As a writer who revels in flowery prose with the same reckless abandon as Hideo Kojima, it’s a damn funny thing to review something like Metal Gear Solid Master Collection Vol. 1. The first of two bundles, as denoted by the name, the Master Collection emerges as both historical document and modern product, a surprisingly cohesive set of goals that largely balances the artistic importance of these titles and publisher Konami’s need to begin repairing bridges with its audience. A streamlined and beautifully presented package, the Master Collection is a worthy salute to one of the industry’s most celebrated franchises, but it still lives in the shadow of those who came before it.
Master Collection rallies 17 years of Metal Gear history under one unified banner, rounding up every major release and most supplementary material, between the original MSX Metal Gear and PS2’s Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater. This includes more obscure titles like the strange NES-specific Metal Gears, additional, previously region-locked content for most titles like the VR Missions, alongside a host of additional content documenting the inner workings of the franchise and some neat, modern touches. The original Metal Gear Solid for example makes great use of the DualSense haptic feedback, includes a Twitch-friendly layout customiser, and all titles give the option to download a Japanese audio pack for a more authentic experience. Video recordings of deep-cut visual novels, a (unfortunately minimal) jukebox of iconic tunes, individual Trophy/Achievement lists, and the ability to simply access these titles with relative ease; Konami has effectively crafted an almost definitive edition here.
Now that’s a menu
All things considered, it is a comprehensive collection of Metal Gear’s first phase, for lack of a better term. The games can be downloaded or installed individually, standalone executables that scatter the collection somewhat but are unified by the gorgeous topline UI and menus. Splashed across crisp concept art and clean drill-downs, the overarching presentation of the Master Collection feels appropriately reverent and fresh, making booting up these classics on modern hardware look and sound just right. Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty and Snake Eater have been almost wholesale ripped from Bluepoint’s fantastic HD Collection, the developer nabbing an opening credit while the HD Collection logo remains firmly intact once you leave the Master Collection wrapper. Elsewhere, Metal Gear Solid can seem a little muddy by comparison, with no major visual efforts made to make the now 25-year-old game feel at home on modern screens while the MSX games remain crisp and pleasant.
Bluepoint’s work casts a long shadow over the Master Collection, its porting of ports upscaling the games to a crisp 1080p and 60fps with updated menu prompts, minor bug fixes, and improved loading times to boot. These are, fairly objectively, good additions to the preservation of these titles but at close to a hundred bucks for only half the franchise’s history and years-old ports, the value proposition feels strained. A tension that is alleviated by the Master Collection’s impressive suite of additional historical documents and celebratory materials. The Master Books stand out across all titles, a lovingly rendered omnibus of Metal Gear history and game specific lore and mechanical information, this digitised tomb is a delight with optional background tunes and bookmarking. In the most Kojima nod imaginable, the collection also includes full blown screenplays for each game, including dialogue and scene direction, layered over scene appropriate concept art.
Good to see you too, mate
It’s difficult to fully grapple with the importance of the Master Collection given the noticeable absence of the series’, well, master. Kojima’s split with Konami remains one of the stranger tragedies to emerge from the now ubiquitous collisions between corporate interests and creator visions, and this bundle’s considered reverence for the franchise feels caught between sincerity and precise omission. The Master Books, for all their strives to capture the essence of the series, feel incomplete without Kojima’s lens. Though at least the games themselves held onto the “A Hideo Kojima Production” banners and studio logos. It’s impossible to think about Metal Gear without thinking of Kojima but the Master Collection turns away from this crucial connectivity to nobody’s benefit.
Metal Gear, writ large, has an omnipresent vibe, a specificity that permeates every corner of its gameplay, lore, politics, sexuality, and purpose. Kojima has been blessed with incredibly talented teams his whole career, no game exists solely by the grace of a single man, but what emanates from Metal Gear across generations of hardware and players is unfettered intent. Replaying the games now, they feel alien to the modern market— laborious, self-aware, politically driven cinematic experiences that play with visual language and systems in ways both clumsy and graceful, a wonderful balancing act I would only truly ascribe to Death Stranding in the current landscape. These are experiences that demand to be preserved and Master Collection’s first volume should be applauded for doing so, even if no celebration of these titles without Kojima could ever feel truly complete.
These screenplays feels of a piece with the cinematic ideals of Metal Gear Solid
And so it is something of a bittersweet experience to play the Master Collection. Its comprehensive preservation of Metal Gear reaches deeply into the franchise’s release history and collates decades of value into a well-crafted and thoughtful collection. Appropriately modernised presentation bundles these games into a cohesive package, the individual titles putting their best foot forward thanks to the foundational work of Bluepoint Games and the renewed sense of duty Konami has found to one of its flagship franchises. There’s an ideal world in which this collection would have been all inclusive, perhaps a better value-for-money proposition and one that truly honoured, and grappled with, the legacy of Kojima. But for now, I’m just glad to not be in a world without Snakes.
Reviewed on PS5 // Review code supplied by publisher
- Konami, Bluepoint Games
- PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X and S, Switch, PC
- October 24, 2023