Mad or Metal?

In 2019, legendary game designer Hideo Kojima appeared on Russian comedy talk show Evening Urgant, hosted by Ivan Urgant. At some point during their segment, Kojima and Urgant played a round of Street Fighter II, with Kojima picking Chun-Li and Urgant picking Ken. Although he stated that he preferred shooters to fighting games, Kojima won, showing that he was far more skilled than the button-mashing Urgant.

While Kojima may not care for fighting games, anyone in the industry could tell you how influential he is as a game designer. From Metal Gear to Snatcher to Policenauts to Death Stranding, almost everything Kojima makes has been heralded as a gem. It may not surprise you then that there have been many people who borrowed their ideas from him, and there is some evidence that may show that one of the entities that have done some borrowing was Capcom.

The first Metal Gear game was released on July 13, 1987 by Konami, a little over a month before the first Street Fighter game on August 30 of the same year. The game’s protagonist, Solid Snake, “is an operative of the special forces unit FOXHOUND, who goes on a solo infiltration mission into the fortified state of Outer Heaven to destroy “Metal Gear”, a bipedal walking tank capable of launching nuclear missiles from anywhere in the world, as well as rescue a number of fellow agents who have been captured by the enemy.”

While there have been many changes in the continuity of both Metal Gear and Street Fighter over the years, and the games are nothing alike, back in the 1980s there was plenty of room for overlap. After the success of Street Fighter, the developers began work on a sequel, Street Fighter ’89. However, this game was deemed “nothing like Street Fighter”, and ended up becoming its own franchise, Final Fight.

Final Fight was the first appearance of the now famous trio of Cody, Guy, and Haggar, who battled the Mad Gear Gang led by Belger. In this game, there were several characters named after famous metal bands and musicians, including Poison, Abigail, and Sodom. In other words, it could be said that the Mad Gear Gang could easily name themselves the Metal Gear Gang for their obvious homages to the heavy metal and overall punk look. Indeed, the names Mad Gear and Metal Gear are very similar, in both English and Japanese (their names in Japanese are マッドギア, Maddogia or Mad Gear, and メタルギア, Metarugia or Metal Gear). The similarities go a bit deeper than that, though.

The Mad Gear Gang was named after a Capcom racing game known as LED Storm in the United States, but is known as Mad Gear in Japan. In LED Storm, the lead character’s name is Fred, while in the original Mad Gear, the character’s name is the same as the title, Mad Gear. However, it’s not the main character’s name that makes the connection, but his RIVAL’S. His rival’s name?

Yep, it’s Snake. He’s not the same Solid Snake that’s in the Metal Gear series (which would be one of the greatest kept secrets in video game history if it was), but you can’t overlook the external connections that are there. Coincidental? Maybe. But there are a few more coincidences to take into consideration.

As I’ve stated, several members of the Mad Gear Gang were named for heavy meal influences. Only one of those so named, however, has an admittedly bizarre and highly suspect connection to Metal Gear, which is fitting considering that the character’s name is equivalent to the term “ass-backwards”: Sodom.

Although he is named after the band, it’s quite easy to see he also brings the equivalent of the act associated with it as-

“Don’t explain the joke, dude.” Ok, fine. That being said, Sodom himself is a poster boy for otakus, being an avowed Japanophile. However, being an American, he has a very poor grasp of the language, and much of his humor comes from trying to use it. Everything from his speech to the way he writes kanji is off-the-wall. As such, this eccentric side of him leads to one of Sodom’s most infamous moments.

In the first Street Fighter Alpha game, Sodom’s ending shows him and several other characters together, with Sodom trying to establish a new version of the Mad Gear Gang. Sodom reveals the name of the group, which is not taken very well by anyone.

Take a look at the kanji, though. Sodom was trying to write “Mad Gear” in Japanese, and wrote it incorrectly. However, as I found out, this is not completely out of ordinary, as this is a form of ateji, “kanji used to phonetically represent native or borrowed words with less regard to the underlying meaning of the characters.”

Ateji can be used to not only produce similar phonetics to the items they are describing, but it can also be used for puns. in Sodom’s case, it may be both. As Giant Bomb points out, “each kanji has a meaning, so to someone who can read it, it appears as a random coupling of words “Devil”, “guy”, “honor”, and “to come after”(as in rank, although the final kanji could also mean “Asia” or “mute”).”
It’s the last kanji, 亜, that we want to look at though, as this is where the connection lays. In terms of usage, it’s nearly identical to the use of the pronoun “sub-” in English, like the words substandard or sublevel. However, the kanji is also part of a word that ties in to the metal theme: 亜鉛, Aen, the Japanese word for zinc, and, like the rock genre, another type of metal.

“Ok, that’s a reach even for you,” you say. “This is obviously a mere coincidence. You’re gonna have to do better than that.” Ok, I will. Sodom isn’t the primary focus of this theory. Another Mad Gear member is. Someone with a far more distinct personality that would put him on par with Solid Snake, Revolver Ocelot, and Big Boss.

Researching Rolento, I found a few interesting facts surrounding his design. According to Seth Killian, his original name was supposed to be “Laurence”, but due to an error in translation involving the L and R sounds, he ended up being called Rolento instead.

While there is some dispute of whether or not Rolento’s name was supposed to be “Laurence” or “Laurent”, I believe Seth Killian’s take was correct, as by naming him Laurence, Capcom would also have paid homage to one of the most famous military commanders in history, T.E. Lawrence, who is better known as Lawrence of Arabia.

Whether intentional or unintentional, Rolento’s surname, Schugerg, may also hint to him being somewhat of an expy of Lawrence of Arabia. The name comes from a manga called Patalliro!, in which there is a character named Dr. Heinrich Schugerg, a mad scientist who works for the Nazis. Rolento is not a scientist, but the idea that his surname comes from Patalliro, a yaoi manga, could be an indirect allusion to Lawrence of Arabia’s own presumed sexuality.!

Where’s Rolento’s connection to Metal Gear? Well, if you haven’t been paying attention to the games, Rolento and Big Boss have very similar ideals, so that alone could be sufficient enough, but let’s take a more meta approach and look at one thing I’ve been itching to talk about for months.

Rolento is the Hanged Man card, and I pointed out the following in “The Secrets of the Street Fighter Tarot Cards”:

“[H]e’s suspended in time. He has not changed much, if at all, from his days in Mad Gear, where he first tried achieving his dream. Since then he has continued to pursue it, never resting, always in a combat mindset, always speaking to people as they were soldiers in his army. He is a relic from the past, always fighting a war even when there isn’t one to be fought.”

This is both Rolento and Big Boss through and through. Others are pawns for their ideals, and its their ideals that keep them on the paths their on. Certainly, Big Boss has a more complicated story than Rolento does, and if you aren’t well-versed in the Metal Gear franchise, Fandom has a very long section on Big Boss that details his entire history.

However, there’s a lot that is the same: both fought in the midst of wars, both wished to establish their own armies, and both ended up disillusioned from the countries they served for. While it may seem that Rolento is far happier and less sympathetic when it comes to his reasonings, remember he was originally written as a Vietnam War veteran, and disillusionment was par for the course regarding one of the worst conceived and pointless wars in world history. There’s no question that Rolento was and is disillusioned – if he wasn’t, because of his love for combat, he’d still be serving in the unit he was in. (It’s also possible both were inspired by a character in Fist of the North Star named the Colonel, giving them yet another connection to each other.

The biggest similarity, however, is how both men are considered traitors to the countries they served for. Big Boss’s perceived treachery is well-known, as his army seeks to rule the world through the building of Metal Gears. Rolento’s, however, is a little less apparent. Becoming a member of Mad Gear would certainly count as a big middle finger to the establishment he once served, but there’s another more solid connection: the image in the Hanged Man card. It’s an example of pittura infamante (“defaming portrait”), and as such was a popular genre of art that depicted people as traitors, thieves, and conmen. The pose of the Hanged Man was meant to be humiliating to its subject, and sometimes depicted the person drawn hanging next to animals like pigs, donkeys, and snakes. Quite simply, it was a shot at the subject’s character.

As his own treachery would be alluded to, Rolento would be the perfect subject for the Hanged Man. As someone who is unable to change himself or his views, he is seen as both stubborn and treacherous. He is unwilling to see past his own convictions and is unable to reflect the positive aspects of the Hanged Man, those characteristics being self-sacrifice and surrender.
Finally, there is the biggest connection of all between Rolento and Big Boss: the dream they share. Both men wish to see a society run by them and ruled with military might, free from the eyes of the governments and entities that wish to oppose them.

They want a fringe utopia…

A military paradise…

An Outer Heaven.

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