This is Solid Snake! Your reply please...
"OUTER HEAVEN is the name of heavily armed land in the depth of southern Africa where the dreadful weapon called METAL GEAR is developed. It is the mission of SOLID SNAKE, one of the members of secret army 'FOX HOUND' to sneak into OUTER HEAVEN and destroy METAL GEAR. GO AHEAD SOLID SNAKE!"
— Game description from the MSX2 version.
The very first installment
in the Metal Gear
series. Released in 1987 for the MSX2
computer platform in Japan and Europe, the original Metal Gear
is considered to be one of the earliest examples of the stealth action game
genre (although Castle Wolfenstein
for DOS predates Metal Gear
by a good six years, it's not a straight up action game), as well as the first commercially released game by Hideo Kojima
The game came into existence when Kojima's superiors, enamored with Capcom
's arcade game Commando
and noticing its success, asked him to create an overhead military shooting game for the MSX2. However, Kojima quickly discovered that a fast-paced shooter would be impossible on the MSX2, thanks to the system's own hardware limitations that limited the number of sprites that could be grouped together on the same horizontal plane before the sprites would start flickering (a hardware limitation that the MSX2 shared with the Nintendo Entertainment System
, and which many old-school NES players are familiar with). Kojima then decided to retool the game around avoiding
combat instead, and decided to base the game around stealth and infiltration.
The player controls Solid Snake, a rookie member of special forces group FOXHOUND, who is sent on a mission to infiltrate the fortified state of Outer Heaven and destroy their top-secret weapon Metal Gear, a walking tank capable of launching nuclear missiles from any angle. The game's story is mainly remembered for the plot twist at the end that reveals that Snake's commanding officer, Big Boss, is the leader of Outer Heaven
, which served as the foundation for future games in the series.
Konami also produced an NES version, which was developed without the involvement of the original team (which would led to Kojima disowning
the NES version in later years). While the plot is the same, the NES version lost a few gameplay elements that affected the overall difficulty: enemy guards no longer drop rations nor ammo when they're punched to death, there's no invincibility window when the player sustains damage (allowing enemies to easily bullrush the player to death in early stages), checkpoints are now based on the player's rank rather the current location, the higher alert mode was removed, (making it easier for players to escape from enemy guards by simply moving to the next screen), and enemy reinforcements now come in single file.
The NES version also replaced a couple of the bosses: namely the actual Metal Gear itself was replaced by a Super Computer that Snake must destroy in its place. The level layout was also changed drastically: Snake begins his mission in a jungle prior to reaching the first base, the enemy transport trucks are now used as a means of getting around (due to the aforementioned lack of checkpoints) instead of setbacks, and the basement floor that connected the first two bases is now a separate building. The soundtrack of the NES version is a mix between rearranged music from the MSX2 version and new themes.
For many years the NES version of Metal Gear
was the only version of the game officially available in North America, since the MSX format was never commercialized in that region. The NES version sold surprisingly well in the U.S. despite the changes made, as players at the time were unaware of the original version. However, the later success of Metal Gear Solid
would raise mainstream awareness of not only Kojima himself, but also of the MSX2 version and its Japan-only sequel Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake
. The two games eventually got a proper worldwide release in 2006, thanks to their inclusion in Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence
This game provides examples of the following tropes:
- All There in the Manual: While the backstory is not quite as extensive as its sequels, the manual for the Japanese MSX2 version has character and enemy profiles that reveal details not actually mentioned in the game itself (like Schneider's motivation for creating the Resistance movement), as well as the complete specifications of Metal Gear itself. The manual also implies that, besides the unfinished message by Gray Fox, he also reported the items and weapons locations discovered in building one shortly before his capture. Here's a page with a downloadable version.
- Ambidextrous Sprite: Played straight when Snake is unarmed, but otherwise averted when he's equipped with a gun. All of the enemy guards and the final boss have different sprites when facing left and right.
- Artificial Stupidity: Guards won't notice you unless you're standing in a straight line directly in front of them. Even if you're standing just inches to their side. Even if you kill another guard in front of them (as long as you're using silenced firearm or punching them).
- Banana Republic: Outer Heaven.
- Big Bad: Big Boss.
- "Blind Idiot" Translation: Both, the European MSX2 version and the NES version, have their share of translation hiccups, especially the latter.
- Body Double: The fake Dr. Drago Pettrovich Madnar in the basement of Building No. 2.
- Characterization Marches On: Snake is a heroic mime for most of the game, the enemy leader (Big Boss) is a card carrying villain, and Gray Fox has virtually no presence (he disappears from the remainder of the game as soon as he is rescued). This is particularly egregious, considering the sequels made the events of the Outer Heaven mission more epic than what actually occurs in this game.
- Gray Fox isn't too useful, even refusing to budge from his prison cell once freed. Later, Snake would claim that Fox was an active participant in the crisis and "showed him the ropes," much like how Snake mentors Raiden in Metal Gear Solid 2.
- In Metal Gear 2, Schneider reveals to Snake that Outer Heaven was bombed by NATO, along with everybody else involved in the conflict. This causes many of Snake's allies to defect to Big Boss' side in the sequel, and Big Boss' personal charisma would become an enduring trait of the character.
- Big Boss is utterly dismissive at the idea of Snake using a cardboard box to hide, which clashes with Big Boss' cardboard obsession in the later prequels.
- Computer Equals Monitor and Frank's 2000 Inch TV: In the NES version, the "Super Computer" is in fact an oversized personal computer with a keyboard to match. Destroy the giant Zenith TV set, and the global thwart is thwarted.
- Copycat Cover: The cover illustration is a blatant trace-over of a publicity still of Michael Biehn as Kyle Reese from The Terminator.
- Cut and Paste Environments: All three buildings.
- Dirty Coward: Coward/Dirty Duck hides behind POWs while fighting Snake. Even his name (both of them) spells it out.
- The Dog Was the Mastermind: When the game was first released, Big Boss being the mastermind of Outer Heaven was a complete shock and appeared virtually out of nowhere. Although the player could get an early clue should they rescue the one POW in Building 3.
- Early-Installment Weirdness: No crawling. No radar. A transceiver that was completely room oriented. A straightforward, simple plot. After playing this, Metal Gear 2 becomes amazing for how much closer it is to the later Metal Gear Solid games.
- Elite Mooks: The Flying Army who appear only on the rooftops of Building No. 1 and No. 2.
- Event Flag: The NES version won't allow you to destroy the supercomputer without first rescuing the doctor.
- The Faceless: All of Snake's radio contacts are never actually seen in-game with the exception of Big Boss. The Japanese MSX2 manual has illustrations of all the main characters though (other versions weren't so lucky).
- Face With an Internet Connection: Inverted. The only character whose face we actually see in the transceiver mode is Snake's.
- The Fourth Wall Will Not Protect You: Toward the end of the game, Big Boss calls the player and orders him to turn off the game system.
- Gameplay and Story Segregation: Meta-example: in the sequels, the events of the game are described to be somewhat epic, but the game itself seems to be lacking in that regard (in fact, the way the events of the game are described in the sequels make it a variation of a noodle incident). It's largely for this reason why various fans are constantly demanding remakes of the MSX2 games, this game in particular.
- Guide Dang It: Punching random walls to produce unusual sounds and blow them up? Frustrating, but a staple of games like this. Punching random doors which previously only opened with keycards so that you can open them? Not so excusable.
- Big Boss tells the player to contact Schneider whenever a specific item is required in certain locations (such as the first gas-covered room or the first area with an electrified floor). The problem is that Schneider's frequency number is never given by anyone in-game; it's not even listed in the manual. You have to play around with the dial of your radio when you're two screens north of where you start the game (or when you're standing in front of the west elevator on the third floor in the corridor with the two security cameras) to eventually stumble into it via an automatic transmission (the number is 120.79).
- In the NES version, there are two maze areas in which the correct path is never given by any character. The correct path is the same for both mazes, which is: West, West, North, and West.
- Heroic Mime: While Snake does have lines of dialogue, most of it is just the same three generic messages: one when he dials a frequency number on his radio, when he attempts to obtain more rations/ammo when he has the maximum amount, and finally, one when he is in a moving truck. All of his conversions with the other characters are one-sided and the only time he ever says anything different is when he locates Dr. Madnar's cell (but not Madnar), and when he gives his final mission report in the ending.
- His Name Is...: Schneider's transmission was cut just before he is about to reveal the identity of the Outer Heaven commander.
- Hostage Spirit Link: Shoot a POW and your rank goes down. Justified in that your rank is a representation of how many POWs you've saved anyway.
- Human Shield: Dirty Duck hides behind POWs, and shooting them causes a demotion.
- Humongous Mecha: The Metal Gear itself. Absent in the NES version.
- The Key Is Behind the Lock: The keycard required to access the prison where Gray Fox is located is inside the prison itself. This requires Snake to allow himself to get captured and breakout from said prison.
- Lost In Transmission: How the events of Snake's mission starts. Gray Fox's final words in his final transmission before it was cut were the words "Metal Gear..."
- Mercy Mode: Die enough times and your items and ammo are refilled to maximum.
- Mole in Charge: Big Boss.
- No Celebrities Were Harmed: The cover illustration is a blatant trace-over of a publicity still from The Terminator featuring Michael Biehn posing as Kyle Reese.
- No Peripheral Vision: The guards literally have no peripheral vision whatsoever. Snake can run alongside them, run past them on the side, and stand next to them as long he wants. They'll never see him unless he's directly in front of one or is already being pursued. The NES version gives enemies better vision, being able to see slightly off what's directly in front of them.
- One Name Only: Schneider, Diane, Steve, Jennifer and Dr. Petrovich. Subverted by Elen, whose full name is listed as "Elen Petrovich" in the Japanese MSX2 manual.
- Metal Gear 2 gave two of those characters full names, Kyle Schneider and Dr. Pettrovich Madnar, essentially retconing "Pettrovich" from a surname to a given name. In the re-released versions, Madnar's full name was further changed to Dr. Drago Pettrovich Madnar (turning "Pettrovich" into a patronymic), while Ellen's surname was officially changed from "Pettrovich" to "Madnar" for consistency.
- Orwellian Retcon: Some of the characters were renamed in the re-released versions of Metal Gear, although the changes were not as extensive as in Metal Gear 2.
- Shoot Gunner become Shotmaker.
- The TX-11 Arnold "cyberoid" became Bloody Brad.
- Coward Duck became Dirty Duck.
- Dr. Petrovich now gives out his full name as Dr. Drago Pettrovich Madnar.
- Likewise, his daughter Elen became Ellen Madnar.
- Punch Packing Pistol: Started the grand tradition of the humble silenced pistol being your most useful weapon. Most of the other weapons in this game tend to be useful in specific situations (mainly boss battles).
- Puzzle Boss: Metal Gear can only be destroyed by planting 16 explosives on its legs, on a specific order. To make things worse, you have to guess where to put the last bomb.
- Reformulated Game: The NES version, which featured redesigned level layouts, different music for some parts and replaces the Metal Gear battle at the end with a dormant Super Computer.
- Ruritania: See Where The Hell Is Springfield? below.
- Rush Boss: The Bulldozer.
- Shout-Out: To Howard the Duck of all things. In the early versions, the boss that was later renamed Dirty Duck was known as Coward Duck. Also, a powerful android that was later renamed Bloody Brad was originally known as Arnold.
- Stealth-Based Game: One of the very first.
- Taking You with Me: The Madnar body double attempts to do this to Snake after the latter rescues him, via using a pit trap. It failed, though. Big Boss also attempts to do this in the final boss fight.
- Three-Quarters View: The overall perspective, which makes Outer Heaven's architecture seem very weird once you think about it. Why is every single wall trapezoidical?
- Treacherous Advisor: If you don't know who it is, consider yourself lucky.
- Trope Codifier: For the stealth based game genre.
- The Unfought: The Metal Gear itself in the NES version.
- Unwinnable by Design: See Hostage Spirit Link or Video Game Cruelty Punishment concerning demotions. If you get a demotion in some situations, you will not have enough ammo to destroy certain bosses (or even to obtain an item needed to complete the game). This is particularly egregious during the Coward Duck boss battle, where he shields himself with three hostages. Killing all three will demote Snake to the starting rank. There might not even be enough POWs remaining or available to restore the required four-star rank.
- Video Game Cruelty Punishment: Killing a single POW will demote the player to their previous rank. Itís possible for the player to work his way back to his previous rank if there are enough POWs still left to save, but killing certain POWs (like Ellen or Jennifer's brother) will make the game unwinnable.
- What Happened to the Mouse?: In the NES version, Snake is shown parachuting into Outer Heaven with three other soldiers. They are never seen nor mentioned again. These were probably supposed to be Schneider, Diane, and Jennifer, Snake's on-field contacts, likely establishing how they ended up on the field with Snake. However, this is never stated as such and contradicts with the implication that the resistance movement was operating locally before Snake arrived (with Diane working from her own home with her brother Steve and Jennifer as an inside agent within Outer Heaven's medical staff).
- Where The Hell Is Springfield?: Outer Heaven and the Galzburg region are stated to be in South Africa, but it is never actually specified where it is exactly. It should be noted that this is one of the few Metal Gear games (and certainly the only canonical installment) to play this straight.
- With This Herring: Your starting equipment is a pack of cigarettes. You need to search for a basic handgun, and make a second search for ammo.