Saturday, August 10, 2013

Metal Gear Solid 2: Bande Dessinée (Motion Comic)

Note: The following review is based on the English Dub of the non-interactive DVD version of the Metal Gear Solid: Sons of Liberty comic featured in Metal Gear Solid: The Legacy Collection.

While I'm in the frame of mind to review Metal Gear stuff, I decided that after reviewing Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake I would take a look at Metal Gear Solid 2: Bande Dessinée (the menu might subtitle it Digital Graphic Novel, but I'm going with what's on the actual box). Like Metal Gear Solid: Bande Dessinée, this is a motion comic created out of a comic produced by IDW, this time being Metal Gear Solid: Sons of Liberty. While the first Bande Dessinée has been made available in multiple forms in the U.S., this year's Metal Gear Solid: The Legacy Collection is the first time that this Bande Dessinée is made available internationally, thus giving me the opportunity to give it a look. Also, this was included in case the player either couldn't finish Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty or found it to be too archaic for their tastes. This three hour motion comic may have been included with good intentions, but when all is said and done, this isn't quite the best way to experience the story of the game it's based on.

After the plans for Metal Gear REX were sold on the black market, new Metal Gear prototypes have shown up all over. A tanker on the Hudson River contains the latest of these variants, an amphibious Metal Gear created by the military and dubbed Metal Gear RAY. Solid Snake, working with Otacon as the organization Philanthropy, infiltrates the tanker to get photographic evidence of this Anti-Metal Gear Metal Gear, but Ocelot shows up to take RAY for himself, having also taken photos of Snake on his mission. In the chaos that ensues from his presence, the tanker is destroyed and Solid Snake appears to be dead. Two years later, a FOXHOUND soldier named Raiden has been assigned a field op, which is a step up from simply trying to improve his performance in VR training. His mission is to infiltrate an offshore cleaning facility known as Big Shell and wrest control of it from the terrorist organization known as Dead Cell, apparently led by none other than Solid Snake, whose reputation has him painted as a terrorist thanks to the photos from the Tanker Incident. At first he's excited to finally be on the field, but gradually he learns that not everything is as it seems.

Variant cover of the first issue, depicting Solid Snake.

Going in, I had a good idea of the plot thanks to my time with the original game, but I find it rather interesting how writer Alex Garner decided to approach it. In contrast to Kris Oprisko from the first comic, Garner doesn't insert things from other material or add in a twist in perspective to help it suit the new medium, but rather he chooses to either rearrange certain events or characters to forge something that feels a bit different from what I'm used to seeing. While a lot of the dialogue from the game is left intact, there are enough differences that make it more of a separate entity, which may work for those unfamiliar with the game, but didn't quite work too well for me. It's not so much the dialogue that didn't settle, but more so the somewhat baffling changes made to the unfolding of the events.

One of these changes is giving The Sorrow a cameo appearance during one struggle within Ocelot's mind. I understand that The Sorrow is Ocelot's father, but that doesn't make the appearance any less out of left field, considering how it plays out (maybe IDW thought they'd get to do a comic for Metal Gear Solid 3?). As I previously mentioned, Garner seems to like switching things around with his take on the events of the Big Shell Incident, but this leads to some things which only serve to make the main story a little more confusing than it needs to be. Having Raiden and Snake do something important at the same time is one thing, but in the game it was Raiden who defeats the members of Dead Cell while Snake (as Iroquois Pliskin) handles other important tasks in the background and gives Raiden advice. In this version however, Dead Cell members, and Solidus Snake, are ultimately defeated by different characters, which gives Raiden less of a purpose except for the important scenes which require him to be there. Also, some major plot twists were given away earlier than they probably should have been. As this approach to the game made things more difficult to follow along, the motion comic became boring to watch (during the day no less) after a while and I needed multiple breaks to stop me from falling asleep.

On another note, Alex Garner once again screwed up Snake's characterization. Rather than Kris Oprisko's approach which makes him cold toward Otacon however, Garner seems to write him as more bloodthirsty, as evidenced by his complaints to Otacon about not being able to kill anyone. As far as I remember, Snake didn't make complaints like that during the Tanker Incident.

While I'm not exactly a fan of Garner's writing with this comic, I still think Ashley Wood is a good artist. His style is consistent from the Metal Gear Solid comic and I still find his art to be good for this, but I still think his style is best suited for horror. Once in a while the art would be difficult to decipher when a lot is going on, particularly in close-ups, but I like how the dull browns used heavily before are now complimented by other colors, like blues and greens, to create more dynamic visuals and capture the world of the game more closely.

Cover of the second issue, depicting Fortune.

The other aspects of the production, however, are very good. The voice acting is amazing, seeing as how it's pretty much the original cast, and the animation work is also of a pretty good quality, about on par with the previous Bande Dessinée. Since the general quality evens out, there's nothing really noteworthy I have to say, but I will commend Patric Zimmerman's work as Ocelot, especially his delivery at the points when Liquid Snake is peaking through him. It ties in better with the revelations made in Guns of the Patriots, which is perhaps the motion comic's biggest plus. In addition, I also like how the original music and sound effects were integrated into the animation, which helped it feel a little more like watching the game, even if the writing couldn't completely accomplish this.

So, with all of that said, is Metal Gear Solid 2: Bande Dessinée worth your time? Well, not exactly. Deviations made from the game would be more forgivable if they were made to help the story flow better, but Alex Garner's writing not only makes it harder to follow, he also managed to give Raiden less of a purpose in favor of highlighting Solid Snake more. Everything else about this production is great, but not enough to completely make up for the rather boring execution overall. If you want to try and experience the story without playing the game, then I'd tell you to try and acquire the individual issues of the comic so that you can read it at your own pace. However, you'd be better off playing the actual game, since it's a little more straightforward and plays with the concept of a suspiciously similar sequel in a much more brilliant fashion.

In case you're wondering, I'd also like to try and get my hands on the individual issues of the comic so that one day I might be able to review the story as read when stripped of all of the additions used to make it a motion comic.

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