So finally we see the release of one of the first tech demo games for the 3DS two years after the handheld’s announcement at 2010’s E3, but does the game that gave us so much interest in the 3DS live up to its hype? Well simply put this game is the same version of Snake Eater that was on the Playstation 2 with some minor differences. There is some upgrade to the game textures and some minor gameplay changes but obviously the biggest difference is the introduction of 3D. However just taking into account that this is a full PS2 game ported onto a Nintendo device is impressive in its own right.
So once again we get to play through the story of how Naked Snake became Big Boss by taking down a crazed Russian Commander known as Volgin and his old mentor who has defected to Russia with her Special Forces unit known as the Cobras, this time in 3D. Filled with all of the same amazing boss battles and gameplay mechanics you will navigate the jungle landscape, stalk guards, and eat wild animals while you try to prevent an experimental weapon from launching a nuclear missile, this time in 3D. You get to crawl through grass, across wires, and dangle over ledges but did I mention that this time it’s in 3D?
While Snake Eater is still a fantastic game, playing it on the 3DS is not the most fantastical way to experience it. The controls are one of the biggest hurdles blocking this game from perfection. While it is still playable it often feels clunky and disorientating. Playing Snake Eater on the 3DS feels almost identical to playing Peace Walker on the PSP, however since Snake Eater is a more complex game it is easy to get confused with the controls when you are doing certain things like swimming or climbing ledges. Aiming is done with the face buttons and you can access your weapons and equipment by using right and left on the D-Pad or by selecting your icons on the touch screen. There are also multiple kinds of aiming available. You can either aim in first person or in third person just like Peace Walker's style. The touch screen holds quick access buttons to your backpack, food, cure, camo, and equipment menus that you can also reach through the pause menu. One thing I appreciated was the added feature to duck and walk just like in Peace Walker and Metal Gear Solid 4. This is always a welcome addition to any Metal Gear game.
While the controls may bring the game down nothing hurts it more than the frame rate. Sometimes it feels like the game is trying to move in slow motion. When there are multiple enemies on the screen and explosions going off the game’s frame rate can drop drastically. The most noticeable drop comes from any time you put on any kind of vision filter such as night vision or thermal goggles. As soon as you click them on there is an instant drop in frame rate. It really shows the power of the 3DS because while it is impressive that the whole game is present on a 3DS game card it just can’t live up to its very recent HD release or even the old Playstation 2 release.
There are a few new features that take advantage of the extra hardware on the 3DS. I will say that when the 3D works in the game it is the best I have seen yet, however you do run into a lot of hiccups. First of all when switching between first and third person while aiming the 3D will temporarily lose focus which can seem a little straining on the eyes. This game also makes the biggest mistake by requiring controls that force you to move the system back and forth for things like balancing on a log and this instantly kills the 3D as you have to be holding it at just the right angle, and already any game that makes you have to tilt the controller or in this case whole console loses points in my book. The 3D manages to look great in the cutscenes which I recommend using but while actually playing the game I would just play it normally. Probably the coolest new feature is the ability to create your own camo patterns using pictures you have taken with your 3DS. I had a lot of fun trying to come up with crazy camo patterns to use in the game by taking pictures of everything.
The textures have been completely redone for Snake Eater which actually makes this game look great. This is a direction that should have been taken for the HD collection but was unfortunately used for this lesser version of the game. The environment and characters are all fantastic but the small screen and poor frame rate really hit this game hard. The 3D really adds to the cutscenes and makes them far more interesting but doesn’t do much to improve the look of the gameplay. Overall the game looks far better than anything I have seen on the 3DS and is only faulted for the frame rate but given the quality of the rest of the game even that doesn’t kill it completely.
Now I may sound like I am being a little harsh on this game but being a huge Metal Gear fan I did still manage to have fun with it. I would say if you have any other way to play this game then that’s the way you should go but if you only have a 3DS then this is still an option for you. The bottom line is this game will probably only find an audience with people who have never played the game before and don’t know what to expect or hardcore Metal Gear fans who love to play every game that Kojima puts out. Having Snake Eater on a portable is pretty awesome and I have played through this version multiple times but I will be more interested in what the Vita version will offer more so than what the 3DS presents.
With very little having been changed about the game it begs the question is there any real reason for this version to exist at all. With the recent release of the HD collection on the PS3 and 360 and especially when there is an upcoming version on the Vita which is more suited for this type of game what is the point? It seems like this is just a step in the direction of porting Metal Gear Solid 3 onto every platform that it can be. While it has some issues it is still completely playable but some people may be turned off by the learning curve of the controls and spotty frame rate but if you are able to looks past all of that then you can still find a fun time. What’s more important anyways is the complete lack of any crab battle!