A few days ago, a veritable sh*tstorm hit the Internet. Sure, this isn’t a rare phenomenon in and of itself (if this was a weather report, the nice lady would be all smiles and “Claps of thunder are moving into the region—business as usual!”). But all the same, this was a doozy. Turns out Japan will be getting a new Metal Gear Solid game in the autumn, but instead of another installment of stealth action and overcooked political intrigue, it will be a slot machine where a metal ball bounces down pegs. Sometimes it will go left, other times it will go right. It’s Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, pachinko-style.
When series creator Hideo Kojima made his shock exit from Konami last year, the publisher reassured everyone of their plan to make new Metal Gear games. At the time, this was more than a little surprising, seeing as how Konami had been content to just sit on all their intellectual properties like an overprotective hen. Turns out they did have plans for new Metal Gear games—just not on home consoles.
To be clear, the writing was the wall. Not only did Konami trademark the words “Big Boss” for pachislot last year, but two of their other big entertainment properties have already crossed the bridge. Castlevania was similarly reimagined (with the puzzling addition of ‘erotic violence’) while the much fawned over Silent Hills was cancelled in favor of yet more lever-based gambling. A lot of video game publishers are accused of treating their properties like cash cows, it just seems like Konami is a little more on the nose about it.
So if this announcement was so inevitable, why all the vitriol and shaking fists? I see two main reasons.
Metal Gear Solid 3 is a sacred cow
The much revered 2005 classic, Snake Eater, would be a prime candidate for a honest to Betsy remake. The jaunt into the swinging sixties introduced fresh faces and character arcs that weren’t reliant on twisted lore, and had the single greatest medley of seminal moments and wildly inventive boss encounters. A Snake Eater remake would even make a great companion piece to last year’s Phantom Pain, which took place in the same narrative timeline.
Understand, however, that I’m not personally vying for a remake—shove the HD Collection (which upped the PS2 resolution and frame rate) onto current consoles sure, but a from the ground up remake isn’t necessary nor even particularly business smart. I’m just trying to understand why the above pachinko trailer is, at the time of writing, sitting at 1300 YouTube ‘likes’, with a staggering 48,000 ‘dislikes’. In terms of the stark like/dislike ratio difference, this beats out the similarly tone-deaf trailers for Mighty No 9 and Call of Duty: Infinity Warfare. Or put another way, it’s 11 times more hated than the Ghostbusters reboot. Yeah.
Konami should be heartened to learn, however, that the Metal Gear pachinko trailer is not the most hated video on YouTube. With a like/dislike ratio of 1:33, it doesn’t hold a candle to the Silent Hill pachinko trailer, which weighs in at an unhealthy 1:41.
The trailer was a bit TOO fancy
The cinematics used for the Metal Gear Solid pachislot trailer look pretty darn great— likely rendered using the proprietary Fox Engine that powered The Phantom Pain across five different platforms (which has presumably been gathering dust since Kojima left). As well as featuring crucial scenes from Metal Gear Solid 3’s ending, the trailer also showed off several bosses from the game, such as The Fear, The End and The Sorrow—all intricately rendered with high-end bells and whistles like hair and light simulation. The lengths Konami have gone to market what is essentially a remorseless addiction machine is, at the very least, impressive.
But it’s one thing for fans to accept their beloved experiences being exclusively continued via slot machines, it’s another to get a decent glimpse at what they could have got, had their and Konami’s interests aligned. Many obviously saw it as a middle finger, “Hey, we could make this beloved game look cutting-edge gorgeous….but we won’t!”. There’s been all the usual rabble-rousing talk in response videos, hundreds of incendiary articles and forum threads. Not to mention thousands upon thousands of tweets like this:
I’d personally rather petition for Konami to set free the Castlevania team, who I think have all been locked away with only a gun containing one bullet in the chamber, and a design document for Rock Revolution 2. Don’t boycott. Don’t send death threats (that should just be basic human decency, but hey ho). A full remake is not going to happen guys. The cost of sexing up a few moments from the original name is not the same as sinking years (and yen) into a fully featured product. You know what you should do instead?
Stop caring, because Konami clearly has.
Sure, a remake would be a chance to make amends in the eyes of their video game audience. Do they want that? No. Do they care about this Internet quagmire? Heck no. They make money by churning out slot machines, bottled water, and health clubs—not video games. Pachinko parlors alone make a global $185 billion in profit—almost double what video games make across mobile, PC and console. With all these fingers in so many lucrative pies, Konami all but shutting down their video game division (outside of annual stints with Pro Evolution Soccer) suddenly starts to make more sense. The people who love the delightful creative vision of Suikoden, Contra, Gradius, Silent Hill, Castlevania, Zone of the Enders and, of course, Metal Gear Solid are butting heads with Konami’s financial bottom line—a fight they’ll never, ever win.
I watched the trailer with growing alarm like everybody else of course—seeing those fancy pants Fox Engine visuals imprisoned between pachinko grids was like a dear friend giving me a brave smile before heading back to her abusive partner. In fact, I summed up my tongue in cheek reaction here:
And yet, you can dislike the trailer and raise pitchforks all you like—the target audience probably doesn’t know or care about the video’s existence. They’re too busy playing pachinko. Like, right now. Metal Gear pachinko is also something you’ll never see on your home turf. Best just to stick it on the pile of things we won’t ever experience outside of Japan; like the normalisation of sticking fingers in butts, cuddle cafes and 100% literacy rates.
So let Konami be Konami. Let them re-imagine Suikoden as a budget on-rails shooter for mobile devices. Whatever. We still have our classics. We still have our memories. That’s enough. And at least Metal Gear pachinko will have greater narrative heft than The Phantom Pain, right?