(Articles in the Ramble Ral section are presented “as is” with minor editing. For more information please see its section page)
The following ramble will probably contain some spoilers on the following: MG RR itself (duh), Evangelion, MGS 2 and 4. If you still want to experience those super fresh with no preconceptions at all (good luck with that), then you probably want to skip the post?
MGS 2 is a weird game (understatement of the century), one of those games along with FF7 that seem to follow after the wake of Evangelion and its influence. Kojima seem to have lost a lot of creator power compared to when he was making MGS2, but I think its influence on storytelling still remains on him.
One of the things about Evangelion is how if one were to judge it on its plot, defined as “the series of events that happens in the story”, it would probably come off as looking very silly.
But Evangelion’s still interesting because the plot isn’t important, it’s the underlying themes and message that it’s trying to convey that is. People hurt each other, not because they are evil, but because they’re just human. We push others away because we are afraid of being hurt, but that action might be even more painful.
And other stuff like that.
However, people still insisted on asking really inane questions about Evangelion’s plot. Things like “Are the Angels really the same ones from the Bible?”
(Ans: Nope, they’re aliens lifeforms from another planet. See how dumb that is once I answered the question instead of leaving it unanswered?)
What does knowing that add to the plot? Nothing. People still constantly ask questions like that anyway.
When creating MGS 2, I suspect Kojima intentionally went out of his way to intentionally create giant gaping “unanswered questions” like those, with the intention of never answering any of them.
Just like Evangelion, he’s more focused on conveying a theme, the “plot” is just a means to an end for him. It doesn’t matter to him if the 6 billion plot twists in MGS2 doesn’t making logical sense, as long as his messages get through to the player.
Unfortunately it seems the average player didn’t, and thus his directorial power was probably scaled back in his future game projects by Konami (stockholders are risk averse, hopefully that’s not a shock by now), but I always felt that Kojima never “got over” MGS2.
Modern Anno Hideki (creator of Evangelion) has, in the remake movies of Evangelion, turned Shinji into the average hot-blooded Super Robot pilot with no hint of irony. The old Anno Hideki, who was once disgusted by how the two teenage female Evangelion pilots became some of the most oversexualized and merchandised part of the series by its fans, now decided to add a NEW oversexualized teenage female pilot just for it. It seems like after taking his anti-depressants that Anno has decided to go all the way and embrace his fans, artistic integrity be damned.
(Note: If it turns out there’s a surprise twist in the final Evangelion movie I will take back what I said)
Now Kojima, on the other hand, has spent his post MGS2 career living life as a “Corrupt a Wish” topic. He gives the fans what they want, while simultaneously slapping them in the face, and the best part is how his fans never seem to notice.
For example, MGS 4 was his handling of the Evangelion inane questions scenario, where he answers all the unresolved questions in the series… with the most dumbest answers possible. He’s like an evil genie, that man.
Raiden, of course, is included as part of the backhanding Kojima is doing. Just like Shinji, he has turned fan’s reaction to the character around, but in an extremely 90s way that completely destroyed his character arc in MGS2 and ruining his chance for ever living a normal life. Fans eat new-Raiden up anyway.
The concept of MG RR was really strange to me when I first heard it. Kojima is extremely anti-violence in general. Whereas Dynasty Warriors considered it an achievement to kill 1000 people in a stage, MGS considers it an achievement to kill NONE. A hack and slash spinoff in the series seemed… off.
I probably shouldn’t be surprised though, because once again, Kojima does that whole “corrupt a wish” thing.
(Note: The following paragraphs assume that Kojima has a lot of input on MGRR, since he’s listed as executive director. If instead most of the main ideas in the game come from someone else, then I suppose I will have to credit it to them instead)
In MGS4, Raiden had finally became “cool” to most people by being a katana wielding cyborg ninja, but instead of letting you play as him, Kojima made you play as a cranky old Snake instead, most likely as a mockery of the whole “Why can’t I play as Snake in MGS2? I have to play as Raiden? This game sucks!” complaint.
MG RR finally allows you to play a Raiden that constantly talks about Justice, the law of the Samurai and how Katanas are super cool like an obsessed Anime Otaku. Haha, Kojima you wacky funster.
One of the constant jokes I’ve made about the RPG genre in general is how RPG playable characters all commit genocide and otherwise casual murder and no one ever blinks an eye about it.
One of my favourite examples is FF7. At the beginning of the game, the main characters blow up a nuclear reactor, killing any guards along the way and the explosion itself probably killed a lot of innocent civilians. People always ask why Squaresoft isn’t making an FF7 remake even though “everyone wants it”, but can you imagine how the post 9/11 2013 public would react to performing a terrorist act at the beginning of the game before we even get to know the characters? The game would probably have to be gutted like crazy to make it through.
A couple people have tried to defend this though. Reasons such as “Well, they knew what they were in for when they signed up to be a soldier for Shinra”, “the ends justifies the means”, “it’s just a game” and so on…
There is an event halfway through MG RR, that I think elevates the game’s storytelling from “tripe” to “actually interesting”. I’ll describe it in the next spoiler block… though it’s kind of interesting how it’s kind of irrelevant to the grand scheme of Metal Gear plots though.
Throughout the first few chapters, Raiden is an extremely self-righteous person, constantly sprouting lines like “It’s okay to kill terrorists and soldiers on the enemy side, they’re adults who’ve made their own decisions and now they will have to pay for it.”
Eventually, one of the antagonists sets up an ambush for Raiden. During the battle, he plays the thoughts of the mooks fighting him directly into Raiden’s head.
“Oh god, did you see what he did to the others? I don’t want to die!”
“I was… so close to earning enough money to bring my family over to the States… I can’t die like this!”
“No, don’t kill me… I have a wife and son… please…”
“I only took a job in the military because I couldn’t find another… I didn’t think it would end up like this! Help me, someone!”
In what seems to be a technique reused from MGS2, Raiden is distressed and shouting to stop, the player on the other hand, probably just continues to slice them up like sashimi because it’s a videogame about killing tons and tons of grunts.
After the ambush, the player/character split continues. Raiden becomes emo and is forced to make his way to the next area while unable to fight due to mental distress. This is the only “forced stealth” event in the game and it kind of harkens back to the “naked Raiden” part of MGS2.
Eventually, after being taunted by the boss for being a hypocrite, Raiden’s self-identity collapses. He confesses…
“You’re right. All my talk about justice, they’re just excuses. I just enjoy the process of killing.
And now I’m going to make sure you die really painfully”
Raiden gives in to his bloodlust, unlocks DEVIL TRIGGER and proceeds to just brutally kill the crap out of everyone while talking in a hilarious growly Batman imitation kind voice (Quinton Flynn is really bad at this)
Most characters I’ve seen go from murder machines to people who value life, such as Kenshin Himura. There are some characters who give into an evil powered side as a subplot, such as Ryu in SF Alpha… but he gets better by the end.
This is the only game where I seen where the character ENDS still being a murderous bloodcrazed killer. This is almost anti-character development for the character.
MG RR destroyed the common in-universe arguments on why it is morally okay for a character to end the life of another, but those are the in-universe arguments.
The real argument of the game is, why do YOU, the player, enjoy the process of killing?
“It’s just a game”? Bullhonky, would anyone play a game, let’s call it… “Sid Meier’s Concentration Camp Tycoon” no matter how fun it is?
Raiden’s motivations as a character splits apart from the player’s motivations for playing for a while, but in the end, I believe his character change was meant to “remerge” him with the player. Once again it’s kind of another MGS2 technique, referencing the scene where he removes his dog tags and “refuses” the identity of the player.
Raiden doesn’t kill for justice, he kills for pleasure. And so do you, person sitting behind the TV screen.
Somewhere along the lines, we have made casual murder into an acceptable social pleasure. This is why I find the recent condemnation of sexualization in videogames to be extremely hypocritical.
People arbitrary use defenses such as “I know the difference between reality and fiction” for violence, but when suddenly someone tries to defend their sexual fetish (usually loli), suddenly those reasons are invalid and they are attacked for it.
The same people who wonder why those senators and “muggles” are always talking about how videogame violence corrupt children because “that is obviously untrue, I play violent videogames and I’m totally normal!” will state that if someone gets off to… say, a fictional rape, that obviously means that they are sick people in real life, they can’t tell the difference between right and wrong and so on. It’s all multiple sides who refuse to try to empathize with one another, seeking instead to vilify another to make themselves feel better about themselves.
Is there really a difference between a fictional murder and any other fictional actions that would be extremely immoral in real life? Personally, I don’t think so. It’s just another instance of the tyranny of the majority.
MG RR also has some kind of dumb political plot about the US trying to intentionally start a war using the excuse of terrorism so that the military industry can profit (SUPER TOPICAL, RIGHT GUYS?), but I believe that’s just a smokescreen for its real social commentary about violence in Videogames.
It’s a shame that Spec Ops: The Line kind of beat MG RR to its game at social commentary, and Spec Ops’s plot actually works in-universe so I will have to give that game extra credit over MG RR.
Still, like I said, just like Evangelion, it’s one of those games where the message just gets the focus over the events that actually happen in the plot.
That is why I think MG RR is worth playing for the storytelling, and I think one of the more interesting MG story below MGS2. I suspect if Kojima still had his way that the ending of MG RR would probably be as cynical as MGS2, but right now he’s probably still bound by audience expectations to make the audience end the game happy and in triumph.
Though if you think about it, the game does kind of end on a really hollow note. Raiden may have won a TINY victory now, but wars will still go on and the protagonist is still a mental wreck. Somehow I think Kojima’s trying to say something here.
tl;dr version: MG RR is a DMC type game that calls you a jerk for enjoying DMC type games, because Kojima.