Metal Gear Solid HD Collection (Vita)

Released on June 12, Metal Gear Solid: HD Collection for the PS Vita feels like it’s long overdue (seeing as how the console edition was released in November), but it is a very welcome addition to the Vita’s somewhat lacking lineup of video games.

Like the console edition, the Vita edition is a complete overhaul of two of the greatest games ever made, with Metal Gear 1 and 2 tossed in just for fun. Both Metal Gear Solid 2 and 3 play remarkably well (as you’d expect), with the revamped camera system and so on. The visuals are crisp (especially on the Vita) and brilliant and are probably the best they’ve ever looked. The game’s incredible soundtrack sounds great on the Vita, too, and feels like it’s been remastered with the rest of the game.

Obviously you’re down two buttons without the L2 and R2 buttons, both of which were pretty key and let you change weapons and equipment. Now both of those features are used by pressing either the bottom left or bottom right corners of the screen, bringing up a fairly intuitive equipment menu. While some complain that it’s tough for fat fingers, you can actually just drag your finger up slowly and eliminate that problem altogether. Weapons in MGS2 are grouped together by type (ie, your pistols will be stored together), which makes weapon selection a bit easier. You do end up with smudged bottom left and right corners, which is a bit of a drag, but nothing too big.

You do use the rear touch pad, too. Pressing on various sides of it allow you to peek around corners in first person mode, which takes getting used to (my hands rest on the edge of the touchpad during regular use, so I end up “peeking” to the left or right [or even up] slightly in gunfights and so on). In MGS3 specifically, tapping the rear touch pad allows you to interrogate enemies while touching the pad and drawing your fingers apart will cause you to slit your enemy’s throat. Also in MGS3 (since in MGS2 your footsteps were pretty much always muffled), pressing L while walking will cause you to walk slowly (and silently). The problem with all these controls is that they’re not explained at any point, so the first time you run up behind a guy and he hears you a mile away and you barely manage to get him into a chokehold, you’ll probably end up either interrogating him or opening him like an envelope before you have a chance to stop yourself.

The game does have a few problems; the lack of a secondary trigger buttons (not to mention L3 and R3 buttons!) does make things a bit of a hassle, as well as the problem I mentioned with accidently peeking during regular use. The Steve Jobs philosophy of  “hold it differently” might apply here.

The best part about the Vita edition is that we get to see Transfarring in action; it’s OK and works as advertised, allowing you to transfer FROM THE CLOUD or from the PS3 directly, allowing you to play mostly uninterrupted. Trophies and so on will transfer too, so that’s pretty solid (as a warning, if you begin the game without a wireless connection, you won’t be able to sign into the PS Network and won’t be able to ever transfer that save). It’s nice and allows you, if you paid $80 ($40 an edition) for one 11-year-old game and one 8-year-old game, to pretty much play between consoles seamlessly.

The biggest thing missing from the Vita edition is the complete absence of Peace Walker (which is available on the PSN store for $30 or so), a game which was remastered for the console (and looks like a remastered handheld game and not like a console game). The PSP edition is OK because you can use the second analog stick for the camera controls and make do, but obviously the visuals are worse than they could be. And, if you have the  Vita, Transfarring doesn’t work. Transfarring only works for Peace Walker between the PSP and the PS3. What the fuck, Konami?

If, like me, you’re a hardcore MGS fan, this collection is welcome (again). If you have never played either game, this is a perfect chance and really shows off what the Vita is capable of doing. The games are two of the best video games ever made and run seamlessly off the PS Vita. The $40 / game price point makes it hard to justify Transfarring (unless, again, you’re a huge fan), and the lack of Peace Walker is ridiculous. Seriously: the PS3 edition practically promised PW on the Vita, and to see it missing is an enormous let-down — especially since the PSP version is so expensive, it’s pretty clear that Konami and Sony (or maybe just one or the other) would rather make $30 for PW and $40 for MGS2 & 3 than make $40 for all three. It’s actually really disappointing, and really subtracted from my enjoyment of the game. They dropped the bar really hard here, and it’s kind of a mystery why.

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