280: Psycho Mantis, Qu'est-ce que c'est?

Brendan Main

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Psycho Mantis, Qu'est-ce que c'est?

Standing apart from thousands of phony psychics, Metal Gear Solid's Psycho Mantis really can see something others can't - the parameters of the very game he's in.

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DTWolfwood

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Yes sir, Psycho Mantis is my favorite boss in MGS.

Just curious tho, am i the only one who didnt swap out the controller and simply shot the flying busts out of the air to achieve the same thing? Cause you know, im lazy and breaking those didn't involve me getting up XD

There was another 4th wall breaking in MGS2 or 3(been too long >.<) where snake or raiden was escaping naked after being tortured. Campbell (in all his skull face glory) kept hounding you to stop playing the game. I thought that was an excellent lvl as well.
 

Veldel

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Psycho Mantis is and always will be the greatest boss of all time to me when I was a child and he did all that I litterly freaked out and was liek what the bloody blazes is going on?
 

Unesh52

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I'd forgotten how many different things Mantis did in that game. I played the GC version a few years ago, and this was my favorite fight by far. Such a cool game.
 

BlueInkAlchemist

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I love the hell out of Psycho Mantis. He's a fantastic boss with a memorable encounter and a hook that sticks with you long after you shut off the console.

Great article as always, Brendan!
 

ThrashJazzAssassin

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This article spent too much time simply describing what Psycho Mantis does in MGS, and not enough time actually commenting on or analysing it. The same basic premise could have been explored in the same amount of space in much greater depth, in a more entertaining style and without risking annoying readers who haven't played MGS yet by spoiling it for them.
 

twm1709

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Mantis showed up again in MGS4, but he kind of felt like a parody of himself. Although I did appreciate his compliments on my new hardware and rumble support :p
 

teknoarcanist

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I'm not sure I agree with the conclusions of this analysis. I don't think Mantis's aim was 'break immersion over his knee' and mock the player for taking the game so seriously *. Rather, I think the effect was to enhance immersion by expanding it into dimensions the player had not previously had a game expand into.

You're right when you say that Mantis had 'wormed his way out of the game and into your space'. The entire point of the Psycho Mantis sequence was not the artistic accomplishment of Mantis saying, "So I see you like Castlevania" in and of itself--ie, a fictional psychic character doing something nifty. More, it was the response incited IN players: that gut-level "WHAT THE FUCK" reaction which we all had playing that sequence for the first time. The aim (and accomplishment) was to give players the same blunt-force trauma of having your mind invaded by a malevolent psychic monster which Snake himself might be feeling.

The turning-point here is the switch from action to reaction; receptivity to proactivity, on the part of the player. Like a good Batman fight, the player is overwhelmed in the first act, and must withdraw, regroup, and figure out a new strategy. By the end of the fight, the player has taken back control and beaten Mantis by his own means. As a result, the elicited sense of vindication is more rewarding than any amount of XP or power-ups any game could ever offer.

Leading hundreds of thousands of players to the same emotional response is the epitome of what makes games unique as an artistic platform. While not particularly subtle (and even joked about today) the Mantis sequence is remembered fondly because it was a very powerful baby-step in the right direction -- and while it's popular to put Kojima down for his winding monologues and convoluted narratives, I think it's important to recognize that his games have achieved such a strong legacy because they offered more of these moments between them than you were likely to find anywhere else. The french word 'frisson' comes to mind.

* The Campbell sequence at the end of Metal Gear Solid 2, I think, serves as a better example of this. It offered less of a sense of personal invasion, and more drew the player to feel surrounded/trapped/betrayed. You were being humiliated like Raiden was being humiliated.
 

The Artificially Prolonged

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Love psycho mantis in MGS. I even loved when he made a cameo appearance MGS4 when he tried the same thing but couldn't do it because of the sixaxis controller and no memory cards, very funny.
 

RollForInitiative

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I didn't know about the whole second controller deal for beating him, so I just spent a very, very long time whittling him down with melee until I won. Looking back, I would have done the same thing even if I'd known; I love a good challenge.
 

Brendan Main

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teknoarcanist said:
I don't think Mantis's aim was 'break immersion over his knee' and mock the player for taking the game so seriously *. Rather, I think the effect was to enhance immersion by expanding it into dimensions the player had not previously had a game expand into.



I agree with nearly all of what you argue, but I thought I might respond to a couple points.

This depends on the slipperiness of a word like "immersion," and how we've come to use it. You're right, for example, that Mantis' controller spazzing and save file reading enters into a new space, with new boundaries and dimensions - I'd call this tactical and spatial immersion, of the sort that VR technologies have been sawing away at for some time now. But what about narrative immersion, the more casual usage that describes how 'real' a game scans at any given time? This requires internal consistency and contiguity - we might forgive Roy Campbell for patiently explaining to Snake what the A button is, but there's simply no in-game analogue to Mantis busting your balls for liking Mario. It's specifically fictional.

These are very different values, but they aren't at cross purposes - in fact, you can fiddle with one to directly heighten another. I disagree with the common notion that when it comes to the vidjagames, 'immersion' is the catch-all value that describes how well a game succeeds. Mantis is a mindfuck exactly once (or, I guess, never, if you're like that guy two posts up who thinks I ruined Christmas) but after that, the fight still works... just on different terms. In all my playthroughs of MGS, that's the moment I look forward to most, even though I know how it's going to shake out. It's fraught, yes, but it's also a little silly, and I appreciate that it blows off some steam. Maybe I like a little fiction in my fiction.


teknoarcanist said:
* The Campbell sequence at the end of Metal Gear Solid 2, I think, serves as a better example of this. It offered less of a sense of personal invasion, and more drew the player to feel surrounded/trapped/betrayed. You were being humiliated like Raiden was being humiliated.
The difference here, I think, is that though the theme of 'virtual vs real' runs through all of MGS2, the ending crushes it in a wave of solemn triplethink. Right after the Naked AI Meltdown bit, you're treated to no less than three speeches, all of which reframe the events of the story. The whole "this is just a game" thing is quickly contextualized by a string of explanations - Roy's circuits was melting down from the virus, and Raiden as VR-trained child soldier isn't so great with the whole real vs false stuff. But with Mantis, there's no 4th wall buttressing: No one shows up and says, "Oh, yeah, that was all nanomachines." He gets to do his freaky voodoo shit, and nobody says boo.

But there's one point that I simply can't contest - ninja-flipping around naked in MGS2 feels really, truly bad. In the words of my biological father, Inigo Montoya: Humiliations galore!
 

Koeryn

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I liked the article, the Mantis battle really effected me as a kid. I also really like teknoarcanist's comments, as well as you're reply to them, Brendan. Nicely said on both sides.
 

omegawyrm

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I really appreciate that the Metal Gear series doesn't focus on immersiveness as an important aspect of a video game. Psycho Mantis is a good example of that. I've never really cared about immersion in video games, that's not something the game has to worry about. Personally, I always see it as my own responsibility to be on terms with the game or movie or whatever.
 

shogunblade

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I guess I hadn't thought about it before, but Psycho Mantis had this truly disturbing way of getting into someone's head, and it worked very well, although, as a younger gamer, I was more or less taken in by the Sniper Wolf fight, honestly.

Though less psychology is in Wolf's fight than Mantis's fight, and obviously a good reason to write about him.

A Great piece to read about.
 

bimbley

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One of the truly great moments in gaming history, this. It's rather difficult to recreate the effect of experiencing it for the first time all these years later, since it has become a part of gaming culture.

For me the purpose of Mantis is exactly the same as that of Bertolt Brecht's 4th wall breaking theatre. He called his technique Verfremdungseffekt or 'alienation effect' and Brendan does a good job here of discussing the various ways Psycho Mantis prescribes to it. For Brecht the intention was political, he felt that true immersion allowed his audience to detach the play from their own world and thereby remove themselves from its politicized message. He therefore set about reminding his audience that they were watching not experiencing events, and force them to act as critics.

We know that Kojima has a tendency to waffle on, one which unfortunately became somewhat ridiculous. The first two Metal Gear Solid games, at least, managed to maintain a semblence of a clear train of thought, exploring the relationship between reality and identity as developments in science threaten to undermine both. Mantis therefore acts to involve the gamer in this discussion by decaying immersion and forcing critique. As someone said above, this was a baby step for gaming into the realms of artist relevance.

-Bim
 

carpathic

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I would probably crap my pants if I ever had a video game enemy do this to me.

That would be absolutely amazing.

And just generally awesome. Talk about metagaming.
 

HeartAttackBob

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Wow. Ok Brendan, I have to stop a moment and congratulate you. That article was Fuckin Awesome.
I literally shivered remembering how creepy it was listening to Mantis "read your mind."

Truly a puppet who can see the strings. We should all be so lucky...
 

Valagetti

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Nice recap. Takes me back to a simplier time where, games were about good storytelling!
 

Madara XIII

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DTWolfwood said:
Yes sir, Psycho Mantis is my favorite boss in MGS.

Just curious tho, am i the only one who didnt swap out the controller and simply shot the flying busts out of the air to achieve the same thing? Cause you know, im lazy and breaking those didn't involve me getting up XD

There was another 4th wall breaking in MGS2 or 3(been too long >.<) where snake or raiden was escaping naked after being tortured. Campbell (in all his skull face glory) kept hounding you to stop playing the game. I thought that was an excellent lvl as well.
There was also another one in the 4th game.
When Snake is in Shadow Moses, Otacon tells him to stop and switch out discs, but snake says there's no second disc to which Otacon replies "OH yeah we're on the PS3 multi-layered discs"

Snake: "grrr Otacon get a grip"

That made me seriously LOL XD
 

The Random One

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Ah, good ol' Hideo. He has such great ideas for games but always takes them so far out that any power they'd have end up being greatly dilluted. It really worked well for Psycho Mantis though.

I always thought that one of the signs of games stepping into the boundaries of SRS ARTZ would be when it started to make metacommentaries outside the realm of comedy, but somehow I missed they have such a powerful precursor in here.

The Metal Gear series is still pretty bad though.
 

DTWolfwood

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Madara XIII said:
DTWolfwood said:
Yes sir, Psycho Mantis is my favorite boss in MGS.

Just curious tho, am i the only one who didnt swap out the controller and simply shot the flying busts out of the air to achieve the same thing? Cause you know, im lazy and breaking those didn't involve me getting up XD

There was another 4th wall breaking in MGS2 or 3(been too long >.<) where snake or raiden was escaping naked after being tortured. Campbell (in all his skull face glory) kept hounding you to stop playing the game. I thought that was an excellent lvl as well.
There was also another one in the 4th game.
When Snake is in Shadow Moses, Otacon tells him to stop and switch out discs, but snake says there's no second disc to which Otacon replies "OH yeah we're on the PS3 multi-layered discs"

Snake: "grrr Otacon get a grip"

That made me seriously LOL XD
i'll add that to my "One more reason to actually play the game, eventually" list XD
 

Madara XIII

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Madara XIII said:
DTWolfwood said:
Madara XIII said:
DTWolfwood said:
Yes sir, Psycho Mantis is my favorite boss in MGS.

Just curious tho, am i the only one who didnt swap out the controller and simply shot the flying busts out of the air to achieve the same thing? Cause you know, im lazy and breaking those didn't involve me getting up XD

There was another 4th wall breaking in MGS2 or 3(been too long >.<) where snake or raiden was escaping naked after being tortured. Campbell (in all his skull face glory) kept hounding you to stop playing the game. I thought that was an excellent lvl as well.
There was also another one in the 4th game.
When Snake is in Shadow Moses, Otacon tells him to stop and switch out discs, but snake says there's no second disc to which Otacon replies "OH yeah we're on the PS3 multi-layered discs"

Snake: "grrr Otacon get a grip"

That made me seriously LOL XD
i'll add that to my "One more reason to actually play the game, eventually" list XD
Would it also encourage you to find out that Raiden is No longer a Wussy!? Trust me that game is arguably the best of the 4 series.
Especially revisiting Shadow Moses. God the Nostalgia!! Plus there is a Certain someone in the game who No one ever expected to come back....and that narrows it down about 5 ppl. Sorry but that game is Spoilerific at comprehending the story
 

Memor-X

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when i was playing Metal Gear Solid 4 and was fighting Screaming Mantis, i did the controller switch, trying to avoid using my syringe because of what Naomi said earlier that using it too much will reduce it's effects and i didn't want to loose it effects then cause i was expecting an apocalyptic battle against a new Metal Gear (shows how much of a sucker i was)

back in Metal Gear Solid, i was probably 15, i think, anyway, i worked out right away Mantis wasn't reading my mind, i didn't put my controller on the floor and felt it vibrate in my hands knowing that the rubble function was called at that moment and the trick relied on my doing as the game said, the reading of my kills and alerts i knew he was reading variables in the game code as i had played GHOST BABEL on the Gameboy Color and knew of the thats i would get at the end, the prediction of my attacks i knew that there was a function between the check for the button press and the call to the function to make Snake move that was only used just for that battle, as for reading about other games that was saved, never knew that, i had the PS1 game and Metal Gear Solid was my only Konami game, the rest of my memory card was for Final Fantasy and Digimon World, but it was still cool how the creators though about using the hidden data that players never saw to pull off tricks like that

as for beating him, i didn't do the controller swap till my second play though while i was trying to listen to every possible Codec message i could get in every situation, my first time fighting Mantis i used grenades and emptied every one of my weapons, he could dodge the grenade but sometimes it would bounce back and he wouldn't see it, sometimes he would be caught in the explosion, either way, i made a mess of the office and ran out of ammo at the end, made it hard after that, if you want a challenge in Metal Gear Solid, beat Mantis without switching ports and on the highest difficultly, i've yet to do that (mainly because the disk swap for Metal gear Solid doesn't work on my PS3, at least when i tried it 2 years ago it didn't)
 

Brendan Main

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Madara XIII said:
Would it also encourage you to find out that Raiden is No longer a Wussy!? Trust me that game is arguably the best of the 4 series.
Especially revisiting Shadow Moses. God the Nostalgia!! Plus there is a Certain someone in the game who No one ever expected to come back....and that narrows it down about 5 ppl. Sorry but that game is Spoilerific at comprehending the story
I had the longest gun battle in which I've ever participated in MGS4's Shadow Moses. Note to the wise: do not let one of those little robot drones see you...
 

vxicepickxv

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I'm going to try to play Metal Gear Solid on my PS3. I'll let you know how the Mantis Fight goes. It could get interesting.
 

talkstogod

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Funny no one's mentioned Eternal Darkness on the GC. Yes, it came out a year later, but 4th-wall breaking was pretty vicious in that as well... IMO, even nastier. It was also random, so you could play one or two times and never have it happen and then on the third playthrough hit the awesome "NOT MY SAVE FILE!!!!" moment.
 

beema

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Good breakdown of the character/game, but just curious as to why you decided to write about this now? It's a pretty thoroughly-discussed topic, and the game itself is fairly old now. Not that I didn't enjoy the read, it just felt a quite random thing to bring up.

I agree with teknoarcanist's mini rebuttal though. Even though the boss did break the 4th wall, the way it did so somehow managed to pull you in to the emotional state of the game as well, often without the player realizing it.

DTWolfwood said:
There was another 4th wall breaking in MGS2 or 3(been too long >.<) where snake or raiden was escaping naked after being tortured. Campbell (in all his skull face glory) kept hounding you to stop playing the game. I thought that was an excellent lvl as well.
That was MGS2. It was the Patriots AI posing as Campbell to try and get you to give up. MGS as an entire series is riddled with 4th-wall breaking moments, from major things like that, to the more minor tips from characters on your codec, telling you to save your game or do things in various game menus. It's kind of a series trademark.

I'm just now playing through MGS4 for the first time, there's already been a bunch of those.
 

Andronicus

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FA FA FA FA FA FFFFFF...
Raziel_Likes_Souls said:
Fa Fa Fa Fa Fa Fa Fa Fa Fa Fa Fa.
Damn, ninja'd. By several days in fact. I really should have read this earlier.

OT: I really must getting around to playing a Metal Gear game. I don't mind super long cutscenes, and the concepts they throw into these games sound really good. Question is, should I start from the PS1 and work my way up? Or just pick one at random? Or, an even better question still, will I even have the time to play one?
 

nipsen

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Brendan Main said:
teknoarcanist said:
I don't think Mantis's aim was 'break immersion over his knee' and mock the player for taking the game so seriously *. Rather, I think the effect was to enhance immersion by expanding it into dimensions the player had not previously had a game expand into.

I agree with nearly all of what you argue, but I thought I might respond to a couple points.

This depends on the slipperiness of a word like "immersion," and how we've come to use it. You're right, for example, that Mantis' controller spazzing and save file reading enters into a new space, with new boundaries and dimensions
..I don't know. Isn't the game already fighting with the fact that you're only interfacing into the game-world with the controller, and watching a TV..?

Like the other guy - when the game was suddenly aware of me, that I saw the game through a TV - that immersed me in the narrative and the running theme about the nano-machines, the system, virtual soldiers, and so on, in a new way.

Because I didn't get Kojima's comment on video-games until that point. Or - I understood the reference, and I could read and hear the words, and so on - but I didn't experience it until the game broke the "rules".
 

Olikunmissile

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That was beautiful. Mantis truly is head and shoulders above the rest of any of the bosses out there.
 

mjc0961

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Madara XIII said:
There was also another one in the 4th game.
When Snake is in Shadow Moses, Otacon tells him to stop and switch out discs, but snake says there's no second disc to which Otacon replies "OH yeah we're on the PS3 multi-layered discs"

Snake: "grrr Otacon get a grip"

That made me seriously LOL XD
There's also a great part in Metal Gear Solid 4 where you fight another psychic boss. If you go into the PS3 options and change your controller to #2, there's a brief scene where Snake complains that he can't move and Otacon chides him for not having the controller set to #1. Good stuff.

Madara XIII said:
Would it also encourage you to find out that Raiden is No longer a Wussy!? Trust me that game is arguably the best of the 4 series.
Raiden is an even bigger wussy in MGS4. Sure he's a better fighter and indeed gets some great fight scenes, but he's also a suicidal wuss whose every line of dialog throughout the game made me wish he'd shut up and just end himself already.
 

ThisNewGuy

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Really love this article. Gave me a new perspective on one of the weirdest and craziest boss fights I've ever encountered.
 

Mr. Purple

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DTWolfwood said:
Yes sir, Psycho Mantis is my favorite boss in MGS.

Just curious tho, am i the only one who didnt swap out the controller and simply shot the flying busts out of the air to achieve the same thing? Cause you know, im lazy and breaking those didn't involve me getting up XD

There was another 4th wall breaking in MGS2 or 3(been too long >.<) where snake or raiden was escaping naked after being tortured. Campbell (in all his skull face glory) kept hounding you to stop playing the game. I thought that was an excellent lvl as well.
<color=purple>Also my favorite boss.
And would you consider the convincing to switch game discs a 4th wall breaking? lol. I always liked that part.

I've always enjoyed that sort of interaction with the real world. It brings the hero/villain Deadpool into mind. He also has a 4th wall breaking. He realizes that he is in a comic and often explains what he is doing to the reader and looks toward the reader while talking. But nobody will believe him of course. He is thought to be insane and being inside a comic is just ludicrous.
Characters that can interact with people in more than a fictional sense are rather intriguing. :eek:
 

Fatal-X

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Ha ha, you know, when I played MGS for the first time I actually beat Psycho Mantis without switching for the second controller. Yeah, it was a lot of bullets ^^.
 

Bebus

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I hated this boss. Any part of a game you cannot beat without being told specifically what you need to do it just stupid.
 

samwise970

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Am I the only one who doesn't understand these articles? All you're doing is quoting an ACTUAL article, and adding some useless commentary that doesn't add anything to the discussion.

This wouldn't be a good forum post, much less a good article.



Also, while a huge fan of the Metal Gear games, I didn't love the Psycho Mantis battle the way everyone else seems to. Maybe it's because I didn't play MGS until after MGS2 came out, and it wasn't really new.
 

samwise970

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Oh and btw, MGS breaks the fourth wall all the time. The frequency on the back of the case, and Otacon flat out telling Snake to change the disk are two examples that come to mind immediately.
 

Brendan Main

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Never knew he existed. Sounds like a shit load of fun and sounds like a reason to obtain that specific game. MGS never attracted me...Oh wait, no PS3.
 

Sikachu

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Brendan Main said:
A remake of the game is on the GameCube
However funny your next point was (and it was funny), there's really no excuse for bringing up that horrifying travesty of a game, much less linking to a place people could buy it. Unless you happen to think gaming should be about broken level design that doesn't take into account the player's abilities (basically every level is most easily cleared now by standing still at the begining and shooting first person until everthing in the room is dead) or over the top cut-scenes that make Die Hard 4 look realistic.
 

Sikachu

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Straying Bullet said:
Never knew he existed. Sounds like a shit load of fun and sounds like a reason to obtain that specific game. MGS never attracted me...Oh wait, no PS3.
Get a PS1...
 

Warachia

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Why do so many people like psycho mantis? Also, there were two other ways of beating him, people seem to ignore both, the first was shooting or punching him, he only dodges most of your shots, the second was to smash the statues, effectively the same as switching controllers.
 

EarthBoundGiygas

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I was thinking of making a song outta psycho mantis and Psycho killer. But i never got the chance, great title though.