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Retrospective: Metal Gear Solid

Snake's on a Game... Boy Color

This article originally appeared in Nintendo Gamer magazine.

Compared to the PlayStation triumvirate, the Game Boy Color is a particularly dim pocket calculator. But the hardware drawbacks of Nintendo's machine - a tiddly screen, a measly four buttons, few displayable colours - are what made the GBC Metal Gear Solid (also known as Ghost Babel) great.

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Give Kojima and his MGS-making Konami team an inch and they'll take a mile. Give them an After Eight-sized cartridge and as many colours as you'll find in a budget pack of Crayolas, and they rein in their filmic aspirations, somehow turning in a tense, tight exercise in perfection.

It's seven years after the events of the first game - that's 1987's Metal Gear - and Solid Snake's yet again got to stop someone from using a pilfered giant stompy robot to do bad things to the planet. You'd really think the people who make bipedal,nuclear-armed, world-destroying megabots would keep the keys in a safe place, wouldn't you?

Despite a not-so-shocking twist, the story's simpler than subsequent Metal Gear Solids, leaving more room for players to use patience and planning to get through the game. Controls are simple by necessity, but in giving Snake a limited moveset, players are always aware of his capabilities against legions of guards.

There are a number of ways past those guards, and you're free to approach the levels as you see fit. Crawling on your belly behind a hedge will get you into a facility, but so will shooting the patrolling guard in the face. Climbing into a cardboard box will also work, waiting until the idiot at the door turns his back and shuffling past him like a man cosplaying a low-budget Koopa.

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And that choice makes Metal Gear Solid great. The other games in the series take control away from the player at every opportunity. The GBC version packs that choice into a tiny cartridge and lets players do what they will with it.

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