The rumors are true. Hideo Kojima and his team of designers at Konami Computer Entertainment of Japan are hard at work on a follow-up to last year's critically acclaimed and wildly successful Metal Gear Solid 2 for the Xbox, and it's not Metal Gear Solid X. Called Metal Gear Solid 2 Substance, the game will be shown at E3, almost two years to the day since Sons of Liberty was unveiled, and its name is telling. Like the Japanese release of Integral for the original Metal Gear Solid, Substance will build on the Metal Gear Solid 2 experience by adding literally hundreds of new VR missions and noteworthy bonus material. But there's more to Substance than just a series of new mini-missions. Among other things, Substance will remedy Kojima's controversial introduction of Raiden by letting you assume the role of Solid Snake throughout the entire course of Metal Gear Solid 2. The game will also let you play as several other characters, including Pliskin and the cyborg ninja. There are even five new episodes completely unrelated to Sons of Liberty that will take you on entirely new adventures with Solid Snake.
Substance is so big, in fact, it'll take up an entire double-density DVD disk when it releases for Microsoft's console this November. PlayStation 2 and PC fans shouldn't be disheartened, however, as Konami is concurrently developing Substance for those other platforms as well. To find out more about this game, we sat down with Hideo Kojima, famed creator of the Metal Gear series and director of Metal Gear Solid 2 Substance.
GameSpot: We understand that you're a fan of the late-'70s British band Joy Division. Was the inspiration for this game's title taken from the band's album, Substance?
Hideo Kojima: That is one reason. The real reason is that this is the substance--real form--of Metal Gear Solid 2. This is what MGS2 should be.
The appeal of Metal Gear Solid is the stealth gameplay that allows much freedom along with being able to enjoy the story while playing the game. People who played MGS said that not only did they enjoy the gameplay but also the story. That is why I created Metal Gear Solid 2 as an orthodox sequel in which the emphasis is on the story. Because of this, the freedom of gameplay has been restricted to a certain extent. With Substance, you can play Sons of Liberty and also enjoy more gameplay that is not restricted by the story of Sons of Liberty. MGS requires both aspects to make it complete. In that sense, this is the substance--real form--of MGS. This is not the same as a conventional director's cut.
GS: How soon after the release of Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty did development on Substance start?
"This is what Metal Gear Solid 2 should be."
GS: From the early screenshots we've seen, it looks like you can play as Raiden through the tanker part of Metal Gear Solid 2 and as Snake through Big Shell. Does this mean that you've rerecorded dialogue to compensate for this character switch?
HK: We basically used voices from Metal Gear Solid 2 and did some rerecording for lines specific to this game.
GS: Will Quinton Flynn and David Hayter reprise their respective roles as Raiden and Snake for the US and European releases of the game?
HK: The voice actors are the same, yes.
GS: Is there a new story in Metal Gear Solid 2 Substance?
HK: Sons of Liberty is something that has been released already, and we have made no major changes. In addition to Sons of Liberty we have included five new episodes called Snake Tales in which Snake is the main character. These are all new stories.
What MGS Should Be
GS: So did you add the ability to play as Snake in Substance in response to some of the players' criticisms of Raiden? In general, how did you feel about players' reactions to the new character?
HK: The character Raiden is a necessity in Sons of Liberty. Only through his point of view and only with the existence of his role can the gameplay and theme of Sons of Liberty be realized. But in the world of Metal Gear Solid that isn't specifically Sons of Liberty, there is no problem with being able to play as either Snake or Raiden. You can choose whomever you like. If you play Substance you can probably tell the difference between the characteristics and purpose assigned to Snake and Raiden. In the world of MGS you need both Snake and Raiden. Just like in Star Wars you need Luke and Han Solo.
GS: Other screenshots depict VR missions. How many of these missions will be included in Substance? How will they differ from the VR missions in Metal Gear Solid and Integral?
HK: There are over 200 stages. Some are VR stages in the true sense that they are designed for training. Others are stages with variety, possible only as VR mission stages.
"In the world of MGS you need both Snake and Raiden. Just like in Star Wars you need Luke and Han Solo."
HK: Substance consists of story-oriented Sons of Liberty and five Snake Tales episodes, VR missions (200-plus stages), and what we're calling "alternative missions" (100-plus stages). You'll really be able to enjoy the Metal Gear Solid world to its fullest. The game volume is that of two games, and we are using up the capacity of one double-layer DVD.
GS: What do you think Metal Gear fans will like best about Substance?
HK: The freedom and variety as a game that is not restricted by its story--the true fun of Metal Gear Solid. All of this in addition to the reevaluation of the storytelling of Sons of Liberty.
GS: Is this the game that was tentatively called Metal Gear Solid X? Or are you still working on a unique Metal Gear game for the Xbox?
HK: Yes, this is the Metal Gear Solid 2 game for the Xbox.
GS: Why did you opt to develop this game for three different platforms instead of sticking exclusively with the PlayStation 2?
HK: Market demand. We recognize the popularity of the Metal Gear Solid games in the US and understand that there is a large audience of Xbox and PC gamers who also want to play on their home system.
GS: Will Metal Gear Solid 2 Substance for the Xbox release in North America before it does in Japan?
HK: Metal Gear Solid 2 Substance will be released in the US in November 2002. The release date for Japan has not yet been announced.
GS: What are the scheduled release dates for the PC and PlayStation 2 versions of the game?
HK: These dates have not yet been decided.
GS: How different are the three versions of the game going to be from each other? Are you planning to utilize the Xbox's hard drive in any capacity? Are you adding any exclusive content into the Xbox version?
HK: We're still finalizing these details.
GS: Will you be giving Raiden and Snake any new moves in Substance? How about new outfits? We thought we saw Snake in a tuxedo in one of the shots.
HK: There are new outfits--Snake looks great in his tuxedo--and you can also play with Snake in his [original] Metal Gear Solid outfit. You can play as Pliskin, and you can also play as the ninja.
GS: Microsoft published the PC version of Metal Gear Solid in 2000. Will Konami self-publish Metal Gear Solid 2 Substance on the PC itself, or are you partnering with another established North American publisher?
HK: No, Konami of America will self-publish the game.
GS: Do you have an idea of the minimum system requirements for the PC version of Metal Gear Solid 2 Substance?
HK: These details are not finalized yet.
GS: Your Metal Gear Solid 2 trailers have wowed E3 attendees for the last two years. What are you planning for the crowds this year?
HK: I have edited both videos for Metal Gear Solid 2 Substance and Zone of the Enders: The 2nd Runner myself. I would love to see people laughing really hard while watching the Substance video at E3.
GS: Sounds great. Thank you very much for your time, Mr. Kojima.