The Metal Gear series has been one of the premier franchises in gaming for nearly two decades, but it wasn’t always sitting on top of the industry. The late 1980s and early 1990s in particular were a confusing time for the budding franchise. One prime example of that was Snake’s Revenge, which arrived on United States shelves in 1990 today. The game wasn’t awful. In fact, it was quite a serviceable action title for the NES, but it’s somewhat shady production, combined with somewhat absurd publishing made for a game that would eventually drive Hideo Kojima to create a true sequel to the original Metal Gear.

In 1987, Kojima and Konami produced the first Metal Gear game for the MSX2 home computer system in Japan. It garnered success and Konami decided to make an attempt at North American and European markets in 1988 and 1989 respectively. However, the MSX2 was not commercialized in either market and the game had to be ported over to the Famicom and NES. Kojima and his team were not involved, nor was their consent given to use the source code for the port. The port was a heavily inferior product in comparison to its MSX2 counterpart and would be publicly disowned by Kojima. Regardless, this trend of use of the Metal Gear license would continue.

Konami

According to a 2005 interview Hideo Kojima had with Gamers Today, it was in 1990 that Kojima would board a train with a member of Konami’s Famicom division that worked on Metal Gear. He mentioned to Kojima that he was working on a new game specifically for American and European markets. This was to be Snake’s Revenge. Hideo Kojima had no idea of its existence until that meeting and it was that employee that admitted his Snake “was not the authentic Snake” and asked that Kojima create an actual sequel to his original MSX2 title, which he eventually would with Metal Gear 2:Solid Snake.

Regardless, Snake’s Revenge would come out, published by Ultra Games in the North America and Konami in Europe. The game was fairly decent, including many updates and improvements over the original NES version. Snake is once again called upon to infiltrate a facility where a new Metal Gear is being developed. He is sent in with two supporting operatives in the form of intelligence expert John Turner and weapons specialist Nick Myer. He also eventually finds Jennifer who is a double agent in the enemy ranks.

The gameplay moved between the top-down format, going screen to screen, and 2D side-scrolling areas. In both, Snake must traverse a given area, tracking down intel, enemy commanders, and gear that allow him to move forward with his mission. The end of the game features Big Boss as the final enemy, having survived his previous encounter with Snake through cybernetic enhancement. Additionally, Snake’s Revenge featured an actual Metal Gear tank at the end of the game as opposed to the computer used as a replacement boss in the first NES Metal Gear.

Konami

Despite its improvements, one of the shortcomings of Snake’s Revenge was the lack of respect Ultra Games and Konami of America had for their games at the time. The instruction manual provided with the game contained humorous quips that diverted from much of the developers ideas and actual game content. In the manual, Snake is tasked with chasing after Higharolla Kockamamie and his Ultra-Sheik Nuclear Attack Tank: absurd replacements for Big Boss and the Metal Gear. It was a different time, but Ultra Games certainly weren’t doing any favors for Snake’s Revenge or its programmers.

When things are said and done, Snake’s Revenge is a peculiar game. Hideo Kojima’s Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake would prove to be a much more faithful sequel, greatly improving upon the story and functionality of the original, but though Snake’s Revenge falls out of Metal Gear canon, it was still a decent action game in its own light. Though Kojima has poked fun at Snake’s Revenge a few times since it came out, even he admitted in that same 2005 interview that it remained “faithful to the Metal Gear concept”. In the end, for better or for worse, Snake’s Revenge was what we had in the States until 1998 when Metal Gear Solid would come to the PlayStation, and in all fairness, it was arguably better than it should have been for everything that surrounded its conception and release.