Konami's no stranger to putting out bizarre game/movie hybrids on the PlayStation Portable. Just over a month ago, it released Silent Hill Experience, which was timed to coincide with the Silent Hill movie hitting theaters. While it was interesting to browse around a virtual Midwich Elementary School and discover all of the movie tracks, CGI snippets from the games, and interviews with music composer Akira Yamaoka and director Christopher Gans, it was also a bit of an unfocused experience that didn't make the already vague experience of playing a Silent Hill game any clearer.
Now, a month later, Konami is almost ready to release the Metal Gear Solid Digital Graphic Novel for PSPs everywhere. Although this product is conceptually similar to Silent Hill Experience, it's a much more cohesive product that should be of interest to Metal Gear Solid fans. Instead of attempting to rework the game's cinematics into movie form, as has been done recently for such titles as Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children and the limited-edition version of Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence, the MGS DGN is instead an adaptation of the Metal Gear Solid Official Comic Book, which came out a while back from artist Ashley Wood and writer Kris Oprisko.
Now, it would have been easy to digitize the comic books and plop them onto a UMD with minimal changes. Luckily, however, Konami has taken the comic books and added a good deal of bells and whistles. Even if the comics had simply been transferred over as they were originally presented, that would've been pretty good. The script adheres fairly closely to the intricate plotline of the original Metal Gear Solid game, with some of the dialogue being a straight transcription, and the artwork, while often presented in simple black and white, is moody and evocative. Any fan of comic books will probably find a parallel between the style of Ashley Wood and the work of Bill Sienkiewicz, perhaps best known for his work on Frank Miller's graphic novel Elektra: Assassin.
But, again, this isn't a simple digitization of the graphic novel. Instead, the designers have edited the artwork into different sections and added cinematic effects to heighten the experience of reading the work. For instance, instead of showing all of the panels on a page at once, you'll now usually get one panel at a time, with more being revealed as you read through the dialogue. Since there's no voice acting to accompany the text(which is a disappointment, especially since many of the lines could've been lifted from the voice acting for the Metal Gear Solid game, at least in small doses), you can scroll through the dialogue boxes fairly quickly, and of course you can choose to pause or speed up the playback at any time.
Although there's no voice acting, there are plenty of other sound effects on display, such as gunshots during the fight sequences or the crunch of metal when Gray Fox/Cyborg Ninja rescues Solid Snake from a crushing death at the hands of the Metal Gear near the end of the story.
In addition, MGS DGN features a "memory" database. While watching the comic book, you can, at any time, hit a "scan" button to open a scanning interface. You can then move a targeting reticule around the image to search for hot spots, which, when scanned, will be entered into a separate, browsable memory database. This effectively acts as a kind of Metal Gear encyclopedia, with short entries on all of the main characters and events that take place on Shadow Moses. We were able to get a look at only a few of these memories, which are all connected in a huge, linked 3D memory bank, but the feature will keep those of you who are obsessive-compulsive about collecting everything in a game busy for a while.
Anyone who hasn't experienced the story of Metal Gear Solid in a while--or has never played the game at all--should find some interesting stuff in MGS DGN. Although Konami says it is being marketed as a game UMD (as opposed to a movie UMD), it will be available at the bargain price of $19.99 when it hits shelves within the next month or so.