The Sorrow of Ghosts: Looking Back on One of The Most Iconic Bosses In 'Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater'

From the five year anniversary of P.T.’s release, to the official release of Death Stranding, 2019 has sure been a year for Hideo Kojima. On top of all this, it is also the 15th anniversary of Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater

As one of my personal favorite Metal Gear games, MGS3 provides an amazing experience that allows the player to see the origins of the series’ iconic villain, Big Boss (known as Naked Snake at this point in the game’s lore). 

While I could dive into the game’s overall mechanics and story – for this retrospective, I want to do something a little different. Instead, I want to focus on one particular highlight of MGS3 – a segment that is not only one of Metal Gear’s most fascinating boss fights, but also an excellent example of Kojima’s creativity.

From MGS1 to MGS4, each game has had an awesome cast of villains. For MGS3, Naked Snake’s mentor, The Boss, is the leader of the Cobra Unit. This group consists of elite soldiers who go by names such as The Pain, The End, The Fury, and The Fear. Every one of these bosses makes for intense combat; but in particular, I want to revisit the brilliantly designed encounter with The Sorrow.

After Snake escapes from a prison cell, he dives from a waterfall and finds himself in a river. The trees on each side of the river are on fire; that is until a rain appears, casting a haunting hue over the area. From the water, The Sorrow rises to confront Snake, exuding a chilling ethereal aura. He levitates above the water, looking down at Snake as a stream of blood tears from one of his eyes. Before the boss sequence kicks off, The Sorrow says to Snake, “Now you will know the sorrow of those whose lives you have ended.” 

(Fun side note – if the player pays attention to certain cutscenes, they can catch actually catch The Sorrow’s ghostly figure lingering behind characters.)

What takes place next is a rather odd boss confrontation, as Snake is attempting to evade ghosts in the form of various enemy types. These enemy types range from infantry soldiers the player and Snake have encountered before, as well as previous members of the Cobra Unit. Along with dodging these ghostly apparitions, The Sorrow will shoot psychic blasts at Snake. While already an unconventional boss fight, given that the player isn’t attacking any enemies, there’s also a fascinating dynamic at work based on previous actions. 

The player ends up determining the volume of enemies they’ll encounter – for each of these ghosts is someone the player has killed so far throughout the game.

Throughout his games, Kojima has always been fascinated with providing his stories with non-violent means to combat foes. Even though there are various themes throughout his games, he has always shown an interest in exploring the darkness of war and violence. The player may have access to machine guns and rocket launchers throughout their espionage journey, but they also have access to tranquilizers and the power to knock out a threat without killing. 

So if one were to not kill any enemies leading up to The Sorrow, then the encounter would be devoid of any spirits (the exception being the Cobra Unit bosses, their ghosts will be present regardless). If the player kills every enemy they see, however, then they are going to have a lot more ghosts to deal with.

Let alone this being a fun dynamic, this is also a brilliant means for the player to reflect on their actions. Kojima has always strived to present mindful games. Through the player’s “match” with The Sorrow, Kojima presents a scenario where the player has to recognize the body count they’ve racked up, literally having to combat the consequences of their actions. Even though the boss fight isn’t as fourth wall heavy as the Psycho Mantis battle in MGS1, Kojima once again breaches the dimension, allowing for digital actions to connect with the player.

15 years later and Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater holds up as a fantastic adventure. From the intense bosses to the engaging political thriller that is its story, Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater is one of the strongest entries in Kojima’s iconic series. Not only does The Sorrow boss fight make an excellent experience, but it also represents the thought-provoking depth of Kojima’s artistry.

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