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OUTER HEAVEN is the name of heavily armed land in the depth of southern Africa where the dreadful weapon called METAL GEAR is developed. It is the mission of SOLID SNAKE, one of the members of secret army 'FOX HOUND' to sneak into OUTER HEAVEN and destroy METAL GEAR. GO AHEAD SOLID SNAKE!
—Game description from the MSX2 version.
The very first installment in the Metal Gear series. Released in 1987 for the MSX2 computer platform in Japan and Europe, the original Metal Gear is considered to be one of the earliest examples of the stealth action game genre (though, Castle Wolfenstein for DOS predates Metal Gear by a good six years), as well as the first game ever released designed by Hideo Kojima.
The game came into existence when Kojima's superiors, enamored with the Capcom arcade game Commando and noticing its success, asked him to create a "Commando-like" game for the MSX2. However, Kojima quickly discovered that a fast-paced action game would be impossible on the MSX2 hardware, thanks to the system's own hardware limitations that limited the number of sprites that could be grouped together on the same horizontal plane before the sprites would start flickering (a hardware limitation that the MSX2 shared with the Nintendo Entertainment System, and which many old-school NES players are familiar with). Kojima then decided to retool the game around avoiding combat instead, and decided to base the game around stealth and infiltration to give it at least a hint of a "Rambo-like" feel.
While it did not achieve the same mainstream success that its later sequel Metal Gear Solid did, it sold well enough on the MSX2 for Konami to consider porting the game to the Family Computer and its overseas counterpart, the Nintendo Entertainment System. For most mainstream players, especially those living in America (where the MSX2 was never released), the NES version was their first exposure to the franchise prior to the later Metal Gear Solid titles. The NES version, despite making several changes to the game that led to it being disowned by Kojima, as well as having one of the most questionable English localizations ever produced, was a surprise success and made the development of the sequels possible. Thankfully, the original MSX2 game and its sequel were eventually bundled together with Metal Gear Solid 3 Snake Eater: Subsistence, finally exposing the origins of the Metal Gear series to American fans, and with a new and improved translation to boot.
The plot is considerably more straightforward than later Metal Gear games. A heavily armored fortress nation known as Outer Heaven emerges, employing powerful mercenaries led by an unknown leader. Shortly after Gray Fox, one of the most skilled members of special forces unit FOXHOUND, goes in to investigate, he vanishes, his final message being a cryptic reference to Metal Gear, Outer Heaven's super weapon. As Solid Snake, the newest member of FOXHOUND, your mission is to infiltrate Outer Heaven, rescue Gray Fox, uncover the mystery behind Metal Gear, and destroy it.
...Yes, that's it. Really. No, no plot twists or hidden agendas. Well, okay, maybe one...If you really don't know, Big Boss, Solid Snake's Commanding Officer is the leader of Outer Heaven.
The original Metal Gear was followed by two separately-made sequels, both released in 1990 and each taking the story to a different direction: Snakes Revenge for the NES, which saw a release in America and Europe, and Metal Gear 2 Solid Snake for the MSX2, released exclusively in Japan until later re-releases. The Metal Gear Solid games follows the continuity from Metal Gear 2, rendering Snake's Revenge into Canon Dis Continuity status.
This game provides examples of the following tropes:
- All There in the Manual: While the backstory is not quite as extensive as its sequels, the manual for the Japanese MSX2 version has character and enemy profiles that reveal details not actually mentioned in the game itself (like Schneider's motivation for creating the Resistance movement), as well as the complete specifications of Metal Gear itself. Here's a page with a downloadable version.
- Ambidextrous Sprite: Played straight when Snake is unarmed, but otherwise averted when he's equipped with a gun. All of the enemy guards and the final boss have different sprites when facing left and right.
- Artificial Stupidity: Guards won't notice you unless you're standing in a straight line directly in front of them. Even if you're standing just inches to their side. Even if you kill another guard in front of them (as long as you're using silenced firearm or punching them).
- Big Bad: Big Boss
- Blind Idiot Translation:
- The NES version is infamous for its poor localization ranging from misplaced words ("First, attempt to contact missing our Gray Fox"), misused ones ("the truck have started to move"), or just plain old typos.
- The European MSX2 version was not much better though, where Snake's mission is to "destoroy" Metal Gear and he smokes a "cigal" instead of cigarettes.
- Body Double: The Outer Heaven personnel replaced Dr. Madnar with this in the second building's basement, presumably having anticipated that Snake would try to rescue him there.
- Breaking the Fourth Wall: Toward the end of the MSX2 version, Big Boss calls you and tells you to turn off the computer.
- Characterization Marches On: Solid Snake is a Heroic Mime for most of the game, the enemy leader (Big Boss) is a Card-Carrying Villain, and Gray Fox has virtually no presence (he disappears from the remainder of the game as soon as he is rescued). This is particularly egregious, considering the sequels made the events of the Outer Heaven mission more epic than what actually occurs in this game.
- Fridge Horror: In Metal Gear 2, Schneider reveals to Snake that Outer Heaven was bombed by NATO, along with everybody else involved in the conflict.
- Copycat Cover: The cover illustration is a blatant trace-over of a publicity still of Michael Biehn as Kyle Reese from The Terminator.
- Cut and Paste Environments: All three bases use the same graphic tiles, with only the layouts of each floor changed. It's even more noticeable in the NES version, where all the corridors and rooms use the same color palette (whereas in the MSX2 version, were at least the floors were colored differently).
- Dirty Coward: Coward/Dirty Duck hides behind hostages while shooting at you. Even his name spells it out in both incarnations.
- Early Installment Weirdness: No crawling. No radar. A transceiver that completely room oriented. A straightforward, simple plot. After playing this, Metal Gear 2 becomes amazing for how much closer it is to the later Metal Gear Solid games.
- Elite Mooks: The Flying Army who appear only on the rooftops of Building No. 1 and No. 2.
- Face With An Internet Connection: Inverted, the only character whose face we actually see in the transceiver mode is Snake's.
- The Faceless: All of Snake's radio contacts are never actually shown in the game with the exception of Big Boss (for obvious reasons). The Japanese MSX2 manual does show artistic renditions of all the main characters (owners of the other versions weren't so lucky).
- Guide Dang It: Punching random walls to produce unusual sounds and blow them up? Frustrating, but a staple of games like this. Punching random doors which previously only opened with key cards so that you can open them? Not so excusable.
- Big Boss tells the player to contact Schneider whenever an item is needed to get through a certain location. However, Schneider's frequency number is never given by anyone in the game; you have to play around with the frequency number of your transceiver when you're two screens north of where you start the game (or when you first reach the third floor) to eventually stumble into it via an incoming transmission (the number is 120.79).
- In the NES version, there are two maze areas in which the correct path is never given by any character. The correct path is the same for both mazes, which is: West, West, North, and West.
- His Name Is: Schneider transmission was cut just before he is about to reveal the identity of the Outer Heaven commander.
- Hostage Spirit Link: Shoot a hostage and your rank goes down. Justified in that your rank is a representation of how many hostages you've saved anyway.
- Humongous Mecha: The Metal Gear itself. Absent in the NES version.
- The Key Is Behind the Lock: The keycard required to access the prison where Gray Fox is located is inside the prison itself. This requires Snake to allow himself to get captured and break-out from said prison.
- Mercy Mode: Die enough and your items and ammo are refilled to maximum.
- Mole in Charge: Does it even need to be said?
- Inferred Holocaust: Although Solid Snake does manage to destroy Metal Gear and escape Outer Heaven before the base self-destructs, the ending shows what is unmistakably a mushroom cloud from an atomic blast in the distance, and the KNK radio station also mentioned an earthquake occuring before sunrise. In Metal Gear 2, it is revealed that said mushroom cloud is actually the result of NATO's air raid that devastated both sides of the conflict, of which Snake was partially responsible for causing. It also falls into Nice Job Breaking It, Hero.
- It's Raining Men: The opening for the NES version has four characters, including Solid Snake, parachuting down into the Jungle.
- No Celebrities Were Harmed: The cover illustration is a blatant trace-over of a production still from Terminator featuring Michael Biehn posing as Kyle Reese.
- No Export for You: The original MSX2 version was released in Japan and parts of Europe during its initial release, but not in America until its inclusion in Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence nearly two decades later.
- No Peripheral Vision: The guards literally have no peripheral vision whatsoever. Snake can run alongside them, run past them on the side, and stand next to them as long the player wants. They'll never see him unless he's directly in front of one or is already being pursued.
- One Name Only: Schneider, Diane, Steve, Jennifer and Dr. Petrovich. Subverted by Elen, whose full name is listed as "Elen Petrovich" in the Japanese version's manual.
- Metal Gear 2 Solid Snake gave two of those characters full names, Kyle Schneider and Dr. Pettrovich Madnar, essentially retconing "Pettrovich" from a surname to a given name. In the re-released versions, Madnar's full name was further changed to Dr. Drago Pettrovich Madnar (turning "Pettrovich" into a patronymic), while Ellen's surname was officially changed from "Pettrovich" to "Madnar" for consistency.
- Orwellian Retcon: Some of the bosses were renamed in the re-released versions of Metal Gear, although the changes were not as extensive as in Metal Gear 2.
- Shoot Gunner become Shotmaker.
- The TX-11 Arnold "cyberoid" became Bloody Brad.
- Coward Duck became Dirty Duck.
- Dr. Petrovich now gives out his full name as Dr. Drago Pettrovich Madnar.
- Likewise, his daughter Elen became Ellen Madnar.
- Reformulated Game: The NES version, which featured redesigned level layouts (mostly due to Executive Meddling), different music for some parts and replaces the Metal Gear battle at the end with a dormant Super Computer.
- Rush Boss: The Bulldozer.
- Shout-Out: To Howard the Duck of all things. In early releases, the boss that was later renamed Dirty Duck was known as Coward Duck. As well, a powerful android that was later renamed Bloody Brad was originally known as Arnold.
- Silent Protagonist: While Solid Snake does have lines of dialogue, most of it's just the same two generic messages: one when he dials a frequency number on his radio and the other when he picks up a new item. All of his conversations with other characters are one-sided and the only time he ever says anything different is when he retrieves his stolen equipment after escaping from prison, when he locates Dr. Petrovich's cell (but not Petrovich), and when he gives his final mission report in the end.
- Stealth Based Game: One of the very first.
- Taking You with Me: The Madnar Body Double attempts to do this to Solid Snake after the latter rescues him, via using a pit trap. It failed, though.
- Big Boss attempts to do this in the final boss fight.
- Three Quarters View: The overall perspective, which makes Outer Heaven's architecture seem very weird once you think about it. Why is every single wall trapezoidical?
- Treacherous Advisor: If you don't know who it is, consider yourself lucky.
- Trope Codifier: For the Stealth Based Game genre.
- Unwinnable By Mistake: Snake is promoted for every five hostages he rescues and demoted if he kills just one. There are only so many hostages the player can save and a four stars rank is required to finish the game.
- Video Game Cruelty Punishment: Killing a single POW will demote the player to their previous rank. Its possible for the player to work his way back to his previous rank if there are enough hostages still left to save, but killing certain hostages (like Ellen or Jennifer's brother) will make the game Unwinnable.
- What Happened to the Mouse?: In the NES version, Snake is shown parachuting into Outer Heaven with three other soldiers. They are never seen nor referred to again.
- Working Title: Intruder.
- Working Title Drop: Typing "intruder" in the MSX2 version while the game is paused will increase the player's maximum ammo capacity to 999 per weapon.