Friday, 29 May 2020

I Played METAL GEAR... So You Don't Have To

Before Metal Gear Solid (1998) blew everyone's minds on the original PlayStation, and set forth a hugely successful franchise, there was Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake (1990). But this article isn't about that, because before that game there was Metal Gear (1987) -- the first ever "Metal Gear".

Seeing as it's an 8-bit game, I assume nobody else on the planet has ever played it. Fear not, I decided to complete it and write the major plot points down so you could enjoy them without actually having to slog through the game itself. (Actually it's a very fun game considering its origins, but let's be honest: You're never playing it, are you?)

In other words...

I Played METAL GEAR, So You Don't Have To

There only one major plot twist in Metal Gear, but I'll get to that in a minute. First a little background.

You play as "Snake", a member of the elite US Army Special Forces Unit, FOXHOUND. "Big Boss", the leader of Foxhound, has sent you to the dangerous, mercenary-controlled, rogue-nation of "Outer Heaven" to stop it from holding the world to ransom with the new deadly super-weapon, METAL GEAR.

You arrive at Outer Heaven by sea and begin to infiltrate the nation's secret base. Your first task is to establish contact with "Grey Fox", Foxhound's greatest soldier, who was sent there before you but has gone missing! Snake is a Foxhound rookie at this point, which is an odd choice to send after Grey Fox into an impossible mission... or IS it? *wiggles eyebrows mysteriously* 

Your only contacts during the mission are Big Boss and several local resistance leaders. After much fun avoiding baddies, using remote control missiles, and hiding in cardboard boxes (yes, really as far back as this!), you learn from a hostage you rescue that Grey Fox is in a secret part of the base, and the only way to get to get there is to be captured yourself.

Soon afterwards you're captured and find yourself in a cell with no apparent way out. Using nothing but your incredible fists, you punch down your cell wall and find yourself Grey Fox's cell. (Lucky!)

You untie Grey Fox and he tells you that you need to rescue Dr. Drago Pettrovich Madnar in order to discover HOW to stop Metal Gear. Dr. Madnar, who helped design it, is also being held hostage in the same building... Find him!

So off you go to find Dr. Madnar (Gray Fox offers no assistance, the swine), but not before you fight your first silly-named boss baddie, "The Shotmaker"! Once you've gotten all your stuff back, and killed the baddie, you notice that someone has placed a Transmitter in your inventory! *Tricksy!* You dump it and continue your search.

After much more hijinx (the majority of the game, in fact), including jumping off a building wearing a parachute, wearing infrared goggles, using enemy uniforms, taking down a helicopter... You finally make it to Dr. Madnar! Only to discover it was a trap. He's not the real Dr Madnar -- the floor suddenly opens up and you fall to your death... nearly.

You push on to find the real Dr. Madnar. Eventually you find and rescue him, but when you explain your mission he says he'll only help you if you rescue his daughter. Ungrateful bast-- So anyway, you rescue his daughter and the real Dr. Madnar tells you how to defeat Metal Gear. Hurrah.

On your way to Metal Gear you get a call from a resistance leader who has been helping you. He tries to warn you that the leader of Outer Heaven is non-other than-- oh no! He dies. No need to worry too much, though, as another rescued hostage soon reveals the truth: Outer Heaven is controlled by Foxhound leader Big Boss!!! You've been betrayed!

As you get closer to Metal Gear, Big Boss tries to trick you into getting lost or becoming trapped, but you finally discover Metal Gear itself and blow the crap out of it.

Only then does Big Boss reveal himself in person: You were a rookie. You were never supposed to reach this far, let alone destroy Metal Gear and ruin Big Boss's plans to create a world for battle heroes (something like that). If he's going down, he's taking you down with him... He sets off Outer Heaven's auto-destruct sequence and starts to attack you.

Snake, of course, defeats the sod and manages to escape before Outer Heaven explodes. He sends one final message via his codec to Big Boss: "Mission complete".

Roll credits...

Just when you think it's all over, Big Boss comes back after the credits to tell Snake that he hasn't heard the last of him just yet... Muhahaha.

And that's it. Incredibly intricate for an 8-bit game, I'm sure you'll agree. So many elements from the later games, too. And actually, it's huge amount of fun. 

One day maybe I'll get around to playing Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake... so you don't have to.

Sunday, 1 March 2020

Final Fantasy VIII - Triple Triad Strategies

Whatever you think of Final Fantasy VIII, it's undeniably complicated. From it's complicated Junctioning system, to its complicated game-within-a-game, Triple Triad. While there's plenty of guides on where to find rare cards, or the rules of the game, but I couldn't find a guide anywhere that explains the basic strategies of actually playing (aka "why do I keep losing?!").

So I thought I'd put together a simple guide that might help you understand how to play, and even enjoy, this popular mini-game.

The first thing you need to know is that this is less about strategy, and more about having good cards. When you start the game you do not have good cards, so you are very likely to lose, which is a very frustrating way to start the game.

In short, don't even bother playing until you at least have the Ifrit card (which you get by following the main storyline).

But even once you have good cards, you will still need basic strategy for how to play. So here it is. It's incredibly simple, and once you've got it, you'll wonder why it was so difficult to begin with.

There are three acceptable moves to make, in order of how good they are. At the very least you should always be able to play a #1. If you can't, you're going to lose.

Move #1: Play a card that your opponent cannot flip.
EVERY card you play should adhere to this rule. Never place a card that your opponent can then flip. Using the sides of the play area, or other cards, is essential. There are no cards that are strong in every direction, so the most basic move you should always strive for is playing a card that your opponent cannot flip to their colour.

Remember: Equal numbers do not flip.

Move #2: Play a card that flips your opponent's card(s), but which they can flip back.
This is a slightly better move than the one above. Basically it's a little petty, but you flip a card of theirs with your move (and remember: always checking that the card you play cannot be flipped by your opponent). You will flip their card, but they will then flip is back to their colour on their move. This forces your opponent to focus to play defensively, and often play their cards poorly.

Move #3: (The best move) Play a card that flips your opponent's card(s), so that they cannot flip back.
Just like the above, but done in a way that your opponent is powerless to flip the card back to their colour. (Again, ensuring that the card you play cannot be flipped by them.)

Again, so simple once someone points this out, but when you're starting it can be baffling.

So your first move should nearly always be placing a card in a corner of the play area, in such a way that your opponents cards cannot be used to flip it. Your opponent will do the same. As you get further into the game, you will eventually be forced to clash. Follow the above rules and you will be fine -- provided you have strong enough cards. (It really is about the cards you hold.)

So there! A simple (and probably unnecessary) strategy guide for Triple Triad! :)