Acid was probably a very appropriate name for the PSP extension of Hideo Kojima's legendary Metal Gear series, considering how it burned with a corrosive controversy that divided fans.
The reason for this disagreement was Acid's gameplay style. Gone was the real-time stealthing that had made the MGS games huge worldwide hits, replaced by a turn-based, card-playing strategy mechanic that players either loved or hated.
Review scores swung from what we'd expect from a Metal Gear game to almost devastatingly low. But that hasn't stopped Kojima Productions, the newly formed branch of Konami headed up by the man himself, from announcing the sequel. In what could be seen as stubbornness or confidence the card-based strategy gameplay will remain in Acid 2, but the new cel-shaded visuals herald lots of other new additions.
While the first game isn't even available in Europe yet we managed to sit down with Shinta Nojiri, Acid's director at Kojima Productions, to find out about his hopes for the European release, his plans for Acid 2, and his relationship with Kojima.
What kind of direction did you want to take the PSP version of the Metal Gear Solid universe in?
Shinta Nojiri: Well, when Hideo Kojima gave me the honour of heading up the Metal Gear Acid team he told me that since we were developing for an all-new piece of hardware that we should try something new with the gameplay. So we came up with a more strategic aspect and it became Acid.
Do you think that the strategic element of Acid is particularly suited to a portable device like the PSP?
Shinta Nojiri: Yes, definitely. I worked on the Game Boy Colour version which was an action game, but when you're playing a portable game you want to be able to stop and start at any time. So a strategic game where you are playing cards and thinking about your moves between turns is perfect for a handheld machine like the PSP.
What does Acid add to the Metal Gear universe?
Shinta Nojiri: You can collect cards and items that refer back to characters from throughout Metal Gear history, so from a collector's point of view that adds a great deal to the experience.
Were you pleased with Acid's strategic card-based play when you finished work on the game, and will we see it again in the sequel?
Shinta Nojiri: I'll be honest. When we finished the game we were not sure how Metal Gear fans would react to it. But once we saw the first reviews and the sales numbers we felt assured that we had done a very good job. Of course, there are always points that we want to improve on, and we will certainly address them in the sequel. One tactic we will use again is to make one of our team concentrate solely on the card system to make it as strong, unique and special as possible. We have a very small team because we're working on a portable game, but that worked well for us last time.
How would you convince European Metal Gear fans that they will enjoy Acid's take on the MGS universe?
Shinta Nojiri: It's interesting, because I think Metal Gear fans will instantly feel at home with Acid even though the style of play is slightly different. But a positive thing we have is the fact that people who haven't played any Metal Gear games before are coming to a brand new type of game, and will therefore enjoy it just as much as long-term fans. So I would ask all gamers, whether fans of MGS or not, to play Acid without prejudice.
Was it difficult to work with the PSP, given that it is a relatively new platform?