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Even over seven years after its release, no one's quite sure what 'Snake Eater' refers to.
During Metal Gear Solid 3D you'll have the chance to scarf down plenty of pythons, of course, as well as a variety of frogs, rats and instant noodles. You'll also kill every member of the Cobra unit, a bunch of weirdo soldiers with superpowers such as controlling bees and returning from the dead.
But Metal Gear Solid is a series that works on multiple levels. What Snake Eater is really about is cycles - the snake eating its own tail. This is Hideo Kojima's defining Metal Gear Solid, the origin story that the rest of the series is built on, and the game that shows what happened to the world's biggest hero to turn him into the world's biggest villain. More important than all of that, it's the finest game ever made by one of the best development teams in gaming.
Metal Gear Solid 3D is fundamentally the same game as the original, but there's one big difference. This is by some distance the best use of 3D on 3DS, offering a depth and subtlety that nothing else has matched. The environments are perfect for it. MGS3D is set mostly in jungle terrain, which means there are plenty of trees and rocks to act as spatial reference points, but the key is the grass.
You'll spend a lot of time in MGS3D hiding in the long grass, and this is represented by large individual blades dense enough to hide you but sparse enough to look through. This means that MGS3D is nearly always displaying multiple objects at different depths in the foreground and distance, creating an environment that looks absolutely solid.
It's the only game on 3DS we've played the whole way through without turning off the 3D. The effect is so good it factors into the way you play - at one point during a session we dialled the 3D down to give the old eyes a rest, and two minutes later were peering into the distance and so dissatisfied with 2D we had to turn it back on. The effects in a lot of 3DS games are a nice but insubstantial gimmick; here they're essential.
So what's all this hiding and wildlife-chomping in aid of? Avoiding a nuclear holocaust, silly. Snake Eater casts you as Naked Snake, a spec ops soldier for the American government, and the date is 1964 - smack bang in the middle of the Cold War. The Boss, "the mother of America's special forces", has defected to a Russian splinter group that intends to overthrow Khrushchev and initiate war with the USA. Naked Snake's job is to stop them.
As you may have gathered, Metal Gear games aren't about Doctor Nefarious on Deathtrap Island. Kojima always ties the fantasy of his military sci-fi into real-world events, and MGS3 strikes the perfect balance between believable politics and unbelievable characters. It's oft said of Metal Gear Solid - and it's a fair criticism - that it overloads on cutscenes and conspiracy theories, but as a straight origin tale MGS3 has a tight and self-contained story. There are chunks of exposition, but it's well spaced-out and the small cast is easy to keep track of.