What’s up with that title?
Pretty goofy, right? Well, it’s the result of a Japanese writer playing with english words, not realizing (or perhaps not caring) how odd it may sound to a native english speaker. This phenomenon occurs regularly within the Metal Gear universe—I guess in the ears of Metal Gear’s creator these english words emit a sleek or exotic tone. Regardless, the term ‘Metal Gear’ refers to a mobile nuclear arsenal. Each installment features a unique incarnation of one of these doomsday devices.
“The era I grew up in was overshadowed by the threat of nuclear war. It was a scary time to grow up in. So keeping this in mind, I wanted to express the anxiety of these times. But in reality, nuclear weapons aren’t that exciting. So at the time I started looking to the United States…How it used maps with ICBMs, submarines, and its air-force. The U.S. only had those three means. A truly mobile nuclear weapon didn’t exist. With that kind of technology, the range of nuclear warfare would widen. It could go anywhere and fire from any place. It would be a walking nuclear tank.”
-Series creator, Hideo Kojima
The original game was simply titled Metal Gear, with Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake immediately following. Upon planning for the third game, instead of titling it Metal Gear 3, the moniker Solid was added—thus creating Metal Gear Solid. (It was meant to have a tone similar to ‘Metal Gear 3D’) So, why muddy up the brand and breakdown continuity? Eight years after the release of Metal Gear 2, Metal Gear Solid symbolized a new start—a brand new platform(Playstation with its 3D graphics) and new core team members. The new name also served to frame the third installment as a quasi-reboot which helped entice new players to join in on the fun. If you ask me, the ‘Metal Gear formula’ only fully came into being upon commencement of the Solid era. This is mostly due to the fact that some of the staffers who joined Kojima Productions* to create Metal Gear Solid turned out to be long-term influential contributors—some of whom, 20 years later, are still with the company.
*Kojima Productions (based in Tokyo, Japan and owned by larger entertainment company, Konami) is the development studio behind the series, though the Kojima Productions label didn’t actually exist until 2005. Prior to this, Metal Gear titles were attributed to a smaller internal team within Konami. Konami has decided to downsize their role in big-budget video-game publishing after the release of MGSV so Kojima Productions will actually be disbanded soon.
The official installments as designated by the series creator progress like this…
Metal Gear (1987 for the MSX2* home computer)
Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake (1990 for the MSX2 home computer)
Metal Gear Solid (1998 for Sony’s Playstation)
Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty (2001 for Sony’s Playstation 2)
Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater (2004 for Sony’s Playstation 2)
Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots (2008 for Sony’s Playstation 3)
Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker (2010 for Sony’s PSP)
Metal Gear Solid V** Which consists of Ground Zeroes; a prologue, and The Phantom Pain; the main installment (2015 for Microsoft and Sony consoles and Valve’s Steam platform for PC)
*MSX is a home computer architecture standard designed by Microsoft. Multiple companies could manufacture their own versions of the MSX2 computer.
**Note the symbolic change from Arabic numerals to the Roman numeral ‘V’. Usually, several layers of meaning lie behind MGS game titles: V to represent the desire for victory (MGSV is a massive reinvention of the series and the culmination of its saga from a thematic point of view), V for Venom Snake (the new iteration of the series protagonist), and I wouldn’t be surprised if V’s resemblance to the ‘peace’ hand gesture was taken into account as well.
(I’ll be abbreviating Metal Gear Solid to MGS from here on out. I’ll refer to Metal Gear Solid released in 1998 as MGS1 and the subsequent titles as MGS2, MGS3, MGS4, Peace Walker, and MGSV. The original two titles will be MG1 and MG2)
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