By Tom Tolios / December 9th, 2015
Our heroes should be treated better than this.
After I reviewed Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, I came to one inescapable conclusion.
The game was incomplete.
It wasn’t just the redundancy of the missions, the lack of variety in the gameplay, the inconsequential objectives, the underwhelming narrative, the lack of a focused or nuanced story, the disappointing supporting cast, the absence of meaningful sociopolitical impact or the irrelevance of the cutscenes.
What gameplay was there, Metal Gear Solid V had in spades. You had compelling weapon and base development systems, capable gunplay, decent stealth, good controls and…well, that’s about it. Gone were the intricately detailed areas of previous MGS games, replaced by a beautiful looking but mechanically banal open world. Environments lacked any ingenuity or compulsory aspects. The boss fights were the worst of the series hands down. And for all that it does well, Metal Gear Solid V does it without any real sense of pacing or variation.
Worst of all, we know that the final chapter of the game was never completed because visual storyboards for this sequence were provided as an extra on the bonus disc with the collector’s edition. This is not rumor or speculation. They cut it out of the game despite being the missing link that would have perfectly closed the chain of Hideo Kojima’s nearly 30 year journey with the series.
How did it come to this? How did it come about that Kojima, normally a painfully meticulous creator, would release the game in such a shoddy state? This can’t have been his final vision.
Well, we need look no further than the change in Konami’s regime for that answer. Without dredging up the gory details, which are all available and easy to find on the internet if you just Google ‘Konami vs. Kojima’ or some variation on that, the basic story is that Konami decided to focus on mobile markets and the Japanese gambling industry, a directive which clearly would have conflicted with the sensibilities of an imaginative fellow like Hideo Kojima, who is always looking to expand the boundaries of what a video game can be and to improve existing formulas so they’re more potent than what came before.
In fairness, Kojima has a vision that doesn’t exactly go hand in hand with a company’s decision to manage their budget, cut spending and find the cheapest ways possible to increase profits. Kojima is an extravagant creator who wants to make the best game possible, regardless of the cost. What he does is big, boundless and expensive. And it’s understandable that Konami might want to reign that in a bit, especially if they’re trying to be financially responsible.
But there was never, seemingly, any attempt by Konami or Kojima to reconcile the rift that grew between them. No ‘come to Jesus’ moment. No attempt to find middle ground. In fact, that separation only became larger and more contentious over time. And the reason I say this is because Konami’s actions do not reflect the measures of a company dealing with internal struggles in a moderate fashion.
From where I am sitting, it appears that Konami all but declared war on Hideo Kojima.
Things like artistic integrity, creative vision and the need to dream don’t matter to current CEO Hideki Hayakawa, who by his own admission didn’t even know about video games until after he was appointed to the position by the board. How did he get the job? The board said they liked his ‘mobile first’ strategy and thought it was a strong business model.
So, let me get this right. Konami, the parent company of video game series like Castlevania, Silent Hill, Goemon, Gradius, Suikoden, Metal Gear Solid and the entire Hudson Soft library, appoints a guy to run the company that doesn’t even know anything about their digital entertainment division? A board of directors that can’t even recognize the value of these franchises, in this day and age when video games are bigger business than movies, puts a person in charge that doesn’t even know anything about some of the company’s most valuable assets? Who didn’t even know who Hideo Kojima is?
When did Konami lose their collective minds?
Can you imagine Nintendo putting a guy in charge that has never heard of Mario or The Legend of Zelda? Valve promoting someone to run the company that’s never heard of Left 4 Dead? Bethesda appointing a director that doesn’t know what Fallout or The Elder Scrolls are?
Are you kidding me?
We’re all sitting here, bewildered about how Konami has fallen so far in our eyes, but the truth is right there in front of us. A company that can’t even recognize the value of what it has in its possession isn’t only likely to fail, it’s like they’re actively TRYING to implode. The answer to the question of Konami’s blunders is as plain as day. The question, of course, is not how it happened, but why? And this is where I’m left scratching my head, because even the most desperate of corporations usually have some idea of what assets possess value and are constantly working on ways to maintain and enhance that value. SEGA has had its own problems over the years but at least they know that Sonic the Hedgehog remains an important cultural touchstone, even if they haven’t quite figured out the best way to use him in recent years.
Konami’s boneheaded mistakes aren’t only bewildering, they’re frustrating. Hideo Kojima, one of the industry’s visionary geniuses, was hamstrung, shackled, silenced and unceremoniously all but pushed out the door to go sit in the doghouse. And I have to believe that it has to do with his opposition to their decision to abandon video games as a business model. Maybe he was extremely antagonistic behind closed doors about the decision. Maybe he pissed in the wrong guy’s Cheerios while he was shaming them for becoming cynical suits and forgetting what Konami stood for. I’m not really sure. Whatever the case, the retaliation has been unprofessional and unwarranted. Now they’re just bullying him. It almost feels like they have a vendetta against him and they’re not going to be happy until his legacy has been completely obliterated.
What’s even more astounding is how Konami believes they can whitewash Kojima from their history, a foolish notion if ever there was one. We gamers have long memories, and the Internet even longer. Konami, I really hope you’re reading this and being honest with yourselves. So read this next part carefully:
You can’t erase Hideo Kojima from Metal Gear Solid, video games or Konami’s history. No matter how hard you try, it’s inescapable. I guarantee you, I know that Metal Gear Solid V is A HIDEO KOJIMA GAME.
We’re not that stupid.
Konami infamously forbade popular YouTuber Angry Joe from even mentioning him during the E3 interview he conducted with Konami representatives. Instead of the creator of the game, the father of the entire series, promoting MGS V’s virtues to the market on the biggest stage of the year for video games, they had some faceless dudes commenting in the most sterile of corporate directed tones about the game. I don’t know what’s worse, that Konami thought this was an acceptable means of promoting the game or the fact that they had the gall and arrogance to think we’d accept this bunk without being critical of it.
There wasn’t even an attempt by Konami to go into damage control mode during any of this unfolding controversy’s events. They acted like pure cowards, clinging to corporate behavior and refusing to acknowledge the problem in any meaningful capacity. Despite allegations of horrible working conditions, vindictive measures taken against employees that failed to live up to their expectations, erasing creators’ names from promotional materials and, perhaps the most insulting, removing a demo of a highly anticipated game from virtual markets, they continued to act as though everything was hunky-freaking-dory.
But it wasn’t. And we all knew it.
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