Prepare for the text bomb.
This is very likely the most difficult-yet-well-designed game in the world. I have no idea how I didn't find it sooner, as it is the greatest in frustrating fun (one of my favorite kinds of fun). It's a 2D platformer where you play as THE KID on his journey to defeat and then become THE GUY. He wants to be THE GUY! The game is absolutely devious, completely unforgiving, relentlessly sadistic, and I think it even has a black heart beating deep within the source code that hungers for the souls of the weak. The difference between this game and others that are horrifyingly difficult is that this game is actually very well designed. A lot of thought and time clearly went into creating each challenge. You will die at least once in EVERY room the game throws at you, and in some you will die dozens of times, but it is never the fault of the game mechanics - It's YOUR fault, you just aren't good enough (yet).
IWBTG also uses tons of sprites, music, and references from classic games, mostly NES titles. So far I have beaten 2 of the game's 9 bosses... Mike Tyson (of Punch-Out!) and Mecha Birdo (of Mario fame). I'm currently working on taking down Dracula (Symphony of the Night version). It's nostalgic, it's difficult, it's made with a sadistic sort of love at every step, and it will make you laugh, cry, scream, and cheer. Check it out if you want a fun challenge, or if you prefer to be more passive there are plenty of Youtube videos of other people trying to become THE GUY.
It's kind of like a 3D and easier version of I Wanna Be The Guy, except you are a ninja. In truth, it's a lot of fun and I enjoyed most of the game. Many reviewers have criticized the game for being exactly like the first, only with more weapons and enemies. That statement is completely true, the game is exactly like the first with more weapons and enemies. However, I don't understand how that is a criticism. If they were going to truly innovate and create some revolutionary system of mechanics, they probably wouldn't have just called it Ninja Gaiden 2. They probably would have called it Completely Different Ninja Game. If you like the prospect of running around at blazing fast speeds saving the world from demons, ninja, and demon ninja, then Ninja Gaiden (Original and sequel!) is perfect for you. The high level of difficulty adds to the feeling of being an elite ninja fighter, unless you aren't privy to challenges, in which case it only adds to the feeling of helplessness and despair. Definitely a game targeted towards a specific demographic, one that I am proudly part of. Everyone else who is part of that demographic should feel sad if they do not play Ninja Gaiden.
There is a lot of interesting debate floating around about whether this game should be looked upon as a video game or as a work of art. I think that these people are all trying too hard. The bottom line is that MGS4 is a captivating and fun installment of this year's interactive entertainment. Many people complain that the game isn't interactive enough, that too much time is spent on cutscenes and story for it to be considered a video game. So where is the international committee that set the standards for these things? Just because the game does not match up to your previous experiences following inserting a disc into a console, you decide that it is an invalid form of media? Have you tried just... I don't know... enjoying yourself? The truth is that the game does have an unprecedented volume of cutscenes (about half of your time will be spent watching them) but I don't see how that is necessarily a bad thing. The story in MGS4 is immense, and part of the fun of the game is being driven by that story. Few people would play Final Fantasy games if all the dialogue and non-interactive segments were cut out. I think that the problem in many peoples' minds is that they are used to seeing a cutscene as their reward for accomplishing something in the game. With MGS4, the cutscenes aren't your reward, they are a wholly integrated part of the experience.
Another frequent criticism of the game is that the story either sucks, or is not told well. Unlike the "not interactive enough" point, I think that this is a more valid criticism. I, for example, hate everything penned by Charles Dickens. Some people think he was a genius, and I just don't get it. So it would make sense that some people simply don't get as sucked in to the story of MGS as most others do. But that really only addresses the story itself, not how it is told. The "problem," if you want to call it a problem, with the MGS storytelling style is that it really isn't easy to follow. However, that seems to be intentional. The game WANTS you to struggle with seemingly disconnected plot points, a myriad of characters who are not all what they seem, and apparently minor details that end up being the most important things in the world. The game WANTS you to THINK. Not very many stories are told this way, and those that are usually get mixed reviews. Some people believe a story, regardless of its point, should (at least in the end) come together and present itself clearly and coherently to the viewer. Other people enjoy a story that doesn't give itself away, leaves questions unanswered, and provides for excellent coffee-talk the next day. The entire MGS series definitely falls into the latter style of stories. The timeline of the games is MGS3--MGS Portal Ops--Metal Gear--Metal Gear 2--MGS--MGS2--MGS4. Each game pretty much just chronologically shows you what happens to the main characters during the timeframe in question. Little details such as how the Dr. Madnar who appeared in the original Metal Gear is the same Dr. Madnar who shows up in Metal Gear Solid 4 are left up to the player to figure out. One could say that the story would be better if such things were more explicitly explained to the player. One could also say that the story is greater for choosing to make the player think, or even that the story is so grand that 7 games (more if you count Ac!d) simply was not enough to cohesively put together the massive plot.
Final Review: I beat MGS4 twice and loved every moment of it, but my favorite game in the series is still MGS3.
Next time on my website: Initial logo creation, political revelations, and maybe I'll try to get my guitar to work with my computer. No promises on that last one.