|This article is about the NES version of first game in the Metal Gear series. You may be looking for the original MSX2 version.|
Metal Gear for the Nintendo Entertainment System (Family Computer in Japan) is an altered port of the original MSX2 game. It was first released in Japan on December 22, 1987 (only five months after the MSX2 version), followed by a North American release in June 1988 and in PAL territories (Europe and Australia) sometime in 1989.
The NES version was developed by a separate team without Hideo Kojima's involvement and many changes to the game were made during the porting process, resulting in a severely different product. According to Masahiro Uedo, who worked on the NES version as a sub-programmer, there were two primary reasons for the changes: the first one was because of the higher ups at Konami ordered the developers to make the NES version different from the MSX2 version; and the second was hardware limitations (since the team was not given an advanced mapper chip, unlike the team who worked on the Famicom version of Contra, which had the VRC2 at their disposal) which led to the replacement of the Metal Gear fight with an immobile Supercomputer. The porting process was also subject to a three month deadline.
Despite this, the NES version sold surprisingly well, especially in the Western market, with a million copies sold in North America. This, in turn, resulted in the creation of Snake's Revenge without Kojima's involvement, which in turn became the inspiration for Kojima's actual MSX2 sequel, Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake (which in turn, became the basis for Metal Gear Solid). As a result, the NES version of Metal Gear is credited for allowing the creation of the later games in the series be possible. Nonetheless, Kojima has expressed intense dislike for this version due to its changes without his involvement.
Similar to other NES games at the time (including the original Legend of Zelda), the game sometimes included a fold-up map that helped the player get through obstacles in the game.
This version of Metal Gear was eventually re-released as a bonus disc included with the Japanese Premium Package version of Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes, itself a retelling of another Metal Gear game (in this case, Metal Gear Solid).
Changes from the MSX2 version
- One notable difference between the MSX2 and NES versions is the presence of the actual Metal Gear mecha or lack thereof in the NES version. Instead, the player must destroy a "Supercomputer" which controls all of Metal Gear's activities in its place. The method of destroying it was also changed. While in the MSX2 version, the player must place 16 plastic explosives on Metal Gear's feet based on the order given by Dr. Pettrovich, in the NES version the player must simply place the bombs over the Supercomputer on no specific parts (however, due to the game's programming, the computer will only take damage if the player has first rescued Ellen and Dr. Pettrovich).
- In the MSX2 version, Solid Snake performs a solo underwater insertion into Outer Heaven in the beginning of the game to the entrance of Building No. 1. In the NES version, he performs an air insertion by skydiving and parachuting into the jungle with three other soldiers who disappear after landing. They are neither seen nor mentioned again.
- The level designs were altered greatly in the NES version. In the beginning of the game, the player must proceed through a jungle area before reaching the entrance of Building No. 1 through a truck. The first floor corridor of Building No. 1 was also remodeled greatly, with many of its trucks and rooms moved to other locations. The basement-level floors of Building No. 1 and 2 were made into separate buildings, Building No. 4 and 5, respectively. In addition, the room where Big Boss was fought at was moved to the east where the player fought TX-55 Metal Gear (or the computer room, in the NES's case), whereas the MSX2 version had it being to the west. As a direct consequence of the creation of Building No. 4 and 5, Fire Trooper's location was also changed, causing him to guard Dr. Pettrovich's cell directly. Originally, Fire Trooper guarded the elevator that reached the area of the second floor that contained Dr. Pettrovich's cell.
- Trucks now face westward in outdoor areas and southward in indoor areas, rather than northward like they did in the MSX2 version. All of the transport trucks were moved outdoors as well and they now travel in a circular pattern, essentially serving as shortcuts to different buildings. On a slightly related note, the vehicle gallery has been slightly expanded in the NES version, as other than tanks or transport trucks, the game also includes jeeps, both the covered and non-covered variety, as well as a non-covered truck variety.
- The player can procure the silencer without incident. In the MSX2 version, the player has to fight four mercenaries in order to procure it.
- In order to reach Building No. 4 or 5, the player must go through one of two jungle mazes located west to each of the outdoor areas. The solution for both mazes are the same, although it is never actually given within the game. It is west, west, north and west.
- The Hind D boss battle was replaced by a pair of gunners known as Twin Shot on the rooftop of Building No. 1. Just like the Hind D, they're only vulnerable to the grenade launcher.
- Since the player no longer has to parachute to reach Dr. Pettrovich's cell in Building No. 1, the Parachute item was removed. An Iron Glove was added in its place, which allows the player to break hollow walls. Unlike most items in the game, the Iron Glove works without having to be equipped by the player (just as long as it is in the player's inventory). The Iron Glove is needed to access Fire Trooper's room in Building No. 5. Also, as a result of Building 1's courtyard being removed in the NES version, the German Shepherds were relocated to near the beginning of the game where Snake has to traverse through the jungle to get to the first movable truck. The last of these alterations was one of the aspects of the NES version that was particularly criticized by Hideo Kojima.
- The NES version has the alert phase being used if the player is spotted by the guard dogs, and the player is also able to subdue guard dogs by punching them. Neither is the case in the MSX2 version.
- The flying soldiers located on the roof of Building No. 1 and 2 lost their ability to hover over the ground in the NES version.
- In the NES version, the "alert" mode (represented by a single exclamation mark) and "high alert" mode (two exclamation marks) from the MSX version are combined. Enemy soldiers from adjacent screens will often appear to attack the player, but the player can always make their escape from alert mode by simply moving to an adjacent screen.
- The player is able to walk under security cameras without being detected in the NES version much like later Metal Gear titles. This is not possible in the MSX2 version.
- The player can no longer acquire rations or ammo by punching enemy soldiers in Sneaking Mode.
- Snake's face no longer appears in the transceiver screen.
- Some of the background music is different. Specifically, the "Theme of Tara" (the main infiltration theme) and "Sneaking Mission" (the infiltration theme used in basement floors) were replaced by two new themes, one played during outdoor areas and the other is played indoors. The "Red Alert" theme was also replaced as well.
- There are also several other minor differences in gameplay, including several bugs and glitches. Some of the radio conversations were "misplaced" as a result of the redesigned areas in the NES version. For example, if the player calls Schneider in front of the room containing the gas mask in Building No. 1, he will tell Snake the location of the mine detector instead. This is due to the fact that the same spot in the MSX2 version used to be a minefield. Similarly, if the player calls Schneider in front of the elevator on the roof of Building No. 1, he will tell Snake that the Bomb Blast Suit is located on the second floor. In reality, it is located in Building No. 4 near Gray Fox's cell. This seems to imply that the Bomb Blast Suit was meant to be relocated to the room where the player fights Machinegun Kid. In addition, the player's bullets have a longer range than they do in the MSX2 version, and the player can shoot while wearing the cardboard box.
- There were also several changes regarding the items and weapons in the NES version. Many of them were minor, as several of them were given a more monochromatic look to them (or in the case of the uniform, a more green colorization). However, at least one somewhat major change was that the transmitter item was redesigned, resembling a miniature radio instead of a red button, as well as the above noted replacement of the parachute with the Iron Glove.
- Respawning works differently in the NES version. When the player dies in the MSX2 version, Snake will restart at the last checkpoint he crossed with the inventory he had up to that point. In the NES version, the location that Snake will revive at is determined by the player's rank. The only exceptions to this rule is when Snake is captured in Building No. 4 and the player hasn't recovered his equipment yet, or after he destroys the Supercomputer. Unlike the MSX2 version, Snake's inventory will be exactly like it was during the moment he died:
- If the player dies with only one star, he will restart at the beginning of the Jungle area.
- If the player dies with two stars, he will restart in the southern entrance of Building No. 1.
- If the player dies with three stars, he will restart within the eastern elevator of Building No. 1.
- If the player dies with four stars, he will restart outside the northern entrance of Building No. 1.
- A passcode system was added due to lack of support for save media that the MSX2 version had. One of the more infamous ones was where the player, upon putting it in, would be transported to the final fight against Big Boss without any weapons or equipment. The code was "FUCKM E1111 11111 11111 11111" which acted as the reason why the passcode system eventually ended up altered in the PAL version (see "North American to European differences" below). Another code, which would transport the player to the final boss with some weapons and equipment, but still minimal, references nearly all the contacts on the transceiver in the game ("DIANE ELLEN JENNI FERBI GBOSS"). It should be noted that neither was intentional: the system and systems like it function by parsing the inputted text as if it is literal program code, and where possible generates a game state based on that code. The NES Metroid had similar codes which appeared to form references or coherent sentences, but were actually just valid code strings significant only by coincidence.
- The inventory in the NES version automatically sorts items based on their type, with key cards being listed first. This is one of the few merits the NES version has over the MSX2 version, where items are sorted merely by the order in which they were picked up, resulting in a more disorganized inventory.
- During the final escape sequence, instead of escaping from the base via ladder, the player instead has to choose an elevator to get back to the surface. In addition, the ending omits Snake running from the base and then watching the mushroom cloud resulting from the base's destruction, instead showing the jungle from the opening sequence enveloped in various bright colors accompanied by the sound of explosions.
- Big Boss's final message to Solid Snake after the end credits was removed, which essentially served as a sequel hook. Ironically, the sequel to the NES version (Snake's Revenge) was made before the MSX2 sequel (Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake).
Japanese to North American changes
- All of the text was translated to (rather poor) English.
- The Ultra Games logo replaces the Konami logo on the title screen.
- The spelling of Gray Fox's name is inconsistent in the Famicom version, with the game alternating between the British-style spelling "Grey Fox", which was also used in the MSX2 version, and the now-standard Americanized spelling. The NES version uses "Grey Fox." The Famicom version also misspells Steve's name as "Stive" at one point.
- There's slightly more vehicle variety in the scenery of the NES version. A convertible can be spotted among the rows of jeeps on the first floor of Building No 1, while a Buick Sedan is parked in front of the Building No. 2 checkpoint.
- Snake's transceiver has a much more complex design in the NES version. In the Famicom version, it looked exactly like it did in the MSX2 version.
- In the Famicom version, Schneider will contact the player in the electrified room on the third floor of Building No. 1 in order to reveal the location of the guided missiles. In the NES version, it is Big Boss who contacts the player, telling Snake to contact Schneider.
The NES version of Metal Gear was released in North America at a time when video games were still lacking in-game storylines for the most part. As a result, when a Japanese game was localized in the U.S., the company that was marketing the game in the U.S. could write any sort of made-up storyline and details in the game's instruction manual without necessarily following the original Japanese storyline.
Konami of America was very notorious for this practice, often making up their own storylines for their games while paying little or no respect to the original designers' intentions (as evident in some of the Castlevania and Contra games).
Metal Gear was no exception; it went through the same questionable marketing treatment. However, unlike some of the other games of its time, Metal Gear actually provided the player with an in-game narrative (albeit very primitive compared to later titles) which develops the storyline as the player progresses through the game. The in-game translation (which was done by the actual developers) kept the storyline unchanged from the Japanese version.
In the packaging and manual for the NES version, the game's main villain (whose identity is intentionally kept secret in the original version) is named Colonel Vermon CaTaffy, "a once tranquil shepherd boy" who "turned to terrorism at an early age." CaTaffy's name is a play on the name of former Libyan leader Muammar al-Gaddafi. Snake's commanding officer (who is Big Boss in the original version) is named "Commander South," a play on the name of the Marine lieutenant colonel involved in the Iran-Contra scandal, Oliver North. Moreover, Snake is mentioned as being a former Marine who participated in the Grenada Invasion prior to joining FOXHOUND. This would be contradicted by the timeline presented in later games. The manual also gave names for some of the NPC characters (e.g. the soldiers who fall asleep while on guard duty, as "B.A. Dozer"), as well as describing the scorpions in the northern desert as being trained killer animals owned by Colonel CaTaffy. None of these terms and changes were featured in-game. In addition, Big Boss' role as Snake's CO is featured in the packaging and manual via a screenshot.
Finally, the packaging retained the TX-55 Metal Gear on the cover. The Japanese version's package artwork omitted the TX-55 altogether.
North American to European differences
The European version is almost identical to the North American version, aside from the following changes:
- The game runs slightly slower as a result of the NTSC-to-PAL conversion.
- The Konami logo appears on the title screen instead of the Ultra Games logo, although the fonts are colored gray instead of white like in the Japanese version.
- The password system was changed so that passwords no longer contained vowels and certain consonants. This was presumably done to "censor" the "FUCKM E1111 11111 11111 11111" password that takes the player to the final boss battle without any items or weapons.
Metal Gear was rated the 104th best game made on a Nintendo System in Nintendo Power's Top 200 Games list.
In 1988, a novelization of Metal Gear was written by Alexander Frost and published by Scholastic Books, through their Worlds of Power series of video game adaptations. It was closely based on Konami of America's localization of the plot, rather than the original Japanese storyline. In addition, further liberties were taken with the story, such as giving Solid Snake the name "Justin Halley", and making him a member of a U.S. Marines antiterrorist squad known as the "Snake Men." Since the books were aimed at younger readers, Snake doesn't kill anyone and only uses his guns to pistol whip guards. The cover artwork was airbrushed to remove Snake's gun.
In Japan, a Metal Gear gamebook was published on March 31, 1988, shortly after the release of the Famicom version as part of the Konami Gamebook Series, set two years after the events of the original game.
- ^ http://www.hardcoregaming101.net/metalgear/masahiroueno.htm (Archived version)
- ^ "NP Top 200", Nintendo Power 200: 58–66, February 2006.