By early 1999 Kojima had come up with most of the game's plot. Players would start off onboard the tanker ship Discovery in the New York harbor. While everyone assumed that Snake would remain the main playable character in the game beyond the tanker, Kojima had an idea: Why not make Snake a part of the game but let the player see him from the perspective of someone completely new?
"When I was thinking about this game and the characters, I thought of the Sherlock Holmes series," he says. "Those books are written in the first person, but the narrator isn't Sherlock Holmes; it's Watson." Kojima says that this model inspired him to think of making the narrator in Metal Gear Solid 2 someone other than the main character. Before long, he had come up with a new character--a handsome and sensitive character who at first blush looks like the polar opposite of the gruff and antagonistic Solid Snake. "I really thought I would be able to better tell the story of Snake from the third person with this new character as our narrator for the majority of the game." But Kojima is adamant that MGS2 is still a game about Snake. "Make no mistake about it," he states. "Solid Snake is still the main character in Metal Gear Solid 2 even though he is not the main narrator this time around."
Kojima says that the introduction of this new character, code-named Raiden, also helped him solve another problem involving Snake and his relationship with Otacon and the coder-decoder interface (CODEC), frequently used throughout the game to convey important information. "When Metal Gear first came out 14 years ago, Snake was a rookie," he explains. "But Solid Snake truly became a hero after Metal Gear Solid, and he really doesn't need any more advice through the CODEC." If Snake could no longer use the CODEC, Kojima needed to create a new character who could make use of the CODEC--an important tool used to educate new players about how to interact with the game. Thus, the mysterious Raiden was born.
All of the characters in Metal Gear are created by Kojima in collaboration with Shinkawa. In early 1999, Kojima first told Shinkawa of his idea for a new protagonist in the story. "Mr. Kojima comes up to me and says, 'Can you draw this type of character?'" says Shinkawa, who admits he is often somewhat rebellious in his character design. Shinkawa says his rebelliousness is by design. "What fun would it be if I drew exactly what Mr. Kojima told me to do? What I try to do is realize my ideas along with his in the final design. That way the final character will inspire Mr. Kojima to take the series in a new direction."
Shinkawa's concept sketch for Raiden.
Within a matter of days Shinkawa created his first sketch for Raiden, a version he says is remarkably similar to the final product. While designing Raiden's look may have been relatively easy, Shinkawa says creating the female heroes for Kojima's games are always much more difficult, sometimes taking months to perfect. Why? "Well to be honest, I think characters like Rose and Naomi are Mr. Kojima's ideal women...but they are not my ideal women," he says laughing. "You know, Mr. Kojima likes those intelligent scientist types."
Shinkawa says designing the female characters is always difficult.
The issue of likes and dislikes was a major topic of discussion among the core team for Metal Gear Solid 2, most of whom returned from the first game and many of whom have worked with Kojima for nearly a decade. Some liked the idea of Raiden; others were a little taken aback by Kojima's decision to introduce a new playable character. Yoshikazu Matsuhana, the assistant director for the project, who started at Konami as a game tester on Metal Gear: Solid Snake, was one of those who questioned the idea. "I wasn't sure this weak-looking guy was going to be well received by the fans," he says. "But we all trust Mr. Kojima because he has so many hits under his belt. He is basically allowed to do what he wants."
Assistant Director Yoshikazu Matsuhana sits at his desk.
Then again, Kojima probably wasn't too concerned about fan reaction in the short term. After all, if things went according to plan, fans wouldn't even find out about Raiden until they bought a copy of the game off a store shelf.