The Beauty & The Beast

June 23rd, 2008 by | Tags: ,

I’m a huge fan of Metal Gear Solid. It’s probably my favorite series, though I’ve undoubtedly put more time into Madden NFL than MGS by virtue of having played Madden for 14 years now to MGS’s ten. I got to help out on the guide for Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence, which was a really cool thing to do.

MGS4: Guns of the Patriots is out and it is quite honestly game of the decade for me. I beat it over the course of a weekend. Not because I’d planned to, mind you– I just got wrapped up in the story and enthralled and suddenly it’s Sunday and I have to be to bed in two hours and I’m just now finishing the hour long ending and oh man I want to start over and do it all again but I can’t I have work really I can’t okay maybe just a little before bed.

If I had to make a comics comparison, MGS4 is to the Metal Gear series what All-Star Superman is to Superman comics, only even more comprehensive and even better.

Hideo Kojima is a director who doesn’t skimp on the details. This shows in the attention paid to the story and what you can do in the game itself. One of the things that interests me the most about MGS4, other than the functioning in-game iPod which you can apparently rip your own music to, is The Beauty & The Beast Unit.

One of the overarching themes of the MGS series is that war makes monsters of men. No matter how honorable, good, evil, or whatever you are, war is going to ruin you. It’s the nature of the beast. The Beauty & The Beast Unit are the embodiment of this idea. They are four women who, while they were still young, encountered war and suffered under its boot. The girls ended up with post-traumatic stress disorder and were turned into war machines by an unknown party.

They became The Beauty and The Beast Unit, SNAKEHOUND, and were given special code names: Screaming Mantis, Laughing Octopus, Crying Wolf, and Raging Raven. Each prefix is a reference to a certain unit from Metal Gear Solid 3, while the animal tags are taken from FOXHOUND and the unit from MGS1. The Beauty represents what they once were– attractive young women. The Beast represents their outer appearance– monstrous war machines.

“They are humans that have been transformed by battle. They are the ultimate casualties of war.” According to Kojima, he chose to base these characters on beauty from the real world. “The world created these ugly beasts, but underneath they are gorgeous women. These ladies — this beauty — is real.”

Hideo Kojima, 1up.com

Where it gets even more interesting is their origins. Kojima wanted them to represent the real world. Lyndall Jarvis is from Cape Town, South Africa, and Laughing Octopus is ethnically Scandinavian. Yumi Kikuchi is from New York, and plays Raging Raven, a woman from Indonesia. Scarlett Chorvat’s from Slovakia, but Screaming Mantis was born in South America. Mieko Rye, Crying Wolf, is from Brooklyn, but reps Africa in-game.

It isn’t a 1:1 correlation, but it’s a step in the right direction. Their nationalities aren’t a huge part of the game. They’re pretty much literally one line in an audio conversation per boss. It isn’t a big deal, but it is at the same time. It’s a great move. War affects everyone, no matter where they are or who they are, and having the Beauty and Beast Unit be multicultural is a sharp way to represent that.

The Metal Gear Solid series has always been about storytelling. Its themes of war and its effects on life reflect throughout the entire series. The B&Bs are an obvious parallel, with their innocence being twisted and malformed into violence. There are plenty of other examples, as well, but this is one that leaped out at me.

It’s smart world building. It’s the kind of thing I’d like to see more often in comics. Let the little details do the work for you. You don’t have to have characters hop up on a soapbox and blah blah blah about their motivations or what they mean. Let the reader infer some things. MGS4 is amazingly unsubtle about basically everything on a certain level, but sometimes it slips in these little touches that make you pause.

In case you were wondering, the girls are all delightfully creepy bosses.

Shots below are ripped from Kotaku and various places on the internet.

Also, just for fun– Kojima and Frank Miller.

Now imagine Kojima making a Hard Boiled or Rusty the Boy Robot game.


Similar Posts:

Post to Twitter Post to Facebook Post to Reddit Post to StumbleUpon

2 comments to “The Beauty & The Beast”

  1. Overall, I don’t “feel” Metal Gear Solid. I like the “gaming” portion of video games. That and I really wasn’t feeling the story (or the game for that matter) the same way you were, David. But I don’t want to make the same mistake other detractors make and try to take away from or ignore the strengths present. Ignoring the game element, I feel that on paper Metal Gear Solid is much more palpable than the actual experience.

    Regardless of this, it’s interesting to say that the Beauty and Beast unit have those multicultural tones to them. I never saw it before. What’s more, I think it creates an even greater message in that war does rob us of our identities of what we might be without it’s crippling influence. I spent 5 years in the military, and I thought that it would have allowed me to achieve my dreams… but it was a lie, a lie I helped facilitate through my own choice and my own denials about life.

    You become a tool of the system, you lose yourself and your identity. I know a lot of people, even myself initially, complained about the fact that this “unit” didn’t seem to have the same character development that past villains in MGS did… but that’s really not the case at all. Together, they’re a powerful message, as you already point out, about what war and violence takes away from us.

    The soldier has his whole life in the hands of the “System”, which is a great parallel to any military body. Army, Navy, Marines… you have your dreams as a person, but ultimately your whole livelihood can be crushed in an instant by your contract and the obligation you have to fulfill. You stop being an individual. Some of the best soldiers I’ve seen? They were exactly alike, you could no sooner distinguish them from each other than you could a needle in a stack of needles.

    I do feel differently about war. I can’t get excited when I see Advance Wars, happy or apocalyptic in tone. As far as the suffocating effect the “System” can have, Hideo couldn’t have put it better.

  2. I loved the B&Bs (well… from an art/concept perspective) but I really wish their backgrounds had been integrated into the story more naturally than a codec call from Drebin at the end of the fights. It could’ve added a lot of that “original content” that I kept whining that MGS4 lacked