Back in '95, I remember first reading about Policenauts in a magazine and was immediately hooked by one sentence: "It's the sequel to Snatcher!" Now, having just finished Snatcher for the first time and having loved every minute of it, I couldn't wait for Policenauts. As it turned out, the above quote was only partially true. The game was created by Hideo Kojima, who also created Snatcher, as well as Metal Gear, but aside from that and a few small references to Snatcher, the game is a totally independent one... and a masterpiece of a game at that.
Policenauts begins in the year 2010. Mankind has just completed its first space colony, the Beyond Coast. Fast forward to 2013… As the colony grows, it now needs a police force to protect it. Thus, 5 policemen from Earth are chosen; from Scotland Yard, Gatse Becker is chosen; from Japan, it's Joseph Sadaoki Tokugawa; from New York, Salvatore Toscanini. The final two are chosen from L.A., and they are Ed Brown (your best friend) and, of course, you, Jonathan Ingram. The five best have been chosen, and thus, the "Policenauts" are born.
During a routine space walk, Jonathan begins to experience some difficulty with his suit. A quick flashback reveals someone tampering with the hydraulics on it. Jonathan presses the lever to see what’s wrong, when all of a sudden the jets turn on and propel him out into space. His comrades look on in horror as he hangs there helplessly. Then, his safety line rips, hurtling him off into the deepest depths of
Twenty-five years later, Jonathan is miraculously discovered in his life pod in deep space. He is physically unaged, looking like 28 years old, but in reality 55 years old.
2040: Old L.A
We find Jonathan has set up an investigation agency by himself, preferring the comfort of Earth to the space colony on which he nearly died. For him, it's a boring, not completely satisfying (but comfortable) life. A knock on the door reveals his estranged wife, Lorraine, from 25 years ago. She has since remarried and now her husband has gone missing. She asks Jonathan for help in finding him, but Jonathan refuses to return to Beyond Coast.
Saddened, lorraine leaves. We see Jonathan looking out his window, and as he watches her enter her car, he sees a mysteriou s figure across the street. He tries to warn her, but its too late: the car explodes. Jonathan chases after the culprit, but to no avail. He returns to the scene to try and comfort her. In his arms, she asks him to please help find her husband and look out for her daughter Karen. Then, she passes away. Jonathan decides to fulfill her final request and return to Beyond Coast, and thus the adventure begins.
The gameplay in Policenauts is fairly simple. It is what is refered to as a "digital comic". You basically just move the cursor around and click on any item you wish to look at or investigate. Later on, you also move an on screen dot in shooting sequences. These are basically the two methods used through out the whole game. Very simple system to use, and very basic, yet effective.
The graphics consist mainly of hand drawn, anime-style art, all of which is beautiful in both quality and artistry. From the characters' faces, to all the locales you visit, every one is drawn gorgeously. Even the FMV sequences are beautfiully done: not one scene is is bad. The only way the score could have been higher is if the scenes were in hi-res mode, but, alas, they are not (but its still great looking).
The story in the game is incredibly in depth, as are all of Kojimas' games. The main story consists of everything from love to adventure to drama to even the pharmaceutical industry. The greatest thing is that there are so many minor details that actually flesh out the whole story, making you feel and believe that this world exists. Every time you play, it seems there is something new to find; a wonderful and compelling story.
The sounds and music in Policenauts are also excellent. From the littlest sound effect like pushing a button, to the incredibly diverse soundtrack, everything is top-notch. Even the voice acting in the game is very well done for ever chracter, giving each character a true personality. It's another wonderful soundtrack.
The control is, as stated above, fairly simple. You just guide the cursor anywhere on screen and click to investigate. The red dot you use in the shooting sequences is sometimes a bit difficult to navigate, but otherwise, it's effective enough. It's a simple control scheme, yet suits the game perfectly.
Policenauts was released on 3 game consoles (3DO, PSX, and Saturn). In the Saturn version, the FMVs were redrawn since the 3DO release and look more "professional", as do many still shots. Other differences include the following: a few new cutscenes, a trailer before the game, use of the Sega Stunner gun during the shooting sequences, an online encyclopedia (worth nothing if you can't read Japanese), a shooting gallery on each disc, 3 ending music tracks during the ending credits, and after completing the game, an interview section on the first disc.
Overall, the game is a true maserpiece. From the incredible graphics and soundtrack, to the compelling story, Policenauts is a true classic. The only shame is that this great game was never released stateside. Even though it is obviously in Japanese and all of the nuances of the story can't be found by non-Japanese readers, it still tells an incredible story just by sheer visual presentaton alone. If you are a fan of Snatcher, or are just looking for a game that you can fully immerse yourself in, look no further than Policenauts.