Do you have a Circle Pad Pro? Because you're gonna need one.
Right off the bat, I have to confess my love for Metal Gear Solid 3. It is my favorite entry in the series and one of my favorite games of all time. It is insanely replayable, rarely drags, and is surprisingly emotional. I’ve bought the game three separate times—the original release (Snake Eater), the enhanced remake (Subsistence), and the new HD collection. Now I have yet another way to play this epic one-eyed Snake adventure: the 3DS. Now then, given that MGS3 uses every button on the PS2 controller, I was a little wary (as was everyone who played it at E3 2011) of how Snake’s tropical traversal would translate to the 3DS. You need a Circle Pad Pro if you want to play MGS3DS, as the controls without it are reprehensible, but once you have it, the game becomes very playable.
Since MGS3 is, chronologically speaking, the first in the Metal Gear Solid saga, it makes sense that it’s the first game in the series on 3DS. The short version is that Naked Snake is sent on a sneaking mission to Russia to recover a kidnapped Soviet weapons engineer (who had previously defected to the USA) and, later, take out an American military defector. On the way, you’ll encounter fascinating characters, learn the basis of the entire series storyline, eat lots of unique jungle wildlife, and ogle a bikini-clad blonde spy. There’s also a scene straight out of The Fugitive (“I didn’t kill my wife!”). While fundamentally insane, the storyline is actually the most plausible and grounded of the entire series, which helps the emotional scenes hit home.
This 3DS game is a port of the Subsistence campaign with some nice gameplay tweaks from newer MGS entries, namely the addition of crouched walking and CQC icons. Enemy alert phases don’t last nearly as long anymore, either. Whether the gameplay is switched up any more based on your favorite MGS game (a choice at the beginning of the game), I can’t really tell, and It’s interesting that Portable Ops isn’t one of your choices. Of course, there’s no Metal Gear Online or Snake vs. Monkey this time around, only one of which is somewhat (but not really) disappointing, but the core game is long enough, replayable enough, and features enough unlockable stuff to reward players.
I’m not even going to discuss the default controls because they’re so terrible, so ill-suited to MGS3, that you shouldn’t even play the game if you don’t have a Circle Pad Pro. I don’t know how many of you experimented with Portable Ops or Peace Walker on the PSP; the former was barely playable and the latter was wholly unplayable. MGS games need four shoulder buttons and two sticks—period. With the Circle Pad Pro, MGS3DS is great, though I’m not a big fan of using the touch screen to equip items and weapons, as it seems clunky. You can use the D-pad to open your item and weapon windows, and that’s okay, but it’s still not as smooth as it is in other versions. Still, it’s a minor complaint.
If you’ve played MGS3 before, you should know that the irritating journeys into menus have remained unchanged. You’ll often find yourself digging into your backpack to equip or unequip things,* going into the survival viewer to heal wounds, going into the camouflage menu to change your appearance, going into the food menu to eat something and regain your stamina, and going into the radio menu to call one of your off-site teammates. You’ll spend a big chunk of the game navigating these menus, and it can become tiring. I appreciate the depth of gameplay, but it gets a little ridiculous sometimes.
The game looks good, but it is no better than Subsistence did on PS2—this is most definitely not the HD version. Framerate drops during cut scenes are still present here and textures still look blurry. It’s easy to get turned around in certain jungle areas as well. The 3D effect doesn’t add as much as you’d think because nothing is differentiated like it was in, say, Super Mario 3D Land or Mutant Mudds. This is a consequence of having full camera control in MGS3D, so I just ended up playing with the 3D off most of the time. One 3DS-specific aspect of the game bothered me: walking across wooden suspension bridges requires you to mess with the gyroscope, which is WAY too sensitive. It’s made up for by another 3DS-specific feature: in a nod to Twin Snakes, the Kero Frogs have been replaced by Yoshi dolls.
The game has so many awesome moments it’s difficult to leverage any real complaints against it. My favorite sequences are the game’s HALO-jump introduction, the fight with The End (so many options), and your escape from Groznyj Grad, but the infiltration of the Shagohod hanger and the final Boss fight are also major highlights. Of course, Kojima’s trademark inability to edit his cut scenes to a reasonable length sometimes cuts into the game, specifically the final boss’ lengthy diatribe about everything in the world, which really kills the momentum. Oh, and Ocelot has never been more embarrassing (“Rawr!”). However, unlike the stories of the other games in the series, MGS3 is not backloaded with mythology and is much easier to follow, though series fans will still get the most out of the subtle nods to the story’s future.
For people who’ve never played an MGS game before, MGS3 is going to take some work—it’s an open-ended type of gameplay that’s hard to get used to, but once you become acclimated to how the world works and how many options are at your disposal, it’s incredibly rewarding. You’re definitely being led down a specific path, but the trip is enjoyable and full of choices. This is a great introduction to the series and a great game period. If you have a Circle Pad Pro, I can’t recommend it higher.
*The game doesn’t tell you how to equip new items. I kept finding guns and items and then opening up my backpack and not seeing them. You have to open your backpack, tap an empty slot, and then choose the item you want to put in that slot. It’s tedious, but you should know how to do it.