Ah, Metal Gear. One of my most beloved franchises thanks to its first NES game. Guns, espionage, maps, giant robots…what’s not to love? This was the first NES game I completed outside of Super Mario Bros., but it wasn’t without some help. And believe me, you needed help with this game.
If it looks cool, it must be cool, right?
Back in the day (and maybe still), there were often video game “conventions” at local hotels and convention centers. It was really just a giant video game yard sale, not unlike the CORGS Con held nowadays, only then it wasn’t retro.I went to one with my dad on a weekend and I was excited. Not only was it a day out with dad, but it involved video games…and I knew I’d be able to get him to buy me a new game.
As mentioned before, NES games were pretty much buy-before-you-play, but with a cool looking army guy with a big gun on the cover plus army action on the back…and lets just call it like it is, “Metal Gear” is a sweet game title. So I conned my father into the purchase and that normally would have been enough, but I didn’t stop there. At this particular gathering of gamers, there was a card table in the corner stacked with game manuals and maps.
Free video game stuff? Awesome.
I remember being kind of confused about this offering because I wasn’t sure if they were free or what. Others were grabbing manuals and leaving so I figured it was free and grabbed what I could. It just so happened I manage to find the Metal Gear game manual and better yet, a complete map! I don’t know if the map originally came with the game or not, but I grabbed this map and hung on to it with my life. I knew this was the key to the entire game.
It wasn’t cheating
Once I got home I covered the map with contact paper so prevent myself from ruing it with rips, tears, and the inevitable knocked over cup of Kool-Aid. I played Metal Gear seemingly non-stop, map in hand, for days on end. This first Metal Gear game was tough too and took quite a long time. It was my first test of weapons management in any game. You can’t just run-n-gun in Metal Gear, you had to save your ammo for when it mattered.
Not long after I got the game, I was in a book store and found a Metal Gear “Worlds of Power” book. I don’t remember if it was the story of the game or just out right fiction, but it was licensed, came with a trading card, and had “top secret tips” on certain pages that you had to read in the mirror because they were printed backwards. I also remember the cover of the book had the gun removed from the art, which I thought was odd, but whatever.
The day I finished Metal Gear was a wonderful day. I remember the escape from the ticking time bomb was a little nerve racking. Of course, little did I know there wasn’t anything to do but just go up an elevator. Given the time put into Metal Gear, I felt like a pro. My first game to complete and it was a monster. I finished Metal Gear well before I finished Legend of Zelda.
The start of a wonderful friendship
Of course at the time I had no idea that Metal Gear would be the franchise it is today. Thanks to that one game, I’ve been a Metal Gear fan every since. I love the characters, the setting, the technology…it’s one of the few games where I pay attention to the story. But like many games of that style, it’s not one I would replay a lot. I did try to replay Metal Gear in recent years – without the maps – and it’s crazy hard. So much back tracking and key cards and just wandering around. Without that map I found on a random table in a hotel ballroom, I would have hated Metal Gear.