Mission or Beliefs
In the past I have criticized Snake Eater for being oversimplistic in its narrative, and generally "selling out" in order to win back fans who became jaded with MGS2. But while this does bother me, it's not because I think Kojima is a bad guy; I just wish he would have been willing to say "screw you" to the vocal critics of the series. Really, I must applaud Kojima for rising to the challenge the way he did, and trying to balance his "mission" (keeping the series popular) with his own "beliefs" (the message of the series). I especially enjoy this balancing act after revisiting the game, and looking at it from the perspective of a metaphor for Kojima's feelings, much like I've done with Metal Gear Solid 4.
In this metaphor, The Boss represents a paragon of detached duty and self-sacrifice, always aware of what is needed of her and always willing to do what it takes — even if it means losing her life or betraying the ones she loves. She never puts her personal feelings ahead of the mission, and even realizes that the mission goes beyond the stated objectives. Doing the right thing, no matter how difficult, without getting sentimental.
Video clip: Choosing a path
Snake has been betrayed by the one person he truly loves, and can't bring himself to let go of the past. Watch the video and look at how he clings on to the bandana of the Boss, which is a symbol of his loyalty to her, even though his mission demands that he kill her in order to prove himself. If he can't choose a path and complete this impossible task, the world is in peril.
Likewise, Kojima feels betrayed by gamers, and doesn't want to sell out the series. He clings on to its trademark symbols, but at the same time he is being asked to destroy its core values in order to prove himself. If he can't choose a path, the series is in peril. The last thing he wants to do is to betray the ill-received masterpiece of MGS2, but he must. It's lovely how Kojima is still working on multiple levels.
Snake, like Kojima, doesn't know whether he should fight for what he believes in, or complete his mission coldheartedly like a mindless soldier; whether to rebel against the expectations of the masses at the risk of destroying the series, or selling it out in the hopes of creating a better tomorrow and avoiding disaster. In order to save the series, he has to kill the part of it he loves: the message. Unless he can find a way to do both, which seems to be impossible.
The complexity of this situation is reflected in the relationship between not only The Boss and Snake, but the Cobra Unit as well. As he progresses through his mission he must overcome "Pain", "Fear", "End" (ie. sense of impending eternal void), "Fury", and "Sorrow". This is not only a metaphor for how Naked Snake must "devour" his emotions over the course of his mission (which is clever enough,) but also for how Kojima must devour his personal feelings in order to finish his mission: giving people what they want. After all, we're told that the reason for the mission name being "Snake Eater" was because he had to defeat the Cobra Unit, with the implication being that he symbolically "eats" them, and carries their emotion within himself as he continues onward.
I wouldn't even be surprised if the sequential order in which you fight them represents the actual emotional process he went through, since Kojima is knowingly following through with the speech Solid Snake gave at the end of MGS2:
Solid Snake: Life isn't just about passing on your genes. We can leave behind much more than just DNA. Through speech, music, literature and movies... what we've seen, heard, felt ...anger, joy and sorrow... these are the things I will pass on. That's what I live for. We need to pass the torch, and let our children read our messy and sad history by its light. We have all the magic of the digital age to do that with. The human race will probably come to an end some time, and new species may rule over this planet. Earth may not be forever, but we still have the responsibility to leave what traces of life we can. Building the future and keeping the past alive are one and the same thing.
Oh yes, for those who know how to read between the lines, MGS3 can be just as post-modern and brilliant as its predecessor. The trick, this time, was that it needed to do so in complete secrecy, lest it risk exposing its secret message and ruining the "mission". No more game-breaking twists; no more "eating itself", as IGN put it. And that is what Naked Snake, and Kojima, ultimately accomplish. Rather than choosing between living as a a heartless soldier who obeys what he's told, or living as a rebellious idealist who defies the mission for his own beliefs, they choose to be both at the same time.
This is symbolized in the game by Naked Snake completing his mission and killing The Boss (thus proving his innocence), while still keeping her bandana (which has been established as a sign of his unwillingness to let go) and saluting her grave. In the end he takes the title of "Big Boss" while being applauded by those around him, and yet he doesn't shake the hand of the President, and isn't the least bit happy with his praise. The same can be said for Kojima, in a way. Certainly the game won him universal praise and "proved his innocence", but yet he had to compromise his integrity and sacrifice a part of himself, becoming a victim of the times who must keep his true feelings secret.
This is truly genius because it can be extrapolated to fit the original description of Big Boss in Metal Gear for the MSX, which, if you remember, was that of both a hero and a madman. A "patriot" and a "rebel", you could say. Kojima connects himself to the plight of Big Boss, and by doing so is secretly telling fans that his actions will be misunderstood, and he will be called both a good and evil by those who come after, like Big Boss. In other words he will continue to do what he is asked, but at the same time implant the messages that he cares about, just as Big Boss later acts simultaneously as commander of FOXHOUND and the leader of Outer Heaven, while ultimately trying to accomplish the mission of the "times".
MGS2 tried to force players to look beyond what they were told in order to see the truth; to challenge their naïve eagerness to follow along with the mission, by stripping away illusions. Everyone remembers what the Colonel tells you in Arsenal Gear...
Colonel: Why not? This is a type of role-playing game. The point is that you play out your part -- and I expect you to turn in a perfect performance!
Unfortunately, MGS3 can't afford to be so obvious. Instead, Kojima has to allow those who want a typical spy-thriller to play through the game without any confounding "metababble", while offering those who are keen enough to hunt for messages plenty to digest.
How does Kojima manage to fulfill this mission? What are the demands of the times? How does Snake Eater prove its innocence in the eyes of the world? Continue to the next part and read about it.
Part Three: Mission Accomplished
Back to Metal Gear Solid 3