Diego’s Lot: How incredibly excited I am for Death Stranding

Hideo Kojima is a genius. He is about to release a game I have been keeping a close eye on for years now. The name of the game is Death Stranding. This game got me so intensely interested, I bought a PS4 in 2018, primarily for this game (80% of the reason why). It is hard to gain my respect and admiration in any medium or let alone a person, as it is easy for me to criticize. However, Hideo Kojima has done some outstanding work in the past that leads me to believe that this game shall create a new sub-genre of video games. This may as well be setting a new standard in the history of video games. Of course, this is just pure speculation, but I will give my reasoning as to why I am so enthralled with this man and his newest creation.

Some Context

Hideo Kojima was born on August 24, 1963, the youngest of three children. I, myself am born on August 23, the youngest of three children. Hideo’s family watched movies every night and he wasn’t allowed to go to sleep until the movie had finished. In his University years, feeling discouraged to become an artist or a writer, and pursuing a more typical route, Hideo took a fascination with video games. This was early on in the 1980s when the game industry was still fresh, and risky to be joined because video games could have turned out to be a trend there and gone, rather than an emerging medium.

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Hideo joined the video game company Konami and initially his game ideas were rejected repeatedly, snubbed because of his lack of programming experience. However, Hideo Kojima was given a project by a senior employee called Metal Gear. It was bogged down by hardware limitations, despite the objective of the game to be made into an action title, so Hideo decided to change it to fit those limitations and became inspired to change the concept of the game to a prisoner escaping, inspired by The Great Escape. Thus, the main character Solid Snake was born, a special operatives agent sent into the fictional fortified state of Outer Heaven to destroy Metal Gear, a nuclear-equipped walking tank. What Hideo managed to do was make a new genre. Instead of focusing on the combat and the fighting, instead it focused on the avoidance of conflict altogether. This is the earliest example of the Stealth action game genre.

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Fast forward some time, and bam, 1998 hits like a slice of fried gold against a hot shovel, and it is so satisfying to see happen. Hideo Kojima creates Metal Gear Solid, the first 3D polygonal modeled game in the series. This is groundbreaking for the entire industry. A massive commercial and critical success, Metal Gear Solid is fully voice acted, has great and memorable characters, it is well designed all across the board, and has a gripping storyline with mature themes such as nuclear proliferation, and genetic engineering. Games had rarely gone this dark before. Understand that historically, you were fighting wizards and giant toads, but now that Hideo had flipped the switch out of nowhere, you were fighting terrorists holding people hostage for ransom demands. This was straight out of the left field and extremely gritty. This grounded (but not necessarily realistic) spectacle of taking the medium and subverting games as a whole was unheard of, and that’s just from a narrative standpoint. What this lent itself to, was a heavily cinematic experience that created a blueprint for future game designers to worship.

After the massive success of Metal Gear Solid, Hideo Kojima became a gaming icon. He was shocked by the number of sales in the U.S. of Metal Gear Solid, that it was almost like a dream to him, as he had intended to create one of the best games for the PlayStation 1 and all its hardware could handle, but make the game for himself. Something he could and would enjoy, rather than appealing to the masses. As one of the first game auteurs and easily one of my favorite individual creators of games. this was only the beginning of his triumphant march of innovation, steamrolling any obstacle into a baseline standard for all future games.

Konami ordered Hideo to create a sequel to Metal Gear Solid for the upcoming PlayStation 2 with its new hardware capabilities, and he instantly began to work on the idea, with a budget given to him of $10,000,000. He used the money to experiment with the usage of motion capture, longtime Hollywood composer Harry Gregson-Williams, and extensive cutscenes. Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty has such an incredible amount of detail, like shooting glass bottles will individually shatter them even though they are background items or the slipping on foot of seagull defecation. and it’s future predictive narrative is absolutely insane and predicted the future with one fell swoop in 2001. It sold like hotcakes, proving Hideo’s success to Konami and the gaming world at large, both critics and consumers. From my perspective, Metal Gear Solid 2 is the most advanced game ever created. Not just in terms of narrative, but in technical progressions as well. This game, it is just so incredibly important to understand how this is so uniquely cinematic and yet what is most important at heart for all of this is how Hideo manages to create games that utilize the medium of being a video game. The games he has made are stellar and have certain unique qualities that cannot be replicated or adapted into other mediums.

A prime example of what I’m talking about would be Psycho Mantis. Metal Gear Solid 1’s most iconic boss. Don’t get me wrong, the whole series is extremely iconic and influential, but whenever Hideo Kojima does something experimental in any of his games, those moments are revolutionary then and still hold up to this date. Those experimental moments still manage to be so meaningful and powerful even to this day. Back to the boss fight. I love boss fights, they are one of the best parts of any game if they’re done right. They take all of the game design that the player has learned and forces them to think of a new way to combat the boss. This boss fight instead subverts the game design itself and creates its focus around being a video game. The boss fight begins by Psycho Mantis telling you that he’s going to read your mind and then what he proceeds to do is search your memory card, breaking the fourth wall. For example, if you have a save file of Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, (which is a fantastically satisfying game, but that’s beside the point) Psycho Mantis will say that “You like Castlevania, don’t you?”. This may be a small joke, but it goes even further. The boss will read your every move and anything you attempt to do against him will be futile as he will prevent everything before it even happens. In order to defeat him, you must unplug your controller from its normal player one spot and plug it back into the second port physically. This is genius. Another tidbit in the original is in order to find important information to continue in the game, you must look on the back of the box the game came in, and input a code from the images on the back. Later in the game, you must listen to the audio to hear where a helicopter is going to be, and if you do not have a stereo television, your team will chide you for having a mono television. The voice acting team specifically recorded lines of dialogue for this chance encounter that rarely anyone would encounter. There is such an abundant amount of care and detail put into everything Hideo Kojima makes.

In the second, you are told to turn off the game console directly by a character to freak you out. In the third, you fight a boss who is elderly, and if you stop the game in the middle of the fight, only to come back a week later, the boss will have died of old age. In the fourth, there are such specifically optimized sequences to the hardware that allows for you to mess around within the cutscenes themselves while heavy-handed expositions are being poured out. A Side note, the fourth game has the record for the longest cutscene in any video game. This immense interactivity with the player is why this cannot be adapted into another medium such as a movie or a book. It is so experimental, creative, and fresh. I admire how much passion Hideo places into every ounce of anything his pinky finger touches.

Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater is a huge Cold War 1960’s James Bond homage extravaganza prequel, and Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots is a depressing gritty take on our pseudo future with the world in constant unending conflict because of our nature as human beings. Despite this, they always manage to advocate for an optimistic outlook that no matter what happens, in the end, we can seek out peace, and obtain it, and that’s worth fighting for.

The Metal Gear Solid series is monumental. I adore each one. Hideo Kojima also has an interest in potentially rebooting the Silent Hill franchise. Real quick, Silent Hill is a fantastic psychological horror series that has such hard-hitting titles that have similar vibes that I would compare to the surrealism of David Lynch.

Out of nowhere on the PlayStation Store, a PS4 demo appeared called P.T.

P.T. is the scariest game we have in existence and the scariest game that never was. This is the project that I am the most butthurt about being canceled. The team working on P.T. comprised of Hideo Kojima, Gullimero Del Toro, and Junji Ito, with a notion captured by Norman Reedus. This game was so creepy and disturbing but only took around 20 minutes to finish. Another brilliant example of tailoring around the video game medium, a potential sequence that could randomly occur while playing P.T. (Which consists of a single repeating hallway) is a crying baby from a bathroom with its door slightly ajar. If you chose to approach the door, then zoom in, waiting, a vaguely humanoid creature would rapidly grab the door and slam it shut. This is terrifying, and it is because of the player as to why this piece of the game works so well. It is by your hand directly, your curiosity as a human being that causes you to fall over crying like a little baby out of sheer panic. Various obscure puzzles were needed to be solved in order to finish the game, which was so incredibly obscure, some included speaking the name “Lisa” into your PlayStation controller’s microphone, taking a certain number of steps after hearing a chime, and deciphering number riddles in complex number to letter ciphers. Eventually, this revealed that P.T. stood for Playable Teaser and that it was a prototype for Silent Hill 5, Silent Hills. It was canceled because Konami fired Hideo Kojima and in recent years decided to sell out to become a corporate shill on a huge scale. It was taken off the PlayStation Store, and Konami went as far as to not allow you to re-download the game if you had already installed the game, but then had it deleted it. You can find a decently large amount of footage of this online, and people have created dedicatedly accurate replicas of it in PC versions made from scratch that have even landed one of the replica creators a job at a software company.

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Due to Kojima’s untimely firing, Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain’s ending was rushed and the result is a final game that is overall some of the most impressive mechanically, but the narrative is lacking and creates the titular problem. Each Metal Gear Solid could have easily been the last and each one stands on its own except for the second, which pretty much relies on the first for its genius. MGS1 ties itself up. MGS2 leaves questions but ultimately explains that they don’t matter and that’s okay. MGS3 gives such incredible insight and emotion and explains a lot about the Metal Gear Universe. MGS4 is a messy conclusion to all of the loose ends. MGSV is somewhat of a celebration of all of that and a fix-up of small plot details here and there. The whole series is ultimately so convoluted and in terms of narrative I have rambled about how brilliant it is for at most around 4 hours non stop.

Hideo Kojima after being fired ended up being up for grabs and the highest bidder was Sony themselves. He got a new studio, and Sony practically handed him a blank check.

The result is Death Stranding.

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On November 8th, Death Stranding will release. This game has been so shrouded in mystery, so original looking and esoteric in inspiration. And it’s being funded by a triple AAA company, giving almost full control to Hideo. I bought a PS4 for this game last year alone just for this game. Even if this game turns out to be terrible, the buildup has been so astoundingly interesting and bizarre, I will be happy for at least these moments of strange wonder. The narrative has been kept under almost complete seal, and the more information the public is revealed, the more confusing and investing it becomes.

Trailers have been released periodically with nearly no words in any of them, but rather emotional music, and raw visuals. I implore you to look these up on the internet, they are well worth your time to at least be bewildered by how creative and strange they can get. Norman Reedus and Gullimero Del Toro are back, but so are new people that are being motion scanned in. A few to list would be Mads Mikkelson, Lea Seydoux, Edgar Wright, and it’s very likely Hideo Kojima himself.

Hideo has recently revealed that his studio will be pursuing the creation of live-action feature-length films soon. Hideo Kojima finally became the movie director he always wanted to be and more. I hope he does make games though, and not just movies after this. I believe Hideo Kojima is once again attempting to create a new sub-genre of game, and this is just the brand new start of another large blueprint for all to follow. I am happy that I live in the same time period as someone this ingenious, daring, and original.