Hideo Kojima has seen to it that his Metal Gear Solid games are playable by nearly every possible consumer type. That being said, the only gamer left was the mobile gamer. Though it was remade and released for the Nintendo 3DS, Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, as well as Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, have made their way to the PlayStation Vita in the form of the Metal Gear Solid HD Collection. One constant gripe gamers have had on this subject is that it doesn’t include a PS Vita version of Peace Walker. Even though the PlayStation Portable version is compatible on the PS Vita, it’s still a bit frustrating that PS Vita owners can’t have all three MGS powerhouse titles all in one place. However, don’t let this hinder the experience. The entire experience is here, but does it translate well into portable form?
Since these two games have been optimized specifically for the PS Vita, the visuals that once shined on the PlayStation 2 are now on Sony’s handheld in their fully-realized glory. The only things that bring this experience down to Earth are when the games get over encumbered by what they have on screen. Much like the original games, full-on assaults slowed the frame rates a very, very slight amount and those small changes are easier to spot in this version. Don’t be alarmed, since this only occurs with heavy amounts of smoke and vivid interactions with water; ironically enough, the swimming portions of the game aren’t hindered in any way.
The gameplay of both Metal Gear games remains fully intact. The striking differences, however, are in some of the control revamps. In order to accommodate the PS Vita hardware, the analog sticks, the L2 and R2 triggers, and button sensitivity were remapped. For both games, in order to hold up a gun without shooting, you know press down on the D-pad, since the face buttons on the PS Vita aren’t pressure sensitive like the Dualshock controllers. This feature isn’t very well covered in this collection. I spent a good amount of time ignorantly using my item menu in order to let go of square so I wouldn’t shoot my weapons; this was only good for semi-automatic weapons, mind you, since automatics like the AK-74u and the M4 simply let loose after pressing square. I finally explored the control schemes in the control mapping and found out about the D-Pad.
While on the subject of the item menu, both the item and weapon menus are accessed by touching their allotted corners on the front touchscreen. You press the icon on the screen, and then scroll through the options and slide inward to select each weapon or item in each subgroup, such as an M4 or an AK-74u in the automatic weapon section. This control scheme is the very best conceivable way to put all of the input options from the console versions into this PS Vita form, but it comes with a slight hindrance: convenience of speed. I don’t mean to dissuade with this, since it works well on every difficulty below Extreme. On Extreme, however, I hit a major snag in the Metal Gear Ray fight. With the Rays constantly shooting missiles, firing machine guns, and decimating with the water laser—sometimes simultaneously—it’s difficult to manage all of the face buttons to dodge abilities and switch weapons with my right thumb. It would have been better to use the back touch pad to mess with items and weapons, even if randomly pressing the back touchpad would pause the game from time to time.
The touch screen had some better utilization throughout. For instance, when looking around a corner, you can swipe left or right with your right thumb to slide/look left or right, respectively. The back touchpad even has some great usage, including traditional trigger Dualshock functions for first-person view mode. In this mode, you can swipe left to strafe left, swipe right to strafe right, and swipe down on both sides to stand taller.
One of the best changes made to the control scheme is the sneaking mode in MGS3. Instead of using the D-Pad to walk slowly, since the D-pad is mapped for holding up enemies and changing the camera perspective, you now hold the L button while moving to walk slowly.
It’s commonplace to believe that sounds don’t have as much impact as they do on consoles, but the orchestral and bombastic sounds of these two games still hold their strong influences equally in comparison to their original outings, and even in comparison to the PS3’s MGS HD Collection. In order to experience the best possible sound, I highly recommend using the best headphones you can find. You will not be disappointed.
The exclusion of Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker is a strong statement that many gamers dislike. I can’t justify this fact by simply saying that the PSP version is playable on the PS Vita, especially since I absolutely love collecting trophies, but it’s true, no matter how much we hate it. However, the nice thing about this collection is that players can “Transfar” their saves from the PS Vita version to the PS3 version of this collection, and vice versa. This process may sound lame, but it also unlocks trophies for the version to which the save is being Transfarred. To also eliminate pirating saves, Kojima Productions has made it so that saves intermingled between consoles are locked to those consoles, so players can’t connect their PS Vitas to a friend’s console and unlock their trophies.
The full experiences of Snake Eater and Sons of Liberty are all here. Even things from the re-released versions of these two games, Subsistence and Substance respectively, appear in this collection, such as Demo Theater, the NES Metal Gear Games in Subsistence and VR Missions and Snake Tales in Substance. However, the Ape Escape missions do not make an appearance. This may not be a big deal to many, but it feels a bit dodgy, since the Ape Escape license is owned by Sony and the only reason to exclude it is because of time constraints.
For the price of one PS Vita game, gamers can buy two great Metal Gear games and have hours of time to play through all of the content and experience all of the little Easter Eggs, the big plot twists, and the robust characterizations all in one place. Please don’t let the exclusion of Peace Walker be a deal breaker, this collection still has the caliber to take on any big PS Vita title for time spent in your PS Vita. Besides, it’s all the more reason to justify the fact that a full PS Vita Metal Gear game could easily work.