Nearly 8 years ago, Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater was released to the masses and became an instant classic as it refined everything we know about Kojima’s landmark franchise. This tale actually serves as a prequel, where players take control of Naked Snake and must sneak their way through a jungle and several other locales, performing stealth missions in order to track down a super-weapon. Metal Gear is certainly no stranger to portables, as Snake seen some success on the PSP during the past few years, but this time around things are quite different to say the least. Remaking this classic on the 3DS instantly means that we would be in for practically a whole new experience, but goes this gimmickry get in the way of the gameplay? Here is my review for Metal Gear Solid: Snake Eater 3D for the Nintendo 3DS.
Instead of the high tech world seen in several other Metal Gear titles, Snake Eater takes to the jungle for it’s narrative, with Naked Snake leading a well developed cast of characters. Most of you know how this story goes, but I would imagine there are still a few 3DS owners out there who are new to Metal Gear and the many twists and turns of the plot bundled within each package. In a 1960’s setting, Naked snake is put out in the wilderness, having to live off the land while he tracks down a scientist who is crafting a nuclear tank known as the Shagohod.
As to be expected, Snake Eater 3D has a good number of Codec sequences that give a sense of urgency to each mission, and the lengthy yet enjoyable cutscenes can make the entire game feel as if the player is bound in a big-budget war flick, providing both humor and thrills as players progress further. Much like other titles in the series, enemy Cobra also paint a vivid picture of Snake’s current surroundings and listening to their conversations while hidden is an optional yet almost required task if you want to witness some of the most clever dialogue found in the game.
The only flaw to think of with the story though is the same flaw that holds the rest of the game back from being perfect though, and that is that this is Snake Eater on a platform with 3 hours of battery life. I can’t imagine too many will be that upset with this, as in my opinion having a console experience on a portable is still an accomplishment, but there were times I craved a more streamlined approach as this title begs for long periods of play and is hard to put down, and that isn’t exactly an area that handhelds shine in.
While the story is top-notch and still comes off as impressive after all these years, the gameplay within Snake Eater 3D is more of a mixed bag. Players must control Snake using the slide-pad, and for the most part, this particular function works fine. Whether it be running from a group of enemies that just discovered your location or laying prone and sneaking up on an enemy, the 3DS’ answer to analog never fails to deliver when it comes to getting our hero from one location to another. Getting the camera to participate in all of the action however is where things start rolling downhill.
Unless you have the control pad pro, you should expect to be fighting the greatest enemy of Metal Gear in the form of the camera controls. Players are forced to use the face buttons to get the camera to follow behind snake, which is about as awkward and frustrating as it sounds. For example, there was one moment where I was sneaking up on a Cobra goon, ready to make the kill. As I got closer, another soldier stepped in and gave away my location, leading to several enemies coming at my character in all directions. Having to tap X and B to get the camera to move from one direction to another ultimately lead to my demise, as quick movement feels almost impossible when the camera doesn’t want to focus on the correct perspective fast enough. Over time, I got used to using the buttons to control my view, but I can’t stress enough how mandatory an extra stick actually is.
Snake also has to crawl through all types of terrain, and for some reason you are expected to use all action commands with the D-Pad. This would have worked, but the D-Pad is located right underneath the control stick and unless you were born with two hands on your left arm, you will probably be coming to a complete stop each time an action command is needed due to the poor placement. If you have the CPP, these commands are mapped to the now vacated face buttons, which makes the process a lot smoother and 100% less troublesome. This all may sound negative, but as I mentioned, learning how to utilize Snake Eater 3D’s single pad support is doable and while there are still several hiccups, everything still plays as it should…if you take a slower approach throughout the entire game.
One fantastic feature of Snake Eater 3D is the newly found HUD, now located on the bottom screen. While it isn’t much, this new location keeps the action all at the top and rids distractions from plaguing gameplay. Aiming also works well for the most part, as the player has the choice to manually scope out their prey (with the shoulder buttons) or to throw things into automatic and have their gun find the nearest target. I usually prefer manual for most titles, but the auto-aim here works well and is a better fit overall for Snake considering the camera controls. Sneaking up on an unsuspecting foe is still as intense of a scenario as it ever was, and auto-aim certainly didn’t detract those feelings of doom and uncertainty. Gyroscopic controls have also been added in for small sessions, which include the likes of playing a balancing mini-game while crossing a narrow pathway. Yes, this works, but can take the player out of the game as they are forces to tilt their handheld back and forth.
Where Snake Eater 3D truly shines the brightest is the core stealthy mechanics that the franchise is known for. The player must spend time to make sure Snake blends into his surroundings. Finding different types of camouflage is a necessity, and a new gimmick using the 3DS’ camera provides a whole new spin on this already well-oiled machine. Players can now take pictures of their own world (using the outer camera) and use those textures as camouflage in order to stay hidden. There still is plenty of default options and never is the camera gimmickry required, but I found it to be one subtly placed feature that not only worked well, but made the game feel a bit refreshing compared to the other remakes we have seen on the platform.
Even with all of my gripes with this version’s camera mishaps, I still admire the fact that this title is paced to perfection and allows the player to go at their own speed. If you want to hunt down animals and stop your hunger before heading into danger, you have the full option to and climbing up trees just to hop down on an unsuspecting foe still is as exciting as ever. Boss battles are still clever and engaging as well, always ready to throw new mechanics into the mix to keep the combat from getting dull. In other words, this is still Metal Gear, and in many ways, it’s still a legendary title, flaws or not.
Even though Konami didn’t give Metal Gear Solid 3 the facelift it seen in the recently released HD collection in this incarnation, the visuals still stand the test of time and look fantastic on the 3DS. The 3D is used to perfection, letting blades of grass brush up against the screen as Snake is getting stealthy and enhancing each and every cutscene with graphics that now appear to be crisper and easier on the eye, so to speak. Yes, it’s not quite the beauty of Resident Evil Revelations, but considering this port’s true age, the changes present are very clear and that solid presentation value remains in-tact during some the most chaotic animation sequences within the game.
As far as sound quality goes, not much has changed at all since this classic was birthed on the Playstation 2. Again, considering that this is Snake Eater on a portable, that is certainly a good thing. The cast of voice actors did a fantastic job in capturing their characters, and each cutscene or Codec sequence benefits greatly from their performances. Many of the Metal Gear made famous sound effects still resonate here as well, with that classic high note blaring out when Snake’s cover gets blown. That is all gravy in comparison to the soundtrack though, as from the main theme to the intense tunes that blare out while you are in a boss battle, the many scores within effortlessly stand the test of time and truly bring out the AAA title status that Snake Eater rightfully earned years ago.
Since the 3DS launched, we have seen countless remakes and re-imaginings of some all time greats. Metal Gear Solid: Snake Eater 3D certainly attempts to stand strong with the lot, as it brings about some clever uses for the 3DS and feels almost like a brand new product due to it’s new control scheme. Sadly though, Snake misses his mark due to a wonky camera and somewhat clunky design choices, which makes the entire game more of a pass to those who have already played the game years ago or more recently picked up the HD version. All of that aside, those who own the platform and have yet to experience Metal Gear Solid 3 should consider picking this one up, as even with it’s flaws, it still represents one of the best games of all time and is still worthy of ownership by all portable fanatics….as long as you have that extra stick to play it in it’s purest form.