Metal Gear Solid: Snake Eater 3D on the Nintendo 3DS aims to show that the glasses-free portable can attract the hardcore gaming masses
Zelda and Mario Kart aside, it’s fair to say that we weren't exactly blown away by the first round of Nintendo 3DS games, but it's a new year, and we've not given up on the Ninty portable just yet, and the next twelve months promises a raft of third party titles that Nintendo hopes will stave off the Sony PS Vita-shaped competition.
Based on what is considered by many as the best of the Metal Gear franchise, Metal Gear Solid Snake Eater 3D has been in the works for some time as Hideo Kojima and his team sought to optimize the game to its smaller surroundings and come up with something that feels and looks fresh and new.
Metal Gear Solid Snake Eater 3D: Plot
Snake Eater 3D is essentially a re-invention of Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater which first appeared on the PlayStation 2 and not simply the re-released version found on the Metal Gear Solid: HD Collection.
For those worrying about jumping into the franchise three games in, Metal Gear Solid 3 is actually a prequel which means newcomers are not missing out on too much, and thanks to the intro cut scenes will soon be up to speed with what MGS is all about.
Set against a Cold War backdrop, you are in control of CIA operative Naked Snake who is tasked with rescuing a scientist held captive in the Russian jungle. That's just the beginning of the story, and intertwining itself with real-life historic events like the Cuban Missile Crisis and the assassination of US President John F Kennedy, you'll soon realise that this is a game with serious depth.
There's plenty of Soviet and US double-crossing thrown in for good measure and some seven years on from its original release, it still remains a fantastically crafted story.
Metal Gear Solid Snake Eater 3D: Features
One thing that the PS2 didn't have of course was 3D and while we still have our concerns over the value of a stereoscopic 3D screen with a relatively small sweet spot, the technology is well implemented in Snake Eater and is particularly noticeable when crawling through grass or brushing past trees.
It's most impressive in the cut scenes of which there are many, but rain drops look like they are falling on the screen, hornets fly around the display and it delivers the kind of depth we expected when we first got our hands on a 3DS. It's certainly the first 3DS game where we could comfortably view the action for long periods of time without wanting to flick the slider back down to the Off position.
This is clearly a different environment when it comes to controls and if ever a game screamed out for the Circle Pad Pro it was this. Snake Eater 3D is made to be played with dual analogue sticks and it only takes a short time spent with the game to realise this.
While we are fine with shooting/fighting being designated to the shoulder buttons, general manoeuvring to the single analogue stick and climbing, crawling (and crouch walking) the D-pad, the frustration lies with the camera being mapped to the A/B/X/Y Buttons.
It makes it extremely difficult to react quickly in close quarters when you've been spotted by the enemy or lining up the aim on your sniper rifle. Konami has also incorporated the 3DS Gyro Sensor which comes into play when Snake is climbing trees or crossing bridges which again shows a great appreciation of the technology on board but is by no means ground-breaking in its execution.
One of the quirkier additions to the game is a new Camo index feature which essentially allows you to choose camouflage and face paint to help stay concealed from the enemy. An indicator on the menu screen displays how effective your disguise is, and if you want to get creative you can use the Photo-Camo system to convert photos into camouflage. It's a nice touch, but most will be content with the default camouflage options already on offer.
Metal Gear Solid Snake Eater 3D: Characters
As casts go, this is a first rate ensemble and that is thanks to some great voice casting recorded specifically for this new version. It's a reminder of what made the original so engrossing and made you want to invest time to get through to the end.
It's the same for Snake Eater 3D but if we had one minor criticism, it would be those rare moments where some of the characters can waffle on during radio call scenarios which makes us glad that there's a skip button option.
Metal Gear Solid Snake Eater 3D: Menus
The entire menu system is located on the main touchscreen which means that the second screen is free to dedicate itself on the lush environments and stealth action. This seemed like a logical move by Konami and while the amount of information available can seem daunting at first, it's generally very straightforward to access maps or select weapons.
Regular MGS gamers will appreciate the layout and easy access to sorting out your weaponry.
Metal Gear Solid Snake Eater 3D: Gameplay
Essentially Snake Eater is about completing your missions by avoiding confrontations as much as possible and surviving initially on very basic resources.
Before trigger happy gamers turn their nose up at the focus on sneaking around, you still have option to go out all Rambo, but you can expect it to make life a lot more difficult for yourself. Creeping has great rewards and you will be amazed by the ability to use and manipulate the environment to your advantage, however on a smaller screen it does feel trickier to sneak around as effectively.
Crucially, you have the choice how you want to tackle certain missions which extends to the bosses you face which can be overcome in a variety of ways as opposed to shooting on first sight.
The key in the game is survival and that means a little more than making sure your gun is fully loaded at all times. You really have to take care of Snake, make sure he stays out of harm's way and doesn't get too knackered running around the jungle all of which can affect his performance and ability to complete missions.
So, you will need to keep him well fed through rations and even some of the wandering wildlife which can have varying results when digested. If you sustain cuts, bruises and even breaks, there's also a medical kit which can be used via the touchscreen menu system and brings a true survival sense to proceedings.
Metal Gear Solid Snake Eater 3D: Verdict
Snake Eater 3D is a great re-interpretation of an iconic game but it is clearly not without its faults. The controls can be frustrating which can be solved by investing in the Circle Pad Pro and there are a lot of cut-scenes to contend with. This is not exactly 'dip in and out' gaming and you'll need to put in some serious sessions to reap the rewards but it will be worth it.
This is some of the best stuff we've seen on the 3DS both visually and in gameplay and is a shining example of what the 3DS is capable of. If you love Metal Gear Solid, it's a refreshing way to play the adventure again. If you've never played it before, it should be on your 3DS wish list.
Metal Gear Solid Snake Eater 3D availability: Available now
Metal Gear Solid Snake Eater 3D price: £39.99