to America and learned what he is going to be forced to do.
Great Offscreen War: The Mercenary War, from which Zanzibar Land gained its independence, is an event that is only alluded to having happened before the events of the game, during which Big Boss took control of the country.
The Great Politics Mess-Up: Metal Gear 2, which was released in 1990, assumes that the Soviet Union will be still be around by 1999 and even has a character (Gustava) employed by the Czechoslovakian Secret Police, a real life organization that was dissolved the very same year the game came out. Gustava even compares her failed romance with Frank Hunter with the Berlin Wall, which was destroyed during the same year as well, though the manual does note that the Berlin Wall was destroyed in 1989. For his part, Dr. Madnar ran into trouble with the U.S. bureaucracy due to his suspicious Eastern European origins.
Guide Dang It: The player is required to decipher tap codes to learn at least two frequencies, which can only be done by using a chart in the manual. Additionally, Snake is also told to look at the back of the game's package to learn Campbell's second frequency upon reaching the Tower Building.
Unfortunately, the North American version of Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence only came with a condensed manual and the online PDF version barely contained any information of the older games. Because of this, some of the solutions were posted online by Konami in an FAQ on their site (no longer online, but there's a waybacked copy available).
The HD Edition re-release of Metal Gear Solid 3 fixes both of these issues by having the PDF manual covers both MSX2 games.
Heel-Face Turn: Kasler, who was part of the Zanzibar Land forces during the Mercenary War two years prior to the events of the game. For a retroactive variant, there's also Master Miller, who served under Big Boss during the events of Peace Walker.
Hoist by His Own Petard: You know the stinger missiles Snake has to use to shoot down the Hind D around the heliport area? Well, those stinger missiles he gained were originally supposed to be installed onto the war machines of Zanzibar Land, including the Goliath tanks and the Hind D gunships. This is also how Red Blaster ended up being defeated.
Humongous Mecha: This game marks the first time in the series Snake gets to battle a manned Metal Gear.
I Don't Like the Sound of That Place & Take It To The Bridge: The Bridge of Sorrow (uh oh) separates the mainland from the detention camp and final areas of the game. Dr. Madnar manages to scurry across first, only to get re-captured by Metal Gear 2, which demolishes the bridge along with Gustava.
Incredibly Obvious Bug: The setup leading to the first boss fight, Black Ninja, is that Zanzibar Land found the transmitter on Dr. Marv, dismissed it as being cheap and inferior, and used it to lay a trap for Snake.
It's All Upstairs From Here: According to the specs, Zanzibar Tower looms 600 meters high with 30 floors above ground and a single basement floor. You can't visit every floor, obviously, though Snake leads the guards on a merry chase up the staircases.
It's Raining Men: According to the manual for the game, Snake infiltrated Zanzibar Land at the dead of night via a HAHO jump.
Killer Rabbit: The "deadly poisonous" Zanzibar Hamsters. Oh, the humanity.
Mad Scientist: Dr. Madnar. What a surprise. In fairness, however, his name was originally Dr. Petrovich, and he was on Snake's side in the first game. Plus, according to him, the only reason why he was even labelled as such was because America's politicians just wanted him to make things like Brain Bombs, as well as make things relating to SDI and NEDW, and he also mentions that the same politicians only abused and showed contempt of him.
The Maze: The Maze Wood (a.k.a the Lost Wood) is the requisite shout-out to Zelda that every top-down game needed to have at the time. Only the Green Beret knows the correct route out of the jungle, so you'll have to shadow him around for a few minutes.
Mistreatment-Induced Betrayal: Kyle Schneider (and presumably the other surviving members of his Resistance), Dr. Madnar, and possibly Gray Fox's reasons as to why they defected to Zanzibar Land dealt with this.
For Schneider, after Metal Gear was destroyed in Snake's mission to Outer Heaven, NATO decided to commence a pinpoint aerial nuclear bombardment on the nuke production facilities of Outer Heaven, and indiscriminately killed both Outer Heaven personnel and the Resistance members (the latter of whom were their allies), and that's not even getting to the deaths of war orphans and war refugees. NATO also recovered a near-dead Schneider and subjected him to a NASA-based experiment regarding extraterrestrial ninjas until he and the rest of his unit were disbanded. Because of this, as well as Big Boss actually saving the surviving Resistance members, he decided to throw his lot to Big Boss to repay him for this debt.
For Dr. Madnar, after Outer Heaven, he defected/immigrated to America (depending on whether the Soviet Union was still in existence or not), leaving his daughter behind. When he did join America... well, let's just say that the promises of liberty and freedom were empty for him. Basically, he was treated with total contempt by the American government, and also implied to have been abused by the government as well, basically forcing him to make brain bombs, SDI, and NEDW. He was then ostracized by the scientific community when he wanted to recreate Metal Gear (ironic, considering the fact that America was working on Metal Gear REX since at least May 1996). He then decided he had enough of it and secretly defected to Zanzibar Land, since they at least would allow him to work on the weapon.
Lastly, Gray Fox. During the Calgary Olympics, he, under the alias of Frank Hunter, met Gustava and wanted to elope with her, arranging for her to defect to the United States. However, the U.S. refused amnesty to her. Fox didn't take it too well, although he didn't defect until after Outer Heaven.
My Nayme Is: The first boss in the MSX2 version is a space ninja called Black Color, named after the Timothy Zahn novel The Blackcollar, while the four-man assassination squad Ultra Box is named after the band Ultravox. Despite the mistaken assumption that these spellings were fan translation errors, that's how they were actually spelled in the MSX2 version (all of the bosses used romanized names instead of Japanese characters).
Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Snake managed to stop the TX-55 Metal Gear from being completed. Unfortunately, NATO apparently decided to use that opportunity to launch an air raid nuclear strike against Outer Heaven that resulted in both the Outer Heaven personnel and the Outer Heaven Resistance members suffering severe casualties, not to mention people who were war refugees and war orphans. In fact, it was this action that nearly resulted in Schneider's near death, not Outer Heaven as it was earlier implied. Also, his nearly killing Fox and Big Boss (especially the former) would prove to have serious repercussions for him in the next game.
No Celebrities Were Harmed: The portraits in the MSX2 version are obviously modified photographs of popular celebrities at the time (notably Big Boss is Sean Connery with an eyepatch and Gray Fox is Tom Berenger). The rip-offs were so obvious that when Konami re-released the game on later platforms, they had to change them to avoid any likeness infringement. Even the Japanese Virtual Console version, which is otherwise a straight emulation of the original MSX2 version, uses the new Shinkawa-style portraits.
Orwellian Retcon: In addition to the spelling variations mentioned below, many of the characters specific to this game were renamed when the game was released to other platforms. Notably Natasha Marcova became Gustava Heffner (presumably to avoid confusion with the similarly named Nastasha Romanenko from the original Metal Gear Solid), while Yozef Norden was renamed Johan Jacobsen. Despite this, a lot of inconsistencies with the later Metal Gear Solid games were kept (even in the official Konami site, which still states that Big Boss lost his right eye during the '80s), along with a few factual mistakes.
Real Men Wear Pink: If this game is any indication, Snake, of all people, is into women's figure skating.
Refusing Paradise: The game takes place in an alternate 1999 where the U.S. and Soviet bloc have agreed to toss out their old nuclear weapons. When the oil reserves run dry, the two superpowers pool their resources to come up with OILIX. Big Boss takes advantage of the armistice by stealing OILIX and building a new Metal Gear, leaving the now-defenseless planet at his mercy. What makes Big Boss so deplorable here isn't that he is holding the world ransom, but also sabotaging the real possibility of a peaceful 21st century.
Retcon: There are various plot differences in the later Metal Gear Solid entries that makes them inconsistent with Metal Gear 2. One of the most notable was the constant references to the Soviet Union and Eastern Bloc that were done in such a way that made it seem as though they were still in existence by the end of 1999. Many of these retcons, that one in particular, were a case of Real Life Writes the Plot, as at the time the game was being made, it really was still in existence, and the Soviet Union and Communism in Eastern Europe were still going somewhat strong until it fell faster than predicted.
The characters of Gustava and Holly were merged into Meryl, who lives or dies depending on Snake's valour in the torture room (just as Gustava dies on the bridge while Holly escapes with Snake.) The bit with Dr. Madnar instructing you to catch Gustava in the ladies' room was substituted with Otacon giving the same advice. Interestingly, Gustava's updated portrait is clearly based on Naomi Hunter, another woman with a personal history with Fox.
Snake is told to pinpoint Dr. Marv's location via a transmitter hidden in the doctor's tooth, but the baddies are too smart for that. A similar outcome happens with the DARPA Chief's nanomachines, which are simply transfused into another man's body via his blood.
Snake fights an old comrade who is presumed dead, but was instead resurrected as a ninja warrior.
Snake receives help from "a fan."
There is a lengthy staircase chase in both titles.
The Four Horseman make a reappearance as Genome Soldiers in the Communications Tower's elevator.
Grey Fox uses Metal Gear to blow up the bridge, which ensues a lot of backtracking and detouring. Liquid's Hind-D did the same to the Communications Tower connecting bridge.
Dr. Marv dies of a suspicious "heart attack" before Snake can reach him.
The temperature-sensitive PAL keycard is an obvious stand-in for Gustava's brooch.
Snake loses his items in a fire, then engages Fox in a bare-knuckle brawl while surrounded by mines. He does it again with the Ring Out Boss Liquid Snake, this time atop REX's hide.
Schematized Prop: The opening credits sequence is a lengthy detailing of Metal Gear D's various parts.
Sdrawkcab Name: Dr. Kio Marv's name is VRAM 0.1K backwards, a riff in on the MSX booting sequence, as revealed during the ending.
Series Continuity Error: A few things get muddled if you try to reconcile this game with later games in the series. In particular, it's claimed by Kasler in-game that Big Boss lost his right eye in Outer Heaven (although he was already wearing an eyepatch in the original Metal Gear and the manual states he lost it during a mission in the '80s prior to becoming the FOXHOUND commander), and the revelation that Big Boss is Snake's father is nowhere to be seen.
The dialogue between Snake and Big Boss at the end suggest that Metal Gear 2 takes place three years (1996) after the events of the original Metal Gear. This is due to the manual claiming that the "Outer Heaven crisis" occurred in 1995, but the first Metal Gear (the one Snake destroyed) was built in 1996. However, the plot summary in Metal Gear Solid claims there was four year gap between Outer Heaven and Zanzibar Land instead.
The manual has other inconsistencies, such as referring to the mission from the first game as "Operation Intrude N312" instead of N313 and the region in Africa where Outer Heaven was located as "Salzburgh" instead of Galzburg. Gustava's bio even refers to her former lover as "Frank Jaeger", even though she actually mentions a "Frank Hunter" in-game (Frank Hunter being another alias used by Fox).
Dr. Madnar is mentioned in Metal Gear Solid 4 as the scientist who saved Raiden, despite the fact it was implied in Metal Gear Solid that he died in this game. Note that Dr. Madnar is the only boss character who does not explode after he is defeated.
Shout-Out: Several, especially in the MSX2 version:
Black Color, a.k.a. Kyle Schneider, was a reference to the novel The Blackcollar, which involved space ninjas.
Running Man's name was taken directly from another Arnie film.
Ultra Box, the name of the four man team who ambush Snake in the elevator, were named after the British band Ultravox.
Minovsky Particles from the Gundam series are referenced in the Maze Wood area.
Gainax, the Japanese anime studio, is referenced as a lavatory production facility.
Pegimin-H, from Ultra Q, is mentioned to be one of the natural resources for Zanibar Land.
Omniconsumer Products, one of the creators of the Goliath Tank, was the same company as the one from RoboCop.
For Kojima related shout outs, there are two for Snatcher, the first was when Kasler informed Snake about the rumors about Big Boss being a cyborg as a result of the Snatcher project (which also doubled as a take that against Snake's Revenge). The second was when Campbell mentions Kasler in a radio call, where he warned Snake to avoid discussing anything relating to "whale cuisine." This is a reference of an autopsied murder victim who had whale cuisine inside his stomach tract. It's lost in translation, though, as the whale cuisine was changed to buffalo meat in the Sega CD localization of Snatcher.
Spell My Name with an S: The original MSX2 uses different spellings for some of the characters (not counting those whose names were changed entirely) than the ones used in the later re-releases and at least one character in the MSX2 version has his name spelled differently between the manual and the in-game spelling. Note that the fan translated version used the spellings for Campbell and Jaeger that were used in Metal Gear Solid. The following examples gives the names as they appear in the later releases, followed by the spellings used in the MSX2 version.
Campbell is spelled "Kyanbel".
Gray Fox is spelled "Grey Fox" and Jaeger is "Yeager".
Holly is spelled "Horry". This spelling actually made its way into the original Metal Gear Solid via an in-game plot summary, but the GameCube version changed it to "Holly".
Kasler is spelled "Kesler".
In the MSX2 version, Dr. Madnar's first name is given as "Petrovich" in the manual and "Petorovich" in-game. The re-releases gave him the full name of "Drago Pettrovich Madnar."
Tabloid Melodrama: Briefly alluded to by Big Boss when explaining his motivations for creating Outer Heaven and Zanzibar Land, when explaining that soldiers often end up as dead weight back at their home countries:
Big Boss: On the battlefield, you and I are valuable commodities. But back "home", we're nothing but dead weight. If we're lucky, we might get the attention of some two-bit journalist from a cheap tabloid.
The Walls Are Closing In: Snake can poach items from the trash compactor, though he barely has time to inspect a bag before the hydraulic press shoves him into rotating blades.
What Could Have Been: Metal Gear Gs were originally planned to appear as enemies, but time constraints prevented them from being added in. Similarly, the Goliaths, the MBTs that are seen in the hangar area of Zanzibar Land, were intended to appear as bosses, but were not implemented in for the same reasons.
What Happened to the Mouse?: Despite the fact that OILIX was supposed to end the energy crisis, and it was recovered in the end of the game, no mention of it was ever made again in the Metal Gear Solid games.
Where The Hell Is Springfield?: Unlike the original Metal Gear, it's averted: The game and manual state that Zanzibar Land was located between the (former) USSR, Afghanistan, China, and Pakistan, and it's even given something of a map showing the bordered area of Zanzibar Land.note For anyone curious, it's that slew of lines in the box next to the Zanzibar Land logo. It's basically within the Badakhshan region. It also starts a trend in future installments to show the specific location the game takes place in (assuming that the game doesn't flat out state where it takes place in real life, as was the case in Metal Gear Solid 2 and Peace Walker).