Review by EDDY555

""Snake, welcome to Zanzibar Land!""

After the revolutionary 1987 game Metal Gear, Hideo Kojima decided it was time for Snake to return in a big way. In 1990, Kojima's sequel Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake was released for the MSX2. Due to problems though, this game was only released in Japan, and remains elusive. Sadly, most European and American gamers will never get to even touch a copy of this game; it's ever so rare. Mr. Kojima was upset that only Japanese gamers could play Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake, but a game called Snake's Revenge was released in the West for Nintendo's NES. That said, there are 2 big problems with Snake's Revenge:

1. It isn't the true sequel to Metal Gear, and not even a part of the official storyline.
2. Kojima didn't help make Snake's Revenge himself, so it lacks the magic touch the other games in the series are blessed with, or so I read.

Let's move onto my game. As always, the storyline for any Metal Gear game doesn't disappoint. It's 1999, and the Cold War has ended. Russia and the USA have made up with each other for the most part, and the threat of a full-blown nuclear war is more or less zero. Or is it? Within Central Asia, sandwiched between the borders of Russia, China, India and Pakistan lies a tiny country called Zanzibar Land. It's actually more of a weapon stockpiling ground than an independent nation. Zanzibar agents have been asked to steal advanced nuclear materials from other, bigger states in order to help establish Zanzibar Land as a major military power. At the same time, the world is facing an energy crisis. The world's supply of oil is running low, but a European professor, called Dr Kio Marv, has the solution: ''OILIX''. It will eliminate any need for oil, and has a vast supply already manufactured. The Zanzibar Land leaders (who they are, we don't know) found out about this, and sent agents to hijack Marv's private plane, en route to the USA. Marv is now being held captive in Zanzibar land. With the confidential plans for OILIX and a terrifying nuclear arsenal on hand, Zanzibar Land could truly become a force to be reckoned with soon enough.

New FOX-HOUND commander Roy Campbell lifts Solid Snake, the hero of the Outer Heaven incident, out of retirement. His mission objectives are to rescue Dr Marv and ensure the plans for OILIX stay safe, uncovering anything about Zanzibar Land in the process. There are lots of plot twists and sub-plots to digest, so when a non-interactive moment starts sit back and enjoy!

The Metal Gear series has always a joy to play. The games are known for stealthy action, and Metal Gear 2 demonstrates that just as well as any other game in the entire series. You take control of the legendary Solid Snake once again, and must guide him through Zanzibar Land, starting off at the peak of a cliff and sneaking into the huge Zanzibar Building through the ventilation system. Then, when the adequate keys have been obtained, Snake goes on to a sweltering jungle, through a swamp, and the rest is up to you to discover.

There are guards all over the place, and if you get spotted, they will attack in the same way as a Doberman would rip apart fresh meat. In other words, relentlessly. Thankfully, this game is not so horribly hard at times that it makes you want to destroy your machine with sadistic tools and throw the remains out a window and the boss fights can often take a few controlled attempts to beat; these are never without interest as they are usually unique in their own right and require a planned strategy; they never involve pure brawn and a machine gun alone, 'cause Snake isn't Rambo; he can't just stand in one place and decimate everything.

Along the way, there are also booby traps to avoid, like laser traps that will alert the guards of Snake's presence if tripped, a la Metal Gear. But there are specific ways to expose the threat of each trap. For example, the lasers will show up if Snake puffs on a cigarette.

If you've just completed Metal Gear – which is a pretty hard game - and expect this one to be tougher, I wouldn't worry. If you stop respecting Metal Gear 2's challenge it crushes you, but there are clever refinements to the game engine and the production values are generally better and more attractive (Mr. Kojima was given a bigger budget this time round), which make Metal Gear 2 more fun to play. For example, it's simpler to find your way around here than in the original. Metal Gear 2 introduced the radar system to the series. The immediate area is mapped-out in the top right of the screen, while Snake appears as a red dot and enemies are white dots.

It's worth mentioning that the Transceiver has returned. Campbell is the only contact at the start of the game, but when you first enter the Zanzibar Building a host of new companions open up their frequencies, such as Holly, a journalist caught up in Zanzibar Land, George Kessler, an expert on the world's mercenaries and armies who will help you out with strategies in boss battles and give information on their backgrounds, and McDonnell Miller, FOX-HOUND's survival teacher.

The graphics here are many times better than the Metal Gear graphics and amazing for a 1990 MSX2 game. Snake's green army attire is cool and the guards are dressed in light brown uniforms with red berets, and the environmental backgrounds, particularly that of the jungle and the interior areas such as the Zanzibar Building which you'll visit a lot, are quite decent for a game of this age. Also, the faces on the Transceiver screen are now coloured very richly, which is a relief as most of the story develops through this little gadget. Perhaps the nicest touch with the visuals is that if you equip the cigarettes and bring up the Transceiver, not only can you see Snake enjoying his tobacco you can access a secret frequency too!

The SFX are outstanding for the era (the alert chime makes me jump!), but the music is definitely not as nostalgic as the Metal Gear variety. Then again, “nostalgia is a sign of weakness”, or in this case, subjectivity, so I'll grant Metal Gear 2 plenty of admiration for its music, which is ace in its own right. The Zanzibar Building theme is my favourite.

Will you come back to play this game after you have beaten it once? Metal Gear 2 is without a doubt worth an entire play through, and it's long; you'll be gripped on your first play up to the end. It's a solid yet manageable challenge that is well worth another spin.

You should pick Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake up if you like any other Metal Gear games, but the problem is finding it in the first place. It's even stealthier than Solid Snake himself! Be prepared to shell out a lot of money though; I've heard of people buying Metal Gear 2 alone for $150! If you still can't get your hands on a copy, try the far more accessible Snake's Revenge on the far more accessible NES. Although now the proud owner of an old-school NES, EDDY555 cannot give his opinion on Snake's Revenge, as he hasn't played it yet. I'm sure I'll do a review someday. Remember, Metal Gear 2 won't just appear out of nowhere! I wish you luck in finding it. The other option is engaging in a spot of emulation.

Reviewer's Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

Originally Posted: 10/01/02, Updated 08/05/04

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