In 2001, millions of video gamers went out and bought Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty. All of them expected several hours of good ol’ fashioned Solid Snake action (a sentence I never thought I would say…) but after twenty or thirty minutes, Snake was taken away to be replaced by someone calling himself Snake. Even though you couldn’t see his face, you knew something was up. Soon to return as the ninja badass he is these days in Metal Gear Rising: Revengance, he has always had an uphill struggle winning fans.He is an underrated character, but I feel that Raiden is both an excellent addition to the Metal Gear universe, and one of the most interesting characters in video gaming to date.
A Virtual Snake
Where Metal Gear Solid focused on genes, specifically how Snake is a genetic copy of Big Boss, Sons of Liberty focuses on memes; how someone can be copied through memes. Raiden is bred to be a copy of Snake, created through VR training, the same VR training missions that you play in Metal Gear Solid.
So then you could say that he is the player; someone who wants to be Snake, but simply is not Snake. When Pliskin and Raiden are talking about Raiden’s training, the screen shows a number of clips from the Metal Gear Solid VR missions.
Interestingly enough, when Raiden dies in Sons of Liberty, a ‘Mission Failed’ message comes up, like in the VR Training of Metal Gear Solid. In both games, if Snake dies, it comes up with ‘Game Over'; a possible connection between the two games.
At the end of the game, Raiden takes of his dog tags and they have the name of the player on, assuming that you put your own name in at the start of the Big Shell and not something immature like Fag Balls), which makes it absolutely clear that Raiden is the player.
I’m starting to think that the hatred of Raiden arises from a lot of people because Raiden reminds them of themselves; a skinny, weak rookie who looks pathetic next to a battle hardened veteran like Snake. It reminds them that they are not a soldier or a badass. When the Patriots and GW con Raiden, they con the player. The player is just as weak as Raiden is, for the most part, in Sons of Liberty.
The idea of Raiden being a child soldier is an interesting one. On the forefront of it, it shows how the Patriots brainwashed him into the whiney mess he is at the start of Sons of Liberty. You could also look at it as a comment on the culture we live in; children playing video games are being familiarised with how to kill. Raiden says that as a child solider, he was forced to watch violent films with macho characters in to psyche them up to go to war. He talks of being drugged with gunpowder to keep him under control.
Both of the above, horrible as they seem, could be seen as parallels to the violent culture in which we live, which is a pretty horrific thought when you get down to it.
Living in Snake’s Shadow
Probably the biggest reason why so many people hate Raiden is the fact he is not Snake. He appears in a game meant to only feature Solid Snake, and is the antithesis of him. Where Snake is gruff and manly, Raiden is whiney and skinny, with long blonde hair. Where Snake is an experienced war veteran, Raiden is a total n00b. He is so different to Snake, but that is the point of the game. Many players were so outraged, that they forget the narrative importance of Raiden.
Upon arriving at the Big Shell, and before he is revealed to not be Solid Snake, you see a man who looks like Snake taking out a load of guards. Raiden sees him from the back as he goes up in the lift, but clearly it is Snake; you see the trademark sneaking suit, mullet and bandanna.
This scene shows how inferior Raiden is to Snake; the latter is there and deals with the guards before Raiden even touches base. In every interaction between the two, Snake is in control. He is a teacher, and Raiden the pupil, even when Snake is disguised as Pliskin. Another example of this is when Solidus is introduced; Raiden is slow to act, and ends up being winded by an explosion. What does Snake do? Opens fire on him. He is quick to act, and does the job.
After being captured on Arsenal Gear, Raiden steps out of Snake’s shadow. When you come too on Arsenal, it is revealed that Solidus is your foster father, and he explains to Raiden his origins as a child soldier, as Jack the Ripper.
He was an expert in using a blade to kill people, so him being given Olga’s sword by Snake is a logical move. Snake is not a fan of blades, so Raiden’s use of a blade feels different. Even the way you control it is unique. Snake uses the buttons to execute moves, where Raiden uses the right analogue stick to use his sword. Little details like this make Raiden start to feel like a different character.
His character arc thus far has been flat; he has not accomplished much, and is a bit of a blank slate. From the moment that Raiden has his eyes opened to what is really going in, he starts to evolve as a character. As soon as he gets that blade, he gets his own identity. Him appearing as the ninja in Guns of the Patriots is no co-incidence; it is a continuation of the arc started in Sons of Liberty. It was not merely a way of making him cool, rather a continuation of what happened before. It is also because of these late in the day revelations about his past that he ends up being the emotionless mess he is in Guns of the Patriots.
Some people have called him flat in Guns of the Patriots, but give the guy a break. Much like people who criticise Cloud from Final Fantasy VII now compared to how he appeared in the media promoting that game, both characters suffer a mental breakdown over the course of their various games. Their ideas of reality fall down around them, and the fact that they manage to hold it all together is a miracle.
This kind of an arc is why I like Raiden. There are so many layers to him. Where Snake, by and large, is just a really cool soldier, Raiden has to struggle to reach that mantle. Also, in terms of sheer badassness (read: how many Metal Gears killed), Raiden trumps Snake twentyfold. Snake only kills four or five (TX-55 Metal Gear, Metal Gear D, Metal Gear REX and a few Gecko), Raiden kills between three and twenty in one go, depending on the difficulty you play on.
Obviously I am yet to play Metal Gear Rising: Revengance, but it will be interesting to see where they take Raiden. Like I said in my First Look of that game, I felt that Raiden’s story arc ended in Guns of the Patriots but apparently not. Were the game taking place between Sons of Liberty and Guns of the Patriots, it would make sense…but I guess we will have to see what happens. The idea of Jack the Ripper being a separate personality that Raiden has is an interesting one, and I am intrigued to see where they go with that idea.
All the same, I think that Raiden is a fantastic addition to the Metal Gear universe, and one of the most interesting characters in the series to date. It’s a shame that he is not appreciated as much as he should be, and a bigger shame that Kojima seems to have responded to fan anger by joining in and mocking Raiden, like in the Metal Gear Solid 4 reveal trailer.
I hope you enjoyed this article!