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Retroactive continuity, or retcon for short, is a new piece of information that imposes a different interpretation on previously described events. In regards to the Metal Gear series, a retcon is a situation in which the storyline of a new game explains or changes an event from a previous one, or attaches a new significance to it.

Retcons are typically used in the Metal Gear series to facilitate a dramatic plot shift or account for an inconsistency. Some retcons add information to fill in missing background details, while others instead contradict previously established information, allowing the accommodation of prequels/sequels or acknowledgement of real world developments. While creating the series, Hideo Kojima was willing to contradict established continuity on occasion, in order to ensure that "new games are as good as they can be."[1][2]

This article briefly outlines the retcons introduced in each game, contrasted with the story elements from previous games to which it adds or alters. The most direct sources are given in parentheses, with abbreviated titles indicating all mandatory presentation of information in that game, including radio dialogue. Appended titles pertain to information not immediately disclosed to the player, such as optional radio dialogue ("radio"), user manuals ("manual"), or supplementary details from offical websites and promotional material ("web").

Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake

Retcons in Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake (MG2) mainly expand upon events that occured in its predecessor Metal Gear (MG). Some information is given outside the main narrative, i.e. the user's manual or optional radio conversations.

Additions

Retcon Original
Schneider survived Outer Heaven (MG2). Schneider was missing in action (MG).
NATO bombed Outer Heaven following Solid Snake's escape (MG2). Outer Heaven self-destructed (MG).
The Outer Heaven Uprising occurred three years prior to the Zanzibar Land Disturbance (MG2). The date was unspecified (19XX) (MG manual).
Grey Fox and Snake were rivals in FOXHOUND and had previously fought together (MG2 radio). Fox provided Snake with information upon his rescue in Outer Heaven (MG).
The surname of Metal Gear's creator is Madnar (MG2 manual). He was originally identified only as Pettrovich (MG).

Alteration

Retcon Original
Metal Gear's creator is referred to as Petrovich (MG2). His name was originally transliterated as "Pettrovich" (MG).

Metal Gear Solid

The most notable retcon in Metal Gear Solid (MGS1) concerns the resurrection of the presumed-dead Gray Fox from Metal Gear 2, along with the previously unseen relationship between Solid Snake and Big Boss. Background details given in the "Previous Operations" story recaps (Prev. Ops) and user's manual, alter pre-existing information given in the manual for Metal Gear 2, mainly to reflect real world events regarding the end of the Cold War, but also to alter or expand the histories of Snake, Big Boss and FOXHOUND.

Additions

Retcon Original
Solid Snake is an American of Japanese descent (MGS1). Snake is of Japanese-British descent (MG2 manual).
Big Boss was the founding commander of FOXHOUND (MGS1 manual). Big Boss was nominated as commander of FOXHOUND (MG2 manual).
Big Boss told Snake that he is his father (MGS1). Big Boss was Snake's commanding officer (MG, MG2).
Gray Fox survived the Zanzibar Land Disturbance and was transformed into a cyborg (MGS1). Fox is implied to have died from injuries sustained from fighting Snake in Zanzibar Land (MG2).
During the Outer Heaven Uprising, Fox actively assisted a rookie Snake, who felt that the former taught him much (MGS1). Fox previously fought alongside Snake (MG2 radio). In Outer Heaven, he provided Snake with information on Metal Gear and its creator (MG).

Alterations

Retcon Original
Snake's commanding officer is referred to as Roy Campbell (MGS1). His name was originally transliterated as "Kyanbel" (MG2).
FOXHOUND is a U.S. Army special forces unit (MGS1). FOXHOUND is a NATO special forces unit (MG2 manual).
Snake's IQ is 180 (MGS1 web).[note 1] Snake's IQ is 160 (MG2 manual).
Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) forces, formed around Russia, fought Zanzibar Land in the Mercenary War (MGS1 Prev. Ops). Interventions from both East (Soviet Union) and West were made during the Mercenary War (MG2 manual).
Nuclear weapons have been reduced but not abandoned (MGS1). Nuclear weapons were renounced in the late 1990s (MG2).
Natasha Marcova is a former member of the Czech Secret Police (StB) (MGS1 Prev. Ops). Marcova was an active member of the StB (MG2).
The Zanzibar Land Disturbance occurred in 1999, four years after the Outer Heaven Uprising (1995) (MGS1 Prev. Ops). The Disturbance occurred in '99, three years after the Uprising (MG2). The Uprising began in '95, with TX-55 Metal Gear developed in '96. (MG2 manual).
Snake's former FOXHOUND comrade is named Gray Fox (MGS1). His name was originally transliterated as "Grey Fox" (MG, MG2).
Gray Fox was the only FOXHOUND member to attain the "Fox" title (MGS1). Fox was the last member to obtain the title under Big Boss's command (MG2 radio).
Master Miller is depicted as Caucasian with fair hair (MGS1).[note 2] Miller was depicted as Asian with black hair (MG2).

Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty

The retcons in Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty (MGS2) are largely contributed by the supplementary in-universe novelization In the Darkness of Shadow Moses: The Unofficial Truth (MGS2 Dark).

Additions

Retcon Original
The Patriots were responsible for Jim Houseman's arrest during the Shadow Moses Incident (MGS2 Dark). The U.S. President had Houseman arrested, after being contacted by Roy Campbell (MGS1).
The activation date of the FOXDIE virus within Solid Snake had been set to a wildcard value (MGS2 Dark). Revolver Ocelot believed that FOXDIE would activate soon after the Shadow Moses Incident (MGS1).

Alterations

Retcon Original
Sergei Gurlukovich left Spetsnaz after the collapse of the Soviet Union (MGS2). Gurlukovich was the head of Spetsnaz during the Shadow Moses Incident (MGS1).

Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater

As the first prequel in the series, Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater (MGS3) introduces many retcons concerning its protagonist Naked Snake (Big Boss) and the origins of Metal Gear.

Additions

Retcon Original
Aleksandr Granin created designs for Metal Gear REX and forwarded them to Hal Emmerich's father (MGS3). Hal Emmerich was the chief engineer of Metal Gear REX (MGS1).

Alterations

Retcon Original
Big Boss was around 30 years old in 1964 (MGS3). Big Boss died in his 70s in 1999 (MGS1 web).[note 3]
He was in his late 50s when he was cloned in the 1970s (MGS2).
Big Boss loses his eye during Operation Snake Eater, in 1964 (MGS3). Big Boss lost his eye in the late 1980s, forcing him to retire from active combat. (MG2 manual)
Big Boss's sterility was caused by radiation from nuclear testing on the Marshall Islands (MGS3). Big Boss became sterile due to combat injuries (MGS1JP).
Granin's Metal Gear design includes a rail gun (MGS3). Rail gun technology was first developed as part of the SDI project in the 1980s (MGS1).
Big Boss established FOXHOUND in 1971 to carry on the traditions of the FOX Unit (MGS3).[note 4] Big Boss established FOXHOUND in the 1990s after appreciating the effectiveness of high-tech weaponry during the Gulf War (MGS1 manual).

Metal Gear and Metal Gear 2 re-releases

The re-released versions of Metal Gear and Metal Gear 2 included in Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence and Metal Gear Solid HD Collection change the names of several characters, and all of the character portraits in Metal Gear 2 were given new and/or updated designs by Yoji Shinkawa to replace the dubiously legal use of digitized photographs of famous figures. Their in-game stories remain the same, despite the expansions, alterations, and deletions of many plot elements in their sequels.

Alterations

Retcon Original
Drago Pettrovich Madnar Pettrovich (MG), Petrovich Madnar (MG2)
Ellen Madnar Elen Pettrovich
Shotmaker Shoot Gunner
Bloody Brad Arnold
Dirty Duck Coward Duck
Holly White Horry White
George Kasler George Kesler
Johan Jacobsen Yozev Norden
Gustava Heffner Natasha Marcova
Black Ninja Black Color[note 5]
The Four Horsemen Ultrabox
Jungle Evil Predator
Night Fright Night Sight

Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops

The spin-off game Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops (MPO) expands upon some of the events of its predecessor, Metal Gear Solid 3. It also introduces many changes to the backstory of Frank Jaeger, a.k.a. Gray Fox, contradicting previous accounts from Metal Gear 2.

Although MPO is no longer considered a part of Kojima's core "Metal Gear Saga", its story serves as a prelude to Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots, where some plot points are revisited.

Additions

Retcon Original
Nikolai Sokolov survived the events of Operation Snake Eater with the aid of a fake death pill supplied by The Boss (MPO). Sokolov was assumed dead after being beaten by Colonel Volgin in Groznyj Grad (MGS3).
Gene claims that a CIA strategist deliberately manipulated Colonel Volgin into launching the nuclear attack in Tselinoyarsk (MPO). Nobody had predicted that Volgin would launch the attack (MGS3).
The Patriots usurp the American Philosophers (MPO). The U.S. branch of the Philosophers changed its name to the Patriots (MGS3).

Alterations

Retcon Original
Frank Jaeger first encountered Big Boss during the Mozambican War of Independence (MPO). Jaeger first encountered Big Boss in Vietnam, where the latter rescued him from a forced labor camp (MG2).
Frank Jaeger is a child soldier during the 1970 San Hieronymo Incident (MPO). Jaeger was a child soldier during the Rhodesian Bush War in the 1980s (MGS2 Dark).

Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots

As the intended grand finale of the series, Metal Gear Solid 4 (MGS4) features extensive retcons in its attempt to wrap up the remaining plot threads from all previous games, some of which had deliberately been left open for interpreation.

On a technical level, a large number of changes are made to the layout and contents of the Shadow Moses Island facility, last seen in the original Metal Gear Solid (see Shadow Moses Island#Behind the scenes for more details). For example, there is an entire casting facility to the north of the blast furnace area, accessed via an elevator that was not present in the earlier game.

Additions

Retcon Original
Sunny, child of Olga Gurlukovich, is female (MGS4). Solid Snake referred to Olga's child with male pronouns (MGS2).[note 6]
Solid Snake had always known Big Boss's CQC techniques, but chose not to use them until the Guns of the Patriots Incident (MGS4 radio).[note 7] Snake was skilled in CQB (MGS1 radio). He was "not a fan" of blades (MGS2).
Liquid helped Naomi Hunter escape from prison (MGS4). Solid Snake was previously believed responsible for Naomi's escape (MGS2 Dark).
Roy Campbell was once Raiden's commanding officer (MGS4). Raiden's CO during the Manhattan Incident was an AI modeled on Campbell (MGS2).
The accelerated aging of Les Enfants Terribles was written into their genes as a fail-safe (MGS4). Liquid claimed that the advanced aging was the result of cloning Big Boss in his advanced years (MGS2).
Solid Snake's DNA was too dissimilar from Liquid's to make him a target of the original FOXDIE virus (MGS4). The activation date of the FOXDIE virus within Snake had been set to a wildcard value (MGS2 Dark).
Dr. Madnar survived the Zanzibar Land Disturbance and went into hiding in Eastern Europe (MGS4). Solid Snake "put an end" to Madnar in Zanzibar Land (MG2, MGS1 Prev. Ops).
The founders of the Patriots included Para-Medic, Sigint, EVA and Big Boss (MGS4). The founders identified previously were Zero and Ocelot, with an invitation extended to Big Boss (MPO).
EVA is the surrogate mother of Liquid and Solid Snake (MGS4). The surrogate mother was previously unidentified (MGS1).
Para-Medic is identified as Dr. Clark (MGS4). Her reclusive nature led Naomi Hunter to mistake her for a man (MGS4DB). Naomi refers to Clark by male pronouns (MGS1).[3]
Solid Snake was born from a donor egg supplied by a Japanese lab assistant (MGS4).[note 8] Snake has Japanese ancestry (MG2, MGS1).
Sigint is identified as DARPA Chief Donald Anderson (MGS4). Sigint joined ARPA, DARPA's predecessor, in 1965 (MGS3).

Alterations

Retcon Original
Donald Anderson, a.k.a. Sigint, was born in 1939 (MGS4, MGS3 radio). Anderson was in his 50s during the 2005 Shadow Moses Incident (MGS1 web).
Big Boss survived the Zanzibar Land Disturbance and was placed in a nanomachine-induced coma (MGS4). Big Boss was killed by Solid Snake in Zanzibar Land (MG2, MGS1, MGS2).
Revolver Ocelot's possession by the spirit of Liquid Snake is revealed to be a result of nanomachines and hypnotherapy (MGS4). Liquid possessed Ocelot through supernatural means (MGS2).

Metal Gear Solid 4 Database

Additions

Retcon Original
Galzburg is located on the southernmost tip of the African continent (MGS4DB). Galzburg is located 200 km south of Outer Heaven, itself located deep in South Africa (MG).
The large explosions witnessed by Snake after escaping Outer Heaven was the result of NATO's bombardment (MGS4DB). The explosions coincided with Outer Heaven's self-destruct countdown sequence reaching zero (MG).
Ocelot's official file falsely lists affiliations with OMON, the Russian Tax Police assault unit and the SVR to cover up his Patriots-related activities (MGS4DB). Naomi Hunter mentions this file to Snake during the Shadow Moses Incident (MGS1 radio).

Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker

Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker (PW) alters or expands upon the backstories of several returning characters.

Additions

Retcon Original
McDonell Miller's birth name is revealed to be "Kazuhira" (PW). He was previously identified as McDonell Miller (MG2 radio).
His middle name is Benedict (MGS1 web).[note 9]
Huey Emmerich developed a mobile nuclear missile platform, contributing to his family's legacy of nuclear weapon involvement (PW). Hal Emmerich only mentions his father's birth on the day Hiroshima was bombed, as part of their family's "curse" (MGS1).
The Boss was in a coma during the Bay of Pigs Invasion, although reports claimed otherwise (PW). The Boss claimed participation in the Bay of Pigs Invasion (MGS3).
The Patriots' AI system was first conceived in the 1970s (PW). The Patriots' AI system was developed in the 2000s (MGS2, MGS4).
Miller was aware of the "sons" of Big Boss by 1974 (PW). Roy Campbell claimed only he and Solid Snake were aware of the latter's parentage (MGS1).

Alterations

Retcon Original
Miller was born to a Japanese mother and American father (PW). Miller was a third generation Japanese-American (MG2 manual).
Hal Emmerich was born in 1980 (PW). Hal Emmerich was in his 30s in 2005 (MGS1 web).[note 10]
Big Boss became a mercenary after serving in the Green Berets and FOX (PW). Big Boss previously served in the Green Berets, SAS, GSG 9, (MG manual) SOG and the Wild Geese (MG2 manual).[note 11]
Chrysalis and Metal Gear ZEKE are armed with functional rail guns (PW). Rail gun technology was first developed as part of the SDI project in the 1980s (MGS1).

Metal Gear Solid V

Like other prequels, Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes (GZ) and Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain (TPP) expand on the backstories of returning characters.

Additions

Retcon Original
Cobra Unit members The End and The Pain were bestowed with photosynthetic and insect control abilities, respectively, by parasites (TPP). The Cobras' abilities were previously unexplained. The establishment of the unit was funded by the Philosophers' Legacy (MGS3).
"Cipher" was the original name of the Patriots, with the latter name given to the AI network (TPP). The organization as a whole was previously referred to solely as the "Patriots" (MGS4).
Eli (Liquid Snake) met Tretij Rebenok (Psycho Mantis) in Afghanistan, 1984, and develops a strong bond with him (TPP). The only relationship shown between Liquid and Mantis was during their membership of FOXHOUND in the 2000s (MGS1).
The Mammal Pod was still functional after being recovered from Lake Nicaragua. (TPP). The Mammal Pod was believed destroyed after the AI's self-sacrifice during the Peace Walker Incident (PW).

Alterations

Retcon Original
Big Boss entered a coma in March 1975, only awakening in early 1984 (GZ, TPP). Big Boss rescued Frank Jaeger from a forced labor camp after the Vietnam War's end (April 1975) (MG2).
Kazuhira Miller loses his right arm and left leg while in Afghanistan (TPP). Miller was previously depicted with a full set of limbs (MGS1 manual).
Venom Snake, a body double for Big Boss, was killed in Outer Heaven by Solid Snake (TPP). Big Boss himself was defeated in combat with Snake in Outer Heaven (MG).
Liquid was taken to the UK in 1976 after the abandonment of Les Enfants Terribles (TPP). Liquid was taken to the UK upon his birth (MGS1 briefing).
Venom Snake fought and defeated Liquid over several confrontations (TPP). Liquid claimed that Big Boss berated him for being "inferior" (MGS1).
Colonel Volgin survived Operation Snake Eater and fell into a coma (TPP). Volgin was killed by a lightning bolt after his defeat by Big Boss during Operation Snake Eater (MGS3, MPO, MGS4DB).
Zero initiated development of an AI system as early as 1977, and was in a persistent vegetative state by 1984 due to a bio-weapon attack from Skull Face (TPP). The Patriots' AIs were developed following Big Boss's coups d'état of the 1990s, with Zero's mental state having deteriorated in old age (MGS4).
The layout of Mother Base during the attack scene (GZ) does not match that shown previously (PW).

Notes

  1. ^ Biographical data is given on the official website, which was also included in art books, trading cards, and other supplementary material.
  2. ^ In Metal Gear Solid, Miller's appearance is conveyed through a monochromatic character portrait on the Codec screen. His hair is blond in artwork featured in the user manual.
  3. ^ Biographical data is given on the official website, which was also included in art books, trading cards, and other supplementary material.
  4. ^ This retcon was apparently made late in the development of Metal Gear Solid 3, as a leaked voice casting sheet maintained the account that FOXHOUND was founded in the 1990s.
  5. ^ "Black Color" (ブラック・カラー Burakku Karā) is a mistransliteration of "Blackcollar".
  6. ^ Male pronouns are used in the English version of Metal Gear Solid 2, while the Japanese version made no mention of the child's gender.
  7. ^ In reality, this retcon was used as an excuse to explain why the CQC system was retained rather than returning to the previous games' simplistic melee system.
  8. ^ This retcon removes any known Japanese ancestry on the part of Big Boss, who was previously stated to be a third generation Japanese-American in Millennium Books' strategy guide Metal Gear Solid: Official Mission Handbook.
  9. ^ The name Benedict was first given in Metal Gear Solid: Official Mission Handbook, then given exclusively in English on Konami's Metal Gear Solid: Integral website, before ultimately being included in the Metal Gear Solid 4 Database.
  10. ^ Biographical data is given on the official website, which was also included in art books, trading cards, and other supplementary material.
  11. ^ It would be practically impossible for an American citizen to serve in the SAS and GSG9: the former would require he be a citizen of the British Commonwealth and a member of one of the British Armed Forces; GSG9 would require he be a German citizen and serve in the German police for at least two years.

References