That strange old Metal Gear novel

I pitched the idea of an article about the Worlds of Power books to Kotaku UK a while ago. Little did I know how long it would take to write…

Worlds of Power novels

The Worlds of Power books are a series of tie-in novels based on NES games that date from the early 1990s. They’re short, aimed at kids, and not particularly great, but they were hugely successful in the United States (over a million copies sold), and they were probably what really started the video games to novels genre. They’re also deliciously weird, thanks to a few circumstances which I describe in the Kotaku article – which went live today:

The Metal Gear Novelisation is Super Weird

Incidentally, one of the editors added that ‘super’ in the title – to my ears it sounds a bit Famous Five. Is this how the kids speak nowadays? [Shakes head in confusion.]

Anyway, I ordered three of the Worlds of Power books from the US, and they took forever to arrive – and by the time they did, I had a new baby and was somewhat preoccupied, as you can imagine. I’ve managed to snatch a few spare moments over the last month or so to work on the article, but this one was tough – I ended up going through two unused drafts before I hit on a format I liked. It took an AGE. Whereas previous Kotaku articles have been fairly straightforward to write, I really struggled with this one for some reason – perhaps due to a lack of sleep now Merriweather Junior is on the loose.

Anyway, despite ordering three books – Metal Gear, Bionic Commando and Castlevania II – I only actually used Metal Gear for the article because there was so much great stuff in it. Maybe I’ll end up writing about the others sometime… once I get some sleep!

Metal Gear novel

Buy Metal Gear (Worlds of Power) on Amazon.

7 Comments

  1. That Metal Gear novel sure has a lot of weird moments. Then again, so does the game; punching through a brick wall (and later, a locked door) is something you actually have to do in order to progress, so that part is accurate. Despite it being an early attempt at a cinematic game and featuring what could possibly be the medium’s first twist ending, it’s very much a standard weird 80s video game plot.

    The plot summaries that featured in the instruction booklets of old games tended to be really weird too. I remember the one for Snake’s Revenge having very little to do with the game’s plot. It even claimed that a non-existent character was the game’s main antagonist like the Metal Gear novel.

    1. There were all sorts of weird things in old instruction booklets – I remember the one for Centipede being really odd a long way back. I suppose back when graphics were rudimentary, publishers felt they had to flesh out the story a bit on paper, even if it bore no resemblance to the actual game.

      The Colonel CaTaffy thing in Metal Gear is classic – I don’t think he even appears under that name in the game itself.

      1. That’s the thing, isn’t it? It’s not like nowadays where the writers and the development staff are more likely to be on the same page, thus allowing the story to have an impact on the gameplay and vice versa. Supposedly, you’re supposed to be controlling an elf-like character in Centipede, but you would never guess that based on the sprite. I thought it looked like the head of a snake.

        And nope, Colonel CaTaffy is never mentioned in the game. I don’t even think he’s mentioned in the abysmal NES translation (though if you thought that was bad, the original MSX English translation was somehow even worse). Maybe it was the author’s way of keeping Big Boss’s status as the main antagonist a secret?

  2. It seems a bit strange to write books based on games from the early nineties. I have a limited experience of the Metal Gear game and find this game has a much simpler plot than other games in the series. I have read a few adventure game books based on the Mario series, which seemed to be loosely related to the games (as the games consisted of a plumber exploring levels to rescue a princess from a powerful lizard). The books include Mario solving problems and completing puzzles to defeat King Koopa (not jumping on his enemies) and use characters and objects not found in the games.

    1. It definitely seems a good idea to essentially rework stuff if you’re going to do a novel version – most things in 8-bit games don’t really make any sense when you think about them. Intriguingly, the DOOM book is meant to be fairly good (as far as video game novels go), mostly because it only really pays lip service to the game’s ‘plot’.

      Super Mario Bros. is just bizarre whatever way you look at it though. Mushrooms? Warp pipes? Plumbers? It’s like a trip-induced nightmare.

      1. It seems strange that the DOOM book would have little resemblance to the plot of the game, I would have thought it would be fairly easy to base a horror book on the game, avoiding the enemies and worrying about ammunition.
        I can understand what you mean about the Super Mario Brothers. It seems weird to base a game, played by kids, on plumbing. I have never understood why the developers decided to dedicate so much of the game to mushrooms and why the star makes Mario invincible. Is Mario supposed to come from Brooklyn? Or is that something the books made up?

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