Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

The story behind Metal Gear Survive is way more interesting than the game itself

Illustration for article titled The story behind Metal Gear Survive is way more interesting than the game itself
Screenshot: Metal Gear Survive (Konami)

A Very Morbid Curiosity

This week, our resident Metal Gear super-fan Sam Barsanti busted into Metal Gear Survive, the weird-as-hell MGS5 spin-off assembled from that game’s beautiful, flexible engine by whatever remains of the former Kojima Productions. Wolfman Jew summed up exactly how I’ve been feeling about this strange, maligned release:

There’s something captivating about this whole idea, and that has nothing to do with the mechanics and everything to do with how overtly mercenary and shameless it is. It’s honestly kind of comforting, in an odd way, that the first post-Kojima Metal Gear is a zombie survival game explicitly set in an alternate universe. There’s no (at least as far as I can tell) attempt to tie this into the series thematically or narratively, and it’s fairly openly using the same engine as The Phantom Pain. Though there’s also a sad coincidence there about how that game, for all its mechanical strengths and neat ideas, was the most disappointingly “normal” of the series, and less wild or frenetic. It felt like an appropriate anticlimax for a series whose creator became stifled by his own creation, and its assets all being repurposed for this…thing feel equally appropriate.

But it’s a shame this game is so cheaply mercenary and so awash in the absolute worst of modern game business practices—micro-transactions, forcing you to pay for more save slots, the ways Konami has treated its staff—because some of the mechanical ideas sound interesting. Taking a survival game like Don’t Starve and giving it this massive setup could actually be a cool way to do horror. And while the health and stamina needs seem to be oppressive (and it’d be good for the game to allow you to play with the difficulty more, or at least let you turn it off, like New Vegas’ Hardcore Mode), I like that there’s a willingness to try them. I know there are some I can’t remember or don’t know, but it’d be a fun way to turn the cramped corridors of most horror games on their head. But I still can’t really expect the game to be, you know, good due to its weird pedigree, and it honestly makes me wonder whether rebranding it as a separate property instead of relying on Metal Gear fans to ignore everything that had happened over the last three to four years was a smart move.


You’re On Game Boy Camera

Graphic: Game Boy Camera (The A.V. Club)

Last week, I wanted to take some time to reflect back on 20 years of the Game Boy Camera, one of Nintendo’s weirder, more prescient creations and a novel photography tool that refuses to die. Down in the comments, Unexpected Dave used it as an opportunity to reflect on Nintendo’s tendency to put out these odd one-off experiments:

It’s funny how Nintendo tries these neat little gimmicky concepts, but then hardly ever iterates on them (unless they end up being extremely huge.)

Take Mario Paint. It was extremely limited as an art/music/animation application, but it was incredibly charming. It knew that it was a glorified toy, first and foremost. What it lacked in sophisticated tools, it made up for in flashy erasing effects and time-wasting mini-games. Who cares that you couldn’t use sharps or flats when composing music; you could use Yoshi screams! And yet Nintendo never gave it a proper follow-up on a future console, which could have taken advantage of higher resolutions or more memory. Until Super Mario Maker, they barely even acknowledged it.

PS: A quick Wikipedia check tells me that there WAS a spiritual sequel to Mario Paint released as a launch title for the ill-fated (and Japan-only) Nintendo 64DD. So I guess that it’s the lingering disappointment over this fiasco that made Nintendo reluctant to give it a serious try.

Elsewhere, Jakeoti provided us with this delightfully terrible Game Boy Camera commercial:

Nothing will date this device better than this commercial, full of 90's film angles, fashion, and alternate lyrics for the Candid Camera theme song (which was currently back on the air).

And Michelle shared this story of some ingenious Game Boy Camera usage:

I managed a video game store in the late ’90s. After an armed robbery of our store and many in the area, the company refused our request for a security camera. So we rigged our own using a Game Boy Camera, a Super Game Boy, a SNES, and the VHS player we were supposed to use to play the company’s promotional tapes on. It probably didn’t prevent any criminal activity, but it was cool as hell.

It’s been a while so the details are a bit foggy. I think we had to use the Super Game Boy to get the Game Boy Camera to work with the SNES. Then we hooked the SNES up to the VHS player and television. I don’t remember if we actually recorded any of the video playing or if we just let it play live, hoping that people would assume it was recorded. It wasn’t good quality video at all, but it still was cool.

Our store was the area’s “retro” store. For some reason, we sold a TON of NES and SNES stuff, along with the older Sega games, so a lot of the other stores in the area sent their old inventory to us. Our rigged up video camera definitely fit in with our aesthetic!


A Gangster’s End

For this week’s What Are You Playing This Weekend? thread, I was really looking forward to writing about the demo of Yakuza 6—until a bizarre twist of fate pulled it away from me and everyone else eagerly awaiting its arrival. Apparently, there was some sort of slip up that allowed anyone who downloaded the demo to access the entire game, prompting Sega to quickly pull it down, and leaving little ole me out in the cold. But Shinigami Apple Merchant was lucky enough to get in there while the getting was good and kind enough to report back:

Even from my limited vantage point as a fan of this series, having only played Yakuza 0 and Yakuza Kiwami, I felt the trademark essence of this series, be it exploration or combat, was all lovingly drenched in its style and frenetic charge throughout its cutscenes. Everything, comedic or melodramatic, has been awesomely dialed up to 11. But in this Yakuza 6 demo, because you’re not being placed on a dynamic assembly line from heat action to heat action, and the battles and locations aren’t boxed in by these vibrant shades and sights, everything’s far more subdued and devoid of flash. Quite the departure in terms of tone and substance. Kiryu fights guys mostly just because they’re in his way, and he’s too old for this shit. It fits thematically, but there’s an adjustment period.

Once you get used to that shift in tone and energy, everything else clicks into place. And being a veritable bull in a china shop for a fight at any location in walking range can still make you really feel the consequences of that Yakuza lifestyle in the moment. Acclimating to this shift eventually makes all the conversations and sub-stories present here (fully voiced this time no less) come into focus. Yakuza 6 is going full blown Witcher 3 in embracing the twilight years and poignant melancholy of its protagonist. And be it here or in April, I’m 100 percent down for the ride.


That’ll do it for this week, friends. As always, thank you for reading and commenting. We’ll see you next week!

A.V. Club games editor and pin-wearing member of the society since 2012.