As if blowing us away with the release of the Metal Gear Solid HD Collection on home consoles earlier this year wasn’t enough, the crazy people at Konami thought it was a good idea to bring the madness of conspiracies, nuclear warfare, ninjas, giant robots and the paranormal to the PS Vita as well. The only difference being, this compilation lacks Metal Gear Solid: Peacewalker, which snuck into the PS3 and Xbox 360 versions. Aside from this omission, there’s a lot to cheer about. In terms of content, nothing has been left out. Unless you count auxiliary features found in the original PS2 release; the Secret Theatre, which lets you view all the games cinematics as a movie and the Snake Vs. Monkey mini-game are both missing from Metal Gear Solid 3. Be it the breathtaking opening cinematic of Metal Gear Solid 3 to the modern action score of Metal Gear Solid 2, it's all there. And more. Konami have been generous enough to sanction this release with the Substance and Subsistence versions of MGS2 and MGS3 respectively for complete PS3/Xbox 360 parity.

This augurs well for buyers because not only do you get the very excellent base games in all their glory, but you have access to the extra content that these two PS2-era releases had. Think of the Substance and Subsistence editions as Director’s Cuts – definitive versions replete with a wealth of extras. MGS2:Substance has over 500 missions strewn across the main areas of the game as well as computer generated “VR missions” – apart from the main game. There are wacky “Snake Tales” that let you don the role of the series' hero, Solid Snake, in a series of short missions across a sprawling refinery known as the Big Shell. If you can excuse the pun, these additions make the game feel a lot more substantial than it already is. 

Upscaled graphics from Peace Walker

Upscaled graphics from Peace Walker

Meanwhile, MGS3: Subsistence packs in the original Metal Gear games on the same card. These are the very games responsible for the series’ legacy of a quarter of a century. They debuted on the hard-to-find MSX console and then later, NES, making it a must-have for the discerning gamer. Now that we have an idea of the content crammed into this Vita game card, we can take a look at the games themselves. For the first hour and a half, MGS2 follows the exploits of gruff hero Solid Snake as he seeks to infiltrate a tanker that carries a new version of the Metal Gear walking tank that he destroyed in the first game (which is missing from this compilation). 

Tanker chapter of MGS2

Tanker chapter of MGS2

After this, you find yourself in the shoes of Raiden, a newbie agent on his first mission to eliminate a terrorist threat in an environmental facility. Back in the day, this well-kept secret surprised the most die hard of Metal Gear fans; years later and with Raiden due for his own game in the form of Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, it still hurts. Mini ranting and legendary trolling from Konami aside, if there's one single reason for someone new to the franchise to give up on MGS2, it's due to the control scheme. The fixed camera doesn't help either. If you're used to the control scheme of MGS4 or any contemporary third-person game, you will not like this one bit. It's awkward and takes a while to get used to. 

A screen grab from Peace Walker, originally a PSP title

A screen grab from Peace Walker, originally a PSP title

In the looks department though, it clearly benefits from the HD update. It's a lot cleaner in most places, thanks to the magic pixie dust of current gen graphical techniques. Speaking of eye candy, MGS3 looks simply stunning. There’s not a pixel out of place vis-a-vis the home console versions. Lush jungle environments, gorgeous character models and silky animations all make this look quite beautiful. Even the camera is better. It is fully movable, which means it prevents you from getting into god-awful situations such as bumping into patrolling guards when you meant to lay low in cover.

Box art of the collection, for PS3 and Xbox 360

Box art of the collection, for PS3 and Xbox 360

The plot has super-agent Naked Snake up against the Russian army and the dangers of the jungle as he must complete his mission to rescue a top nuclear scientist. It may sound pretty straightforward, but given the series’ creator Hideo Kojima’s penchant for storytelling, you’re left with a tale that has more twists than your small intestine. There’s double-crossing, triple-crossing, some philosophical rambling and a heap of the occult thrown in as well. This portable edition matches the production values of it’s bigger brethren with ease, barring a few instances where Metal Gear Solid 2 suffers from some aliasing issues, giving it a rather rough, jagged look. Both MGS2 and MGS3 run at a smooth 30 frames per second. Sure it isn’t at the 60 frames the home console versions were, but it gets the job done without a fuss. 

There’s a noticeable improvement to the sound quality as well. Harry Gregson-William’s music breathes some much needed life into the Vita’s tiny speakers, which do a great job of mimicking surround sound. Both games control similar to their PS2 and PS3 counterparts. But there’s the addition of some touchscreen interactivity. Simply tapping the screen equips or unequips an item and a  longer  press  brings  up  your  inventory,  which  you  can  scroll through. You can use the rear touchpad as well. Flicking it in MGS3 lets you stab unsuspecting foes. Also, you can zoom in with the front screen and swipe to look around corners, to name a few. They’re decent substitutes for the lack of R2 and L2 triggers but at times feel unresponsive and a tad unintuitive. 

Furthermore, the games themselves aren’t exactly portable. Missions aren’t snackable five minute affairs that you can dive into and surface from. Given the series’ propensity for lengthy cut-scenes and detailed exposition, you’ll find yourself wanting to play this in one location rather than being on the move. If you’re the sort who loves earning trophies, though, this game delivers twice as many, the reason being you can sync files with the PS3 version in order to unlock trophies on both games with one single playthrough. A neat feature for the PlayStation acolytes. For all purposes, Metal Gear Solid HD Collection on the Vita is a fine purchase if you’re hankering for some fine espionage action. The narrative still holds up, as does the presentation. And while the controls are hit or miss, there’s very little wrong with this compilation. The franchise is still brimming with timeless content. Recommended for the discerning Vita owner.

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