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Well, Konami has certainly put on a clinic in how not to run a video game company. They have pretty much alienated their consumer base by making one big blunder after another—blacklisting and censoring critics, cancelling their biggest and most expensive projects, holding insane and nonsensical press conferences. I’m willing to bet no sane developer will even consider working for them now; the new Metal Gear Solid game is just a few months away from release, and it’s almost guaranteed to be the last one, at least with Hideo Kojima at the helm. Don’t worry, he’ll be free from their corporate clutches by Christmas.
All of this is a shame, Konami was once synonymous with challenge, high quality and innovation going all the way back to the 8-bit era. I’m not really one to dwell too much on what went wrong; I like to remember the high points, the moments we were on top of the world. That’s exactly what I’m doing with Konami—without further ado, let’s look at some of their greatest successes.
The run-and gun platformer—nothing else even comes close. Released in the arcades in 1987 and on the NES a year later, Contra is probably the original friendship destroyer, being one of the first titles to use simultaneous two-player co-op. You’ll need someone to help you along no matter what—a combination of one-hit kills and high enemy numbers make this one of the most unforgiving games ever made. Also introduced that bloody up up down down left right left right B A START cheat code that people reference to sound nerdy, when in reality they wouldn’t know a graphics card from a Yu-Gi-Oh card.
Ever wanted to kill Dracula? Well, you can do that in Castlevania—just grab your whip and take care of the many zombies, floating Medusa heads and dodgy jumping mechanics that will get in your way first. (Especially the Medusa heads. Those things will fuck up your day). Another challenging platformer from the NES era, but it’s had instalments on most major consoles over the years. My personal recommendation is Super Castlevania 4 for the Super Nintendo—the controls in that game are much better than the others, making for a more enjoyable game and fewer broken controllers.
Hideo Kojima, to the gaming masses, is practically a god amongst men. He has done things to piss people off (mostly harmless trolling), but he has always made great games, and the entire Metal Gear series is his masterpiece. I’m still amazed every time I sneak my way through Metal Gear Solid and, with the benefit of hindsight, can recognise how influential it has been, especially in terms of narrative. Pretty much every AAA blockbuster these days owes a great debt to Kojima and his willingness to blend cinematic storytelling with unique stealth mechanics—don’t tell me you didn’t piss yourself the first time you heard that alert, or complain during a really long cutscene. Also indirectly gave us Metal Gear Awesome, which put a certain young animator named Egoraptor on the map.
I refuse to play any and all horror games, Silent Hill included. Horror and mental illness are a dangerous mix. Sorry. Also, now that Silent Hills has been canned, there’s probably no way another one will be made anyway.
DANCE DANCE REVOLUTION
I can’t dance. I have no rhythm. I’m not a fan of upbeat pop music. Most of these are probably true for a lot of people. Yet, DDR is still shit-tons of fun, especially when inhibitions have been lowered in one way or another. Blame this for why rhythm games are/were so popular.
So there you go: Konami’s greatest hits. Not a bad line-up in the end. And yet, the company now wants to piss it all away for bloody freemium mobile games. They’ve started chasing the money rather than the art. The dollar signs in their eyes have blinded them to the fact that they’re sitting on a gold mine of great games from their past—they should probably take some inspiration from these and apply it to their business today. Besides, I’d rather cut my own toes off before I play a Metal Gear game with microtransactions.