Metal Gear Solid V may very well signify the end of an era for the Metal Gear Franchise, what with Kojima and Konami not exactly being best buds these days. So, what’s a Metal Gear fan to do? How will they occupy themselves once the MGS V well runs dry? Why, delve into the back-catalog, of course! There have been a ton of games in the Metal Gear franchise over the years, and while some of the more obscure titles haven’t exactly been of the highest caliber (I’m looking at you Ac!d) there was one oddity that lives up to the legacy. That game is Metal Gear Solid…
for the Game Boy Color.
Metal Gear Solid (or Metal Gear: Ghost Babel as it’s known in Japan) is an odd duck. It plays like a flawless marriage between the original Metal Gear games and the more modern Metal Gear Solid releases. In fact, this game was released in 2000, right between the releases of the PlayStation masterpiece Metal Gear Solid and the PlayStation 2 opus Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty. That said, this is a Game Boy Color game, so the majority of its gameplay more closely resembles the original MSX Metal Gear releases. It maintains the series’ classic top down perspective, and features graphics that are only as colorful as they need to be. Metal Gear isn’t exactly known for being super dark and gritty, but it’s also no trip through the Mushroom Kingdom. MGS on GBC employs a very smart visual style that keeps things bright enough to be seen on the non-backlit Game Boy Color screen while maintaining the game’s more serious overall tone. And the tone is something this game nails pretty darn well.
Make no mistake, Hideo Kojima may have only been a producer on this one, but this game is Metal Gear Solid through and through. The gameplay is classic tactical espionage action, with just a few extra limitations due to the hardware. Yet even with only 2 face buttons to work with, MGS manages to feel remarkably modern. You can crawl, hug walls, distract guards, and of course, smoke cigarettes and hide in boxes. It’s a feeling you have to play to believe, but even though it may look strange and dated, it’s absolutely a Metal Gear Solid game. And that goes for the story too. Speaking of which…
As you’d expect, this game is riddled with plot. Cutscenes with more dialogue than you can shake a Solid Snake at are all over the place, most of which are the ever-familiar Codec screens. The rest are some remarkably well illustrated shots of characters talking. There aren’t any fully animated scenes or voice overs here, because much like the PlayStation Metal Gear Solid, this game is keenly aware of what platform it’s on, and smartly plays to its strengths. But don’t worry, if it’s a long, absolutely bananas story you’re looking for, MGS has you covered. Right off the bat, it must be pointed out that the story is not canon. So before you start feeling like you’ve missed some important chapter in the Metal Gear saga, don’t worry. Think of this as an alternate reality.
Metal Gear Solid for Game Boy Color takes place at about the same time as Metal Gear Solid for PlayStation. The events of Metal Gear and Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake have still taken place, but instead of being brought out of retirement by Colonel Campbell to take on Liquid Snake and his band of lunatics in Shadow Moses, you are brought out of retirement by Colonel Campbell to take on Augustine “The General” Eguabon and his band of lunatics in Outer Heaven. This fancy cast of colorful characters includes the dual boomerang wielding Slasher Hawk, a puppet master named Marionette Owl, and a pyromaniac named Pyro Bison. Pair that with some military jargon, plenty of Codec conversations, and the fact that you have to sit through a full 14 minutes of cutscenes before you even get to the title screen, and you have all the makings of a proper Metal Gear Solid experience on the go.
And really, that’s the remarkable thing. After Metal Gear Solid came out on the PlayStation, Metal Gear had been modernized in a way that few other retro titles had pulled off. MGS was everything Metal Gear was, except better in almost every conceivable way. With the next game in the series hitting the Game Boy Color, of all systems, it could have felt like a big step back, but instead it showed that the brilliance of the gameplay and the overall experience wasn’t solely dependent on technology, and that the soul of the game could work in a much less technologically proficient medium if need be. It married elements of Metal Gear’s future with its past, and did it so successfully that every Metal Gear fan who decided to pick up this gem was rewarded with a singular Metal Gear experience that hasn’t been seen or heard from since. As of this writing, Metal Gear Solid for Game Boy Color hasn’t been rereleased in any way shape or form, which is especially weird considering how much Konami seems to like releasing Metal Gear collections. Unfortunately, because of its pedigree, it’s become quite an expensive cart to track down, so the bar for entry is rather high. Still, if you do manage to track this one down, and you’re a fan of all things Solid Snake, you’ll be in for a real treat.