Kept You Waiting, Huh?: The Music of the Metal Gear Solid Series

Gamer Grooves

As always, a friendly reminder that this post may contain spoilers.

Metal Gear Solid is one of my most beloved series. Now that I think back on it, my choice to pick up the collection (MGS 1 – 3) came completely out of the blue. I had seen Metal Gear Solid before, mostly MGS 2, and the beginning Tanker section of the game. I always knew it was cool, but I had this feeling that the game really wouldn’t be my thing. Despite having those thoughts in the back of my mind, and I had just picked up the Devil May Cry collection, so I decided to give MGS a shot, too. By the time I finished the 3rd game, the PS3 had been out for a bit and MGS 4 was on the horizon. I purchased a PS3 for no reason other than to finish Solid Snake’s saga. In fact, even after I had beaten the game, it took me a bit to realize that I had a gaming console and could play other things on it. It was like I had forgotten I was playing the game because I was so caught up in the story.

And this is where many of the people who have problems with MGS make their case. They feel that there are too many cutscenes, too much talking, and not enough gameplay. I can’t speak to the feelings of others, everyone has their own opinion; all I know is that Hideo Kojima created a story that had me wanting more every time. I’m not saying that people who dislike cutscenes dislike stories, because that’s not true. I think in the end, it clicks with some people and not others. That’s totally okay, but where it doesn’t polarize is on the music.

Since we’re covering four games, I’ll list the composers for each:

For Metal Gear Solid, Sound Team Japan (Takanari Ishiyama, Gigi Meroni, Kazuki Muraoka, Lee Jeon Myung and Hiroyuki Togo), Tappi Iwase, and Rika Muranaka.

Sons of Liberty was done by Harry Gregson-Williams, Norihiko Hibino, and a returning Rika Muranaka.

Snake Eater was Harry Gregson-Williams and Norihiko Hibino returning, Tappi Iwase, the band Starsailor, and the singer Cynthia Harrell.

Finally, Guns of the Patriots once again had Harry Gregson-Williams, Nobuko Toda, Shuichi Kobori, and Kazuma Jinnouchi.

It’s quite the list to be sure, but now that we can put names behind the music, let’s look at the music itself! I’ll try and list them in game order for convenience!

Songs

Metal Gear Solid – Encounter

Encounter is the quintessential song in the first Metal Gear Solid. The music forms the backbone for many of the tracks within the game, and on your first playthrough, it is probably the one you’ll hear the most. I love how the one rhythmic beat is like your heart beat as you try and escape from the guards you accidentally alerted. Even if you choose to fight them, it’s still music that can represent a fight to the death pretty easily..

Metal Gear Solid – Escape

As you escape the battle with Rex and Liquid Snake, you get into a jeep with (INSERT NAME OF PERSON YOU SAVED) and rush out of the building. This music plays as you fight your way through guard posts and blockades. You’re moving along totally fine until you hear, “NOT YET SNAKE. IT’S NOT OVER YET.” It’s Liquid, who survived the explosion of a Hind helicopter, Rex being destroyed, and being beaten and falling 20 feet to the floor. He’s driving a jeep of his own with an assault rifle in one hand. The music becomes instantly more notable because now you’re in a fight to escape and a final confrontation with your seemingly indestructible brother.

It’s a song that tells of the battle of determination between Liquid and Solid, and it’s so strong because there’s no chance either of them are giving up. It’s a variation on the Encounter theme, but it’s the one variation that’s awesome in its own right. When Liquid screams those words at you and the battle begins, I can’t really properly convey how awesome it was and I don’t think I’m doing it real justice. If you played it, you know what I’m talking about.

Metal Gear Solid 2 – Main Theme

This is definitely one of the best songs on the list, and not merely for the nostalgia. It’s a remix of the main theme for the first Metal Gear Solid. The reason I didn’t put that one on the list? It’s because of the orchestral accompaniment to the synthesizer that makes it immediately recognizable. This is when the main composer of the soundtracks switched to Harry Gregson-Williams, and Williams enjoys the orchestral music for sure.

The fact that it sounds so much more ahead of its time than the original theme makes you realize how big of a jump forward MGS 2 is from MGS. Graphics, gameplay, sound; it has all been taken further than anyone imagined. Also, keeping up with the patriotic theme that’s prevalent in the game, starting at 2:40, the music is somber and utilizes the horn (adding more as it goes along). The melody is so good and so recognizable, it’s no wonder why it’s so beloved.

Metal Gear Solid 2 – Yell Dead Cell

Dead Cell are the new crew of bosses that Raiden must face over the course of the Plant chapter. Where the Duel theme from MGS was a variation on Encounter, signifying Foxhound’s unison and dedication to the group and mission, Yell Dead Cell is more about their quirks. Dead Cell has a very odd group of characters in it, where Foxhound seemed to have a group that could handle any situation. I won’t say that Dead Cell is unhinged, but their spread of abilities and how unconnected they seem make Yell Dead Cell seem like a fight against the individual. I know how weird that sounds, especially because the song is obviously named after the group, but their personalities are so crazy that each encounter feels even more unique than the ones with Foxhound.

Metal Gear Solid 3 – Snake Eater
(I posted the intro instead of just the song because you need the whole picture)

This is the song that most of the people reading this list were waiting for. Even as I post this song and listen to it, I have to sing along. This song is right on the money with what it was trying to accomplish and it’s also the reason why I had to post the intro along with it. I was playing as Naked Snake, and the game took place in the 1960s. So before I saw the intro, I was just trying to adjust with the new characters and story.

Once I saw the intro however, I was hooked immediately. This song tells me that I’m about to take part in a James Bond movie. Secret gadgets, Cold War deception, even a “Bond” girl. The intro plays it straight like a James Bond film as well: images of the people, imagery of the focus of the game (skeletal snakes going everywhere), and the entire song, which was composed solely for this use. Once this song got me into the mindset, Snake Eater became my favorite MGS game and I hadn’t even gotten 1/3rd into the game yet.

Metal Gear Solid 3 – Takin’ on the Shagohod

I really like this track because it continues that James Bond theme and carries it into the final encounter. Now, Colonel Volgin is not the actual final boss, but in regards to the spy story and stopping a doomsday device, this is the song that does it. Where there is one part of the plot that deals with the complicated feelings of Naked Snake having to kill The Boss, there is the other part where you have to stop the mad rogue Russian colonel from taking over the world. I don’t want to call it wacky, but it’s a much more cathartic sort of battle than the one with The Boss. This song makes you feel like this is the final battle of a super spy thriller, making sure to keep the pace up and maintain how threatening Volgin is. It’s funny, though… I didn’t actually think about this song until it showed up on the iPod in MGS 4. Speaking of which…

Metal Gear Solid 4 – Old Snake

Old Snake is the representation of Solid Snake himself. The song (or at least the most memorable part) is just a single guitar. It’s Snake’s loneliness in the world, represented by a track that seems so thin and fragile. As Snake gets on in age, he sees that the world has not only moved on, but changed into something completely different. He’s a remnant of wars gone past, and now that they’re fought by PMCs (Private Military Contractors) and machines, he’s just an artifact by comparison.

As the song ramps up, it seems to also increase Snake’s importance, bringing back those feelings of stealth and espionage. Then it all comes to a head at 2:53, culminating in a little noise and ending the song by returning back to the single guitar. It’s almost as if it’s saying that despite being needed again, once he’s done, he’ll be back to being alone. It’s a really sobering song because the past three games have had a really uplifting and exciting theme, whereas Old Snake is just a cold and clear reminder that time will pass and so will he.

Metal Gear Solid 4 – The Best is Yet to Come

Now, before anyone gets up in arms about how this song is technically the ending credits theme to MGS 1, let me explain. It was a great song when it came out, but the moment it played in Metal Gear Solid 4 is a moment I’ll never forget. I have no problem admitting that I really didn’t play these games when they came out like a lot of diehard fans did. However, when Snake returned to Shadow Moses Island and this song played, my eyes welled up with tears. It was because I had been with Snake for his whole journey and to see him return to the broken down base as a broken down man was really emotional. As the song is playing, you’re walking around the heliport and remembering moments from the first Metal Gear Solid. Even someone like Snake gets to reminisce about the good old days, and it goes to show how meaningful a story and its characters can be to the person engaging it.

Metal Gear Solid 4 – Father and Son

Speaking of songs that got me emotional, Father and Son may take the cake. While the song may be about Snake and Big Boss, it’s also one about closure. It helped that we had backstory to Big Boss from Metal Gear Solid 3, because we could now get into both of the characters’ mindsets. For one moment, two men get to stand across from each other, understanding that time for either one of them is short. In that moment, they know that they no longer have to struggle or fight, despite it being all that they have ever known. While it’s closure for Big Boss in that he gets to reconcile with Snake at the grave of The Boss, it’s also more importantly closure for Snake.

I can’t say whether there will be another game with Solid Snake in it, but if not, then I am satisfied. With the aid of Father and Son, I think it’s great that Snake gets to live out the rest of his days not worrying about being a soldier. He gets this last moment with his father, and to learn one last lesson. I don’t really care how little sense it makes within the plot because it was all worth it for that moment. Snake can actually move on from fighting, which is something that he has been denied for basically his entire existence. Like Otacon says at the end of the game, “Snake… had a hard life.” I’m glad it didn’t end any other way.

Afterthoughts

There will be more Metal Gear Solids in the future. Hell, with MGS V coming down the line, I wouldn’t be surprised if more unknown adventures of Big Boss are on their way. All that I hope is that the tale of Solid Snake is over. Maybe he’ll have a cameo in MGS V, and that will be fine as long as the stories that are focused on Solid Snake don’t continue. Through the four primary games, I gained a really deep connection to what Hideo Kojima created. From picking up that random MGS collection at Gamestop to becoming one of my favorite series of all time… hey… you never know.

That’s gonna be all for today. Feel free to comment below on your favorite songs from MGS that I may or may not have touched on, or even on the post itself. Either way, I’ll see you all tomorrow!

“This is good….isn’t it?”

Solid Snake