Metal Gear: Ghost Babel
Game title: Metal Gear: Ghost Babel (Metal Gear Solid in the U.S.)
Genre: Stealth action
Platform: Gameboy Color
ESRB Rating: Everyone
Release date: April 24, 2000
Overall rating: 9.5/10
All too often, it seems that games that deserve to be remembered and held high for all the things they did well get swept under the rug and forgotten about, or the media and gamers never gave them the hype they deserved in the first place. For the past ten years, the Metal Gear series has been one of the most hyped in a culture where games play an increasingly large part. In fact, Metal Gear has a lot to do with video games rising to basically a culture phenomenon. There was one game, however, that never received much hype at all, for one reason or another, and ultimately got lost in time. Konami's 2000 Gameboy Color release entitled Metal Gear: Ghost Babel was an absolute masterpiece, but it was ultimately forgotten about. There are a number of factors that led to this. The U.S. release of the game saw a name change. What was "Metal Gear: Ghost Babel" in Japan became "Metal Gear Solid" in the United States. The game was, quite often, thought to be a retelling of the PSone classic on a significantly less powerful format. the Gameboy Color itself had a short life span, due, in large part, to a decline in the popularity of handheld games. It picked back up with the release of the Gameboy Advanced, but the game had already been forgotten about by that point. This also did not do the sales any favors.Rest assured, this forgotten game is a classic, and is more than deserving of the name it bares.
Gameplay - 9.0
Metal Gear: Ghost Babel takes all of the gameplay concepts, with the exception of first person view and stinger missiles, and makes them all work in a top down 2D enviroment, and it does it all accurately and extremely well. Whether you want to get your way through by shooting, creating a diversion or crawling, it is all in tact, despite lacking the four face button and four shoulder button configuration of the games console counterpart. Ghost babel leaves almost nothing out of the mix. The Metal Gear series is stealth based. While there is a variety of weapons that can be used to take down the enemies that stand between you and your goal, situations are, quite often, better solved by finding a way to get past the enemy. There is quite a variety of ways to accomplish this as well. For example, if you want to distract the guards and sneak by them while they are away from their post, you can knock on a wall to create a sound that they will investigate, allowing you to go around the opposite way and get to where you need to go.
Over the course of the game, you will come across a large number of gadgets to help you get through the different obstacles that the game throws at you. If it was cool in the PSone game, then, chances are, that you will find it here. The mine detector makes a return. infrared goggles can be used to see laster traps and night vision goggles can be used to see in the dark. You can acquire a bullet proof vest to absorb damage, and rations will heal you. Key cards make a return, of course. Acquiring higher level cards will open more of the area to you, much like the previous game. Snake just starts out with a fogger (A replacement for cigarettes. It is Nintendo, after all), but he will acquire quite a number of cool items to help him on his mission. As a result, searching everywhere is encouraged.
Snake also gains several types of weapons over the course of the game. The Socom that we always see Snake carrying into battle is replaced by the 5-7, and there is a silencer that you fan find for it. That allows you to take out guards quickly and quietly. The RS is the games automatic rifle. It is useful mostly during boss battles, but machine gun type weapons are also fun and can get you out of some tight situations as well. C4 makes a return as well. You can plant it and detonate it from a distance to destroy walls or set up traps for enemies. There is even one part where you use it to bring down an entire plant. That is one of the cooler parts of the game. Much like in the previous game, you can crawl over land mines to pick them up, These can be set down as traps to take out guards or bosses.The nikita missile returns in this game as well. While their primary use is to destroy power boxes to turn off electrified floors, just like on the PSone version, it is also a very fun weapon to use during boss battles. There are more weapons than this. Play through the game to find all of them.
Cool items and weapons are not the only thing to find their way to the portable realm, however. The boss battles in this game are also great, as is expected from the Metal Gear series. One man attacks you with a massive boomerang while his hawk flies out and attacks you while another blinds you with flash bang grenades and shoots at you while his two helpers toss throwing daggers at you. Given the significant drop in power from the PSX version to this one, it is easy to see how the boss battles in this game could have slacked off, but they found a way to throw some good and unique ones at you. Each one requires a different strategy to defeat, and each one is a lot of fun to fight. The fight with the Metal Gear unit in this one is especially cool. It is something you have to experience to get the full effect, so I won't spoil it here. Just wait until you play i for yourself. The showdown with Metal Gear in this game is one of the better ones the series has thrown at you.
There are a few griping problems with this game, however, though it is more due to the limited capabilities of the Gameboy Color than anything else. The enemy AI seems to be a slightly improved version of the one featured in Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake. that is to say that it really isn't all that good. In comparison to the great enemy AI that Metal Gear Solid featured, this is a bit of a disappointment. Enemies seem to be a bit mindless when they chase after you, though they still respond to sight and sound and backup does still come when the alarm is going off. The radar isn't anywhere near as useful as it is in Metal Gear Solid. All of the information from the previous game is displayed with the exception of the field of vision, but the radar is so small on the GBC or GBA screen that it is hard to see just what is going on. It ultimately makes the radar more frustrating than useful. Both of these problems are due to the GBC itself instead of the game, however. They are things that really cannot be solved or dealt with. They are minor gripes against the games complex and engaging gameplay, and they do not drag the game down too much. If you liked MGS, you will like Ghost Babel.
The game is lacking one thing that the PSX game had a lot of, and that is backtracking. You will not spend a lot of your time backtracking in this game. The mission structure makes sure of that. the game lends itself to being portably by dividing it's campaign up into a series of 13 shorter stages instead of one continuous mission. Clearing each stage will earn you a rank for that particular stage. These smaller stages allow you to progress through a section of the game and save. It ultimately makes the game lend itself much better to playing on the go. It was a great decision in the end, and doesn't hurt the game at all.
Graphics - 10
Graphically, Metal Gear: Ghost Babel boasts a look that is very similar to Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake. It is refined, though. The game takes what that game dud and makes it look sharp. That is to say that, given the limitations of the Gameboy Color, Metal gear: Ghost Babel looks very sharp. The in game graphics for this game are very nice. It shows the same level of attention and polish that the console game showed, though on a lesser scale of course. It is a GBC game, after all. Many of the color palettes used for this game will seem quite memorable for fans of the series. The dark and dreary grays return to give the game a darker and more mature overtone that suits the series and it's serious themes and ideas so well. This is Metal Gear, and it looks like it. The outdoor environments are a bit more on the green and colorful side much like the MSX originals. It gives the game more variety in level design and is a nice touch.
Ghost Babel also features a variety of hand drawn cut scenes in the game. These are normally portraits of people talking, though there are some others as well. The ones that involve Metal Gear itself are particularly cool. The art style will be familiar to Metal Gear fans, and it is as good in this game as it has ever been. The transfer to the Gameboy Color took nothing much away from the look of these cut scenes. They are sharp looking and beautifully drawn. Animation during these segments is minimal, though. The codec screen also makes a return, and it looks basically the same as the Metal Gear Solid version of the screen. It features portraits of the characters that are currently speaking on teh left and right side of the screen with the codec number of the character inbetween the two. The entire thing is green. There are no surprises there the portraits are nice, though.
The most notable thing about the game's graphics are it's animations. For being a Gameboy Color game, the animation in this game is excellent. You can tell that the team went the extra mile to make this game stand out as one of the best looking games on the handheld. The animations have nice touches to them. From Snakes recoil when he throws a punch to the slight wave of his bandana in the wind when he runs, all the animations in this game got special care and attention to make sure that they were all as detailed as the Gameboy Color would allow, and it really helps to put more life into this games world. This aspect of the game is quite enjoyable to watch, and it is always nice to see that the developers truly care about the product that they are creating. This games visuals definitely show that. every aspect of them is as good as they can be for being, resulting in what may very well be the best looking game for the Gameboy Color.
Sound - 8.0
The sound in this game is a bit of a mixed bag. A big part of the Metal Gear series has always been it's soundtrack. Even reaching back to the MSX originals, the games have been known for having a variety of very good musical tracks in them. In this aspect, Metal Gear: Ghost Babel does not disappoint. Each stage features tracks that slow down or speed to set the right mood depending on where you currently are in the story and what you are doing in the game. Some of the tracks are darker and more brooding, as the game calls for them. Some of them are sadder if the story requires it and some of them are more upbeat of something good is happening. Whatever atmosphere and mood the game calls for, the soundtrack delivers with solid musical tracks. The games soundtrack may not quite stack up to the console entires, but, given the limited abilities of the Gameboy Color's sound chip, it stands tall and shines bright. The sound track for this game is great.
Why, then, an 8 instead of something higher? The sound effects in this game are sub par for the series. There really aren't that many nice touches, and it does a number of things that are just disappointing. For example, every explosion sounds the same. While it has an initial umph when you first here it, the lack of variety ensures that you will hear it so many times that you will get to the point where you don't even note it when you hear it. Some variety in this regard would have been nice. Furthermore, all of the guns sound the same. Last time I checked, pistols do not sound like machine guns. Why, then, doe my machine gun sound like a rapid fire version of my pistol? MG fans have come to expect better of this series.We want a lower pow for our pistols and a higher rat-tat-tat for our machine guns, and Ghost Babel does not give it to us. When everything else in the game is done so well, this just leaves the sound effects sounding like an afterthought or something. They definitely could have been better.
Story - 10
As if the fantastic gameplay weren't enough to keep you playing until the credits roll, the game features another aspect commonly found in Metal Gear games and that is an excellent story. While not a cannon game, Metal Gear: Ghost Babel serves as a sequel to Metal Gear on the MSX. It kind of feels like a 'what if' type of scenario. What if things had gone in a different direction after Big Bosses defeat at the hands of Solid Snake in Outer Heaven? What if the government had taken the development of Metal Gear in a different direction instead of developing the model D that Snake fought in Zanzibar? What if Big Boss really did die at Outer Heaven and Zanzibar never existed? Metal Gear: Ghost Babel answers these questions while keeling in perfectly with series continuity after the original title. This is sort of an alternate sequel to Metal Gear in place of Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake, though it's plot was never carried out beyond this one game.
It has been seven years since the events at Outer Heaven and Snake has retired from Foxhound to live alone in the Alaskan wilderness. He builds a house for himself and is one day visited by former Foxhound commander Roy Campbell. Campbell is retired, just like Snake, but is called back into action in hopes that Snakes skills will get them through the latest crisis. It seems that the U.S. army has been hard at work on a new model of Metal Gear code named Gander. It is called Project Babel. Gander is being transported to a testing range in South America for field testing. The not 100% complete Metal Gear unit is traveling with the team of scientists that are building it. Meanwhile, a small country in Africa called Gindra is in the middle of a civil war. A rebel army called the Gindran Liberation Front led by General Augustine Eguabon is hold up inside of a fortress called Galuade, the former location of Outer Heaven. The United Nations have sent peace keeping troops to Gindra to try to stop the fighting. These troops are mostly U.S. based. The GLF have hired a band of mercenaries known as Black Chamber to hijack the plane containing Gander and deliver it to the GLF at Galuade. Snake is contacted to see if he will accept the mission. He does in order to face his own past and the crimes he feels he committed at Outer Heaven.
The story sets itself up like this, and expands in typical Metal Gear fashion from here. There is heroine, the soul survivor of the Delta Force team sent in before Snake. Her name is Chris Jenner. Snake will also come across the project lead for Gander, whose name is Jimmy Harks, a brilliant scientist who looks far too young to have been involved in something like this. You will also run across the members of Black Chamber, who are, in many ways, a unit not unlike Foxhound. The story keeps getting bigger and bigger right up to the final battle, much like previous games in the series. Massive conspiracies and cover ups are all present here. You are in for a few shocks and surprises, but none of them are bad. The story to this game, while not quite as in depth as the console games, is fantastic. It wound up being a lot better than I thought it was going to be. It is a real treat and a pleasant surprise that it winds up being so good. It is something that any Metal Gear fan would thoroughly enjoy experiencing, and it helps to deliver the complete Metal Gear package. It ensures that everything that you know and love about Metal Gear is here. You have to play it to believe it. It really is top notch stuff.
Replay value - 9
Typically, Metal Gear games are so good that they deserve multiple playthroughs. The stories are excellent and worth revisiting and the gameplay is some of the best out there, ensuring that it will be as much fun the first time as it will be the second time. Ghost Babel is not exception. The excellent story and stellar and complex gameplay definitely warrant more than one playthrough. There are multiple difficulty settings for you to play it on, as well.If that weren't enough, the game comes with a whopping 180 VR missions. That's right. There are 180 VR missions for you to play through after you beat this game. It's more than enough to keep the cartridge in your Gameboy for a long time after the credits roll. The game also features special stages that you unlock after you beat the game. These giove you specific objectives to use during the game, such as complete the level within a time limit or beat it while only using one certain type of weapon. Finally, there is a two player mode that I cannot dive into, so I cannot really tell you about that. None the less, it is kind of cool to know where Metal Gear multiplayer got it's start.
Final thoughts -
Whether you decide to call it by it's American name Metal Gear Solid or it's Japanese name Metal Gear: Ghost Babel, this game is the real deal. It gets the Metal Gear formula correct right down to the core. It leaves nothing to be desired and almost every aspect of this game is expertly crafted with the same care and attention that the console games get. Metal Gear: Ghost Babel is a masterpiece in every sense of the word and should have been a killer app on the system. It was one of the best Gameboy Color games of all time, and it proves that you can have fewer buttons without loosing and of the complexity that the is known for. Metal Gear: Ghost Babel is a fantastic and engaging ride from the opening scenes to the end credits. It will keep any Metal Gear fan hooked, and should not be missed by anyone. I cannot recommend this game highly enough. Go buy it. It is a masterpiece. It shines bright in every way.
Gameplay - 9
The radar is too small and the enemy AI is downgraded from the first Metal Gear Solid. Other than that, everything that made that game great is here. Very complex and engaging.
Graphics - 10
Sharp sharp sharp. This game looks great for being on the GBC
Sound - 8
The music is great, but the sound effects leave something to be desired
Story - 10
Standard Metal Gear fare, which is to say it is extremely good
Replay value - 9
A great story and engaging gameplay that is worth multiple playthroughs. Special stages and 180 VR missions ensure that this will stay in your Gameboy for a long time