TOKYO--With Metal Gear Solid 4's anticipated worldwide release just a month away, Konami held a press conference near its headquarters today to announce that the game's development is officially complete. Press and guests were invited to the Toho Cinemas Roppongi Hills cineplex, where they were treated to the latest trailers and live gameplay on the big screen with some popcorn on the side.
Similar to a real movie experience, the conference started off with some commercials, which were actually fake ads based on the Metal Gear Solid 4 world. Five commercials were shown, starting off with a "Praying Mantis unmanned security system." The ad featured a huge security robot chasing after a man on a bike and ultimately catching him, with fatal results. The ads are all available at Metal Gear Solid's new official site, together with a fresh Hollywood-style trailer that features numerous new scenes.
After the commercials and a brief look at what was apparently the game's opening sequence, Konami Digital Entertainment president Fumiaki Tanaka took the stage to make the opening announcements.
"In recent years, casual games have become extremely popular. With the rise of new consumers, the [game industry] is expanding into new directions," said Tanaka. "While it's said that the current mainstream is casual games, we took the challenge to make a blockbuster title, Metal Gear Solid 4, headed by Kojima."
He continued, "Metal Gear Solid 4 surpasses the scale of its previous titles in all aspects, including their story, visuals, and music. Using the PlayStation 3's high capabilities to its capacity, I believe that our developers have realized MGS4 without any compromise."
However, Tanaka also stressed that MGS4 certainly won't be the last of Konami's big projects on the PS3. "We believe that the PlayStation 3 still has some undiscovered capabilities, and there's still many points where we can be more clever to take its full advantage," he teased. "We will continue to create more good products in the future."
Following Tanaka, director Hideo Kojima appeared on stage to announce the completion of his four-year long project. "I'm very happy that we can announce the completion of MGS4 in front of everyone here today," he said, beaming. "MGS4 has been an extremely difficult project. At one point, it was like an eternal spiral where the game felt like it would never get completed no matter how hard we worked on it."
"We took on all sorts of challenges in the making of MGS4," reminisced Kojima. "We were challenged to make MGS4 on the Cell-processor-operated, unknown monster of a hardware called the PlayStation 3. We were challenged to make MGS4 in high definition graphics and 5.1ch surround sound so that it'd play in the leagues of movies. We were challenged to give MGS4 the most [content] in the series, and so we had the largest number of developers working [on the franchise] ever. We were challenged to release the game simultaneously worldwide for the first time. And, we were challenged to make it the last title in the series, as the game will be the conclusion to the Metal Gear Saga."
Interestingly, Kojima also took the opportunity to make some comments on the current situation of the game industry, with Japanese publishers increasingly leaning toward casual games that don't require expensive development.
"Casual games have become mainstream in the industry," he declared. "It's not just a Japanese phenomenon but also something that's happening worldwide. There are new markets and possibilities opening up thanks to the trend, which is great. But on the other hand, we shouldn't forget about the hardcore gamers whose lives are about videogames. The gamers who consider video games a subculture, and enjoy taking their time to sit down and play games that gives them energy and courage. I wanted to remind those gamers about the fun of video games. I know that we're going against the trend, but we've been working hard for the past four years so that the fire [of non-casual games] won't blow out."
"I believe that video games are a form of synthesized art that evolves by adapting new technologies," continued Kojima. "It's a business, so there are difficult decisions, but when you think about the future of video games, I think that you need to take some risks to move on forward. Once you halt, it's really hard to go [back on track] and take steps forward. Unfortunately, overseas game production companies, which are well-funded and extremely skilled, have surpassed us by a couple of steps. It was once said that Japan molded the world's video game [industry], but that's becoming a thing of the past. Sad as it may be, it's the truth."
"We developed MGS4 for fans that love Metal Gear. But at the same time, I was creating it with some hopes to stir a revival of [non-casual] videogames."
Kojima then went on to play some Metal Gear Solid 4 on the cinema's big screen, revealing that the the game will be chapter-based, unlike the previous installments in the series. A few minutes of the first chapter, "Act 1: Liquid Sun," was played in hard mode.
After playing the game, Kojima revealed a number of new collaborations in Metal Gear Solid 4, the biggest being with Apple's iPod. Snake carries around an iPod in MGS4, which lets him play music tracks that he finds scattered throughout the game. Collected tracks can be played as background music during the game, with additional tracks being offered for download.
Last month on April Fool's Day, footage of Metal Gear Solid 4 featuring Snake in Altair's robe from Assassin's Creed appeared without warning on YouTube. Today, Kojima confirmed that it's more than just a prank, as the Altair costume will be an unlockable feature in the game.
Other collaborations in MGS4 include Triumph Motorcycles, Sony Ericsson, Regain, and Uniqlo. For Triumph Motorcycles, this is the second time they're collaborating with the Metal Gear series following MGS3. This time, their Bonneville T100 and Speed Triple Motorcycles will appear in a chase scene during the game.
With Sony Ericsson, their W62S model cell phone is seen in the game, used by Vamp and Naomi. What's more, the collaboration goes both ways. Sony Ericsson's mobile portal will offer a downloadable MGS4 version of "Ganbare Salary Man," a cell phone game about a middle-age salary worker.
Another product being advertised in MGS4 is Regain, a popular Japanese energy drink. The beverage is featured in-game as an item that energizes Snake when he takes a sip. This collaboration also goes both ways: Starting on June 10 in Japan, convenience stores will sell special bottles of Regain that include an original MGS4-themed cell phone cleaner or dog tag.
Uniqlo, a Japanese apparel maker with stores also in the USA and UK, France, Korea, China, and Hong Kong, doesn't have any items appearing in-game. Instead, they're collaborating with MGS4 with the release of six "Metal Gear Solid 4 UT Design" T-shirts, featuring logos and artworks inspired from the game. The shirts will be available at Uniqlo shops from June 12.
Similar to previous Metal Gear Solid installments, MGS4 will also feature a gravure girl. Minami Akina, an 18-year-old cover girl who's been a big fan of the series, appears on a poster in the game. Akina appeared during the press conference and congratulated Kojima on his game. Kojima's staff also congratulated Akina with a large MGS4 cake, as she's turning 19 in two days.
In Japan, Konami will also be releasing a variety of Metal Gear Solid merchandise near the launch of MGS4. The game's soundtrack will be released on May 28 as a two-disc set, featuring a total of 47 tracks.
"Ga-ko," a duck-shaped alarm clock that appears in the game, will be sold as a product on July 31.
A novel by Raymond Benson based on the original Metal Gear Solid will be released on May 25 (May 27 in the US), while a Japanese novel by Keikaku Ito, Metal Gear Solid: Guns of the Patriots, will be released on June 12.
In terms of launch promotions, plans for a "Metal Gear Solid 4 World Tour" are underway. Kojima and his staff will travel around the world to meet up with series fans. Tour locations include London, Madrid, Milano, Frankfurt, Amsterdam, Paris, New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco.
In Japan, Konami will also be collaborating with Sony to push MGS4 on the PlayStation Network. The daily "Toro Station" show will feature three consecutive days of Metal Gear coverage, possibly with a sneak peek into the latest game's development facilities.
One of the surprises at the press conference came at the very end. As the lights dimmed out for the event to end, a one-way dialogue very similar to the endings in the MGS games took place, hinting about a "worldwide live broadcast" and "VIP" events in Akihabara, New York, and Los Angeles on June 12.