I liked Metal Gear Ac!d about as much as Brad, but for different reasons. While Brad felt it stumbled out of the gate but gained steam later, I felt like it started out strong and became overwhelming as it got more complex.
I didn't find the initial portions of the game so frustrating. It's true that adapting to the eccentricities of Ac!d's gameplay is an ordeal. The most shocking offender is the weapon system, an opaque cloud of confusion that threatens to break the game in half. However, I disagree on the more mundane "unrealistic" elements, such as not being able to turn and attack in a single turn. These sorts of rules are staples of the turn-based strategy genre, so I don't find them so intrusive. I don't care what the rules are as long as they are clear, and Ac!d's only real crime is failing to present its quirky logic to the player in a coherent way.
Once you grasp the gameplay system of Ac!d it works well, and if you grasp it early, the earlier levels are no less fun than the later ones. In fact, I felt the game was more frustrating towards the end because that's when the system began breaking down in spite of the fact that I understood it. There are so many cards by the end that it didn't seem worth figuring out how to use most of them, since their abilities often involved manual calculation. I enjoy solving complex systems, but the point of a videogame seems to be leaving the math to the program. When I realized that to use most of the cards I had to add up "COST" in my head, I just tuned out and stuck with the simpler cards.
Nonetheless, Ac!d is a fun game. I think Brad and I got about the same level of enjoyment out of the gameplay, even if we differ on pros and cons. I can't say we see eye to eye on the story, though. Acid's plot is certainly cool, but it doesn't have the depth or weight that I was hoping for. It may seem unfair to hold a portable game to the standard of the multi-million dollar cut-scene extravaganzas like Metal Gear Solid 2. But then again, it might not be. The previous portable Metal Gear game, Metal Gear: Ghost Babel for the Gameboy Color, actually managed to import a lot of the tone, depth, and dramatic feeling of the main series into the small screen. It was in its own way as effective a synthesis of gameplay and story as any mainstream Metal Gear. Metal Gear Ac!d, however, doesn't feel like it has story on its mind. Because of the lack of a codec system, you never get to know the characters very well. And the plot, while interesting and full of twists, has too much padding in the first half and resolves itself too quickly at the end. Metal Gear Solid 2 was lambasted for having too many plot twists at the end as well, but it at least had iconic characters in memorable situations. Even if you didn't understand the plot, characters and events lingered in your mind. They don't in Ac!d. Many of the plot twists seem to have no purpose other than confusing the player, and while it all does sort of make sense if you think about it, it lacks the dramatic punch to make you want to untangle its web of conspiracies.
Still, the foundation is very strong. Though uneven, the card-based gameplay is engaging. I spent 30 hours finishing this game, and I don't regret it. I think all of its problems, even the story ones, could easily be smoothed over in the sequel which was just announced. If Metal Gear Ac!d 2 follows the same trajectory as Zone of Enders, another Kojima-produced series that got off to a shaky start, the sequel will realize the dormant potential of the original.
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