With Metal Gear's Splendid Vita Version, I Finally 'Get' Portable Console Gaming

Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater is a true gaming classic, held up by many as not just the best game in the Metal Gear series, but one of the best games ever made, period.

In just the past six months, I've had several different opportunities to finally play the game. There was the PS3 version, and then there was the Nintendo 3DS version. And yet for a number of reasons, I never really got into either one. Now, the game has come to the PlayStation Vita, and I've found the best way to play it.

Not just on the Vita, but on the Vita and the PS3. The era of 'Transfarring' has finally arrived.

For starters, because it bears mention: The Vita version of the Metal Gear HD Collection is terrific. It includes both Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater and Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, as well as the extras that were included with both games.

Both games look smashing on the Vita's OLED screen; MGS3 in particular looks even sharper than it does on the PS3, though the framerate isn't quite as smooth. The touch-screen is used mainly to flip through the left and right inventory screens, which is a surprisingly welcome addition.

But the feature that I find myself most surprised to be enjoying is the ability to transfer my saved games between my Vita and my PS3. This way, I can play through a bit of the game on the go, come home, and boot the game up on the big screen to play some more. Once I finish, I can re-sync the saves, and my Vita version will be able to pick up where I left off.

It's a feature that Sony has been touting for some time now; in fact, the concept of taking your PS3 games on go with you was central to the first big Vita ad campaign. But I never really "got it" until I did it. This is actually really cool!

When it comes down to it, I'm not going to be able to invest the amount of couch-time that a classic game like Metal Gear 3 requires. I do all of my retro gaming on handhelds—my 3DS and Vita have both become vessels for lengthy classic JRPGs that I'd never play on my TV.

But with that said, Metal Gear 3 really does benefit from a big screen—Hideo Kojima's intense and often beautiful cinematic cutscenes look fantastic on my television, and despite the Vita's great controls, it feels even better to play the game with the traditional PS3 controller.

The ability to transfer between console and Vita is much more welcome than I would have expected. Of course, there are a number of flaws inherent to the system. For example:

  • In order to take advantage of this, you have to own both the PS3 and the Vita—as far as I know, it doesn't work with the 360 version.
  • In order to take advantage of this, you need to own both the PS3 and the Vita versions of the game.
  • This will only work with games that can run in their unadulterated form on Vita, which might limit it to vintage games and HD re-releases. Huge games like, say, Dark Souls wouldn't be able to do something similar, because they won't run on the Vita.
  • The syncing process is tied to Konami's Transfarring setup, which can be a bit of a pain, even using the "cloud sync" option. You'll have to sync the Vita while you're connected to the internet, which unless you have a 3G Vita and a plan, isn't as easy as it could be. The whole process is nowhere near as slick as, say, Apple's cloud-syncs.
  • So, this whole thing is more of a proof-of-concept than a practice that's workable for your average consumer. But all the same, with Metal Gear HD Collection on the Vita, I finally understand what Sony is going for with this whole "console gaming on the go" thing. We're still at an uncomfortable place in terms of hardware and software compatibility, and the audience of people who own a PS3, a Vita, and both copies of a game is small.

    But as companies figure this stuff out, the appeal of taking mobile games on the go with me, making progress, then syncing my saves to the version on my TV is much more appealing in practice than it was in theory.

    And really, the best news of all is that it like I'm finally going to finish Metal Gear Solid 3. Now I'll finally see this "The End" character everyone's always talking about.