Metal Gear Solid Rising: How Parrying Can Increase Your Self-esteem

MetalGearParry

It shouldn’t even be a debate at this point.  I think we can all agree that ninjas, assassins, pirates, and robots are officially the four coolest jobs on the planet.  Imagine my delight when, last week, I had just finished playing a blockbuster title about a robot ninja when I saw a trailer for another title about a pirate assassin.  Seriously, pinch me if I’m dreaming.  Whoever sells those Low-T pills might be in for a rough fiscal year, because the world should be good on testosterone for a while.  The badass bases got loaded within the course of a couple weeks.  Here’s hoping for a Robopirassaninja to drive them home..

If you haven’t guessed, the robot ninja I am referring to is Raiden, from Metal Gear Solid: Rising.  I have been extremely excited for this title since its announcement, though I did not really know much about it before I started it up.  Back when Metal Gear Solid 4 was released, half of the exciting moments had already been revealed in trailers and gameplay clips, none of which bore the “Spoiler Alert” label.  This time around, I avoided all press coverage on the game, which was not easy considering that I am a member of the press.  Last month, our weekly topical meetings went something like this.  Jon would say, “Hey man, did you see that article for MGS Rising?  They released a new…”  Then I would go “LA! LA! LA! LA! LA! LA! LA!” as I covered my ears and shook my head with all the multitasking talent of the child from this commercial.

There is a point here, eventually.  For me, the biggest spoiler from Metal Gear Solid 4 was that Raiden became an unstoppable robotic ninja killing machine, and that was kind of an important one.  Raiden’s early melee spree was one of the first clips we saw from the game, and it generated a ton of buzz.  I can’t say I didn’t enjoy watching it.  Still, as Raiden soared through the skies, living out the Aflac duck’s dream of slicing out Gekko brains, I couldn’t help but imagine how amazing it would have been to see it for the first time, live and in context.  They robbed me of that by releasing all of that footage, but looking back, I suppose they didn’t have a choice.

 

gekko

AFLAC Mutha F&#%@!!!!

 

Of course Kojima was excited to reveal Raiden’s new form.  The last time Raiden appeared in the series, Kojima was in the middle of the third biggest troll in human history.  Seriously, the list reads, “Joseph Smith creates Mormonism,” then “Mayans plan prank way too far in advance,” then “Snake is not the main character in the sequel to Metal Gear Solid.”  Personally, I thought it was funny, though that was not the general opinion at the time.  Plus, even though Raiden was a talkative, winey, sissy, there were serious upsides to walking in his shoes.  In real life, I am way closer to being a sissy than I am to being a hardened warrior.  As Snake mentored Raiden and assumed the role of father figure, I felt like he was mentoring me in the process.  The game had a way of drawing me in emotionally, so I could forgive a little treason here and there.

Fast forward to MGS4, when Kojima grossly overcompensated on the whole Raiden being a sissy thing.  He took up half of the world’s most awesome jobs when he created him, which has only been done a handful of times throughout human history.  In reality, he made Raiden cooler, while making Snake older and lamer, a strategy which essentially reversed the problem he created in the first place.  First they didn’t want to play as Raiden.  Now they only want to play as Raiden.  What is a developer to do?

 

Obviously, this is my favorite example, outside of Futurama of course.

This one is actually a robot, an assassin, a kindergarten teacher, and a cop.

 

Rise.  When Raiden underwent his MGS4 transformation, any hope he had of being a stealth hero went out the window.  Raiden only became popular because watching him perform his blood ballets was incredibly entertaining.  For him to be the star of a new game, players would have to be able to execute those maneuvers themselves, transitioning from a state of watching to one of doing, and becoming blade quenchers in their own rights.  This requires a balance that action games often fall short of achieving.  All too often, when I play an action game, it feels like I am merely watching someone else play.  The moves look really great on screen as I jam on the X button and take a bite of my sandwich, but the experience is not personally rewarding or fulfilling.  I don’t want to see a badass; I want to be a badass, and that’s where button-mashers fall short.  Of course, making the challenge too difficult creates a new set of problems.  Again, it is all about balance.  Players need to be able to achieve deadly maneuvers, while still feeling like the deadly maneuvers are actual achievements.  The combat system needs to be accessible, but deep, and skill-based.  It is a very thin line to toe.

With the huge emphasis it places on cool looking animations and combos, MGS Rising is the perfect candidate to be a button-masher.  Thankfully, this is not the case.  In fact, for the first hour or so, there is nothing cool-looking about the combos you will be performing.  When I got to the first boss, my best combo was getting kicked in the face, shot with a rocket, and then dying.  Everyone I have spoken to so far has had the same experience with the game’s first level, following the intro mission.  Raiden is supposed to be an agile, brute, killing force.  However, when I was controlling him, he behaved more like a recently animated sack of yams, learning motor skills for the first time.  Before you figure out the key to the battle system, the game will be a little more frustrating than rewarding, and you will certainly not feel like a badass.  By the time you fight the second boss, you will probably have figured out the secret.

 

Everyone has a Metal Gear now... they're like Blu-ray players.  Trust me... just parry it.

Everyone has a Metal Gear now… they’re like Blu-ray players. Trust me… just parry it.

 

Screw it.  The secret is parrying.  The game’s tutorial vaguely hints that parrying is a possibility, but it should explicitly state that nothing exists outside of parrying.  The hesitance with which the tutorial mentions this combat mechanic is odd, since the parrying system is actually the game’s greatest achievement.  The combat system is a lot like God of War 2, where dodging is sometimes not as effective as blocking, and it is often not effective at all.   Precision is key, and mistimed presses are punished heavily.  The action is very fast paced, and parrying requires a directional input in addition to a timed-button press.  The result is a system that is difficult but realizable, and ultimately, one of the most rewarding combat experiences since Dark Souls.

There are very few disposable enemies in MGS Rising.  The traditional level structure of fighting through hundreds of peons before facing a tough boss has been abandoned.  Regular enemies function more as item drops than obstacles, as consuming their spinal cords replenishes Raiden’s health.  The majority of the real combat occurs between Raiden and various bosses, mini-bosses, and enemies who used to be bosses but show up everywhere now.  Fighting swarms of enemies is not part of the formula, and one-on-one battles are commonplace.  Because the parry system is so important and challenging, these one-on-one battles feel a lot like duels, of both physical skill and cunning.  The action and animations provide a violent and thrilling awe factor, but there is always a sense that the player is controlling and earning the ensuing carnage.  There is an RPG element to the game where players collect enemy forearms and use them as currency for robotic upgrades, but leveling Raiden up will not be enough to succeed.  The player is never given enough points to make Raiden overpowered, and thus, becoming a better player becomes even more important than developing a better character.  If you really want a fun, rewarding challenge, spend all your points on new moves instead of physical upgrades so you can vary your arsenal and really earn your kills.

 

SAT prep time kids... Severed hands are to currency as spinal cords are to food.

SAT prep time kids… Severed Hands : Currency :: Spinal Cords : Food

 

A study was conducted a while ago that suggested a link between success in video games and increased self-esteem.  This is the type of game they had in mind when they designed that study.  Players cannot help but feel like superstars as they tactfully slice through enemies and bosses.   If the incredible action sequences at your fingertips don’t provide enough of an ego boost, the soundtrack is absolutely erection-inducing.  When those electrifying 80’s rock jams get to blasting, with firey vocals and guitar solos layering in as you reach new milestones in the fight, you are sure to get lost in the moment.  When you do, you better watch where you swing that sword.  MGS Rising manages to take a character whose acrobatic killing style was so visceral and inspiring that it could only be realized in cut scenes, and create a rewarding, action-based, combat system that achieves the same level of grandeur.  Playing as Dante was fun, playing as Kratos was thrilling, but playing as Raiden is empowering.  It is a departure from the tired, reticle-based games that are released four times per month, and a return to what games should be… fun.  The chips were certainly stacked against them pulling this one off, but they managed to do it.  Play it, and then play it again.  There is no feeling like it.

Thomas Shamburger
Thomas is one of the original creators of "What's Jump?" As a lifelong gamer, writer, and comedian, his goal is to provide readers with humorous, entertaining, and thought-provoking perspectives on current gaming news and culture. His early career successes in the business world helped to pave the way for the site's launch in 2012. As the Editor in Chief of "What's Jump?" he combines his passions for gaming, writing, entrepreneurship, and comedy.
Thomas Shamburger
Thomas Shamburger

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