We're a little over a month away from The Phantom Pain's release, and though we still have much to learn about the many secrets packed within its open world, at least one thing is clear: publisher Konami really doesn't want you to know the creative lead behind this entry in the Metal Gear Solid series.
Well, at least not by looking at the box art alone. Images of The Phantom Pain's official packaging show its box art is now without the "A Hideo Kojima Game" branding that once hovered above the title. Though we have no idea what caused the rift between Kojima and his longtime, former employer, they've made a serious effort to toss the legacy of Metal Gear Solid's creator down the Memory Hole.
Splits like these are bound to cause some speculation, but this situation doesn't indicate a desire from Kojima to distance himself from the project. Based on what I played at a two-day preview event, The Phantom Pain is a fantastic experience that finally cuts itself loose from the finicky mechanics and plot baggage of the past, while keeping and expanding on everything that makes Metal Gear Metal Gear. Even if the development of was troubled, the final product is certainly something to be proud of.
Plus, based on his tweets, Kojima seems to be sincerely proud of the project. At this point in his career, he could easily dismiss the game and move onto his next big thing, but most of his online activity has involved promoting The Phantom Pain—essentially, funneling more money into the publisher that wants nothing more than to wash their hands of this whole video games business.
MGSV challenges new game style of "Freedom of Infiltration". U choose the way to get in, transportation, time, climate, arms to gear, buddy.— HIDEO_KOJIMA (@HIDEO_KOJIMA_EN) July 7, 2015
Of course, there's the question of whether or not Hideo Kojima's name even belonged on the box to begin with. Obviously, Metal Gear is an auteur production, and each entry is rife with Kojima's many idiosyncrasies. But, at this point, we really don't need to be told The Phantom Pain is a Kojima game; few creators are so synonymous with the series they've helped cultivate. If I had to guess, Konami may be adjusting their branding for the sake of future Metal Gears with no involvement from Kojima—if they even plan on publishing more games after The Phantom Pain. Still, in the United States at least, the "A Hideo Kojima Game" inclusion hasn't been entirely consistent: Metal Gear Solid 2, 3, and Peace Walker include this phrase on their box art, but 2008's Guns of the Patriots didn't—an odd exception, considering how much was riding on this sequel.
And then we have the tricky question of whether or not it's even possible for one single person to claim sole ownership over the many, many moving parts of an open-world game. With the Phantom Pain, Kojima isn't shy about giving his collaborators credit: The beginning of each standard story mission tells you the individual people who designed it; an inordinately gracious move from an industry that typically doesn't think much of its workers. (Though Kojima's name still pops up multiple times within these pre-mission credits.)
But when I think of seeing the name of a creator or director on a box, it pulls me back to a simpler time when a game could have come into being thanks to one or two people: LucasArts adventures regularly listed the director(s) on the cover art, as did certain Atari 2600 games. Though Kojima no doubt had complete control over the project, it seems more than a little unfair to dismiss the efforts of (undoubtedly) hundreds of people. As we learned from the untimely death of Nintendo's Satoru Iwata, it's often the unsung, behind-the-scenes programmers who make our favorite games so good.
Even if this is an especially petty move from Konami, it's essentially the last bit of The Phantom Pain-related ugliness that can happen before its release. Unless, of course, Konami decides to go the 8-bit era route of forcing the development staff to adopt ridiculous pseudonyms. And with The Phantom Pain directly leading into the original MSX's Metal Gear, who knows? This incredibly unlikely choice could actually be fitting.