Metal Gear

aka: Intruder
Moby ID: 3092
NES Specs
See Also

Description official description

Near the end of the 20th century, a small fortified nation named Outer Heaven (founded by a mysterious war hero whose name and identity are shrouded in secrecy) is threatening the nations of the "West" with the development of a new prototype weapon named Metal Gear, a walking tank which is capable of launching nuclear warheads from anywhere on the globe. As FOX-HOUND's (an elite black ops unit) newest recruit, going by the codename of Solid Snake, your mission is to infiltrate Outer Heaven and rescue your missing comrade, Grey Fox (who was captured after a failed infiltration), while gathering intelligence on Metal Gear.

In order to fulfill this objective, the player must collect various weapons and equipments (including keycards for further access into the fortress), while avoiding visual contact with the enemy. The player must also confront bosses in the form of Outer Heaven's elite mercenary force and rescue hostages hidden within the fortress in order to increase player rank, which gives Snake an extended life bar and increased storage capacity for replenishable items and ammo. The player can use a wireless transceiver to come in touch with their commanding officer, Big Boss, to learn more about their current mission objectives or contact one of the local resistance members operating covertly within the fortress to gain useful tips and insights.

Spellings

  • メタルギア - Japanese spelling

Groups +

Screenshots

Promos

Credits (NES version)

4 People

Lead Programming
Assistant Programming
Graphic Design
Sound Effects

Reviews

Critics

Average score: 67% (based on 17 ratings)

Players

Average score: 3.4 out of 5 (based on 68 ratings with 5 reviews)

A flawed gem is still a gem

The Good
This game has all the potential in the world. As agent Solid Snake (who incidently looks just like Michael Biehn in the cover art) you parachute into the jungle on a mission to stop some evil doings and whatnot. The story isn't that important, because its just a bunch of clichés (as with all Metal Gear games I might add).

What's important is the feeling of constantly being on edge. You have to tread carefully or else you'll die a quick death. And although I hate those instant death traps you just cannot discover until its too late, they are not so frequent here that it actually ruins anything.

I like the fact that the guards will call for help the minute they see you. I also like that you have to avoid security cameras. This might not sound like a big deal, but back in '87 it was.

The great number of gadgets and weapons that you can, and must, use in different locations also provides a feeling that you are taking part in a complex mission in a complex world.

And last but not least, it has a plot twist at the end. It's not a huge surprise and it doesn't exactly rock your world. But still, this was a plot twist at a time when games didn't even have plots to begin with, and definitely not plot twists. It's been done infinitely much better since, Knights of the old republic is undoubtedly the best example of that, but at the time, this was cool stuff.

The Bad
This game is frustrating, to say the least. It's very unforgiving and it gives few, if any, clues on what you should be doing. Just to get past the annoying dogs in the beginning can be difficult until you learn to just rush past them and not bother with them.

The constant hunt for new door cards isn't as fun as the developers might have thought. And even worse is that you constantly have to switch between these cards at every single door, in order to try out which card opens which door. This gets very tiresome very fast.

The dialogues, or rather monologues, and pretty much all the text in the entire game, is just laughable. This is not a problem specific for the first Metal Gear game. Hideo Kojima still haven't learned. His games are always full of clichés and extremely bad dialogues and corny monologues. If we heard people talk like that in a movie, we would walk out of the theatre or turn off the DVD. In fact, we would rather burn the theatre and smash the DVD. And why does Snake insist on stating "I have located the ammunition" every time he collects some ammo?

This game has many annoying parts. The absolute worst part, though, must be the arbitrary jungle-maze. At one time you have to go through a maze that resembles the one Link must go through in the first Zelda-game (you know when you have to go up, up, up in order to get to the fifth dungeon). Here you have to go in exactly the right way. Every screen looks about the same and there are no clues on which way to go. Either get it right, or be stuck forever in the jungle of frustration.



The Bottom Line
This is udoubtedly a gem, or at least it was. But it was flawed even back in the days. What could be forgiven then cannot be so easily forgiven now, and I find it extremely difficult to get though the more tedious parts of the game. It still ha a nice atmosphere, though, and it could be worth a play for those who wants to see where this overly pretentious but achingly empty series took off. I actually preferred the smaller scale of these first games to the grand nothings of the Metal Gear Solid games.

NES · by Joakim Kihlman (231) · 2008

Amazing title from Konami, tons of items, weapons & tons of fun killing action!

The Good
I got this game for my birthday after it was released and was locked in my room for a long time playing this game. It took me a little bit to get in to it but once I finally found a gun, I was hooked. The game if fairly large and very difficult to rush through.

It was one of the first games I can remember where the enemies actually had eyes. You had to hide and make sure you didn't blow your cover while you snuck around popping people off with silenced pistols. It was also the first game I ever knew of that gave you cigarettes too :) Even though they were worthless in the first game, later in the series they become handy.

There are lots of military weapons and items to aid you through your quest to destroy Metal Gear. Some pretty cool and original items such as a cardboard box! Yes, a cardboard box that you can hide under for some quick camo. Some weapons include some machine guns, remote control missile launchers and more...

Another cool little idea Konami threw in was a rank system. You advance in rank which increases your health capacity making you stronger.

The Bad
The loading time between switching from the game to the inventory screen was rather long. Not long as in minutes but all through this game, there is an annoying sequence you must perform at every locked door. Keycard by trial and error. There were a total of 8 keycards used to unlock doors and there was no indication as to what card was for what door. Therefore you had to go back and forth from inventory to game, from inventory to game until you got the right card. It was just annoying. And with a long loading time, it became a pain in the neck.

The sub machine gun in the game is just ridiculous. It is great because of its rapid fire but it automatically shoots in a "wave" pattern no matter what which wastes a lot of ammo.

The password system was nice because it wasn't a very long password but the font they used was like a military stencil. They should have just used a normal font. Sometimes It was difficult to distinguish between some characters.

The Bottom Line
Action packed, weapon packed, item packed military espionage fun from Konami/Ultra. Definitely worth a play and will always be considered a classic from the NES era.

DOS · by OlSkool_Gamer (88) · 2004

Well, Solid Snake, it’s amazing that you’ve lasted this long!

The Good
Metal Gear on the NES has suffered the strange fate of a tarnished reputation. It was once unquestionably considered a classic, and while to some it still is, it’s simply not held up in the same light. Most likely, this is due to the MSX2 version creeping into common gamer knowledge as well as the popularity of its successors, the Metal Gear Solid series. Metal Gear’s creator, Hideo Kojima (who wasn’t involved in this port), even disowned this particular version of the game, claiming that it wasn’t up to his standards. The jokes that elevated the game’s poor translation into gamer mantras probably didn’t help either. This was my first time playing Metal Gear, and it’s a long overdue introduction.

Beginning with a paradrop into the jungle (if that’s what that green and brown mess actually is), the game follows the exploits of a soldier with the unfortunate call sign of “Solid Snake” as he attempts to infiltrate a military base and destroy a secret weapon being developed there. Within the confines of the game, the leader of the base is kept a mystery until the end, but the instruction manual tells a different story. Don’t read the manual.

Metal Gear attempts to distinguish itself from other military action games by having a focus on stealth. Guards only become hostile if you pass in front of their field of vision, giving you a chance to sneak up on them. To emphasize this, you start the game off without a gun and have to reach the base with nothing but your wits and your fists. What Metal Gear achieves is an adventure that feels less like an assault and more like an infiltration, which was a pretty novel approach at the time. It largely works, giving a feeling of spy fiction without sacrificing the fun and simplicity of the era’s action games.

Gameplay-wise, the game plays out in a fairly non-linear format that has you collecting specific items to allow further exploration of the base; a format that seems to have grown in popularity in the late 80’s. Along the way you keep in contact with supporting characters over radio, and they’ll sometimes drop hints and give you direction if you call in at the right time and the right frequency. The radio is, unfortunately, not as well used as it was in the MSX2 version, which leads to some downright cryptic moments. You also receive hints from prisoners that you rescue, and you’d do well to pay attention to what they say, as they tend to be more helpful than the radio.

What Metal Gear does well is pacing. The NES version includes a much longer introduction that has you traversing a short stretch of jungle before reaching the first base, which gives ample time to get acquainted with the game’s stealth mechanics. Items are provided at a steady pace, giving a nice feeling of forward momentum as you wander the base. With a few of the game’s more obtuse sections, there is likely to be a great deal of wandering in circles, but I found these moments easily overcome if I stepped back and thought about it for a moment. Usually the solution was to double back to some door that I wasn’t able to pass when I didn’t have the proper key.

The Bad
While Metal Gear sucked me in and kept me entertained from start to finish, that’s largely in spite of a myriad of absolutely horrendous design choices. There are so many things wrong with this game that it’s difficult to decide what exactly to focus on. If I had to reflect on it, I’d largely attribute the fact that I was able to complete the game despite of its problems to just how easy it makes things.

To begin with, Metal Gear is one hell of an ugly game. The sprite-work isn’t bad, but too much detail was attempted on each individual character, and the game’s palette just isn’t up to the task of showing it effectively. Enemies look like walking messes, and I couldn’t even tell what a few of them were supposed to be doing. On top of that, everything animates so awkwardly that I almost laughed when I first saw a particular enemy that appears to be working on its ballet as it kicks its way across the floor. The worst part of the visuals is the abysmal pallet used. There’s so much oppressive grey everywhere. Most of the enemies are grey, the interiors are grey, and a lot of the items are grey. If it’s not grey, it’s brown or green; it’s depressing!

From a gameplay standpoint, everything is incredibly slapdash. The placement of enemies is entirely without thought. Depending on where you enter a new screen, there’s a chance that either a guard or a camera will be looking directly at you, immediately triggering an alarm. Before you get the pistol, sneaking up behind guards is a necessary strategy, but once you have the pistol it can basically be thrown out the window. The pistol kills most enemies in a single shot without requiring you to get close, and while ammo isn’t exactly plentiful, you’re capable of carrying an ever increasing amount of it and can completely load up whenever you come across some. Any finite resource, such as ammunition or rations, will reappear if you leave the screen and come back, which allows unlimited use of the weaponry and limitless health. After a certain point, none of my deaths were related to damage from enemies, but often due to the game’s annoying traps that spring on you without much warning and kill instantly.

The boss battles featured in the game are, with a few exceptions, extremely mediocre. It’s not just the fact that they’re poorly designed, though some certainly are. Many of them can only be hurt with a significant amount of damaged taken from one particular weapon, but they show no indication of taking damage, making it impossible to tell whether the weapon you’re using is having any effect. Is it too much to ask for them to flash when they’re hurt like they do in other games? Even when they’re not cryptic, they’re usually underwhelming. None of the bosses will modify their tactics if the one they’re using isn’t working, so the general strategy of standing where you can’t be hit and firing shots in their direction usually works.

Lastly, what is the point of having so many keys? Doors are all identical and there’s no way to tell what key opens what door. It’s not consistent, either, so key #1 opens doors all throughout the game, regardless of their location. That means every time you come to a locked door, you need to go through your keys, one by one, humping the door until one of them finally opens it. Once you’ve got several keys in your pocket, it becomes incredibly aggravating. It would help if the keys and doors were some other colour than grey. At least the inventory is sorted, unlike the MSX2 version which arranges them in the order you pick them up.

The Bottom Line
In a lot of ways, Metal Gear is a bit of a mess, but it never got under my skin enough to ruin my fun. That’s pretty key; if the game had been less forgiving and demanded more precision and finesse, the many ways that the game cheats you would be far past aggravating. It is incredibly cryptic in a few places and there are many opportunities for a cheap, undeserved death, but I’ve survived worse in a game. So even though I have a lot to complain about, I still think Metal Gear is an OKAY game. Its core design is still fun and compelling, and because it’s paced so well and rewards come so frequently, I found it difficult to put down. I definitely recommend it if you’re willing to put up with a bit of rickety gameplay.

I played the MSX2 version immediately after completing the NES port, and as for how they compare; I definitely think the NES version is worse, but not significantly. The MSX2 version feels a lot tighter in comparison to the NES, but many of the problems that I had with the NES version were present there first. The biggest letdown is that the actual Metal Gear itself isn’t a boss within the NES version, and what’s in its place is an extremely poor substitute. The whole thing feels like a rushed port forced to fit on the NES’s less capable hardware, but even then, with enough work, a more faithful transition should have been possible. Still, I’d argue that everything that made Metal Gear worth playing survived on the NES, and a few cut corners is no reason to disown the game.

NES · by Adzuken (836) · 2015

[ View all 5 player reviews ]

Trivia

Compilation

The MSX version of this game, together with Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake is featured on the extra disc of the Limited Edition of Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence.

Cover art

Michael Biehn from The Terminator film, though not authorized, was used as the model for the box illustration. You can find a side by side comparison here.

Manual

The in-game dialogue in the NES version of the first game was translated by Konami in Japan, whereas the NES version's instruction manual was written by a writer Konami had in their US division, which were in charge of packaging and distributing their games. Konami of Japan had almost no editorial supervision over what the writer wrote in his manuals. Because of this, the writer would try to make his manuals as "humorous" as possible by taking any liberty with the game's plot. In the manual, the reader is led to believe that a middle-eastern terrorist named Vermon CaTaffy (a play on the name of Muammar Gadaffi most likely), is the bad guy in the game and that Snake's commanding officer is named Commander South. However, no such names are featured in the game's dialogue. In the actual in-game plot, the main villain's identity is intentionally kept a secret to the player because of an eventual plot twist. The writer of the NES manual (intentionally or not) ignored this plot twist by making a made-up villain that's not featured within the game.

Snake's Revenge, the "American" sequel to Metal Gear also suffered from a similar localization treatment. Snake's Revenge continues the plot established in the first Metal Gear for the MSX and NES and even has an appearance by the actual Metal Gear mecha (which was replaced by a Supercomputer in the NES port of the first game). In the in-game plot of Snake's Revenge, the player is sent to neutralize a terrorist group from an undisclosed hostile nation who are developing a new Metal Gear prototype. In the manual, another made-up villain by the writer named Higharolla Kockamamie (a play on the name of Ayatollah Khomeini most likely), is described in the storyline. Snake's Revenge has even more banal attempts at humor, by describing one of the characters to be "related to Ginger from Gilligan's Island".

The writer of KoA's manuals did the same thing with several other Konami games, including The Adventures of Bayou Billy, Contra and Life Force, where liberties were taken with the manual for "humor" without any consideration of what the original designers intended.

Map

The game documentation included a map composed mainly of gameplay screenshots. Upon closer examination, you can tell the screenshots were taken from the original Japanese 8-bit Nes version, thanks to the Japanese character set and some slightly different graphics (such as trucks, etc.) which can cause some confusion in the game.

Milestone

The NES version of Metal Gear is listed in the 2008 Guinness World Records Gamer's Edition as the first game to fully utilize stealth as part of its gameplay.

Storyline differences

In the original Japanese storylines, every Metal Gear game pits you against U.S. Special Forces who have become addicted to war and who decide to start a few of their own. Perhaps because that wouldn't play very well to a domestic audience, Konami of America changed the storyline of the original NES Metal Gear game so that you were up against Third World terrorists. Snake's Revenge, continued this trend with its storyline.

Version differences

The original version of Metal Gear was released for a personal computer known as the MSX in Japan and Europe. The better-known Famicom (NES) version was released in Japan half a year later after the MSX version was released. Hideo Kojima, the game designer who worked on the MSX version, was not directly involved in the NES port and the game's was handled by a different Konami team at Tokyo. As a result, the developers made a few compromises from the original MSX game.

A different intro was added where Snake parachutes into a jungle (instead of the underwater insertion of the original), the areas were rearranged (and a new maze was added) and two of the bosses (the Hind D and the Metal Gear itself) were replaced by different bosses.

The NES version was also poorly reprogrammed and various subtle gameplay aspects were modified. The player's gunshot's range were extended, the jetpack soldiers on the rooftop lost their ability to fly, you cannot leave a door open and switch to the item/weapons screen, the Lv. 3 or "double exclamation mark" Alert mode (where the alarm isn't deactivated until you neutralize all reinforcements) was removed (the alarm can even be turned off by using the binoculars and the soldiers will return to their default positions) and even though the areas were arranged, due to the room oriented nature of the transceiver messages, the developers forgot to move some of the messages along with it (for example, if you call Schneider in the area in front of the room where the gas mask is contained, he will tell you the location of the mine detector due to the fact that the location was originally a minefield in the MSX version). You can even talk to Schneider after his supposed death.

Also, in the NES version, the player never gets to see and fight the actual Metal Gear.

Hideo Kojima was reportedly unhappy with the quality of the NES version.

Awards

  • Electronic Gaming Monthly
    • November 1997 (Issue 100) - ranked #35 (Best 100 Games of All Time) (NES version)
  • Game Informer Magazine
    • August 2001 (Issue 100) - voted #53 in the Top 100 Games of All Time poll

Information also contributed by Alan Chan, Depeche Mike, Johnny Undaunted, PCGamer77, Sciere, Snake Plissken, and U.J.1

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Contributors to this Entry

Game added by Zovni.

Commodore 64 added by chirinea. NES added by Kartanym.

Additional contributors: Alaka, Johnny Undaunted, LepricahnsGold, —-, Caelestis, GTramp, robMSX.

Game added February 19th, 2020. Last modified September 17th, 2023.