Metal Gear Solid: Master Collection Vol. 1 review: Who invited Snake's Revenge?

Konami's classic gaming endeavor continues with Metal Gear Solid: Master Collection Vol. 1!


Konami has been on fire lately. Regardless of how we feel about past controversies and large corporations being large corporations, the folks curating Konami’s library of classics and working on new games like Super Bomberman R 2 are doing the lord’s work. Following several modern compilation bullseyes of Castlevania, Contra, TMNT, and more, it’s only logical Metal Gear was next in line. Metal Gear Solid: Master Collection Vol. 1 is, almost appropriately, messy. But it’s also a clear labor of love for the series as a whole, and you can feel it from your eyeballs to your fingertips.

You can tell this is a different beast from the rest of Konami’s recent collections, structurally speaking. Metal Gear Solid: Master Collection comes as a series of executables, rather than one launcher with an all-encompassing menu. It’s not a total disconnection, as the menus and launchers themselves are thematically similar and share UI elements. But each game or set of games in some cases is its own download, to accommodate for individual purchases.

Tactical eCommerce Action

A view of the PlayStation 5 carousel showing the separate Metal Gear launchers

The weirdest thing about this collection, which to be fair is probably unavoidable, is how most of it is built from the 2011 Metal Gear Solid HD Collection. If you boot up the original MSX titles, or Snake Eater or Sons of Liberty, you’ll see the older releases’ logo show up in loading screens or initial titles (and Bluepoint as well). The older UI elements that pop up when you’re saving or loading are a little jarring too, compared to the much higher-res Master Collection menus you start with.

None of the above impairs playing any of these games, it just rattles the perception of this bundle of software as a new curation. At the same time, it makes plenty of sense that these totally functional ports are being used as a base. And to Konami’s credit, these aren’t just 1:1 ports. Improvements are made, with a few odd bugs or confusing changes ironed out. The PS5’s haptics are also utilized if you’re playing that version. The effort is there to ensure this latest set of Metal Gear ports is the “definitive” way to play to this date. Things like trophies and mappable controls are icing on the cake.

One of the coolest aspects of these games is that, similar to the Castlevania Anniversary Collection, the Japanese versions of most games are playable. The theater of Metal Gear Solid is crucial, so it’s cool to have such easy access to different dubs. Unfortunately, the language packs and whatnot are separate downloads, so for example Metal Gear Solid Integral, or the Japanese vocal tracks for MGS 2 and 3, don’t come on the disc. The same can be said for the Digital Graphic Novels, which I couldn’t access myself during the review period. So if there’s some cataclysmic problem with those, we can’t speak to it yet. Hopefully they don’t make Nintendo Switches explode or something!

A solid Metal Gear museum

A cover page from one of the Master Books in Metal Gear Solid: Master Collection Vol. 1
Source: Konami

Now, if the preservational or historical aspects of collections like this are why you show up in the first place, the team at Konami went the extra mile for its arguably most valuable property. Any opportunity to play Metal Gear, one of the best video games ever made, is great. But what about having an additional resource helping explain the context, both in real life and in relation to the overall Metal Gear/Solid story? Each game has a “Master Book,” which is essentially a coffee table-style document that goes into tons of detail on production, story, character, and in some cases secrets or collectibles. Each book has front and back covers, bookmarks, and even background music options. If these were physical books they’d probably be cartoonishly expensive, but here they’re presented as “extras”. Wild!

Also included are screenplay books. In Japan, Konami published a series of “Scenario Books” for the Metal Gear series, which included the full scripts for each game in screenplay form in addition to other information. Those scripts have been fully localized and included here. We’re talking thousands of pages of localization that you can’t get anywhere else in English. I’m not the kind of person who would sit there and read through these, but I’m amazed they exist now. The radioactive sicko energy emanating from these files is powerful.

There’s a third pillar to historical content in the Metal Gear Solid: Master Collection, and sadly this one’s a bummer. Each game has a manual, which are accompanied by awesome, high-res renders of each game’s case. But if you want to peruse the manuals, the game opens up a web browser. Like the other download content, I couldn’t actually check these out during the review. Even if I could, the fact I couldn’t flip through the manuals in the game itself like the other books was disappointing and doesn’t bode well from a preservation standpoint.

Konami, please, make a CRT filter, I am begging you

A screenshot of Metal Gear Solid showing blurry text and border images
Source: Konami

Going back to the games for the home stretch here, the biggest question mark for a lot of people is undoubtedly Metal Gear Solid. The third game in the series (and most players’ first at least in the west) is also the most troubled in terms of re-releases. MGS was simply absent from the HD Collection, only playable in official capacity as a PSOne Classic. A format completely stonewalled through the PS4’s lifespan and unavailable on other platforms entirely.

The pros and cons of Master Collection’s Metal Gear Solid port could be their own article. At the end of the day, the pros outweigh the cons. And to be reasonable, the cons aren’t exclusive to this game; they just stand out more with it. This is as good a time as any to loudly scratch my head and raise my eyebrows at Konami’s included screen “options”. No scanlines, filters, or scaling can be found here. Instead, alongside the usual border art (always appreciated), you can choose where the 4:3 box is placed on the screen? Okay, I guess. At least it isn’t as ugly as Capcom’s infamous smoothing filter, but dang.

On the bright side, while the image is somewhat fuzzy and the load times and performance can hit the occasional snag, there are some cool options. You can set the active controller port in the Master Collection UI, which is great for a certain boss fight. You can also set various dummy save data for Konami games such as Castlevania: Symphony of the Night and Azure Dreams to name a few, which is awesome if you know the context. Spoilers and all that. The packaging renders I mentioned earlier are also particularly crucial for Metal Gear Solid, so keep that in mind if you’re playing this for the first time.

Volume 2 when?

A close-up shot of Raiden from Metal Gear Solid 2
Source: Konami

I would’ve loved a little more emulation-level tinkering, or at least some extra elbow grease on the text textures. But that being said, it’s commendable that Konami didn’t simply drop Sony’s PSP emulator in here or a download code for it and call it a day. It wouldn’t be the first time. So credit where credit is due; this is the first proper re-release of Metal Gear Solid since (I could be wrong) the PlayStation 2? That’s pretty neat.

If there are indeed plans to continue, Metal Gear Solid: Master Collection Vol. 1 is a hell of a first volley. From tweaks and fixes of previous re-releases to an abundance of supplemental material across a whopping seven (arguably more) games, Konami really rolled up its sleeves. Even with some problems and weird choices here and there, this collection exceeded my expectations for sure. Whatever follows this will really put the format to the test, as there’s less precedent and/or existing ports for games like Metal Gear Solid 4 or Metal Gear Acid. The foundation laid is awesome though, and shows that despite past drama there are people at Konami who definitely care.

Metal Gear Solid Master Collection Vol. 1 Launches for the PlayStation 4 and 5, Xbox One and Series X|S, PC, and Nintendo Switch on October 24, 2023. A download code for the PS5 version was provided for this review.

Contributing Editor

Lucas plays a lot of videogames. Sometimes he enjoys one. His favorites include Dragon Quest, SaGa, and Mystery Dungeon. He's far too rattled with ADHD to care about world-building lore but will get lost for days in essays about themes and characters. Holds a journalism degree, which makes conversations about Oxford Commas awkward to say the least. Not a trophy hunter but platinumed Sifu out of sheer spite and got 100 percent in Rondo of Blood because it rules. You can find him on Twitter @HokutoNoLucas being curmudgeonly about Square Enix discourse and occasionally saying positive things about Konami.

  • Tons of new supplemental materials that put other compilation projects on notice
  • Crucial adjustments made to previous ports to address problems
  • Cool bonuses and little flourishes, especially for MGS 1
  • Weird lack of screen options for older games
  • Some additional material requires downloading or opening a web browser
  • Slight performance issues in MGS 1
  • Piecemeal executables and small aspects of ports harsh the vibe a little
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