Games

Lengthening the Legend: The Twin Snakes and Why It Didn't Work

Sometimes a game gets it right the first time.

It may be safely said that most people with even a passing interest in the video-gaming hobby have at one point or another heard of Metal Gear Solid. It is one of the iconic games released for the PSX--a game so well-liked that it was given a complete overhaul and update with the release of Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes for the Gamecube. Now I will freely admit--cheerfully admit, even--that the visual style of the old Metal Gear Solid left a bit to be desired.

It was still in the early years of using those magical 'three dimensional graphics,' and so the fact that the protagonist's face is basically a square with a few slightly darker lines to represent eyebrows and a mouth didn't matter. The codec conversations made up for it, filling in the blanks with two-dimensional art that let you know what the seemingly faceless protagonist of the game actually looked like. The same went for the rest of the cast, being featureless except for Big Obvious Things, like long blond hair, a raven's tattoo on the forehead, or a gunslinger's mustache. While certainly there's no doubt that the humble Playstation was being pushed to its limit, the 'limit' of the Playstation was still pretty ugly. It is a testament to the clever character design that my memory paints a much prettier picture than my recent sit-down with the game revealed to exist, but (and this is an important 'but,') certainly I was not sad to see that Twin Snakes was running on the lovely engine that powered Metal Gear Solid 2 (and, if I'm not mistaken, Metal Gear Solid 3). I've always unabashedly been more of a fan of the original MGS than any of its sequels (although the third installment has grown on me considerably in recent years), so seeing its (remarkably uncomplicated by comparison) plot given the same shiny coating as its younger brethren was an exciting event.

Unfortunately, with that upgrade to the graphics came a bizarre decision to punch up the cutscenes with a little extra action. This was indicative of a problem with a lot of newer games, leading to the inevitable backlash against cutscenes which is so common today. The cutscenes of the original were lengthy, yes, but they also characterized Solid Snake in a way that differs from the absolutely inane/insane kung-fu-flipping, rocket-riding ridiculousness of his Twin Snakes iteration. I hesitate to say that Metal Gear Solid was ever really meant to be a 'realistic' game in the first place, but the remake hews much closer to the realm of over-the-top spectacle. MGS may seem to be an action movie right out of the 80s at times, but by comparison Twin Snakes is a Michael Bay film. It doubles the length of some cutscenes for gratuitous 'oh look at what he can do,' something highlighted in the first encounter with Revolver Ocelot. Take a look at the scene in the original game below:

Then look at it in its new Twin Snakes form, about twice as long:

Sure, Revolver Ocelot does some lovely gun juggling in the new version, but was it necessary? Heck, it's hard enough for me to believe that Snake wouldn't just shoot Ocelot while he's spinning his gun around in the first game, much less when he's tossing things around. It's one of those ridiculous, slow motion heavy scenes too, which only serves to highly just how unnecessary it is. Not only that, but Snake's lack of acrobatic shenanigans in the original allow him to seem more of a soldier and less of a legend. One of the repeated protestations Snake makes when he meets new people is that his legend falls apart once you actually meet him--and that's one of the things that made him such a great character. While all the villains blather on and on about the glory of combat or whatever, Snake remains grumpy about having to fight in the first place. He's just a guy who happens to be really good at sneaking around and shooting people--possibly because of his genetics, but more likely because he has lots of practice (also because for the most part he's allowed to run around uncontested because it is all part of Liquid Snake's master plan).

Sure, Snake's got his own musings on 'the battlefield,' specifically on the subject of whether or not love can bloom there, but his fighting is not flashy or showy for the most part. He's very stealth-driven in his approach, choosing to dive out of the way of gunfire rather than somersault over the bullets in slow motion. Even his fight with the Cyborg Ninja is more brutal than elegant. In The Twin Snakes, however, there is cutscene time given to making Snake and the Ninja have a good old fashioned kung-fu showdown, although this is probably the least over-the-top thing that the remake does and by contrast shows remarkable restraint. The point remains, however, that in the remake Snake actually does live up to the legend, and in such a comically overblown fashion as to effectively suck any the emotion from the story that isn't either a brief 'oh how cool' or amusement.

Oddly enough the overblown cutscenes work for later entries to the series, but trying to force them into a game that was never written with them in mind was a huge error and provides a valuable lesson when it comes to tying a narrative into a game. The cutscenes in Metal Gear Solid were already dangerously long to begin with, but by lengthening them in order to add in a bunch of unnecessary kung-fu trickery they became interminable. Instead of becoming something to look forward to--a reason to keep playing so that you could see what the next twist would be--the cutscenes became lengthy infodumps (which they already were to begin with) seasoned with lots of slow motion camera work and ridiculous images like that of Snake jumping on one rocket, firing off another, and then landing as the first rocket explodes behind him. It is the sort of choreography that feels like an eight year old came up with it. The updated graphics were great, but the longer, more 'action packed' cutscenes did little to endear the game to me.

Music


Books


Film


Recent
Music

Run the Jewels - "Ooh LA LA" (Singles Going Steady)

Run the Jewels' "Ooh LA LA" may hit with old-school hip-hop swagger, but it also frustratingly affirms misogynistic bro-culture.

Books

New Translation of Balzac's 'Lost Illusions' Captivates

More than just a tale of one man's fall, Balzac's Lost Illusions charts how literature becomes another commodity in a system that demands backroom deals, moral compromise, and connections.

Music

Protomartyr - "Processed by the Boys" (Singles Going Steady)

Protomartyr's "Processed By the Boys" is a gripping spin on reality as we know it, and here, the revolution is being televised.

Music

Go-Go's Bassist Kathy Valentine Is on the "Write" Track After a Rock-Hard Life

The '80s were a wild and crazy time also filled with troubles, heartbreak and disappointment for Go-Go's bass player-guitarist Kathy Valentine, who covers many of those moments in her intriguing dual project that she discusses in this freewheeling interview.

Music

New Brain Trajectory: An Interview With Lee Ranaldo and Raül Refree

Two guitarists, Lee Ranaldo and Raül Refree make an album largely absent of guitar playing and enter into a bold new phase of their careers. "We want to take this wherever we can and be free of genre restraints," says Lee Ranaldo.

Books

'Trans Power' Is a Celebration of Radical Power and Beauty

Juno Roche's Trans Power discusses trans identity not as a passageway between one of two linear destinations, but as a destination of its own.

Music

Yves Tumor Soars With 'Heaven to a Tortured Mind'

On Heaven to a Tortured Mind, Yves Tumor relishes his shift to microphone caressing rock star. Here he steps out of his sonic chrysalis, dons some shiny black wings and soars.

Music

Mike Patton and Anthony Pateras' tētēma Don't Hit the Mark on 'Necroscape'

tētēma's Necroscape has some highlights and some interesting ambiance, but ultimately it's a catalog of misses for Mike Patton and Anthony Pateras.

Music

M. Ward Offers Comforting Escapism on 'Migration Stories'

Although M. Ward didn't plan the songs on Migration Stories for this pandemic, they're still capable of acting as a balm in these dark hours.

Music

Parsonsfield Add Indie Pop to Their Folk on 'Happy Hour on the Floor'

Happy Hour on the Floor is a considerable departure from Parsonsfield's acclaimed rustic folk sound signaling their indie-pop orientation. Parsonsfield remind their audience to bestow gratitude and practice happiness: a truly welcomed exaltation.

Music

JARV IS... - "House Music All Night Long" (Singles Going Steady)

"House Music All Night Long" is a song our inner, self-isolated freaks can jive to. JARV IS... cleverly captures how dazed and confused some of us may feel over the current pandemic, trapped in our homes.

Music

All Kinds of Time: Adam Schlesinger's Pursuit of Pure, Peerless Pop

Adam Schlesinger was a poet laureate of pure pop music. There was never a melody too bright, a lyrical conceit too playfully dumb, or a vibe full of radiation that he would shy away from. His sudden passing from COVID-19 means one of the brightest stars in the power-pop universe has suddenly dimmed.

Music

Folkie Eliza Gilkyson Turns Up the Heat on '2020'

Eliza Gilkyson aims to inspire the troops of resistance on her superb new album, 2020. The ten songs serve as a rallying cry for the long haul.

Music

Human Impact Hit Home with a Seismic First Album From a Veteran Lineup

On their self-titled debut, Human Impact provide a soundtrack for this dislocated moment where both humanity and nature are crying out for relief.

Music

Monophonics Are an Ardent Blast of True Rock 'n' Soul on 'It's Only Us'

The third time's the charm as Bay Area soul sextet Monophonics release their shiniest record yet in It's Only Us.

Film

'Slay the Dragon' Is a Road Map of the GOP's Methods for Dividing and Conquering American Democracy

If a time traveler from the past wanted to learn how to subvert democracy for a few million bucks, gerrymandering documentary Slay the Dragon would be a superb guide.

Music

Bobby Previte / Jamie Saft / Nels Cline: Music from the Early 21st Century

A power-trio of electric guitar, keyboards, and drums takes on the challenge of free improvisation—but using primarily elements of rock and electronica as strongly as the usual creative music or jazz. The result is focused.

Books

Does Inclusivity Mean That Everyone Does the Same Thing?

What is the meaning of diversity in today's world? Russell Jacoby raises and addresses some pertinent questions in his latest work, On Diversity.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews
Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.