Who is Snake Eater 3D aimed at?
Platform: Nintendo 3DS
Game Title: Metal Gear Solid: Snake Eater 3D
ESRB Rating: Mature
Developer: KCEJ / Kojima Productions
Release Date: 2012-02-21
There’s little debate that 3D technology is, well, kinda neat. Given the choice between seeing something in 2D or 3D, all other things being equal, most people (Roger Ebert notwithstanding) would pick 3D. There's an intriguing element of trickery in the tech. We've gone beyond the old red-and-blue tinted glasses into a realm of 3D technology that actually feels like, you know, the future. The 3DS doesn't even make you wear glasses.
Still, it's a gimmick.
Great writing has already been done on Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, not least by this very site. Its place in the series has been analyzed, its effective establishment of a timeline through the removal of features has been discussed, and its implementation of a stealth mechanic via camouflage has been dissected. Snake Eater is a brilliant game. Indeed, Snake Eater is still a brilliant game now that you can see it in 3D.
This isn't a surprise. Anyone who remembers crawling through the tall grass or taking cover in an abandoned structure in Snake Eater can already imagine the added element that a little bit of 3D could add to it. What is a surprise is that it got released at all, given that it has something of an audience problem.
That is to say, who is Snake Eater 3D aimed at?
Fans of Metal Gear will be playing something like their third or fourth version of Snake Eater if they go ahead and pick up the 3D version. Now, Snake Eater has one of those stories in which you can discover new layers and implications after multiple playthroughs -- admittedly, this is largely due to the sheer quantity of text that Kojima put into all of the Metal Gear Solid games from 2 onward -- but, again, this is something that the Snake Eater fan has already done. There's a good chance that a fan of the series might be playing it through for the sixth or seventh time by the time that they come across this version, and by time number six or seven, chances are you're not going to see any new wrinkles. Details you once may have forgotten about or glossed over simply become part of the wallpaper -- a nostalgia trip, maybe, but nothing fulfilling on an intellectual level.
That said, it's hard to see Snake Eater 3D as an appealing option for newcomers to the series either. Again, this is not a slight to the content but to the market in which it is being released. The increasing ubiquity of the 3DS may eventually render this argument moot, but it's hard to imagine too many people who own a 3DS -- who fall into the "M for Mature" age range, mind -- that wouldn't get a better deal on another platform. The PlayStation 2 itself had the Subsistence version of the game, which included the first two games, an online mode, and a “Snake vs. Monkey” minigame. More recently, Snake Eater has been released as part of the Metal Gear Solid HD packages, which also offer the first and second games in the Solid series at a comparable price to this single-game Metal Gear Solid release.
There are a few changes beyond the 3D to be found, but they generally have more to do with interface than anything else. The second screen of the DS is used to good effect, a constantly updating status screen that keeps track of whether any enemies are on Snake's tail, which provides a map when they're not and offers access to the inventory. Navigating the inventory through the touchscreen is a step up, and there is a substantial difference in the feel of the game when there is a map constantly present on the touch screen. That the map disappears when you've been spotted is a good design choice, adding to the panic of having to find cover rather than trying to bull through the enemies to the next objective, but having an always visible map at all still offers a crutch that the original didn't offer. You spend a lot of time in the original feeling lost and alone with only your wits to keep you sane and alive. Having a map, complete with a little "X" on the next objective constantly staring you in the face is a good way to lose that feel.
While I did appreciate having it, it also made the game feel markedly easier; whether this is a good thing or not depends on your point of view. The developers also seem to be compensating for the slightly off controls by turning the damage inflicted by bullets way down. It's hard to remember any time in the original when getting caught could be fixed with a few quick sleeper holds.
Returning to the use of 3D though, it does enhance the experience, particularly when the more cinematic parts of the story crop up. Revolver Ocelot's first appearance, Snake getting thrown from a bridge, and the completely ridiculous main title scene are all a joy to watch with the added depth attached. Even the communicator screens are enhanced by a beautifully rendered three-dimensional silhouette of Snake lurking in the background. Snake Eater was always a visually striking game, and the 3D here will remind people how much more there was to its appeal than its delightfully convoluted story and stealth mechanics.
So yes, the 3D is nice, but, again, anyone who has had a 3DS for any length of time is looking for substantial, enjoyable gaming experiences on their little machine. There is no question that quite literally every single other release of Metal Gear Solid 3 other than the original no-frills PlayStation 2 version, offers a better and more lasting experience simply by offering essentially the same thing as what's in this package -- plus more. Sometimes a lot more.
Snake Eater was the game that established Hideo Kojima as either a madman or a genius, a distinction that simply doesn't matter to most of his fans. It is a relic with a new coat of paint, a piece of celebrated, somewhat recent gaming history that is getting its due through all forms of re-release. Still, this is a re-release based on a gimmick, and Snake Eater 3D has nothing unique to offer beyond this gimmick and a necessarily updated interface. Impressive as the 3D may be, those who want to support the brand of genius that Kojima offers here would likely be best served finding it somewhere else.