"Get in Gear"
In most cases, it would be foolish to buy a $250 USD device in order to play portable versions of last-generation games. However, when those last-generation games involve the words of Metal, Gear, and Solid, the buyer's remorse absolutely vanishes. The Vita version of Metal Gear Solid HD Collection features two of the greatest games ever, and the new portable's features actually enhance the experience.
It's unlikely that readers are unfamiliar with the Metal Gear Solid series, given the popularity of Hideo Kojima's brainchild and the proliferation of HD remakes. However, while the original PS1 games popularized the series' mix of tactical espionage action and lengthy cutscene philosophy, the HD Collection features the PlayStation 2 games that took the series into increasingly bizarre and brilliant territory. Metal Gear Solid 2, released in 2001, is the greatest practical joke ever played on gamers, unexpectedly replacing traditionally grizzled hero Solid Snake with the much younger and blonder Raiden, and dovetailing into an absolutely labyrinthine conspiracy plot questioning even the player's free will. 2004's Metal Gear Solid 3 appears more traditional, featuring the 1960s adventures of the original Snake, but it rapidly goes from a wistful James Bond homage to a painfully tragic satire of the Cold War culture and the futility of war.
Though MGS2 and MGS3 are old titles, they hold up remarkably well, especially in the era of mandatory achievements. Aspects of the games are dated and potentially frustrating, such as the fixed overhead camera and the inability to simultaneously move and crouch. Fortunatelly, these problems are completely overshadowed by the exceptional story and game design, particularly the miraculous set piece boss battles. Better yet, Kojima's games always feature worlds designed so thoroughly that there's plenty of different ways to approach the mission, making them perfectly suited to trophies. Metal Gear Solid HD Collection acknowledges such achievements as snapping a photo of the lone pants-less soldier, capturing and eating the mystical Tschinoko snake, and strengthening your grip through repeated chin-ups.
If you've already played through these titles on the PS3 / Xbox 360 Metal Gear Solid HD Collection, you won't find anything drastically different. The content is almost identical, other than the absence of Peace Walker (though that game was created for the PSP and is still playable on the Vita, so it's not a big loss). The console version's shoulder buttons and clickable analogue sticks are easily replaced by the front and rear touch pads, and while some aspects of the games are a bit more awkward (such as using the first-person jump-out shot by horizontally sliding the back touch pad), others work seamlessly, such as tapping the front screen to manage items and weapons. Best of all is the new feature to zoom in on the cutscenes by tapping the screen. It compensates for the limited size of the Vita's screen, makes the story seem even more immersive, plus it allows you to ogle Snake's shapely, leather-clad butt (and admit it, heterosexual males, even you're going to end up doing this). While the Vita version includes nothing new, Metal Gear Solid HD Collection offers excellent ports of MGS2 and MGS3, and yet another excuse to play these classics.
GameDynamo's Score for Metal Gear Solid HD Collection (PS Vita)
Neil Kapit is a freelance writer, cartoonist, and "La Li Lu Le Lo" agent based in Los Angeles. His work can be seen on www.therubynation.com.
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