Metal Gear Survive has been announced and yes, we can agree it is weird. Metal Gear Survive is to Metal Gear Solid what Yakuza: Dead Souls is to Yakuza 4. This is a strange game; it is a weird spin-off that shoehorns zombies into a place where they might not belong. But, the one thing it isn’t is surprising. This isn’t the first time the Metal Gear series has headed into a strange place. Yes, we’re heading into uncharted territory. This is a Metal Gear without Hideo Kojima, yes, and capitalizes on a fad, but might not end up being the most unconventional entry ever.
I mean, the soldiers of the Metal Gear series have faced stranger foes. Think back to 2004. Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater had a rather unconventional tie to Ape Escape. In the seven stage Snake vs. Monkey minigame, Solid Snake is forced to give up his vacation to capture Ape Escape’s apes. Since Spike and Jimmy, the series’ traditional heroes, are on vacation, Roy Campbell makes Snake head into the jungle to sneak around, recapturing the monkeys. Completing the missions gave Snake Banana Camouflage and a Monkey Mask, and the players a very real concern that a monkey might be a match for Solid Snake. This happened under Kojima’s watch, so he was obviously okay with Snake monkeying around. Unfortunately, licensing issues has kept Snake vs. Monkey out of more recent Metal Gear Solid 3 adaptations, like the Nintendo 3DS port.
There was also the time Solid Snake became a collectible card collector. Metal Gear Acid was a turn-based, tactical game where a deck of cards dictated what actions could and couldn’t be taken on a mission. Prior to entering the field, you needed to put together a deck of cards and, once you headed into the action, you’d have a hand of six cards at a time that could help determine the events of every turn. It’s quite a stretch from the more stealthy situations we were used to, but pulled together well on the PlayStation Portable. So well, in fact, that Konami and Glu Mobile rereleased it on phones as Metal Gear Acid Mobile.
Even Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance inspired something of a stir when it debuted in 2013. For starters, it stars Raiden. Or, rather, an unorthodox and mangled version of the man who’d attempted to replace Snake in our hearts. It also completely abandons all elements of stealth. It’s still putting us in a series of situations where skill and strategy is needed to succeed, but in a very different way than the Metal Gear games we’ve grown accustomed to. Like Metal Gear Survive, it’s an absolute departure from the series’ norms, but happened while Kojima was still around. It was a bit outside of his influence, since Platinumgames took the reigns, but still.
And certainly, we can’t forget about the most unconventional Metal Gear game of all. There is a Metal Gear Solid: Snake Eater pachislot coming out on October 17, 2016 in Japan. It’s a remake of one of the most notable installments in the series, with updated CGI scenes and Virtuous Mission, Survival Mode and Operation Snake Eater modes. It’s essentially a slot machine with story mode elements, with events in the game determined by reels you manage to match.
Metal Gear has always been a malleable series, with and without Hideo Kojima. Spin-offs flex and stretch the bounds of what we think possible or acceptable. We’ve seen entries with unexpected gameplay that worked, like Metal Gear Acid and Metal Gear Revengeance. Being ridiculous isn’t an issue, as Metal Gear Solid: Snake Eater teamed up with Ape Escape. Even concerns about cashing-in isn’t so much of an issue, as Konami’s extended the branding to pachislots. Metal Gear Survive is one of many unexpected moves for Metal Gear and probably won’t be the last odd entry.