Some video game franchises span across generations, cement a place in our hearts and hold a nostalgic stature within our memories, a mere mention of a game can fester up Ratatouille type flashbacks leaving you remembering exactly where you were and what you were doing around the time you first played them. For me and many others Metal Gear Solid is one of those video game series, although as of today the series has ended and after a nasty split its innovative creator Hideo Kojima and games company Konami have seemingly moved onto to pastures new with the former currently preparing to share his next title Death Stranding with the world and Konami manufacturing Metal Gear Solid franchise themed pachinko machines and erm Metal Gear Survive.
When Metal Gear Solid came out it was a game changer although its predecessor Metal Gear series made waves during the late 80’s and early 90’s, technology of the playstation allowed much more expansive gameplay as well as graphical capabilities and even though there were stealth games released prior like the popular Tenchu Stealth Assassins, after the release of Metal Gear Solid it became the perennial go to for your stealth action, over the top characters and movie espionage storytelling as well as a myriad other wacky reasons cardboard boxes, unique boss fights, codec convos to name a few.
However I could type for hours discussing how ground breaking I found the game but this is a art book review and I plan on focusing on another key component to the metal gear solid legacy the artist v Yoji Shinkawa who also serves as the games art director more specifcially his first outing at the helm of concept art with the franchise here is a look into The Art of Metal Gear Solid.
The main potatoes of the book are split up into two sections, the first covers official Illustrations, promotional illustrations and works used for magazines and merchandise whilst part two gives you an in depth insight into the conceptual work used during the games main development covering character and mechanical designs, storyboard plus more this section really packs a lot of artwork here with pieces included from Shinkawa’s sketchbook where his style is loose and fluid as he fleshes out ideas, the majority of the section is black and white whilst the first is pretty much all colour with the pages print with high quality paper and effects.
“What I do isn’t exactly like creating artwork. I think my main job is to create game characters, so what I think is most important is how characters move and react in front of the users. I draw a lot of sketches and I normally select the best ones, or sometimes it happens that I just draw what I like in the first instance. Normally I create characters gradually.”
“There are two patterns. One is that I assume and think about a character’s functionality from the beginning and incorporate that into the design, or sometimes I give feedback to the game designers, and we think about what functions are missing, then I incorporate that into the design.”
Shinkawa uses a variety of tools traditional and digital to depict his work the main book illustrations of iconic video game character Solid Snake is produced using charcoal however the prominent tool is a pentel ink brush pen where he has developed a unique distinctive art style that compliments and accentuates many aspects
gray fox the cyborg ninja was actually designed by Shinkawa but wasn’t intended to be in the game, but Kojimaand the development team loved the design so much it was implemented into the game playing a major role in the story and fan favourite in the series
The book finishes of with a conversation between Shinkawa and Yoshitaka Amano of final fantasy fame as they discuss art, creativity and video games whilst complimenting each other with introspective takes on how they tackle creating art. This book is a rarity its now to of print and very well sort after there have been reproductions of late but although good the magic of the original is lost due a series of factors I will get into later, first and foremost if you are a fan of the series or a fan of Yoji Shinkawa’s art this book is a must have due to it being out of print it is at a inflated by many sellers but can found at reasonable prices everyone again, a shameless plug as it can be found in our store amongst others in the series
Overall excellent insight into the conceptual art of the game, however the soft cover durability marks the book down slightly.