Alongside the game’s release on September 1st, Piggyback published an official guidebook for Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, available in several different editions. Of course there is the regular paperback edition, but also (for those who want a bit more): a hardcover collector’s edition that comes with a ‘lithograph’ artwork by Yoji Shinkawa. The collector’s edition also includes an additional, 48-page strong art gallery, with commentary from the development team.
Additionally, UK retailer GAME carried an exclusive special edition version of the hardcover guide, with a silver colored cover instead of the regular dark one, and a Shinkawa artwork of Venom Snake, as opposed to a render. Furthermore, this version comes with two additional lithographs by Shinkawa. But more on that later.
As said before, the cover shows a render of Snake with his bionic arm. The black layer is made from a soft material, and the print has a shiny quality to it, which looks rather nice. On the back is a large print of the game’s logo: the famous red exclamation mark in the shape of a V.
In terms of size the guidebook is quite impressive. It’s large and heavy, and – with its over 400 pages – a lot thicker than the one for MGS4. The endpages are decorated with Shinkawa artwork showing Snake and Ocelot.
The opening page contains a foreword by Hideo Kojima, both in Japanese and in English, in which he explains how he was finally able to achieve ‘free infiltration’ with this game, followed by a contents page.
On the right side of every page is a handy overview that shows you exactly which and which subsection of this chapter you’re currently looking at. The various chapters in the guide are as follows:
The quickstart explains the best way to use the guide and the general structure of the game itself.
The primer provides an introduction to the game, its controls, HUD, mechanics and its rules. The full list of chapters in this part of the guide is: commands, onscreen display, game structure, mission preparations, stealth & infiltration, combat, navigation, resources, time management, inventory management, tactical support, wild cards, mother base, system interdependency and scores.
With about 150 pages this is the longest chapter of the guidebook, as was to be expected. It gives a detailed explanation of the missions and their various obstacles, bonuses and strategies, each mission illustrated with a detailed, full color map of the mission area and screenshots showing the key places for gathering extras or completing the mission. It also gives an overview of the story so far and its characters.
The smaller, usually optional missions of the game, the Side Ops, are detailed in this chapter.
A detailed guide on how to run Mother Base, and other game elements related to it, such as Forward Operating Bases and the Air Command Center. In this section of the guide you can also learn how to trigger certain story events, which is useful given the game’s a-linear structure.
Reference & Analysis
This section contains in-depth graphs and tables of the game’s systems and mechanics, such as soldiers’ skills, collectibles and an explanation of how the ranking system works. There are pages listing all the cassette tapes and their requirements, maps showing where to find what animals, how to obtain the various emblems and more.
The last chapter of the book is filled with various extras. There’s a timeline providing an overview of the series’ decades spanning story, a recap of the entire saga, the game’s secrets and character biographies.
Lastly, there are some pages with concept art. This is one of the extras that are exclusive to the collector’s edition version of the guide. Artworks showing environments, mechanical designs and character sketches can be found here.
The guide also comes with a large map (around 65 x 85 cm) of the game’s main locations: Africa and Mother Base on one side, and Afghanistan on the other.
The other bonus, the lithograph. It’s a bit smaller than the ones included with previous guides, and also printed on different kind of paper, but still, who could say no to a Shinkawa artwork?
Lastly, here are some pictures of the GAME exclusive edition of the guide.
As previously mentioned, the cover of this guide isn’t black but a silvery white, with fine dark lines running across its width. It also has an artwork of Snake raising his bionic arm on the front, but here it’s not a render but an artwork by Shinkawa. On the back is the same V logo as on the regular collector’s edition guide. The material of the cover is also a bit different: smooth paper instead of the soft, rubbery material.
These are the two extra lithographs that are included with this edition. These two contain Shinkawa artworks of Venom Snake as well, and they are gorgeous.
Other than it’s white cover and additional lithographs, the guide is the same as the regular dark cover version.
With the advent of the internet and online guides, the purely practical use of physical guidebooks has diminished – which is why publishers have turned them into collector’s items. Rather than simply offering a helpful hand for those who are stuck, these books are now also something for the hardcore fan to purchase for other reasons.
One of the most interesting things is the fact that there are small bits of commentary by Hideo Kojima accompanying many of the guide’s artwork gallery pages, giving some insight into his ideas behind certain design choices, character traits and story elements.
I conclusion, there are several reasons to get this guide even if you’re not looking for a walkthrough per se – though it is useful to have a complete overview of the game’s many mechanics and secrets. To most people the main attraction will probably be the insight it gives into game design and story, as well as the development. And it’s also simply a nice looking item to have on your shelf.