The relationship between Hideo Kojima’s Metal Gear series and the people who play its games has always been an immensely interesting study in the strength—and fragility—of fandom.
To this day, the reaction to Metal Gear Solid 2 still stands in my eyes as one of the biggest explosions of fan furor. Up until the game’s release, everything we had seen centered around the further adventure of Solid Snake—and through the first third of MGS2, we had no reason to think that wouldn’t be the case.
And then came Raiden. Suddenly, we weren’t controlling everybody’s favorite stealthy soldier; we were controlling some pretty boy ninja whose combat experience, we were told, came solely from virtual battlefields. People were outraged. How dare Kojima trick us into playing MGS2, only to foist this pathetic excuse for a protagonist upon us?
And now, years and years later, Metal Gear fans are having another outbreak of uncertainty concerning their beloved series—and it just so happens that Raiden is once again a part of the discussion. This time, however, it isn’t our hero himself, but that game being built around him.
Recently, I had the chance to speak to Devin Shatsky, a producer at Konami who is working to bring us Silent Hill Downpour. Shatsky is new to the Silent Hill franchise, and one of the questions I asked him was how it felt to be working on a series with such a rabid and die-hard fanbase—one who can easily turn on you if you do anything they feel isn’t fitting of their favorite series.
(The exact answer to that question, I’m afraid, will have to wait for another day.)
I got another look at that side of fandom when the Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance trailer debuted. Upon the game’s original debut back at E3 2010, we were shown a game—or, more truthfully, an idea that had not yet fully shaped itself into being a game—that seemed different than other Metal Gear titles, but which still seemed to retain that classic feeling and atmosphere of the series.
Now, with the re-reveal of the game via a trailer shown at Spike’s Video Game Awards 2011, we were being shown something which initially seemed totally different. Rising would now be headed by Platinum Games, the independent Japanese development studio responsible for high-energy releases such as Mad World, Bayonetta, and Vanquish. Many though Platinum’s new take on the franchise would be exactly what the game needed, and expressed their excitement at the tease we had been given. Others, however, were instantly upset. This isn’t what Metal Gear is supposed to be about! The series is about a more down-to-earth style of combat, a heavy influence from the military, and slower, more stealthy gameplay—not Bayonetta-level theatrics, spastic action, and people tossing robots through the air!
Yesterday, we had the chance to be part of a small presentation Konami staged for Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance. The show kicked off with a video detailing what happened to the original Metal Gear Solid: Rising, and how it eventually transitioned into the game we now know by a slightly different name. As notorious as Japanese video game developers and producers are for rarely giving clear, straight answers when pressed with serious questions, the feelings Kojima and the Kojima Productions Rising team expressed in terms of what went wrong with the originals plans for the game were surprisingly straightforward and honest. Every member that spoke eventually said the same thing—the game had failed to shape up into something that was enjoyable—and you could see in their eyes the deep level of regret they had over that fact.
By the end of the documentary, we had gotten a clear picture of why Kojima asked Platinum Games for help, and how much better off the game would now be because of that admittance of Rising’s original failings. However, a question still lingered in my head. As much sense as it made to bring a team like Platinum in to work on a game which exists in the genre they specialize in, would it make sense to the most important part of the equation: The fans?
So, at the event, I asked Kojima a question: For all of the fans who feel like Revengeance is abandoning them and what the Metal Gear series is all about, what would he say to convince them otherwise?
“What people saw in the old trailer, that’s the same game [as Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance]; it had the same goals,” Kojima replied. “Maybe the visuals, or the kinds of effects that are being used look very different, but what’s in the new trailer I feel is showing the same goals the team originally had back when we made the old trailer.”
In his answer to me, as well as various other statements made during the Q&A, Kojima was adamant in making the point that Platinum Games was a perfect choice to take over development of Rising. The game was supposed to create that perfect synergy between player and weapon—in this case, Raiden’s high-frequency sword—and properly bring that connection into a game providing both fast-paced action and a real feeling of being able to slice through any obstacles that stood in the way. This was the aspect that the internal team at KojiPro just couldn’t work out—but one that the team at Platinum have long understood.
“Making Raiden the main character, making something that could provide speedy action—in that regard, the [version of] Rising that Platinum Games is making looks great at 60fps. Back then, we were working on 30fps, so the action felt a little heavy, a little slow. But right now, with what we’re getting, I think even the old staff that used to be on the project are impressed, because it really looks like what we originally wanted to make.”
That question of how “Metal Gear” Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance will be is a valid one, and both Kojima and Platinum Games’ Atsuhi Inaba—the game’s producer—want to be clear: Rising is Metal Gear, but it isn’t Metal Gear Solid. While initially the idea was to create something that exists directly in the main context of the Metal Gear Solid series, over time the team came to understand that in order to make a better game, certain constraints had to be removed or avoided. Rising was originally set to unfold during the period of time between Metal Gear Solid 2 and Metal Gear Solid 4, but Kojima noted that that would mean that not only would the game’s beginning already be set in stone, but also its ending. In order to allow Platinum the full potential of what could be done with Rising, the timeframe was then pushed to after MGS4—meaning anything could then happen not only to Raiden, but the world in which he finds himself in the game.
There was another sticking point that existed from the very moment the project began: The question of stealth.
“In the original idea, this was supposed to be a Metal Gear Solid title that had Raiden as the main character, and which featured ‘ninja action’,” Kojima noted. “I told my staff that you don’t need to have the stealth element. However, my staff was like, ‘No, wait a little bit on that decision. Let’s make it half stealth, half action.’ Unfortunately, that never worked out.
“For the old Metal Gear Solid style, the stealth side that core fans are mentioning—so far I don’t have any plans for that. Please just keep in mind that Rising is definitely going in a totally very direction; it’s moving elsewhere. That stealth element may or may not be in the game.”
The change in names from Metal Gear Solid: Rising to Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance isn’t one just meant as an indication of a change in developers—it’s also meant to signify the fact that Metal Gear Rising is, indeed, not Metal Gear Solid. Nor is it meant to be. This is a new take on the classic Metal Gear, one which goes in new directions for the series and its characters, all while keeping some elements but setting aside others. It’s a project that some fans may initially have trouble understanding or accepting, but one which Kojima truly believes will be enjoyed by all in the end.
And, no matter what fans my think of Platinum Games and their previous output, Metal Gear Rising won’t just be Bayonetta with its characters swapped out for Kojima creations. Kojima assured us that what we’re seeing now is still very close to the heart and soul of what his team at KojiPro initially intended—and Inaba also promises that the team at Platinum truly understands the importance of working on such a beloved and established franchise.
“For Rising, we made a clear decision that we didn’t want to make a game similar to Bayonetta,” Inaba included in response to my question about the trailer’s reception. “I’m not in a position where I have to judge if the original Rising was fun or not, but I saw everything that the team at KojiPro had done so far—and you could tell just from looking at it that they were having a hard time. It was that kind of concept where you could tell it just wasn’t coming together.
“My job is to take the original Metal Gear Solid: Rising concept, and make it something enjoyable. So, for Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, I’m working on that same concept, but with the goal of making something where even just from screenshots you can see it’s fun.”