Metal Gear Solid HD Collection Review (Vita)

Metal Gear Solid. This is one series of video games that hardly needs an introduction. It’s heralded by many as the pinnacle of the last generation of consoles, and with good reason. But these games are getting on in their ages – MGS 2 was released in 2001, and MGS 3 was released in 2004. However, as we found out with the PS3 collection in our review, Kojima’s PS2 entries easily stand the test of time when given the remastered treatment. Now that we have a super-powered handheld in the form of the Vita, how does its port fair? Find out in our review.

In the Metal Gear Solid HD Collection on the Vita, you get Metal Gear Solid 2 and 3, along with the original MSX versions of Metal Gear 1 and 2. Conspicuously absent from this collection are the first Metal Gear Solid and Peace Walker. While the first MGS was not included in the console versions of MGSHDC, Peace Walker was. This is especially perplexing considering that Peace Walker was a PlayStation Portable title. Konami’s apparent excuse for excluding this title as explained on an episode of the Kojima Productions Podcast was that because the game is already available for the PSP on the PSN store, and the Vita can upscale said game with great results, they felt that a remaster was not needed.

Even if that is the case, then why not include a voucher to download Peace Walker when you buy this collection? If you’ve never bought Peace Walker before and want to play all that the console version has to offer, you have to pony up the $30 for the game and pray that you will be able to copy the game over to your Vita. So you’ve now paid the same $40 price for the Vita game ($35 if you bought the digital download) and $30 for the PSP version of Peace Walker. What at first seems like a simple omission is quickly shown to be a huge disservice to paying customers.

With our pricing qualms out of the way, let’s get to the meat of this collection – the games! Both Metal Gear Solid games look astounding on the Vita’s bright OLED display. MGS 3’s jungle setting comes to life, and those damn snakes and alligators never startled you more than on the Vita, up-close, in your face, and shuffling around making you think a person is coming up behind you. MGS 2, meanwhile, looks equally amazing. Perhaps more so, in fact, considering this game originally came out in 2001, with its re-release Substance releasing just a year later. Both of these games have aged amazingly well, and you could show this game as an example of great on-the-go gaming for the Vita.

There’s even some innovative use of the Vita’s technologies to make up for its lack of a few console buttons. For example, using the right side of the Vita’s touchscreen to zoom in and out when using binoculars, or using the lower-left and lower-right portions of the screen in place of the L2 and R2 buttons in order to select equipment and weapons. Once you hold your finger over either icon, the game pauses and you simply slide your finger up and down to select an item or weapon. You can read its description in the center of the screen before lifting your finger to equip that item and continue playing. Quickly tapping the icons toggles the item, much like tapping the corresponding buttons in the console versions performs the same action. It is pretty natural feeling, and this is definitely a method of L2 and R2 substitution I would love to see in other games.

The impeccable audio work that you rely on in the Metal Gear Solid series is here and alive in the HD Collection. It’s actually very impressive how much detail Armature Studio managed to get out of the Vita. Even playing using the speakers, some sound effects actually appear to originate behind you! The effect is much more appreciated via a good pair of headphones or earbuds, naturally, but either way you can’t go wrong listening to either wonderful game.

For good measure, the original Metal Gear games on the MSX and MSX 2 are included as well, available from the main menu. These play identically to their original games from the late ’80s and early ’90s, with all the chiptunes you can handle. It really goes to show you just how far we’ve come in terms of presentation. In terms of story, however, there is a lot to be had even in these humble 8-bit stealth games.

Ultimately, the incredible amount of fun and content to be had within Metal Gear Solid 2 and 3 outweighs a lot of this package’s negatives. But the lack of Peace Walker is such a glaring omission, it really cannot be dismissed all that easily. If a download voucher for the PSP version had been included, that would have eased the pain a lot. With the Vita’s second analog stick, that game could have been a most-welcome addition to the HD Collection. But when you aren’t even given that option, this feels almost like a different product altogether – something Amazon appears to agree with me on, as the Vita version of the Metal Gear Solid HD Collection has a separate page rather than just appearing as a different version. Having said that, this is the best Metal Gear Solid experience you can have on the go, and fans who are looking for their Solid/Naked Snake/Big Boss fix need look no further.

PlayStation LifeStyle’s Final Score

+ Metal Gear Solid 2 and 3 are here in all their upgraded glory!

+ Nice usage of the Vita’s features in place of extra buttons.

– Omission of Peace Walker is perplexing, less bang-for-buck than console ports.

8 out of 10