Konami has fixed one of the more glaring issues with the Master Collection version of Metal Gear Solid 1. When the game hit Steam three days ago, players were supposed to be able to download different language packs—Japanese, US English and what-have-you—via the game’s launcher. Unfortunately, the relevant Steam pages were inexplicably AWOL, making international versions of the game inaccessible.
That was fatal. At least here in the UK, the only version of MGS 1 I could play was the UK English—or PAL—version. Unlike US NTSC games, PAL versions are built for 50hz screens, meaning the only version of MGS 1 the Master Collection I had access to felt unbearably sluggish in addition to being graphically hard to parse in all its low-res, PS1-era glory. It also meant you couldn’t play MGS: Integral at all, since it needed you to download the Japanese language pack before it would launch.
That problem, at least, is fixed. Konami has cut the Gordian knot and just added those additional language packs as normal DLCs in Steam, meaning you can download them if you go to MGS 1’s entry in your Steam library and click “Manage my DLC”. Friends, if you’ve been restricted to the UK English version of the game like I have, you should absolutely do this. The US English/NTSC version—specced for 60hz screens—feels so much nicer to play I almost feel like Konami shouldn’t have included the PAL version at all.
That doesn’t mean the game is suddenly fixed, mind you. I’m still experiencing a bit of input lag and various audio bugs on the US English version of the game, and the emulator Konami has packaged up with MGS 1 still lacks the bells and whistles you’d find if you emulated the game yourself via something like Duckstation. But if you just want to launch MGS 1 and go, make sure you pick that US English version. You’ll be glad you did.
Konami’s done the same thing—adding the Japanese language packs—to MGS 2 and 3, but those games aren’t emulated like MGS 1 is. They’re plain-Jane ports of the Xbox 360 Bluepoint remasters, so there’s no performance gains to be found there. It does mean you can check out Akio Otsuka’s rendition of Snake, though, which is both a joy and a privilege.
Anyway, here’s the bit where I do some editorialising: I’m a bit disappointed with how the discourse over these ports has shaken out. Plenty of fans unhappy with the incredibly basic emulation of MGS 1 and the muddy, 720p versions of 2 and 3 have fallen back on the old tropes of “lazy devs,” which is basically never accurate and is, I reckon, super inaccurate here.
Everything about the way these products were assembled—putting in all the language packs, chucking in MGS archive material, even letting you gin up dummy memory card data for the Psycho Mantis fight in 1—suggests to me that the devs who put the Master Collection together genuinely cared about doing right by Metal Gear, I just doubt they got the resources to do it properly.
I imagine convincing the suits at Konami to allocate resources to a project like this—instead of putting it all into something like those shiny remakes that have been doing so well for Capcom—is a real hard task. These original games deserve proper and faithful remasters, which are much more labour and resource intensive to make than they seem, but I doubt there’s anyone with much power at the studio who’d be interested in doing that. So, for now, we’ll just have to content ourselves with emulating the correct version.