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Snatcher

Publisher: Konami Developer: Konami
Reviewer: Sensei Phoenix Released: 1994
Gameplay: 97% Control: N/A
Graphics: 90% Sound/Music: 94%
Story: 99% Overall: 97%


When someone says the name Hideo Kojima, those in the know automatically think Metal Gear Solid, that title some people call a game, and some call a movie. However, for those who lean towards movie, the title Snatcher should come to mind. One of Kojima's earlier projects, Snatcher, originally for Konami's MSX disk system, definitely showed off his love of game as movie with great anime sequences, dialogue, music, and a superb plot.

In the year 1996, the Chernoton research facility in Russia exploded, releasing a deadly biological agent, known as Lucifer-Alpha, into the atmosphere. The tradewinds carried it over Asia and Europe, killing 80% of the population, half of the population of the world. It became known as the Catastrophe. Fifty years later, mankind has recovered from the effects of the Catastrophe. However, in Japan, on the manmade island of Neo Kobe, a new threat has arisen. Bioroids, artificial human endostructures with sophisticated AI, have begun to infiltrate society, killing people and then taking their victims' places in society. Their plans are not known, nor is it known what these bioroids are, however by replacing their victims, they have earned the name, Snatchers.

You are Gillian Seed. You were found with your wife, Jamie Seed, by the 17th Siberian Expeditionary Force somewhere inside Russia. However, neither you nor Jamie can remember who you are or anything about your past. The only word that comes up when you try to remember is "Snatcher". It is for this reason that you have asked to be transferred to Neo Kobe, to become a member of the elite force of Snatcher hunters known as Junkers. Thus begins an incredibly intricate story woven through with intrigue, lies, suspicion and a host of memorable characters.

Taking place in a very Bladerunner-esque world, Snatcher is almost more of a movie than a game. You lead Gillian through different areas in a text-adventure style game, ala Shadowgate, commanding him to look and investigate objects, move to different areas, even make videophone calls. You also get to interact with people in the game, from the beautiful Katrina Gibson, to the lone-wolf Random Hajile, to the shifty informant Napoleon. The dialogue in the game ranges from rather humorous to sexy, even getting poignant at some points. Truly a game you play for the story. And fortunately, the translation of the game was almost flawless, with both grammar and humor adapted for American (and Sega CD) audiences. I applaud the translator, Jeremy Blaustein, for his impressive and comprehensive work on the localization of the dialogue.

The graphics in the game are superb for a game on the Sega CD. Most areas are stills, though each one has slight animation somewhere. These stills are quite detailed and always fit with the Snatcher world. From the old deserted factory building to Junker HQ, all the areas were well designed and helped to create an gritty cyberpunk atmosphere.

There are also a lot of cutscenes in the game. All the cutscenes are anime-style, though again, with only slight movement of the characters. You're not going to find the kind of animation you would in game such as Popful Mail or Lunar: EB, but since the animation is more along the lines of still mockups rather than fully animated scenes, what there is works quite well. I must say, though, that I thoroughly enjoyed the opening sequences and the ending, and from those, I can certainly see how deeply rooted Kojima's directorial desires are. Truly worthy of a movie or anime.

The music in the game is also top notch. For the longest time after returning the game to the rental store, I was obsessed with both the opening and ending music. The "cyber-jazz" opening and the harmonica-accompanied ending just screamed nostalgic Konami to me for some reason and really brought me back to my childhood (so yes, I guess I do have a bit of bias for this game, sue me). The intensity theme was also perfect for the intense moments, and the upbeat jingle bells of Alton Plaza fit the locale.

The sound effects in the game were rather poor, however. Outside of the sound of the blaster and the ringing of the phone, most of the sound effects, I felt, could have come from an old NES game. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if Konami used some of their leftover effects from Metal Gear in the game (though for some reason, it seems kind of appropriate).

One of the best parts, aurally, has got to be the voice acting in the game. I'll be the first to admit that there are some lines that were delivered poorly by some of the voice actors, but overall, it was a good performance by all. I really enjoyed Jamie, Harry, Napoleon, and Metal Gear, as they all delivered their lines convincingly and with emotion. Gillian was a mixed bag, as was Katrina, but those were very minor problems.

Gameplay is pretty simple really. You go to different areas using your turbocycle, and have a list of commands, such as look, investigate, talk, or use possessions, which you can select to execute the action. In the course of the game you have to gather clues and figure out riddles in order to progress and solve the mystery of the Snatcher menace. The constant investigation really makes you feel as if you were a real detective, finding the clues and piecing together parts of the puzzle, but sometimes you have to investigate or look at things a number of times, which can get annoying.

The other part of gameplay (and it is a small part) is the shooting aspect. At a few locations during the game, you'll be forced to use your blaster to shoot things on the screen. You have a health bar and if you get hit enough times, game over. While the game allows you to use the Justifier light gun for the game, using the control pad is very easy. When you draw your blaster, the screen is overlayed with a grid of nine squares, and you have to move the crosshairs to the proper box to blast the baddies. For the most part it's a simple process, but there are twists to it (such as avoiding hitting a hostage). However, for some reason at the very end of the game you have to go through two shooting levels that are of a difficulty exponentially higher than any you've had to deal with before, so I found the difficulty there to be uncalled for.

Finally, there are quite a few secrets in the game, most of which can be accessed through the Junker HQ computer, Jordan. I won't give them away, but they are nice bonuses and there are a LOT of them. In addition, there are optional actions you can take in the game which provide humorous results, so there is some replay value to the game, and there are a lot of in-jokes that you'll get if you're a Konami fan.

In the final analysis, Snatcher is truly a great game, and I don't speak only from nostalgia. Its gritty, cyberpunk world, combined with a great mystery, interesting characters, and wonderful humor, make it a must-have for anyone's Sega CD library. It's just too bad that the "prequel" to the game, Policenauts, never came out here, for I'm sure it would have been just as good.

Sensei
Phoenix

The characters come to life with voices that perfectly fit every one of them, and considering theres almost 30 voice acted characters in the game, thats quite a feat.

What truly makes Snatcher great, though, is its amazing story line; it sucks you in and brings Neo Kobe to life.







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