METAL GEAR 2 / Konami / MSX
Metal Gear 2 just *barely* gets across the line into Good Face territory. While the presentation is leagues better than that of the first game and it's a lot more inventive, it still has the same fundamental (kind of clunky) gameplay engine, and also has some head-slappingly terrible design decisions (particularly toward the end of the game.) Still, on the whole, it's a pretty good experience and I think it's worth a play. And thus has been graded accordingly.
Snake returns in some convoluted plot that almost doesn't matter since it's really not that well-written, and not only that, hardly even qualifies as canon anymore with all the changes Kojima would go on to make in the Solid series. The game sees you infiltrating mercenary fortress Outer Heaven, set up in the tiny African nation of Zanzibar, to stop the usual attempt to load up Metal Gear with nukes and etc. The gameplay engine is fundamentally the same but a lot of inventive tweaks (that would go on to become series staples) are added here - knocking on walls to lure guards, a radar system that allows you to see enemy movement on the nine screens immediately around you, hiding spots in which to wind down the enemy "alert counter" while they search for you, and so on. The combat is still as clunky as that of the previous game and the guard AI is no better (aside from their ability to see 45 degrees in front of them rather than in a straight laser line), but all the little new things do make the game a significantly improved experience over the first one.
The game does establish two of Kojima's long-running penchants. One is for recycling ideas and scripts; if you come back to this one after playing the Solid series it's striking how many ideas were directly re-used in later games. Really, the first Solid game is nearly a remake of this one. The other is for Delicious Padding, which is by far the game's greatest weakness. The whole of Zanzibar Land takes maybe ten to fifteen minutes to run from one side to the other once everything is unlocked, so to pad the game out to its nominal 4 to 6 hour playtime, you're frequently forced to backtrack from one end to the other for inane reasons. This reaches a head near the very end of the game, which is a frustrating sequence of backtracks one right after the other.
Where the game is excellent is, as with pretty much all Konami games, ambience and immersion. The game was scored by the same dude(s) that did Snatcher and the sound work on the whole gives this game a similar tense feel. The music is great and the sound effects are spot on, save the awful warbling screech the guards make when they spot you. While all the game's little tricks probably aren't that impressive coming back after playing the MGS games, they must have been neat to an MSX player playing this back around 1990 when it came out. And the layout is much more thoughtful than that of the previous game, little hinks here and there aside.
* Illustrated strategy guide
* Gameplay Video