Metal Gear Saga is an upcoming preorder DVD from Konami that will be hitting stores shortly. In many ways, the disc is just as anticipated as the game it precedes, Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence. The DVD began as an internal project at Kojima Productions that features a lengthy documentary of the entire history of the Metal Gear franchise in chronological order, as well as a compilation of every trailer produced by Kojima Productions. (Yes, this includes the stunning MGS4 trailer.) We talked to Ryan Payton, director of the Metal Gear Saga project, for some behind-the-scenes information on the disc.
GameSpot: How did the Metal Gear Saga project come about? Where did the idea come from?
Ryan Payton: The Metal Gear Saga concept was something Mr. Kojima originally came up with, but his vision for Saga was a bit different from my own. Metal Gear Saga was the theme of our stage show at last year's Tokyo Game Show. We wanted to present a timeline of events to attendees of TGS, to explain where Snake Eater, the MSX games, and MGS4 all fit in the fictional saga of Metal Gear.
Coincidently, TGS marked my second or third full week as an employee at Kojima Productions, so when I first saw the title Metal Gear Saga on the list of things planned for Tokyo Game Show, I immediately imagined it was a new game, or maybe even a DVD.
Of course Saga turned out to be a stage presentation, but I couldn't stop thinking about my initial ideas of what Saga would be about. With the help of MGS4 producer Kenichiro Imaizumi, I drafted up a concept plan and presented it to Mr. Kojima. The concept was simple: Let's create a DVD that explains the fictional history of Metal Gear in chronological order, from Big Boss in Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, to the enigmatic conclusion of Metal Gear Solid 2 starring Raiden.
Mr. Kojima OK'd my project, as it would help set the stage for MGS4 and would provide an excellent bonus for those who preorder Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence.
GS: What was your primary goal in creating the documentary?
RP: There were two goals for creating this documentary: one, to beef up the North American version of Subsistence either as a fourth disc or as a preorder bonus DVD, and two, to create a single DVD that Metal Gear fans can put into their DVD player and learn the basic setup of the Metal Gear world before MGS4 hits.
GS: In the interest of presenting the Metal Gear series' story as a coherent whole, are the games presented chronologically or in order of release? Why?
RP: Metal Gear Saga features five chapters, one chapter for each game in the Metal Gear series (MGS3, MG, MG2, MGS, MGS2). We decided to present Saga in chronological order because the series has jumped around from era to era in recent years--the latest game, MGS3, is set in the 1960s, whereas MGS2 was set after the turn of the century. Furthermore, the story of MGS4 continues after the events of MGS2. Even for hardcore fans I think this can get confusing, which is why Metal Gear Saga will be a great resource guide, not only for hardcore fans, but for those new to Metal Gear and those who are anticipating MGS4.
GS: Will Mr. Kojima address games outside the series' canon, like Snake's Revenge or Ghost Babel?
RP: Metal Gear Saga is presented with narration (voiced by Jack N. Merluzzi, who also provides the narration for the Snake Eater movie, featured in the limited-edition set of MGS3: Subsistence). Mr. Kojima also makes an appearance, offering an inside look into the work that went into creating the stories and characters of the past Metal Gear games. He also addresses some games that carry the Metal Gear title but aren't considered Metal Gear canon--for example, Metal Gear 2: Snake's Revenge and Metal Gear 1 on NES.
Ghost Babel and the Acid games were created in something we call the "parallel universe" of MGS. This gives directors like Shinta Nojiri more freedom in creating exciting scenarios for Snake to overcome. I'm toying with the idea of doing Metal Gear Saga Vol. 2, featuring the games from the parallel universe. I even joke around the office that I'll name it Nojiri Saga Vol. 1.
GS: Will we get to hear about any plot elements or characters that didn't make it into the existing games?
RP: One of the most interesting and funniest parts of the Saga DVD is when Mr. Kojima explains his initial concept for the boss from MGS3. He had a wild idea for her, but one that would surely get axed for its sexual content. In regards to plot elements, I don't want to spoil it, but Mr. Kojima also reveals where MGS2 was really supposed to be based in. It would have been great if MGS2 would have been set in that country, but given the volatility of that region, I think he made the right choice to move the setting to New York City.
GS: Did you learn anything particularly amusing about any of the Metal Gear games during production?
RP: The talk of Raiden was particularly interesting. Mr. Kojima explains how Raiden was created for users in mind and laments the whole controversy on camera. And here's something I haven't revealed to anybody yet, but there was one section of Saga that was cut at the last minute, presumably not to offend somebody. Mr. Kojima explained the hardships of developing the first MGS in which a high-up at Konami saw the preview build at E3 and told Mr. Kojima to his face: "Stopping kidding yourself. This game won't sell!" It was a pretty funny clip that sadly didn't make the final cut.
GS: How much will the Saga DVD tell us about Metal Gear Solid 4?
RP: In the fifth and final chapter of Metal Gear Saga, Mr. Kojima reveals his intentions for the characters in MGS4. He makes a promise to viewers, but you'll have to watch the DVD for yourself to find it. It's brand-new info on MGS4, and it's worth checking out!
GS: Are there any extras on the disc aside from the core documentary?
RP: The DVD includes an "extra" menu featuring every single trailer Kojima Productions has released so far, including both MGS4 trailers. The introduction video for Saga can also be viewed in the extra menu. The intro clip is something I'm very proud of. We spent a lot of time on that video nailing down the Saga feel. The intro features music from Harry Gregson-Williams and was mastered by the MGS4 sound team, including MGS4 sound director Sotaro Tojima. Play it with the volume on max.
I also happen to think that the packaging is a big "extra." We spared no cost when it came to designing and manufacturing the best-looking case for Saga. Silver-embossed stars on the cover, high-quality paper inserts inside, art by Yoji Shinkawa--it's simply awesome.
GS: We couldn't help but notice that this DVD is referred to as a "Volume 1." Does that mean further installments are on the way?
RP: The "Volume 1" tag was something we wanted to attach to the title--it will be something of a barometer of fans. If fans like the DVD and want more installments, then they need to raise their voice and let Mr. Kojima know. Because if the fans want it, we'll make Volume 2.
GS: The Saga DVD is sure to be a collector's item among Metal Gear aficionados. Any chance those who missed out on this preorder bonus will be able to get a copy later on?
RP: Right now I'm concerned with getting Saga released in Japan, but I've run into a number of roadblocks. On our weekly podcast, The Kojima Productions Report, I've been reading listener e-mails who ask for Saga in their home countries like Mexico and South Korea. I want everybody to be able to get their hands on this DVD, and trust me when I say that I'm trying my best to spread the Saga love!
GS: Thanks for your time, Ryan.