The tragic events of September 11th 2001 had wide-reaching effects on millions of people, but it was also felt to a far lesser extent in the world of entertainment.
It was already known that the ending of Metal Gear Solid 2, which takes place in New York, was changed following 9/11, but a recently-translated interview with Hideo Kojima reveals how close the game was to being cancelled in the wake of the terrorist attacks.
"I was called in to speak with the board of directors, and after explaining the story details, everyone's facial expression had a look of 'This is not good,'" says Kojima in the interview, which was conducted with Weekly Toyo Keizai. "Since the plan for the game was to have a worldwide release the idea of shelving the project altogether would have a tremendous impact in terms of business."
Outside of any potential financial impact on Konami, Kojima says that he was personally conflicted about releasing a game like MGS2 at that point. "I thought to myself, 'The game shouldn't be released at this period in time. I have no other choice but to take responsibility and resign from the company.' I then reached out to Kagemasa Közuki, the founder of Konami, through email. He responded with, 'I have made up my mind. The game should be released. What are your thoughts?' I was moved by the words, and I, too, made up my mind. I also had discussions with Ken Kutaragi, the then-president of Sony Computer Entertainment (SCEI). Mr. Kutaragi heard my explanation and offered his advice stating, 'This is not a matter you should be ashamed of. You should go ahead and release the game.' If I didn't have the support of these two individuals, I can't predict how the events would've transpired otherwise."
Various revisions were made to the game, including a sequence where the Statue of Liberty is displaced and a portion of Manhattan is crushed. American flags were also removed, and the spelling of Raiden's name was changed from katakana (ライデン) to kanji (雷電), as the former resembled "Bin Laden" in Japanese. "The places in the game that necessitated revisions were corrected, and the game's release was postponed by a few weeks," concludes Kojima. "In the end, the game would go on to receive worldwide critical acclaim with impunity."
Metal Gear Solid 2 is regarded as one of the best games of all time and is considered to be a highlight of the entire Metal Gear series. A remake of Metal Gear Solid 3 has just been announced, and the first three Metal Gear Solid titles are coming to modern systems in a new collection, too.