If Kojima were allowed to release his original vision of MGS5, it would be an entirely different game.
In 2017, while Marvel and Disney were on top of the world with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, DC and WB were scrambling to catch up. But where the former had worked towards their spectacular success by patiently building towards it over the course of multiple films across several years, the latter wanted to skip ahead and get straight to the point where they could release a big superhero team up movie and rake in the cash. It was blatantly hasty, driven by a desperate need to catch up with a steamrolling competitor- but Zack Snyder, the man who was responsible for ensuring that the DC Extended Universe could get to that point, had a vision. And though there were many who weren’t big fans of what he was doing, he was, if nothing else, building towards that vision in a consistent manner.
2017’s theatrical cut of Justice League was a slap in the face to those who believed in that vision. It was a far cry from the movie that Snyder had been making and had been on track to release. Entire crucial plot lines were cut out, action sequences were neutered, the film’s tone was mutated into something it was never supposed to be, character development was ruined. Thanks to a ton of trimming and reshoots by a man who didn’t understand what the tone of the story and the film was supposed to be, the 2017 theatrical cut of Justice League was, in no vague terms, a trainwreck. Recently, however, after years of demands from fans, WB released the Snyder Cut, allowing the man to show the world what movie he had originally been working on. And make no mistake- though it’s far from perfect, it’s an entirely different film from the one we saw in 2017, and significantly better, too.
There are plenty of examples of video games that would benefit from that sort of treatment as well, but the one that comes to mind before almost anything else is, of course, Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain. The 2015 open world title had a lot going for it, but in so many ways, it was a disappointment to long time series fans. In the years since then, it has become clear that there was a plethora content that was cut out, both from gameplay and story. Content being cut out from games is an extremely common occurrence- it’s actually kind of impossible to name a game that didn’t have content cut out during development. But Metal Gear Solid 5 in particular had to chop out a lot of crucial stuff. And so here we are, wistfully thinking about what it would be like if the impossible came to pass, and we got to play a hypothetical Kojima Cut.
The most obvious improvements a hypothetical Hideo Kojima’s Metal Gear Solid 5 would make would be, of course, to the story. In its current state, The Phantom Pain’s plot is full of massive gaps that fans have had to fill in for themselves, and the biggest of these comes right at the end. Episode 51 doesn’t exist in the game that Konami released (at least not the way it was supposed to), which is still a real shock, because datamining over the last few years has uncovered just how crucial it was going to be. Not only was it going to be set in an island that wasn’t part of any other mission in the game, from a story perspective, it was going to wrap up Eli’s (or Liquid Snake’s) storyline for the game. The ending to that episode was a pivotal moment for Liquid Snake, and would have served as the perfect setup for his story in future games, tying The Phantom Pain into Metal Gear Solid 1 in particular perfectly.
Having that content included in the game would also make the ending shown in Episode 46 much more palatable. In its current state, Episode 46 is a particularly hard pill to swallow, not only because it sort of ruins the whole legend of Big Boss, but also because of how jarringly abrupt it feels. There’s very little buildup for that ending, and when you’re about to throw a twist as big as that one at the player, you need buildup- and if not, buildup, you at least need something of an epilogue. In the years since The Phantom Pain came out, fans have had to connect the dots between its ending and the beginning of Metal Gear 1 themselves, but the ideal scenario, of course, would have been a game that does that itself. Talk about how the Diamond Dogs morphed into Big Boss’ military state of Outer Heaven, about how Venom Snake and Big Boss went from fighting to protect child soldiers and rescuing animals to leading an army of terrorists who’re harbouring weapons of mass destruction.
And then there are the info tapes, which contain some of the most crucial narrative elements in the entire game. So many of the loose ends in the story, so many inconsistencies, so many plot holes are addressed by these info tapes. Crucial plot points about Zero, Paz, Ocelot, Huey, and Skull Face, pivotal conversations and scenes between some of the most major players in the series’ overarching story, connections to plot points from earlier in the series’ chronology, and setup for threads that would be picked up by later games- it’s shocking how much stuff there is in these info tapes, but what’s even more shocking is that all of this is relegated to audio logs that can be entirely missed by the player. It’s great that this stuff is in the game, of course, but how much better would it be if it was all included in the game in the form of actual cutscenes and direct storytelling? This stuff would have solved so many of the problems that currently exist in the game.
Then there are other narrative flaws that a director’s cut of Metal Gear Solid 5 could address. The Skull Unit is currently a faceless group of nameless soldiers with no personalities and no backgrounds, which is such a far cry from the extensive character development we’ve typically gotten for the bosses and bad guys in all Metal Gear games. Concept art discovered in the book The Art of Metal Gear Solid V has suggested that Kojima was originally planning on keeping Chico alive in The Phantom Pain, and have him returned as a grizzles, scarred, battle-hardened recruit for the Diamond Dogs, and that would have been absolutely awesome to see. Meanwhile, characters such as Code Talker, and more could be given proper, definitive resolutions to their arcs.
And of course, it’s not just the story that would benefit hugely from a Snyder Cut-style treatment of Metal Gear Solid 5. The gameplay, too, would ideally see massive improvements. Chapter 2, for instance, is full of missions that are just remixed versions of missions from Chapter 1, but if development constraints for a director’s cut were not a consideration, that wouldn’t be the case. The open world, meanwhile, could see heavy improvements, with more enemy patrols, more enemy convoys, more enemy bases. Things such as guard dogs and battle gear – both of which were originally supposed to be in the game and would have made both stealth and combat so much more exciting – could be restored. Admittedly, some of this stuff has been addressed by fan-made mods, but how awesome would it have been if these things were, you know, actually in the game to begin with? How excellent would it have been if we had gotten the chance to take on Skull Face in an actual boss fight, rather than seeing the game’s main villain die in a cutscene?
Of course, it’s highly, highly unlikely that any of this will end up happening. Even if Konami does ever decide to go back to the Metal Gear IP in a meaningful manner (which doesn’t seem likely at this point), something like this would require massive time and financial investments, and I’m not so sure they would see the value on that- to say nothing of the complicated relationship between Konami and Hideo Kojima, and how difficult that would make it for a venture like this to ever come to fruition. So yeah, there’s almost no chance that Konami will ever release the Kojima Cut. But we can always dream, right? We can always dream.
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