Even if you're the most die-hard fan of the Metal Gear Solid series, you're bound to think the plot gets pretty damn screwy at times. It says a lot that the first game - with its cybernetic ninja, mind-reading psychic and walking nuclear tank - may have the most concise and understandable tale of them all. And if you just can't get enough of playing the game, the Metal Gear Solid Digital Graphic Novel recreates every single detail of the plot in an animated comic book bursting with information.
You basically just sit there, PSP in hand, and watch the comic panels go by, with their wispy, ethereal artwork and classic word bubbles. But by pressing the square button, you can dive into that panel, roving target reticule at the ready, and examine the image's many layers in elaborate detail. If the reticule starts spinning, that means there's a memory nearby that you can tag, and as the story goes on, you'll learn more about Metal Gear than you probably ever wanted to.
It's like poring over old photographs and seeing, say, a book on the counter in the background. You remember that book, what it was about and how it came to be in your picture. As you find more memories, you can enter the Memory Building mode and link them all together, unlocking flashbacks and yes, even more secret details that no one knew existed. The matrix-like interface to build this nexus of memories is a little hard to navigate, but the level of info is simply staggering.
As far as the story goes, it's a straight-up recreation of 1998's Metal Gear Solid. Some of the dialogue is verbatim from the game, while a few of the filler lines sound like a junior high short story ("First floor basement, here I come"). Watching it all the way through once is cool enough, but you're going to spend hours examining each panel, hoping to find some elusive memory that's keeping your mind-matrix-thingy from being complete.
Even though this is a largely visual experience, the sound effects and accompanying music are top of the line. We've read our fair share of comic books, but even our imaginations were impressed by the auditory orgy of awesomeness spewing from the PSP's tiny speakers. You may be reading most of the time, but it's never dull at all.
So let's say you're not the biggest MGS fan in the world. Do you even care? Well, you should. There's a cool, involving story to check out, and for $20 it's still cheaper than most UMD movies, yet still packs in some great detective gameplay moments. The DS may be home to most of the quirky, innovative software, but this game/comic/movie hybrid is in a genre and class all its own.