In the Metal Gear series, there are themes in most of the canonical Metal Gear games. These themes play an important part in the game's story. Metal Gear creator Hideo Kojima has said that the themes are messages that can be passed on to the next generation. By the end of the game, the themes lead to a conclusion. The Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater official guide by Piggyback speculated that the games overall story carry several implicit parallels to Nietzschean philosophy, specifically Friedrich Nietzsche's "The Eternal Return of the Same."
Kojima also implied twice that, at least until the release of Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes, he intended to question America's role in the world as a theme. In an interview with Famitsu, Kenji Yano explained that one of the themes for Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain involved America being the enemy as well as the story's equivalent of the titular whale from Moby-Dick. He also implied that this was ultimately the reason why Big Boss himself portrayed Ishmael and not Huey Emmerich as had originally been intended since the latter would have ultimately been biased towards an American perspective.
Metal Gear Solid
In Metal Gear Solid, the main theme is GENE. Throughout the game, it is said that everyone is bound to their genes and to fate and that the only thing that matters is passing on genes to the next generation. The game's main antagonist Liquid Snake (Solid Snake's brother and polar opposite) wants Big Boss' body to save the Genome Soldiers from a genetic disease. Liquid Snake follows his genes and is what Snake could have become. By the end of the game, Naomi Hunter, (who has always studied genes to find out more about herself) comes to the conclusion that genes do not define you as a person, and the fact that Snake is a clone is not important for him to define himself - rather, you should enjoy your life instead of worrying about your genes.
Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty
In Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, the main theme is MEME. At the end of the game, it is revealed that Raiden has been a test subject for the S3 Plan: A recreation of the Shadow Moses Incident (from Metal Gear Solid). The main antagonist, Solidus Snake (a third 'perfect' clone of Big Boss) is fighting against a group called the Patriots who were responsible for creating him, as well as Solid Snake and Liquid Snake. Each clone was made sterile so that they would not bear children, and there would be no more than three carrying the genes of Big Boss. Solidus is also fighting the Patriots' strict information control over the masses; their systems prevent him from being able to pass his memes to future generations. At the end of the game, it is shown that good things can be passed on to the next generation, not just the genes, those things, are the memes (as in 'an element of culture or behaviour not passed on genetically'). It is also shown that Raiden and Rosemary plan to pass on good memes (culture, poetry, compassion, joy) to their child.
Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater
In Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, the main theme is SCENE (as opposed to 'scenario'). The Boss is the major illustrator of this theme, that everything is not absolute or eternal and that everything changes along with the times. The Boss said that by the 21st century America and Russia will no longer be enemies. All of the major characters are affected by scene. EVA falls in love only to cause heartbreak, Nikolai Stephanovich Sokolov is forced to build a weapon which nearly got him killed and Colonel Volgin is consumed by power which leads to his death. Naked Snake is forced to kill The Boss in a scene he cannot control. By the end of the game, Snake's perspective changed completely due to the nature of Operation Snake Eater.
Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots
In Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots, the main theme is SENSE, as in someone's understanding of the world that is lost when they die. Throughout the Japanese version, the word "will" is supertitled as "SENSE." However, this is translated simply as "will" in the English version. This theme is prominent throughout the game, from Snake's attempt to understand Naomi's intentions to the misguided attempts of Zero and Big Boss to follow The Boss's will, and JD to follow his. In all of these cases, the individual's original intent and sense of the world is questioned and unclear and seemingly is deliberately left for the audience to answer.
Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker
In Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker, the main theme is PEACE. The Cold War system of deterrence, by means of mutually assured destruction, has brought an “illusion of peace” to first-world countries. Meanwhile, wars between the superpowers are fought by proxy in developing countries, as depicted by the KGB backing the Sandinistas against the CIA-backed Somoza regime in Nicaragua. Each character fights in the name of their own understanding of peace; Coldman seeks to use The Peace Walker Project to close the loophole of nuclear deterrence theory - human error and/or sentiment - through the cold, calculating logic of an AI. By contrast, Big Boss, and his army without a country, is hired to push back against the CIA and bring peace back to Costa Rica, a country without an army. Whereas past games commented on the military-industrial complex in passing, Peace Walker makes the player an active participant in running their own private-military company. Thus, the player becomes part of the paradox of fighting for peace, yet running a business that thrives on war. Ultimately, the game’s message is relayed through Strangelove; Although true peace may be unlikely, it’s still an ideal worth striving towards.
Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
In The Phantom Pain, the main themes are RACE & REVENGE and Pain. The REVENGE theme that will be prevalent isn't typical revenge between two people, but a never ending series of killing between races. Kojima has commented on these themes by saying that the "false spiral" (referring to revenge) will be carried out on to the next generation, the cornerstone of every theme in the series. In addition, pain is a theme in the way of the pain soldiers bring back from war, either from physical wounds or lost comrades.
Notes and references
- ^ Piggyback's Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, the Official Guide, page 226-227.
- ^ Metal Gear Solid 2 Grand Game Plan (http://www.gamepitches.com/2012/01/kojima-productions-metal-gear-solid-2-sons-of-liberty-design-document/), page 36-37.
- ^ http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2014/jul/18/hideo-kojima-interview-metal-gear-solid-phantom-pain
- ^ http://www.metalgearinformer.com/?p=25955