Metal Gear 2 -Solid Snake-
Metal Gear 2 -Solid Snake-
April 5, 1991
Buy Used Copy
Hideo Kojima’s sequel to the original Metal Gear improved every single aspect considerably. The graphics were the highest quality available at the time, the gameplay was greatly expanded upon, and the deep storyline was unlike anything ever seen in video games before. I often consider this game to be the “lost chapter” in the Metal Gear series due to the fact that most people haven’t played it. When the game originally came out in 1990, the MSX-2 was not a popular computer system except in a few countries. Due to this reason, the game never saw a release outside of Japan for many years. Besides an unofficial fan translation, there was no real way to play this game. This was finally remediated in 2006 with the release of Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence for the PlayStation 2. With re-drawn sprites, a completely new translation, and other minor gameplay tweaks, the rest of the world could finally experience this wonderful game. It was also later released as part of the Metal Gear Solid HD Collection for the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and PlayStation Vita.
Featuring a cutting-edge soundtrack by seven composers, led by Masahiro Ikariko, the music was a huge step up from the original Metal Gear. Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be any indication of who composed what. Only the most sharp-eared of listeners will be able to recognize the differences in composition between tracks. Utilizing the most of Konami’s SCC sound chip, Metal Gear 2‘s soundtrack pushed the MSX-2’s sound capabilities to its limits. Back then, Konami was ahead of the competition in terms of their audio quality. Other Konami classics like Snatcher, Space Manbow, and Gofer no Yabou Episode II used a similar type of sound chip. All that being said, how does MG2’s soundtrack fare on a stand-alone basis?
The first two tracks “Theme of Solid Snake” and “Zanzibar Breeze” appropriately set the tone of musical style for the rest of the album. Militaristic, brooding, and slightly techno-inspired, these cinematic pieces accompanied the opening cutscenes of the game. While they sound modest by today’s standard, they were incredibly well-implemented for their time. The first area theme “Frequency 140.85” is more upbeat than previous tracks. Nevertheless, the piece’s syncopated rhythms and melodic synth add perfect backing while the player gathers items, takes out guards, and staying unseen. The next area theme we have is “The Front Line.” Faster-paced and more tension-filled,” this track perfectly matches the stealth-gameplay aspects of Metal Gear. The third is “Level 1 Warning.” Utilizing a similar type of composition as the previous two area themes, I found myself enjoying its mysterious melody.
When the player gets spotted by guards, the music changes from subtle to tense. The main alert theme, “Level 3 Warning,” incorporates fast-paced, but repetitive techno loops to create emotional progression. “Return to Dust” begins with ambient synth. About twenty seconds in, the piece progresses into a brooding and suspicious melody, as if Solid Snake has stumbled upon a hidden secret. “Shallow” and “Imminent” are both similar in tone, utilizing eerie and off-setting melodies. “Advance Immediately” is another enjoyable theme as well, reminiscent of many 80s action movie soundtracks. The Metal Gear series is also known for its memorable boss fights, and Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake is no exception. “Killers” and “Battle Against Time” are both fast-paced, low-octave boss fight themes. As expected, the music evokes a certain sense of danger and menace while Snake fights against Zanzibar Land’s Special Forces. “Mechanic” and “Big Boss” are slightly disappointing, as they loop too quickly and have rather repetitive melodies.
For an 8-bit soundtrack, Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake surprisingly delivers many levels of emotion with its cinematic tracks. “Tears” is a sad and patriotic march. The synth plays a melancholic melody while a secondary theme provides a reverberating response. The piece was originally used when Snake defeats his former comrade, Gray Fox, in hand-to-hand combat. “Night Fall” is a sad love theme, reflecting on the relationship between Snake and female operative Holly White. “Wavelet” is another love theme that conveys the emotions of loss and sadness. If not limited by the MSX-2’s audio quality, “Natasha’s Death” could have easily fit in a newer Metal Gear game. The amount of raw emotion and composition coming from this track is nothing short of astounding. “An Advance” and “In Security” are both “revelation” tracks that played when major plot twists were revealed. Needless to say, the serve their purpose well with their suspenseful melodies.
There are also several short miscellaneous tracks that are really hit or miss. “A Notice” and “First Instruction” don’t really go anywhere. Both are really just bouts of ambient synth noise with no real musical progression. “Zanzibar National Anthem,” is a sixteen second theme for the eponymous fictional country. Outside of the game, it doesn’t offer much other than nostalgic memories. “Zanzibar National Anthem Part 2” is the exact same theme, only with distorted sound. “Flight Into Enemy Territory,” while short, is an enjoyable track that returns to the series’ militaristic roots. “Afterimage” is a short jingle that plays when Snake loses all life, and “Disposable Life” is the game over theme. Again, when taken out of context, these tracks mean very little. On the other hand, “Swing, Swing ~ ‘A’ Jam Blues” is a jazzy theme that’s a joy to listen to, even if it does feel out of place with the rest of the album. The only way to hear this theme in the game is to call a specific frequency while smoking a cigarette.
In typical Hideo Kojima fashion, Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake features a spectacular ending accompanied by great music. “Spiral” is a fast tempo chase theme. Snake and Holly escape Zanzibar Land while fighting through waves of soldiers. Just as they are surrounded, backup arrives and they are saved. The theme that plays at this time is “Return,” a victorious and upbeat march. Snake and Holly fly off into the sunset with the operation successful. “Red Sun” is a forlorn ending theme. Although Snake has won, he is still torn on the inside. Realizing that he can never fit into a normal society, he disappears. The final ending theme is more upbeat with “Farewell,” as we are greeted with images of the games cast of characters. This masterful game and soundtrack is now over.
The soundtrack to Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake is nothing short of a milestone in video game music. Even though Konami was limited with the MSX-2 hardware, its composers were still able to craft fitting and emotional music that laid the precursor to cinematic soundtracks in video games. Had this game reached a mainstream audience earlier, its soundtrack would have been ranked among the likes of Mega Man and Castlevania. However, due to the game’s relative obscurity, this was never the case and the soundtrack is often overlooked by retro enthusiasts. Make no mistake, though. This is one of the best chiptune soundtracks ever composed. Although there are a few tracks that are slightly lackluster, they do little to detract from the many great themes presented here. With this being an older release, it can be quite hard to come by, but it is worth every penny. If you enjoy classic soundtracks, than look no further than Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake.
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Posted on August 1, 2012 by Oliver Jia. Last modified on August 1, 2012.