Among Metal Gear fans this has been a subject of much debate: how does the 2004 remake of Metal Gear Solid, called The Twin Snakes and released on the Nintendo Gamecube, compare to the original PlayStation version released in 1998? Opinions on this matter are very divided. The goal of this article is to break down the games and as unbiasedly as possible compare the different parts.
As expected, when comparing it with The Twin Snakes, there are some parts that are better in the original and some parts that are better in the remake if you ask me. It’s not as black and white that one is better than the other on all fronts. The differences are pretty small to begin with. Of course, in the end it’s all a matter of taste, and there is no absolute way of telling which part of which version is better.
The Twin Snakes has more gameplay options, such as first person aiming, a tranquilizer gun and the ability to drag bodies and hide them in lockers. But those things aren’t really missed in the original, since the gameplay and environment is built perfectly around the existing mechanics. One complaint people have about The Twin Snakes is that the added gameplay mechanics feel unnecessary or even somewhat damaging to the game, since the game was designed around a lot more restrictive controls and options. This is a criticism I can certainly understand. It’s proven by the fact that in Metal Gear Solid, I really didn’t miss the gameplay mechanics I was so used to from playing The Twin Snakes, and beforehand I actually feared it would be difficult to switch to having more limited options. But the game is designed so well that the restrictions really don’t matter. Obviously, Metal Gear Solid was (literally) made for the PlayStation controller, with which it works very well and intuitively, and everything feels logical. More so than with the Gamecube controller. It works well with the latter one, but still not as good as on the PlayStation. One example is using your CODEC, which on the PlayStation goes with a single press on the select button, whereas the Gamecube controller requires you to press start and A at the same time. Not a big deal, but it feels a little less intuitive.
Of course there’s a large difference in graphics. The most important one for me is the fact that characters in The Twin Snakes have lip sync and facial expressions, as well as more lively animations. The environments in Metal Gear Solid as opposed to the original are often a lot darker, with more shadows and a less clean feel than The Twin Snakes. But I can see why people would prefer this, since it gives of a somewhat different atmosphere and makes the game a little more ‘scary’. It creates a certain moody and ominous atmosphere that fits the game very well. Some aspects are obviously dated, such as the large pixels and stiff animations, but once you’re sucked into the story and the world, you forget about all of that and it doesn’t matter anymore. So actually, the graphical difference was not the most apparent difference for me.
One of the most talked about difference is in the department of story and voice acting. The script is almost entirely the same, with some minor differences, which in The Twin Snakes are supposedly more close to the original Japanese script. Which one I prefer depends on what part I’m talking about, it’s not clearly one game over the other. For Vulcan Raven’s death scene, for example, I prefer The Twin Snakes script (‘The path you walk on has no end. No matter how far you go, or how many corpses you crawl over, the killing will never end. It’s a future without hope’ compared to ‘The path you walk on has no end. Each step you take is paved with the corpses of your enemies. Their souls will haunt you forever. You shall have no peace.’ in the original). But I prefer the original for Gray Fox’s line (‘every time I looked at her, I saw her parents eyes staring back at me’) as opposed to (‘I trembled with fear’) in The Twin Snakes. In the original it is more evident what he means. Also, when Meryl gets shot she says ‘war is ugly, there’s nothing glamorous about it’ in the original, and in The Twin Snakes ‘nothing comes out of war’. Here I prefer the original as well, again because it’s more direct and more clear what she means. But the differences are far and few between (they probably are only noticeable to those who are very familiar with the script), so it’s not clearly one game that is better than the other here.
The voices were re-recorded entirely, and for some characters there is a clear difference, whereas for others the difference is barely noticeable. Examples of characters that are pretty much the same are Solid Snake, Campbell and Otacon. Some characters, like Liquid, sound the same but pronounce things differently (with different emphasis on words). The biggest differences are the voices of Gray Fox and Psycho Mantis. Gray Fox has a different voice actor in the original, but here I prefer The Twin Snakes, where I find the voice more fitting. Psycho Mantis has the same voice actor, but he sounds a lot more messed up in The Twin Snakes. For this character I prefer the remake as well. But for Sniper Wolf I would say the original is better, her voice sounds more broken in her death scene. Mei Ling and Naomi have accents in the original, which were removed in The Twin Snakes. I also prefer the newer versions, it doesn’t make much sense for them to talk like that since they both grew up in America, and Naomi sounds more like she does in MGS4. People often complain that she sounds more lifeless in The Twin Snakes, but in a way, her voice is fitting for her role in the game, sort of bitter and devoid of emotions, with her only goal of taking revenge on Solid Snake.
Another difference is the music. One of the decisions I don’t like about The Twin Snakes is the fact that they removed Enclosure, especially during the death scene of Sniper Wolf. Having said that, The Twin Snakes has a great soundtrack itself and most of the music that was replaced or added is great (such as the ‘Naomi song’ that was also used in MGS4, I don’t know the name of the track in The Twin Snakes but in MGS4 it’s called ‘Atonement’). Another example is, again, Vulcan Raven’s death scene, which I feel has better music in The Twin Snakes.
Of course The Twin Snakes has the infamous ‘Matrix’ scenes, in which Snake is performing all sorts of acrobatic moves. I’m not a fan of those myself since they feel too over the top for the character, especially the rocket jump during the Hind D fight. For Gray Fox however, the new choreography is very fitting and it makes his character even better. Some scenes also have improved camera-movements, with the most notable one the death scene of Vulcan Raven, which I feel is more powerful in The Twin Snakes due to the cinematography. Because of the crooked camera angles you can see Snake isn’t just walking away, but Raven’s words actually affect him. Also the fight between Gray Fox and REX is great to watch. All in all, a little more time is taken for the cutscenes, which is probably also thanks to the more powerful hardware. But not all scenes are improved, aside from the over the top moves of Snake there’s also the already mentioned Sniper Wolf death scene for example, which was better in the original.
One thing that is noticeable about Metal Gear Solid is how well it stood the test of time. Not once did I have problems with playing a game from 1998, while in the gaming industry quite a lot has changed during that period. The gameplay works so well, and the visuals are so consistent and good that it doesn’t matter at all that this is a 13 year old game. Another reason might be the great sound (music, voice acting, sound effects) that really doesn’t feel aged. You immediately forget that you are playing a fairly old game. It goes to show how much this game was probably ahead of its time.
Having played both versions I still think The Twin Snakes is a good remake. It’s not meant to replace the original but as an additional game, and very welcome for those who missed the original. The director, Kitamura, initially wanted to make the cutscenes very similar to the original, but Kojima himself said the he should put his own style into them. So this is how The Twin Snakes should be seen, not as a replacement of the original, but an addition, a retelling of the story. However, aside from a few differences it’s actually still a very faithful remake. Some things are better in the original, other things are better in the remake. The important thing to realize is that there doesn’t have to be a ‘winner’ here, they are both great games that can introduce people to the series.