As an OG Metal Gear Solid franchise fan, it’s been quite the rollercoaster ride, seeing consequences of the different directions that the franchise had taken in recent years due to various industrial and creative differences.
What was once a series renowned and universally acknowledged as having made a profound impact in the video gaming world through it’s lengthy but engaging storytelling presentation is today a bit more contested on the universal appeal part.
Hideo Kojima is a legendary producer and artisan of the video gaming craft. In pushing bold storytelling ideas, mechanics and creative gambles, combined with his flair for incorporating his love for western media and culture, he is considered by many to be a Quentin Tarantino-esque figure.
Among his creations, the Metal Gear Franchise is likely his greatest one. Such is his place in the industry, that some would consider it impossible for him to miss the mark on a game with his name attached to it.
I personally don’t see it that way. I’d like to think that the man peaked at Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater. And I’m saying this is as a fan, both of him and the franchise (I played MGS4 140 times, and did a BBE run in under 1hr 10 mins, so yes, I do believe I’ve earned my stripes).
I feel that he depended on his own name brand more heavily to make and market games by that virtue.
While not abject failures, I’ve got reason to believe that he never quite hit the levels of MGS3 again, at least from a creative point. I’m certain that choosing the best of this series is an endless debate.
I’d wager many would pick MGS1 to be the greatest among the franchise and that’s fine. After all, the game was lauded as arguably the greatest PlayStation One Game of all time by many. Still, I personally favor MGS3.
And why not? The setting of the game is removed from modern times and set during the Cold War, a time in history with a certain charm to it, where the tactical espionage was truly at it’s peak even as our real human history can attest to.
The visuals were amazing for it’s time, the music is still probably the best in the entire series, and some would contend among the best in video gaming period. The characters, storytelling and presentation was sublime.
And the boss fights? Mwah. They were memorable amidst a franchise that is well known for excellent boss fights.
Again, picking your personal favorite boss fight from this series let alone the game itself is a debate all on its own—be it the gruelling duel with The End, the tense tussle with The Fury, The chilling concept of The Sorrow, or Volgin’s many fights.
And yet, while it may probably not be the best (by everyone’s measure), the final boss fight of MGS3 between Naked Snake vs The Boss maybe one of the greatest boss battles that ever graced video games.
And that comes in no small part to the presentation, build up and character aptly named ‘The Boss.’ I consider Isshin the Sword Saint from Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice as my personal favorite final boss fight at the time of this writing.
Yet until it became so, The Boss was the all time greatest for me. Even today, post Isshin, I still would sometimes end up favoring this boss fight.
The Joy: A Living Legend
In short, The Boss is well..an absolute boss.
Considered the greatest soldier alive at the specific time point of the series, she is an American soldier whose talents, skills in physical combat, tactics and warfare was nigh unmatched.
She felt so home at the field of battle, that it was in these moments she felt alive and filled with joy; thus “The Joy” was the emotional moniker she would carry into battle—as was the case with the rest of her Cobra Unit, a legendary spec ops team of elite soldiers, each with unique abilities and a different emphasized emotion that they carried with them into battle.
By herself and with her team, she carried out missions that many would consider impossible even with enhanced abilities.
Unlike her team mates, she possessed no superhuman or supernatural gifts or modifications, and yet, she led them with dominance, purely on the premise of her peak human conditioning, skill levels and her absolute charisma and leadership capabilities.
There were truly none to match her in battle.
Coupled with her large hand in founding and developing the special forces of the U.S. military institutions she earned more titles like ‘The Mother of Special Forces’, and ‘Voyevoda’ (Russian-Warlord)
And yet, she wasn’t just a one track mind living from battle to another.
As the years passed, she would ponder on the meaning of battle, why people fight and so much more as she tore through battle after battle.
But her loyalty to her country was unshakeable.
She would put her body on the line, no matter what the nation asked of her. Even when pregnant and just about ready to give birth, she was still fighting in the frontlines.
In her years, due to her peak conditioning, she would often be part of experimental tests. In one such case, she runs across a young child by the name John (a.k.a. Jack), with whom she forms a bond that filled many roles.
She would impart not only battlefield knowledge to Jack, but life lessons and views, especially that of loyalty to the country. In short, she made Jack. In his own words, he states that “half of me belongs to The Boss.”
Somewhere along the line however, she would disappear from Jack’s life, embarking on some secret missions that would go awry and change many things forever.
Operation Snake Eater: Build up, Bootcamp, Yardstick.
Early on in MGS3, Jack (henceforth, Naked Snake) is reunited with his mentor via radio, and immediately we know that the atmosphere is different here.
Throughout the initial cutscenes and dialogue, Snake was depicted as an absolute badass, with a cool head and composed figure.
Yet when speaking to her, he is audibly more down-to-earth. He even remembers the exact time of their last encounter, down to the days and hours.
The Boss continues to give some initial advice, and slightly berates Snake for insinuating that he may have gotten rusty on the trainings she gave her.
She prompts that Snake doesn’t need her anymore, as he has grown.
But Snake disagrees, saying that he has so much to still learn from her, such as ‘how to think like a soldier.’
She responds to him that this is one of those things she cannot teach him—it is something he must figure out himself, thus showing us that teacher-student dynamic.
Snake’s training results from The Boss is made evident very quickly as the game progresses, as his battle prowess felt in gameplay feels powerful, and his multi-lingual capabilities (taught by her) are praised by third parties as well.
The mission mostly goes well but right at the end of it, The Boss unexpectedly shows up after some time of radio silence prior to it.
She carries without effort an atomic Davy Crocket shell and a launcher, easily passing a 150kg mark.
She stands between Snake and the exit and declares that she is taking over his mission objective, as she is defecting from the U.S. to the Soviet Union!
Snake is utterly dumbfounded.
She, who taught him about loyalty to the nation they both served, she who demonstrated that loyalty time and time again, she who was a living embodiment of the word, was declaring her complete discarding of those values.
His entire worldview continues to shatter in front of him.
And in his utterly shattered state, Snake mounts a feeble defense against an utterly cold and unforgiving Boss who demonstrates that she was not joking around by promptly dismantling Snakes gun to pieces, and breaking his arms right through the joint in mere seconds (that’s going to be a thing by the way).
As she tosses him over a bridge, Snake grabs her bandanna—he would go on to wear it for the rest of his life (and a certain legendary soldier would do so later as well.)
As Snake recuperates, he is told that The Boss’s defection has many international implications, and that political shifts are heading towards a point of no return; nuclear armageddon.
The Kremlin, wants The Boss eliminated by the U.S. and that one of their own would have to do it.
The power players of the U.S. government deemed that as her last and closest student, Snake was the only one who was at all capable of beating The Boss and her now revived and amped Cobra unit.
And so, to complete his original objectives along with the elimination of the Cobra Unit, the operation is now re-named Operation Snake Eater.
Snake re-enters the field again, this time in a way more awesome fashion, and you as the player, with more confidence in your abilities.
But not long before you make some progress, Snake is ambushed by The Boss, who promptly disarms and dislocates Snake yet again, with almost no effort.
Snake attempts to fight back this time, but finds himself outmatched and hesitant. This was due to him being still struggling to accept the reality he’s faced with, his skills being rusty after the last mission, and because he was facing The Boss at her prime and full of focus.
She mocks him, and tells him he has no place in the battlefield, mocking the bandana for being unable to let go of the past, and that he is too innocent for the fights ahead, that he doesn’t have a prayer of finishing his mission if he’s going to hesitate even for a second.
This initial exchange is pretty much what would go on to happen in various key points of the game.
Every time they squared up, Snake would have his weapons dismantled, and he’d get seriously injured, or damn near killed, and he would get yet another scathing scolding and reminder that he isn’t up to it.
We as the players also start feeling this dread… Snake has been able to deal with enemies in cutscenes and gameplay, but he’s never bested The Boss in any capacity whatsoever.
And we know that the eventual inevitable clash will come.
In his mission, Snake continues to best the apparently peerless Cobra unit one by one. As players, we get more confident that maybe it’s possible to beat The Boss as well. Maybe Snake would be less rusty by the end. Strong enough.
But then The Boss shows up yet again, and she steals the scenes with her frightening speed and power, and makes Snake look like an amateur yet again (followed by more broken bones and weapons of course).
But we also start noticing something more. Snake is getting better as he goes through the various environments, enemies boss fights, feats and experiences. In short, as the game progresses, just as the player continues to get better, so is Snake as his mission goes on.
Furthermore, various conversations at key points start suggesting that he has begun accepting the reality he’s faced with, and is becoming more acclimatized to the gravitas of his mission and what it means to him.
He’s also getting more creative with his tactics in ways The Boss probably may not have taught him either.
In other words, he’s getting one hell of a refresher training and bootcamp course that’s basically honing and fine tuning him as a soldier and agent.
This is further evident in ‘The Boss’ encounter scenes.
Yes, he’s still getting defeated, but we’re noticing that the gap between him and The Boss is narrowing.
He’s able to stand on his own feet longer. He’s not being ragdolled around the same as before. and he’s not provoked and looking hapless in the face of taunts.
Thus, The Boss functions as an in-universe measuring stick for Snake’s skill progress as the game progresses.
The mission goes to plan, goes awry, goes to plan, awry and so forth, until we come to the very final areas of the game.
After a truly difficult gameplay area of managing resources and using all the tricks you picked up in the game so far, you finally see the end in sight. Dead trees all around you, a river in the distance, and floating on that river a getaway plane.
But before you can go, Snake looks back. There’s one more thing left to do.
Your partner EVA goes to start up the engine after making Snake promise that he would come back in one piece. Snake agrees and heads back.
He (and you) come to a large open area stretched with white flowers as far as the eye can see.
And on this field, he faces his mother figure, best friend, companion, trainer, teacher, mentor, and now, his greatest foe.
There she is.
In the center of the field, with her Patriot modified rifle, clad in a blazing white sneaking suit armor that camouflages well with the battlefield.
You’d think that by now she’s going to rush you immediately.
But no. She does nothing of the sort.
She stands there, and Snake finally asks her why, again.
And she speaks to Snake. She speaks her heart out.
She reveals that in her years, especially in a sojourn to space, where upon seeing the Earth from her own eyes, she came to understand the fragility of life, and that the foibles of politics created the wars, the divides, borders and enemies that we fight.
That enemies would always change with the times.
That for her, she felt that the world needed unity to feel that we were all one family living in one home.
She revealed that her lineage allowed her to know the inner workings of how the powers-that-be propagated the endless conflicts that kept people from being united.
She saw how soldiers and their loyalties were being used to fuel personal agendas.
This, coupled with the cruel removal of her child, and being forced to kill people she loved left her jaded in things she did believe in.
In short, she found conflict in the idea of conflict.
She intended to use certain resources which Snake is supposed to recover as part of the mission, to rebuild a means to foster such a peace.
She thanks Snake for listening to her. She tells him that she raised him, loved him. Gave him weapons and gave him knowledge.
She tells him that the survivor of today’s fight will inherit the title of Boss, and that the one who inherits the title of Boss will face a lifetime of endless battle.
Snake protests yet again. But The Boss has heard enough.
She calls in an airstrike on their battlefield, due to arrive in 10 minutes time.
She then declares, “Let’s make this the greatest 10 minutes of our lives, Jack.”
With this she signifies a final challenge with a killing intent to Snake. She wasn’t going to roll over. He would have to earn this kill.
She challenges him on his loyalty to her or loyalty to his country, when she is the one threatening the peace of his nation.
And so she utters “Face me.”
The Greatest 10 Minutes of their Lives
It truly was their finest moment.
The battle starts with both of them facing each other, and The Boss rushing Snake through the flowers, with the leaves and petals blazing after her movements.
This isn’t helped by the fact that the whole battlefield is littered with nothing but white flowers, peppering the air with white petals and leaves—all which can disorient with casual glances, and is to the advantage of The Boss’s attire.
As you and the Boss clash fists, you need to be fast but decisive in your movement.
Frontal gun shot assaults are useless, as her Patriot gun effectively rips apart any offense, and deals heavy damage.
No, you have to rely on the sneaking tactics you honed throughout the various terrains. You need to break line of sight, and ambush her to close the gap, and CQC goes a long way here.
Whether you choose lethal or non-lethal tactics, you cannot afford to be caught in her holds with your weapons, as she will dismantle them.
You’d have to keep healing with a lot of items if you’re careless. So it’s clear you need to be very sure of your offense.
In any case, as the fight goes, it becomes clear that Snake has grown by leaps and bounds across the Snake Eater experience.
He is now fighting toe-to-toe against The Boss—and she can see it. She openly acknowledges your efforts, and will berate sloppy executions—a teacher till the very end.
The battlefield so far until the end of the first 5 minutes is host to the sounds of no background music, no tense boss fight tracks. Just gunshots, bones cracking, thuds and slams, blowing of the cold Russian winds, and rustling leaves and trees.
You start realizing that despite all the terrifying feats she displayed thus far, she is still just a human, same as you are.
The invincible aura about her presentation thus far finally starts to crack, as you become more confident that she can bleed, and so, you can kill her.
As the final 5 minutes begin however, an orchestra accentuated version of the ever iconic theme song “Snake Eater” by Cynthia Harrell starts playing, and The Boss gives indication to the time left.
It’s now or never.
The song gets louder and louder as the final moments of the battle comes to pass.
Guns are fired, knives clash, and with flurries of punches, kicks, and slams, Naked Snake manages to overwhelm The Boss.
In the final playable scene of the fight, Snake is gifted the Patriot by The Boss, who pleads with him to pull the trigger to end her life.
You as the player MUST pull the trigger. The game makes you very complicit to the deed.
And so, when you pull the trigger, Snake pulls the trigger and kills The Boss.
The field of white flowers turn red in a symbolic gesture to the death of not just The Boss, but also possibly the death of Snake’s time as a soldier “just following orders” without opinions or thoughts of his own.
However, The Boss’s legacy does not end here. In fact, her influence on the main story of Metal Gear Solid begins pretty much after her death.
In the aftermath, as Snake recovers from his mission, he is debriefed by EVA that The Boss had in fact, not truly betrayed the U.S. and was carrying out a mission to recover extremely high valued resources that were crucial to the power balance of the world.
Things however did not go well thanks to Volgin’s impulsive actions early in the mission, hence the main objectives were revised greatly.
She would have to carry out her mission as a spy regardless, and would not be allowed to return home.
In the end, even for all her talk of not fighting for banners blindly, she gave her life in service one final time to a country that had burned her yet so many times before.
She effectively sent her own Cobra Unit—those she viewed as her own children of sorts, to their deaths so that the mission may succeed.
Through their ambush encounters, She would toughen up her very best and most beloved student to the standards necessary to carry out his mission.
She even forbade certain people from killing Snake when they clearly could have—protecting him in ways he did not see earlier.
She would be publicly labelled a traitor, yet few would know the sacrifice she made to avert a nuclear catastrophe.
Snake would be lauded a hero and even given the title of ‘Big Boss’ to signify his surpassing of The Boss—something he never believed true.
Realizing the dirty tactics used by governments and the messed up state of things in the world would lay the foundations for Big Boss cutting ties with the U.S. government and eventually rebelling against the status quo.
Her predictions on how some future events would unfold turn out true, not the least of which being that Snake (now Big Boss) would go on to face a lifetime of battle.
Big Boss and Major Zero would go on to interpret The Boss’s final will in two very different ways and work to achieve ‘peace’ by questionable means of brute force or manipulation.
Their interpretation of her will and their attempts to realize it is essentially is the lore backbone for the canon story of the entire Metal Gear Solid franchise.
Such is her legacy; it would go on to be the foundation from which pretty much most of the entire series would propel forward in its official canonical timeline.
The role of The Boss in the MGS franchise was retconned to be indispensable.
Even with all the exposition above, I’ve still pretty much run a bare bones version of the aftermath and extent of her influence. But then again, that’s a Kojima production for you.
In any case, The Boss herself as a character is a memorable one for me in video gaming.
In an age where storytelling via video games was becoming better and better, it was refreshing to see a character like her.
She was a strong, memorable female character that stood on her own merits, had a powerful personality and charisma to her that was purely her own signature, and managed to steal the spotlight every single time.
She was a character who showed more depth in her ideologies than her outfit would assume.
Her core values served as a foundation for many of the character and plot developments of the MGS saga.
Whether you are for inserting her into the story like this via retcon or against it, there’s no denying the impact she had and her significance in the story now.
The fight against her was masterfully crafted to be one of the best I’ve ever experienced.
It had the makings of a great boss fight, in that it tested the player’s grasp of the basic mechanics of the gameplay while demanding reasonable reaction and deduction skill within a reasonable time limit and window.
Thus, both the player and Snake’s progression and growth respectively are put to proper examination in this final encounter hyped by cutscenes and subtle indications of increasing readiness for the eventual showdown.
The fight is challenging but that’s what a good final boss is supposed to be.
And it was truly… a joy.