Sunday, August 11, 2013

Worlds of Power: Metal Gear, a book based on the best selling NES game by Ultragames

Ultragames was a subsidiary of Konami designed to get around Nintendo's NES era policy of only allowing developers to release five games a year on their console, Ultragames was Konami's way of localizing games more efficiently than, say, Squaresoft.
The very first thing I noticed about this book is the synopsis on the back, they refer to Solid Snake as Justin Halley.
The Halley I don't have a problem with, since they never revealed his last name in any of the games to my knowledge, but in Metal Gear Solid, his name is David. I don't know if this was a translation error, and his name was always David in Japan, or if they just made up a name for the American version of the game, or if Scholastic made the name up to be able to address him as something other than Solid Snake, but it doesn't match up with series canon no matter how you look at it. Immediately after opening the book I found that the inconsistencies with established canon don't end there. They namedrop FOXHOUND at the beginning of the book as the unit of which "The Snake Men" are a part of. I haven't played the NES game, but according to Wikipedia, this was one of Scholastic's many changes to game plots in their Worlds of Power series.
Another thing I need to address might seem minor, but they edited Snake's gun out of the picture on the cover of the novel. Another small thing, the book never calls him "Justin" or "Snake" it's always "Justin Halley" or "Solid Snake". It just sounds awkward. The plot is this: FOXHOUND has sent fifteen Snake Men in to take out a weapon called "Metal Gear" in a place called Outer Heaven. Sounds like the first game, right? Well, it's not. It's based on the NES game, not the MSX game, as the cover (And title of this article) should display. Metal Gear is a computer, and not a nuclear equipped walking battle-tank, Outer Heaven is a fortress inside a country, rather than the country itself, and the guy Snake is going up against is named Vermon Cataffy. Yes, you read that right, and no, I'm not making this up. Outer Heaven is a base somewhere inside Libya, and Metal Gear is some version of Skynet in this book. Anyways, because sending the fifteen in to take it out wasn't enough, Colonel South (Not Campbell, South) sends Solid Snake in, the best of the best, a one man army. Sure, seems reasonable considering the typical plot of Metal Gear games, but there exist thirty Snake Men in the novel, and a flimsy excuse for not sending the other fifteen in is given. On that note, they coulda sent all thirty in and the problem would have practically taken care of itself!
Okay, on a less cynical note, the plot of any book based on an NES game would pretty much have to be made up from scratch, because there weren't a whole lot of story-based games in a library of about, I guess 800 to a thousand depending on how many you count (Although, considering this IS Metal Gear, the series which pioneered cinematic games on top of action-stealth, you'd think they'd have more to go on)
There's one scene in the book where Snake, having rubbed his Sneaking Suit (They don't refer to it as such in the book, but I'm gonna call it that) in panther musk, then he happens upon a pack of guard-dogs. What does he do? Climb up a tree? Kill them with his equipment? Act like he's not there and stay out of their line of sight, like in the games? No, he acts like a panther to scare them off. Now, I'm no Zoologist, but I'm not sure that would work in real life, and given that situation in real life, I'd climb up a tree. Now, this IS Metal Gear, and realism is not what we're here for, we're here for the gigantic robots and over-the -top fight-scenes. Unfortunately, the fight-scenes aren't described with a whole lot of detail, and, like I said, Metal gear is a computer, and there's no fight-scene between Snake and Metal Gear. A lot of the dialogue happens at the beginning of the book, and at the end. During the rest of the book it's mostly describing what Snake is doing, and when Snake finds a radio the dialogue sounds like it was copy/pasted directly from the NES game, and the translation from game to book (In addition to translation issues from Japanese to English) are very apparent. I've only ever played the MSX version on the MGS HD Collection, and never the NES version. As a result, I can't tell whether or not if they actually did just copy the codec sequences verbatim, but it still feels out of place in the book. Snake even notices that the codec sequences are strange. In addition to that, when you rescue some of the Snake Men, I'd say that those dialogue sequences were ripped from the game as well. In the beginning of the game, Snake is warned against taking the advice of some of the Snake Men, because some of them mighta turned traitor. This never comes to a head for some reason, but had it, it would have made for a good plot-twist or two. Now, with a unit called "The Snake Men" you'd think that everyone in it would have names like "Solid Snake" "Liquid Snake" "Acid Snake" "Portable Snake" "Liberty Snake" "Snake Eater" "Twin Snake" "Metal Snake" "Solidus Snake" "Silent Snake" and stuff like that, right? Well they also copied all the names from the game too. One of the Snake Men is called "Grey Fox. And he's not named "Frank Jaeger", his name is Frank... Something else that I can't remember, but it's not Jaeger, like it's established as in Metal Gear Solid. Not changing his codename to something else was also a bad idea, because it's out of step with a unit name like "Snake Men".
At one point in time Snake comes across matches and cigarettes. That's perfectly fine, considering that he's always had them in the games, but he passes them up, thinking that they might be poisoned. Why would they be poisoned? I guess they were just sending a message about the dangers of smoking, but there's almost no reason for them to be poisoned (Okay, they captured all the Snake men, but there's no reason for CaTaffy to give your men poisoned cigarettes in preparation for an incursion by ONE GUY.) If he was preparing for an entire ARMY to attack (which would be logical), he wouldn't be expecting ONE GUY to take a random guards coffin nails.
Now, after listing all of this, I actually still like the book. There's a bunch of stuff that's out of place, but being the Metal Gear fan I am, I can sorta forgive an early novelization of an NES game for stuff that didn't get confirmed until 1998 (Unless it WAS confirmed before the novel, in which case there's no excuse).
I give it an 8.9* rating, because despite its flaws, I actually liked reading it. From start to finish I actually liked it. I'll see you guys next week with my Battlefield 3 first impressions.