Survivor’s Guilt

Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain is an exceptional game with a shockingly awful story. Fans of the series are disappointed that many questions are not answered (or even brought up) and that the conclusion doesn’t really mesh with the Metal Gear canon. It seems that Kojima’s shift to open-world has put the plot on the backburner in favor of making an expansive and rewarding gameplay system.

That being said, there are a lot of individual moments that I truly enjoyed in the Phantom Pain. I like what the ending stands for and I’m really fond of the exploration of child soldiers in the modern world, but the side plot that focuses on Paz is probably the best of the bunch.

While Snake feeling remorse over the loss of Paz doesn’t make much sense for his character, it’s only after beating the game do you begin to understand the majesty of this side story. Since Venom Snake is actually the medic from Ground Zeroes, his guilt over being unable to save Paz makes sense.

Venom Snake may barely remember he is the medic, but his true identity can never be erased. He was there, staring at Paz as she blew up in his face. He even shielded Big Boss from the explosion and nearly died in the process.

You can’t even tell he had a different face!

Having lost his arm and identity, Venom Snake is left confused and alone. He doesn’t say much, constantly has people trying to kill him and bonds with a quiet woman who then leaves him. Worrying about Paz seems too minuscule in his life, but it’s very touching.

Throughout the course of the game, you can undertake side-ops missions that have you rounding up some of your soldiers from the MSF days. These guys were with you when Big Boss was taking on all the AI pods and saving the world from Paz and ZEKE.

The medic may not truly know that Paz was a traitor, but his mission with Big Boss to Camp Omega had one clear goal; bring Paz and Chico home. Even if Kaz and Boss’ intention were to extract information from them, they weren’t supposed to die in that plane.

The final revelation of Ground Zeroes turns out to be that Paz had a bomb implanted in her. Venom makes the call to extract it fast and proceeds to cut her open without anesthetic. It’s a tortuous scene that doesn’t make sense at first, but comes full circle with this side plot in the Phantom Pain.

The medic is guilty that, not only did he inflict more pain on Paz, but that he lived through the terrible ordeal. She was blown to pieces, but he is still alive and well. He cannot deal with the fact that he lost a patient that was so crucial to Big Boss’ plan.

It wasn’t for a lack of trying, though.

As such, when you gather up your soldiers from MSF, you are given memento photographs that showcase some of the best moments of Paz’s time with MSF. Things like her sun bathing, throwing a birthday party and singing with Kaz and Professor Galvez; it’s all really touching and helps to detail the internal struggle she suffered by being forced into hijacking ZEKE.

When you reach chapter 2 of the Phantom Pain, Ocelot informs you that a very important patient is waiting on the medical platform. When you go to inspect, you are dumbstruck to find Paz sitting on the bed. You saw her die with your own eyes; how is she still there?

At first, even the player is at a loss for answers. There is no conceivable way she lived through that incident. Unlike her falling into the water at the end of Peace Walker, Paz was torn asunder by a bomb. There is really no other definitive way someone could die.

As you bring the photographs back to Paz, it starts to become clear; this is an illusion in Venom’s mind that is materializing from his guilt. He has a classic case of survivor’s syndrome; he feels that he should have died in that explosion those 9 years ago.

The ending also has him relive the moments that ripped Paz out of this world. He sees her extract the bomb from her stomach and throw it on the bed. He tries his best to run for her and shield her from the blast. Nothing he can do changes the outcome; Paz is gone and Venom’s past life is over.

When he awakes from his delusion, Venom looks to the sky and realizes that life goes on. While he might have been able to do more, what happened is over. Paz understands that he tried his best, just as she did with Skull Face and Cipher.

More so, the medic comes to terms with the fact that he is now Big Boss. Though he never asked for the responsibility or the notoriety, the medic is Venom Snake. He is the Big Boss that the world will get to see. He will exist to increase the legacy of the hero he pledged allegiance too all those years ago.

With that revelation comes the image of a floating morpho butterfly (Morpho being the name of the pilot from Ground Zeroes). As Venom looks at it, he sees that Peace is written on the exterior of Mother Base. That was truly what Paz wanted and it is precisely what Venom will fight to give the world.

In a game whose story moments are so scattered and disconnected, this side plot does more to elicit emotion and understanding then anything else the game throws at the player. Not only that, but in a title dedicated to absolute player freedom, this quest has no alternate outcome; you have to face the fact that a character you may have bonded with is gone.

Much like life, shit happens. What defines a human is how they deal with the aftermath of a tragedy. What they give to life in their worst hour is how they will be remembered. Venom isn’t going to let anymore of his men die, not without a fight.

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Older and Older

“But time makes you bolder; Even children get older; And I’m getting older too.” – Fleetwood Mac

Birthdays are an event that I’ve never had a strong connection to. As a small child, I obviously loved getting new toys and goofing around, but somewhere in my teen years I began to question the practice of celebrating my day of birth.

Why was everything supposed to be dedicated to me? There are other people in the world who were born on the same day, yet I am supposed to throw that thought away and focus on myself? Even with my self-righteous teenage attitude, I felt that I shouldn’t draw attention to an event that wasn’t of my choosing.

I never asked for April 12th to be my birthday. I didn’t even have a say in when I would be born, let alone at all. This isn’t to say that I’m not thankful for life (ask me two years prior and I would say otherwise); I just don’t think a birthday is something one should take pride in.

Yeah; quiet, Jensen!

Everyone in the world has a birthday. Everyone in the world shares their birthday with someone else. For people to make such a commotion over what is a pretty common event just makes no sense to me.

As I grow older, I begin to see how different I’ve become. While I still do not care for any celebrations, I’m not so afraid of revealing when I was born. If someone wants to know for any conceivable reason, then why not tell them? I don’t have anything to hide.

Most importantly, this makes me think of how little gaming has changed for Nintendo. Their games are firmly rooted in tradition and formula. When was the last time we saw a 100% original Mario or Zelda title?

Even with the prospect of a new StarFox on the horizon, I’m wondering if it will end up being so similar to StarFox 64 that people won’t care. Nintendo doesn’t seem to mind. Even Metroid has gone into hibernation, despite being a big deal in the Gamecube era.

While Nintendo has finally branched out into some new IPs, both Codename S.T.E.A.M. and Splatoon are based on ideas that already exist. Nintendo isn’t so much breaking new ground as they are throwing their own flair into established formulas.

At least “artistically” it’s different.

I suppose that could be said of most “new” games, but I’m just curious if Nintendo will ever change. As time slithers by and we all grow into half-way functional adults, will Nintendo manage to provide a better flair and vest for future generations?

I don’t mean to say that Nintendo should only focus their marketing and development on former children. Newer kids are growing up with a lot of conveniences that I never had. The internet is a prevalent entity in the modern era and instantaneous access is almost the norm.

Nintendo doesn’t seem to embrace that. Putting games on the eShop day and date with their retail release is a start, but their lack of connectivity in certain titles (Mario 3D World) just makes me wonder how much longer their fire will burn.

For that matter, why are Sony and Microsoft practically indistinguishable from each other? While both of those companies have managed to change with the times, their game catalogs overlap in so many ways. Even exclusives for each platform are hard to differentiate.

They’ve changed in ways that appeal less to me as an adult. I see fat-cat executives making calculated decisions on how to extract the most profit from a potential idea. Nothing seems to be made with bold artistic vision anymore.

Now, this could mostly be cynicism from years of being depressed, but I just want a change. I want the industry I love and the hobby I can never put aside to do something different. Excite me with a concept that isn’t a gimmick. Thrill me with a totally unique gametype.

As we travel into the future, I just want gaming to travel with us. The past isn’t the only thing that matters. We need to make time for the future.