They had us at cyborg samurais, right?
If you approach Metal Gear Rising from a normal place (i.e. you don't obsess over cherry blossoms and chewing straw), you'll still find so many things to take away. Rising does what many games can't. It allows for, encourages, rewards, and celebrates repeated play. It shoves action in your face with a smile -- a mildly devious glint in its eye -- and then slips a bag of performance-enhancing drugs into your pocket. It shines. It cackles.
Many games can't hold the attention of a gamer for a complete pass through the story mode. Those that do have accomplished something big. Those that do twice deserve a real nod of solemn respect. But a third completion? A fourth? Now that's crazy talk.
First Things First
Play. It always comes back to play. Without a competent, enjoyable base, no player will entertain a genuine completion unless an ulterior motive drives them forward (see: Trophy Hunters). Metal Gear Rising executes on its base systems with such supreme confidence and finesse that you can't help but smile with every gory maelstrom.
The rhythm a player can build during a single battle is borderline hypnotic. It starts with dispatching weak enemies, then escalates to breaking armor on tougher ones, before reaching a crescendo with a furious Zandatsu. After hour upon hour of this sequence, Metal Gear Rising stays just as strong as that first, awe-inducing kill.
The savage offensive is balanced by a defensive system which makes blocking way more rewarding than it should be. Any enemy attack in Metal Gear Rising can be dodged or deflected. With the fierce ringing of metal on metal Raiden can block blades and beasts alike. It protects you, and feels good in the process.
Gimmie That Sweet, Sweet BP
Every successful action in Rising rewards you with BP (Battle Points). This currency, in turn, unlocks new swords, upgrades, techniques, costumes, and secret gear for Raiden to employ. Even the simplest kill feels weighty. It has purpose. And with the it-should-be-in-every-game-ever option to restart the campaign with your unlocks, repeated play builds upon each successful pass. More play = more items.
And boy, do those items make a difference. A fully upgraded blade cuts through the now-buttery soldiers with ease, leaving cubes of devastation at Raiden's feet. It's a bountiful, absurd violence that fuels even more BP generation, and even more item unlocks, and even more violence.
Rank, VR, Secrets, Etc.
The pristine action and reward systems would have served Metal Gear Rising splendidly, had that been all there was to it. But the brutal difficulty levels, extra VR missions, and well-hidden secrets demonstrate just how much content quivers inside what many have called "a short game."
Which, in truth, is another reason why Metal Gear Rising is so damn replayable. You can burn through the campaign in a reasonable few hours. Then start again on a new difficulty. I'm better now, I can handle this, you whisper to yourself as you begin on Hard. Then Very Hard. Then the titular Revengeance. Self improvement is palpable in Rising. Every death is a lesson learned. Every victory a salivating triumph. Rising may knock you off your feet and spit on your face, but it gives great hugs when you pull yourself back up again.
Just Play It
It's a ridiculous game that follows a ridiculous story brimming with ridiculous characters. Also, Raiden wears a mariachi outfit in Chapter 2. Metal Gear Rising is like raw cane sugar, if sugar was fun (and it is).
And that's why I beat Rising four times. In a row. Including Revengeance difficulty. And just to shamelessly enhance my street cred, I didn't use Bloodlust or Dystopia once.
Yes, I'm an idiot.