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How should we interpret the story of MGSV? The expert speaks![vol.2]

●Is MGSV unfinished?

-- There's been a lot of talk, mainly on the Internet, about MGSV being “unfinished.” What's your take on this?

Yano: I think there were two stages to this. First, you had a certain number of players who finished Chapter 2 not long after the game came out and went, “What? This Snake wasn't the real Big Boss!?” It's similar to the way people reacted to MGS2 (laughs). Some players couldn't accept that there was a new main character, Raiden, and they got really angry. But now MGS2 is considered a masterpiece. MGSV is a much longer game than MGS2, so it's like its length amplified that feeling.

-- So you're saying at first, people were annoyed about not playing as Snake, rather than the game being unfinished?

Yano: Right. Then after this, people started to see the cut Episode 51, The Kingdom of the Flies, which was included on the bonus disc but posted online, and then reaction changed to people asking why this wasn't in the game. In other words, the story arc with Eli being unresolved made people feel the game was incomplete. But personally, I don't think the Kingdom of the Flies episode is essential to the game.

-- You think it's irrelevant?

Yano: I don't think its absence is the direct cause of this reaction. Up until Episode 46, The Man Who Sold the World, players experience the story as Snake, but then they suddenly have the rug pulled out from under them. They find out that they themselves were Big Boss. Then it becomes their story. They themselves participated in the massacre on Mother Base, Quiet's disappearance, Huey's exile. I think The Kingdom of the Flies became an outlet for venting all the unease and confusion that followed that revelation. But really, this fits right into what Kojima-san wanted.

-- Perhaps it's an adverse reaction to the weight put on the player's shoulders. They became Big Boss and experienced themselves becoming a villain, rather than watching him as a third party, and maybe that felt like too heavy a burden.

Yano: I think that's what it is. Kojima-san wouldn't be satisfied with having the player just think, Wow, Snake's a monster, he killed a bunch of his own men. Kojima-san has talked about “giving Snake back to the player” with MGSV, and I think this is probably the kind of thing he meant.

-- With that in mind, Episode 43, Shining Lights, Even in Death, is a pretty intense part of the game.

Yano: That's quite a demand he put on the player (strained laugh). To be honest, while that episode will disturb the player, Kojima-san believes that the greatest goal of entertainment is to move the audience, and that he must make games that can do that. I believe that's why he has the player do such a thing. There's some overlap there with the final scene with The Boss in MGS3.

-- So with MGSV Kojima-san has given Snake back to the player. Is this the end of the Metal Gear saga?

Yano: As a commercial product and as a physical thing, Metal Gear is definitely over. But in a way it isn't. At the start of Moby-Dick, the narrator, Ishmael, states that Captain Ahab's story is spun by (it's a stage production put on by) the three Fates - Atropos, Clotho, and Lachesis. Ishmael laments that they have made him the narrator, given him the “shabby part of a whaling voyage” in order to have him tell Ahab's story. But at the end of the book, Melville gives Ishmael an extraordinary role to fulfill. After the rest of the crew of the Pequod have died, including Ahab himself, he has Ishmael say, “... I was he whom the Fates ordained to take the place of Ahab's bowsman, when that bowsman assumed the vacant post...”

-- And after the phantom Big Boss dies, the narrator, Ishmael, takes over as Big Boss...

Yano: Right. It's possible to interpret MGSV as Ishmael being played by Big Boss. But Ishmael is still the narrator: the will to keep speaking, the will to live the impossible, even after a world has ended. It's the presence of Ishmael that demonstrates it is possible to tell a story in a world that no longer is. We already know the story that leads to this. Think about Snake's famous lines at the end of MGS2: “We need to pass the torch, and let our children read our messy and sad history by its light. We have all the magic of the digital age to do that with. The human race will probably come to an end some time, and new species may rule over this planet. Earth may not be forever, but we still have the responsibility to leave what traces of life we can. Building the future and keeping the past alive are one and the same thing.”

-- At the end of Episode 46, Ishmael isn't just speaking a message to Snake within the story, but to the player as well. So the line “From here on out, you're Big Boss” could be viewed as symbolic of that.

Yano: This is a slight digression, but this feeling of MGSV not being over, this feeling of things being unresolved, these are also present with Moby-Dick. Captain Ahab at last challenges Moby Dick, but he's dragged overboard and drowns. There is no climactic battle against his arch nemesis as one might expect. But many people are under the impression that Ahab died after a struggle to the bitter end.

-- In the novel, not much is made of Ahab's demise.

Yano: Some say a big contributing factor to this impression was the 1956 cinematic adaptation of Moby-Dick, co-written by Ray Bradbury, directed by John Huston, and starring Gregory Peck. In the book, the Zoroastrian character Fedallah battles Moby Dick, but Bradbury gave this role to Ahab instead. The image of Ahab battling the whale, as seen in the film, is more befitting a hero. This image is without a doubt connected to the creation of Ahab as a hero, delivering American justice. The idea of heroism changing in the telling is familiar territory with MGS, and with Moby-Dick's Ahab we also have the image of a hero changing over time as their story is told and retold.

-- A hero steadily becoming idolized to fit what's convenient.

Yano: Snake has always rejected being spoken of as some legendary hero. In MGSV, by having the player be Snake, each individual player could become Big Boss in whichever way they chose. They became not the hero as stories spoke of him, but the hero he actually was. This is like taking Bradbury's version of Ahab and returning him to how he originally was.

-- I see. And that's something the player must experience themselves, not just hear about in a story.

Yano: In the world of Metal Gear post-MGSV, Ahab is killed by Solid Snake. But Big Boss (Ishmael) lives on. The events of Metal Gear games always bring the world to the brink. What saved Big Boss, and the world, was Ahab (the player) in MGSV.

-- So it's actually the player who brings the series full circle. That's quite an amazing setup. I remember Kojima-san saying in the “Debriefing” video something like “I think fans will be happy with it.”

Yano: Making Big Boss Ishmael (the narrator), and the player Ahab (another Big Boss), was done in order to have the player fulfill the final role in the Metal Gear saga, saving this world on the brink of ending, and at the same time saving this saga that had to come to an end at some point. They had to carry out the greatest mission in the series. In the series' world, Ahab is killed by Solid Snake, but he's still alive in our world: since we are Ahab. There are countless Big Bosses in our world.

-- So in one way Metal Gear ends with MGSV, but in another way it continues.

Yano: We can be Big Boss now. We can all hold our heads high and work to save the world - our real world. So let's do that. Why not, right? I think this is the “empty space” Kojima-san has given us through MGSV.