Of all the Nintendo games that were turned into books for the maligned Worlds of Power series, Metal Gear was the title whose franchise had the longest run of artistic and commercial success. Perhaps it was the intrinsic quality of the game, or perhaps just the luck of the draw, but of the Worlds of Power books I have read so far, this is the best of the lot. At certain points in the book, it is almost possible to overlook the fact that you are reading a book based on a Nintendo game.
The first step towards being an almost normal book is the fact that no gimmicks of middle school kids fall into alternative universe, as seen in other books in the series. We are presented with a fairly straightforward story of a marine captain of almost but not totally unbelievable heroic stature being set to infiltrate a terrorist base to rescue his comrades and defeat a doomsday weapon. From what I understand of the Metal Gear games, they are focused on tension, and secrecy, and trying to prevail through intelligence against overwhelming odds. The feeling comes across in the book: despite the fact that the story does occasionally scurry from point to point because a new shiny object has been brought into play, the book also seems to naturally convey the sort of tension a single man would feel when infiltrating a secret, hidden terrorist base. The seriousness of the book is further heightened by the pragmatic, less than heroic nature of Solid Snake's mission. In his original briefing, in chapter one, he is informed that many of his friends have been tortured and may have turned traitor, that he will probably die on his mission, and that he is expected to kill the kidnapped scientist Doctor Pettovich. All of this puts a grim tone on the book.
A grim tone that the book's author, or perhaps editors and publishers, can not maintain. It seems that while our hero ends up armed to the teeth in the game, and is allegedly a soldier on a life or death mission to save the world, he somehow manages to avoid killing anyone in the book. I assume that the editors of the series put a "no killing" rule on the book, which, as important as it may be for the fifth grade kids who were the target market of the book, seems somewhat incongruous compared to the trained killer that Solid Snake is made out to be. In any scenes where he might use his gun, our protagonist instead seems to find a reason or a requirement to instead knock them out. Along with taking out the bloodshed, the author can't seem to be able to take out the Nintendo Logic, something him and his hero both seem to be confused about:
Suddenly, though, he felt a rise in his own body temperature. The calories he'd eaten were taking effect. His body and internal organs were heating up to match the heat of the panels. He didn't understand why it worked...but it had saved his life.
The realistic narrative tension just can't survive the dependence on the many various "magical items" a video game can have. Another problem with the book is that, from what I have read of the game, the ending was changed. The game apparently had a twist at the ending where the head of the base
that Solid Snake was infiltrating was a double agent
within his own organization. For whatever reason, this plot point was changed, with the villain instead being Colonel CaTaffy
(a reference to Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi
), a villain free of any complication. It does say something when a book has to have the more confusing aspects of a video game's plot edited out.
So, while this book shows a brief glimpse of inspiration in the field of early video game to literature translations, it hardly fails to deliver on its promise.