During his debut appearances, Solid Snake's visual appearances were references to popular actors, and he was given his own consistent design in Metal Gear Solid (see below). Such design shows him as a brown-haired adult wearing a dark sneaking suit, as well as a bandana. This appearance suffered little changes in the sequel besides the fact Snake was older, but, during the beginning of the Plant Chapter, he disguises himself wearing a uniform. By Metal Gear Solid 4, Solid Snake has undergone a notable, drastic change as a result of his accelerated aging making him look near elderly. Nevertheless, he still wears his sneaking suit for missions and has access to different disguises to look like other characters.
Solid Snake has been on the battlefield for most of his life, a hardened veteran, he has his emotions buried very deep inside himself. Every one of his missions has different motives. He is immediately shown as a loner and with no intentions of taking orders from anyone anymore, he shows no sign of longing for the army or the country he was part of.Along with these traits he has a more human side, being flirtatious, self-sacrificing and with a strong belief that even on a battlefield friendship and love can flourish, and that violence is not glorious. Although the last bit is debatable due to statements from his enemies and at least one of his allies that he might enjoy all the killing, and even being labelled as being truly evil at one point.
Metal Gear series
Metal Gear (initially released in 1987) introduces Solid Snake, the rookie recruit of the elite special-forces unit FOXHOUND. Snake is sent by team leader Big Boss into the rogue nation Outer Heaven to rescue his missing teammate Gray Fox and discover who or what the "METAL GEAR" mentioned is. As his mission progresses he finds out that he has been set up; the leader of Outer Heaven is actually Big Boss, who intends to use Metal Gear—an experimental, nuclear-armed mecha—to establish Outer Heaven as a nuclear power. After destroying the Metal Gear itself, he then confronts Big Boss and defeats him.
The sequel Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake (initially released only in Japan for the MSX2 and follows after the original Metal Gear and ignores Snake's Revenge) sees Solid Snake once again called up to infiltrate a heavily fortified enemy base in Zanzibar Land. Zanzibar Land has aggravated an international oil crisis and declared themselves a nuclear power by kidnapping Dr. Kio Marv, the creator of a bio-engineered algae that produces an oil substitute, and Dr. Pettrovich Madnar, the developer of the original Metal Gear. Snake infiltrates the base and discovers that Pettrovich and his former comrade Gray Fox have defected to Zanzibar Land, and that Zanzibar Land is led by Big Boss. Snake destroys their new Metal Gear D, and defeats his former comrades Gray Fox and Big Boss.
Metal Gear Solid sees Solid Snake pulled out of retirement by Colonel Roy Campbell in a mission to deal with FOXHOUND. Under the leadership of Liquid Snake, FOXHOUND has gone rogue and seized Shadow Moses Island, an isolated American nuclear weapons disposal facility. Snake infiltrates the base and meets up with Meryl Silverburgh (a rookie soldier) and Dr. Hal Emmerich (Otacon) (the designer of Metal Gear REX). Snake defeats each member of FOXHOUND one by one, destroys Metal Gear REX, and confronts Liquid. Liquid reveals that he and Solid are twin brothers artificially conceived from Big Boss' genes during a government project designed to create the perfect soldier titled "Les Enfants Terribles", in which one brother was genetically modified to be superior over the other. Liquid harbors a strong resentment towards Snake since his brother was given their father's dominant "soldier genes" and Liquid was cast aside. After a grueling series of battles, Liquid dies from the Fox-Die virus that was previously implanted into Snake in order to wipe out FOXHOUND without risking any damage to Metal Gear REX and the Genome soldiers' bodies for retrieval. In the end, it is revealed that Liquid got Big Boss' superior "soldier genes", not Solid.
The extensive prologue sequence of Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty shows Solid Snake is the playable character in which he is sent by the anti-proliferation organization Philanthropy to infiltrate a cargo tanker and photograph Metal Gear RAY, the latest Metal Gear model. During the operation, however, the Metal Gear RAY is hijacked and the tanker destroyed, with the apparently dead Snake framed for the deed. While the remainder of the game follows the actions of the rookie FOXHOUND agent Raiden (the character now controlled by the player) assigned to rescue the U.S. President and a number of other government officials being held hostage at a remote offshore oil shell facility, Snake appears throughout the main portion of the game under the pseudonym Iroquois Pliskin (イロコィ・プリスキン Irokoi Purisukin?) as a non-playable character who assists Raiden in taking down Solidus Snake.
An aged version of Solid Snake codenamed "Old Snake" in Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots
The PlayStation 3 game Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots features an aged version of Solid Snake that is once again the main protagonist and identified as Old Snake (オールド・スネーク Ōrudo Sunēku?) by the game. On account of his genetic code being a potential threat if it fell into enemy hands, he was designed with a short life span; as such, while he is only 42 years old, he has the body of an old man. In the game, Snake wears a sneaking suit outfitted with "Octocamo" technology, which allows him to blend with his environment, as well as a face mask which alters his appearance. Snake is once again enlisted by his old friend Roy Campbell to defeat Liquid Ocelot, who is following Big Boss' cause by taking control of the Patriots' AIs. Snake and his allies are forced to destroy the Patriots' AIs to stop Ocelot, and fights most of his soldiers, until killing Ocelot. Having learned that his rapid aging can cause an epidemic because of the FOXDIE virus mutating, Snake tries to commit suicide but changes his mind and is then confronted by Big Boss who reveals he can spend the rest of his life peacefully. After making up with Big Boss, Snake decides to live out the remainder of his life in peace, vowing that he will live long enough to see what the future holds for the new world he has helped create.
Three Metal Gear spin-offs, which do not follow the storyline of the main Kojima-directed series, were directed by Shinta Nojiri. The first of these games is the Game Boy Color version of Metal Gear Solid (released in Japan as Metal Gear: Ghost Babel). In Ghost Babel, Solid Snake infiltrates a rebuilt Outer Heaven (now called Galuade) to defeat a FOXHOUND-like team of rogue agents called Black Chamber and destroy a stolen Metal Gear prototype, Gander. While the promotional art for the game was drawn by Yoji Shinkawa, the actual in-game character designs were done by Ikuya Nakamura.
In Metal Gear Acid, Solid Snake must retrieve "Pythagoras" from the Lobito Physics and Research Laboratory, in order to satisfy hijackers who have kidnapped presidential candidate Viggo Hach. This mission is complicated by La Clown, an expert mimic who impersonates Solid Snake's contact Teliko, and subtle brainwashing that nearly convinces him that he is Hans Davis, a ruthless scientist that worked at the Lobito facility. He overcomes both and contacts the real Teliko, then destroys the latest model of Metal Gear, Metal Gear KODOQUE. The sequel, Metal Gear Acid 2, features a main character who is not the real Solid Snake, but a clone created from tissue samples of the Solid Snake from the original Metal Gear Acid, following the events of the Lobito Island mission; the Solid Snake from the original Acid is dead.
Though Snake does not explicitly appear in Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops, he is mentioned, though not referred to by name; Elisa, a teenage German psychic with multiple personalities, has a prophetic vision of Naked Snake's future as she dies: she mentions that one of his sons will save the world after another son (Liquid Snake) brings it to ruin. He appears in his Metal Gear Solid 4 form as a recruitable character in Portable Ops Plus. He is also playable in an updated pack from Metal Gear Online. For Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance upcoming downloadable content includes a new weapon named "Soul Snake Wooden Sword" which has Snake's voice.
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Solid Snake has appeared in a number of other games, including other Konami games. Hideo Kojima makes a habit of referencing his previous work. In the Kojima-produced Boktai 2: Solar Boy Django (and Shin Bokura no Taiyō: Gyakushū no Sabata), Snake appears as an unnamed character who sells items to the player. Konami's Evolution Skateboarding features Snake and Raiden as hidden characters, as well two stages set in the Big Shell (the skateboarding minigame in Metal Gear Solid 2: Substance is a demo of Evolution Skateboarding composed exclusively of these elements). Solid Snake also appears in both halves of a crossover between the Metal Gear and Ape Escape franchises: the Ape Escape monkeys appear with Solid Snake in the "Snake vs. Monkey" minigame featured in Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater. In turn, Snake appears in the corresponding Metal Gear Solid minigame featured in Ape Escape 3, where he is rescued by Pipo Snake (Snake's character design in this minigame is taken directly from Naked Snake's).
He has also appeared in two of cross-company fighting games. In DreamMix TV World Fighters, Solid Snake appears as a playable character alongside other third-party characters such as Bomberman and Convoy (Optimus Prime). Similarly, in Super Smash Bros. Brawl, a popular fighting game from Nintendo, Solid Snake appeared alongside Nintendo and Sega characters. According to producer Masahiro Sakurai, Snake's inclusion in Brawl was done under Kojima's request, who wanted Snake to be featured. In addition, Snake has appeared as a playable character in the Nintendo DS game New International Track & Field alongside some other Konami characters. Also, Old Snake has appeared in the Japanese version of Scribblenauts, having been published by Konami in that region. Customizations in Media Molecule's LittleBigPlanet for the PlayStation 3 allow the player character, Sackboy, to take on the appearance of Old Snake.
Creation and development
Much as Metal Gear began as a pastiche of action movies of the time, Solid Snake began as a pastiche of contemporary action movie heroes. For example, on the cover artwork of the original Metal Gear, he resembles Michael Biehn as Kyle Reese in The Terminator, and the in-game portrait of Snake in Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake resembles Mel Gibson in the game's opening sequence. Solid Snake was even named after another fictional special forces operative: Snake Plissken, Kurt Russell's character in Escape from New York. In Guns of the Patriots, Snake is modeled after Lee Van Cleef, who appeared in Escape from New York. His real name, David, is a tribute to the film 2001: A Space Odyssey that has a character with the same name. Kojima later described Snake's role in the original Metal Gear as the "player's presence", contrasting the defined personality Solid Snake acquired in Metal Gear Solid.
In addition to expanding Solid Snake's backstory, as the first Metal Gear game to feature voice acting Metal Gear Solid established his characteristic voice and appearance.Yoji Shinkawa's Solid Snake design, characterized by his navy blue bandanna and "sneaking suit", would serve as the template for all future incarnations of Snake in later Metal Gear games. According to Shinkawa, Snake's physique in Metal Gear Solid was based on that of action star Jean-Claude Van Damme, while his facial appearance in the same game was inspired by actor Christopher Walken. Shinkawa described his rendition of Solid Snake from Metal Gear Solid as a "middle ground" between the younger Snake who graced the cover artwork of the first Metal Gear and the middle-aged Snake from the MSX2 version of Metal Gear 2. For the initial events from the Big Shell chapter from Metal Gear Solid 2, Snake's visual appearance was sightly modified with his hair being more blonde. Solid Snake became one of the characters easiest to draw by Shinkawa as he notes that his appearance is consistent despite suffering minor changes across the games.
Various scenes from the games relate Snake's ideals with Hideo Kojima's. During Metal Gear Solid 2 Snake encourages Raiden to trust himself in making his own choices with the former representing the veteran developer and the latter the younger staff who are to decide whether a sequel to the series would be made without Kojima. In Metal Gear Solid 4, Snake tries to protect the next generation by stopping Ocelot which was representing by Kojima working with the staff to avoid bugs from occurying within the game. Kojima introduced the cloning origins of Solid Snake to Metal Gear Solid in order to provide Solid Snake with an adversary who would be his equal, since the story, being a continuation to the original MSX2 games, established Snake as an experienced soldier. Kojima explained that his decision to introduce a new playable character in Solid Snake's place for Sons of Liberty was done in order to develop Snake from another character's perspective, but also to avoid treating Snake as a rookie by having a new character be instructed via Codec instead.
By the time of Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots started development, Kojima told Shinkawa about his idea of making Snake look like an elder which surprised the designer. Once Shinkawa showed his artwork of Old Snake to the staff, they were all also surprised by the idea of playing as an old Solid Snake. However, as they were satisfied with end product as the staff started liking the character. In Guns of the Patriots one of Kojima's endings for the game would have had Snake and Otacon turn themselves in for breaking the law, and subsequently they would be convicted and executed. However, comments from Kojima's staff who were disappointed with his death resulted in the character's survival. According to Ryan Payton of Konami at the time, Guns of the Patriots is the final canonical Metal Gear game to feature Solid Snake as the main character. Kojima himself stated that the series will continue. He later stated that, despite earlier stating that he does not want the character to be handled by anyone else, Solid Snake will reappear in a future Metal Gear Solid game in an interview with French gaming magazine IG.
In the games, Snake has been voiced by Akio Ōtsuka starting with Metal Gear Solid. Ōtsuka remembers being surprised during his debut as a result of the large amount dialogue Snake was given. In the English adaptations, Snake's role was made by David Hayter who found his work notable as he was originally a screenwriter and did not expect to become famous for dubbing a character. While Hayter comments having issues with some of Snake's lines in his first game, most notably a conversation regarding romance with Hal Emmerich, he stated he would talk about such things if he was asked again. By the time Metal Gear Solid 4 had its first trailers released, Hayter was frustrated by Snake's flinchs during his attempt of committing suicide based on the character's experience in the battlefield. For the crossover game Super Smash Bros., Hayter remembers having fun in voicing the character due to the comical lines Snake had to say.
The character of Solid Snake has received positive response. In 2005, Electronic Gaming Monthly listed Solid Snake as number one as the top ten video game characters of all time. He was ranked 17th in UGO Networks's 2010 list of the best heroes in entertainment.
Solid Snake often ranked high in various polls for the best characters in video game history. Snake appeared in multiple GameFAQs "Character Battle" contests, and was runner-up in two, the "Character Battle V" in 2006, and the "Character Battle VII" in 2008. In an Oricon poll from 2008, he was voted as the most popular video game character in Japan, tying with Nintendo's Pikachu. In a Famitsu poll in 2010, Snake was voted by readers as the most popular video game character. His character was amongst the last 16 contestants on the greatest video game hero on GameSpot contest held in 2009, and lost out to Gordon Freeman on a tiebreaker. In the Guinness World Records Gamer's Edition from 2011, Snake was voted as the fourth most popular video game character.
Critics have commented on his traits and appearance, often praising Snake for his appealing personality. In 2007, ScrewAttack ranked him as the sixth "coolest" character in video games.1UP.com listed him second in the list of top video game smokers, while GamesRadar placed him at the top of their 2009 list of manliest men in vide ogame history.Complex ranked him as fourth on the list of top "pervs" in games. Solid Snake's endurance in the face of extreme punishment was even made the focus of a comedy article in the satirical newspaper The Onion.
The character's Metal Gear Solid 2 design was at the bottom of the worst game character makeovers list by GamePro, condemning his conversion in hairstyle in comparison to the one in Metal Gear Solid, and was also at the top of IGN's list of the worst video game haircuts. Before Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, Snake was thought to be the game's protagonist because of the physical resemblances between him and Naked Snake. However, later previews speculated how was it impossible for Solid Snake to be in the game's settings, leading to the conclusion it was a young Big Boss. A comparison between Solid Snake's and Big Boss' characters was made by IGN in article "Stars Thunderdome: Snake vs. Big Boss." David Hayter's performance as Snake's English voice actor has received praise to the point of being called one of the best ones in gaming as well as one of the character's most recognizable traits.
Snake's appearance in Metal Gear Solid 4 has received mixed opinions. Before it was released, various speculations were made regarding Snake's role. As he was the only one who suffered from a drastic change in appearance, IGN commented that the most famous rumor was the one of Snake's body deteriorating across the game. Moreover, since it had been announced it would be his last appearance, IGN and GamesRadar wondered whether the character would die during the game and if Raiden would replace him following his death. GamesRadar commented that Snake was one of the few gaming characters that aged across video games.GamePro also listed Old Snake as one of the biggest surprises from the game, as the character was found interesting in contrast to pessimistic thoughts they had before the game's release.GameDaily listed the "old hero" as one of their list of top video game archetypes, using the old version of Snake as an example of this.PLAY gave praise to his moustache considering how highly detailed it is, and represents the change from Snake's character. On the other hand, 1UP.com placed him third in their 2009 list of most gracelessly aging characters as it gave negative messages about aging.