Have you ever noticed how nearly every action monster movie ever created has had some sort of logic flaw that just doesn't make sense in any light? And have you ever noticed how you don't realize it until after you've left the theater, remembering the special effects storms and fight scenes fondly? And in most cases, does it ever change your opinion of the film? Didn't think so. As such, you shouldn't have any problem playing through Snatcher, so long as you don't mind cyber-punk mysteries. Here's my review.
On June 6, 1996, the "Catastrophe" occurred. At the Chernoton Research Facility in Moscow, a biological weapon known as Lucifer-Alpha was released into the atmosphere, spreading across Europe and Asia and wiping out 80% of the total population. Very icky.
In late December of 2047 in Neo Kobe city, a new threat is discovered. Appearing from seemingly nowhere, a strange bio-roid life form has appeared. Known as Snatchers, these metallic creatures kill their victims and then take their place in society, using a form of artificial skin to disguise themselves flawlessly. They can mimic any human function, including sweating and bleeding, and a wave of panic is slowly building across the man-made island, segregated from the mainland until this invasion is stopped.
And you're just the man to do it.
You are Gillian Seed, amnesiac American found in the wastelands of Russia with your (also amnesiac) wife. After being taken in by the military for three years, you've been transferred to the JUNKERs (Japanese Undercover Neuro-Kinetic Elimination Rangers) to aid in their war against these mysterious foes. It's now up to you and your bothersome pet robot Metal Gear MKii to find the source of these monsters and cut 'em off. Good thing you look good in a trench coat.
Snatcher is an adventure game by definition, but just barely. You see, gameplay is carried out as usual in this genre, with you seeing a single screen of the game at a time representing what room or area you're in, and you get to interact with it by choosing such commands as Push, Take, or Get Funky, just to name a few. However, it's all very simplified for you to the point where you don't have much choice as to what you do.
Items can only be used in areas where they'll have an effect, options get taken away whenever they aren't necessary, and the list of areas you can visit is limited to only those that will progress the storyline. Any adventure game fan will find this quite annoying and not as entertaining as they would hope, especially when they notice that the game basically tells you what to do in every situation.
Should you be really stuck, you can even ask your Chief for uncannily accurate advice on what to do next. There are a few side jokes to find if you really search the game, but not half as many as I would've hoped, and lotsa points get docked due to the simple fact that you just can't be killed! That's the whole reason for playing adventure games in the first place.
The game is somehow not boring, though. While it's true that you don't really play it as much as you watch it, the storyline manages to pull enough weight to make up for the shoddy gameplay. The characters you meet are all given personality through a wonderful translation and localization job, as well some of the finest voice acting I've ever heard short of the PlayStation 2.
The story itself is a three-part mystery drama with more than a few jokes thrown in, as well as some downright nasty gore scenes, that comes together quite well in the end, and you can expect a few surprise guests from other Konami titles. Oh, and you get to ask out every female that crosses your path, including the mourning daughter half your age and the nightclub stripper. It doesn't amount to a romance story at all, but hey, with the last sentence mentioned, who needs 'em?
It all rolls out at a good pace and keeps you interested, especially as there are occasional gun battles mixed in seamlessly. These can be fought using the Justifier gun or the controller, but either works just fine. Anyway, the screen gets divided into nine squares during battle and you have to fire at your opponents, usually aiming for vital areas or trying to avoid shooting certain things on the screen like, say, hostages for example.
The only bad part about these otherwise entertaining fights is that they're all too easy. For the first two thirds of the game, there's rarely a battle that takes more than one easy shot to win, and the enemies fire back so slowly that getting hit is insulting (please note that that last third of game is fun, fun, fun). While they do provide for some nice action sequences from time to time, they could have been done much better.
There are also a few puzzles to solve along the way, which isn't all that surprising considering that you're a detective of sorts. Some require nothing more than searching through the game for a password to give a stubborn ally, while others require actual thought. Overall, the puzzles aren't bad, but they're not enough, which pretty much describes gameplay as a whole.
Graphics are great considering the system. As I said earlier, the world of Neo Kobe is made up of single screen stills, though there are some nice bits of animation scattered about. Also, every piece of voice acting comes with a facial portrait of the speaker, complete with mouths moving and eyes blinking. The whole visual presentation really helps set the game's techno-futuristic mood, with just enough corporate corruption and suppressed elements of poverty-stricken society to make you feel disgruntled towards the government too.
Even the sound and music rated high, but not by any means of their own. The music was decent, consisting of a variety of jazz and rock that stood well enough on their own, as well as a nice ending theme of excellent quality, but nothing here earned a score of 93. Sound also consisted of a pile of average blips and bleeps as well as a bunch of original and enjoyable sounds mixed in, but an A rating can't be found here either. Of course, we forgot to mention the miracle of voice acting…
Snatcher has a decently sized cast, and each character has quite a few spoken parts. Most of these are reserved for major plot advancements, but the thorough player who searches for pointless cut scenes will be well rewarded for his effort. In particular, there's one great scene where they dunk a pizza in soup and Gillian lets loose a little steam towards society as a whole. Soup pizza... seriously! It's sheer genius, as far as I'm concerned. Some of these scenes do drag on quite a bit (particularly the ending), but if you don't like the spoken bits overall, you're expecting too much.
As for controls, there's so little gameplay in this elongated cut scene that I can't really whine. No bugs worthy of mention and no particularly innovative techniques result in a perfectly average score.
Is it a worthwhile game? No. Is it a worthwhile movie? Very much so. Next time you're looking for a corny sci-fi mystery and see your Sega CD gathering dust in a corner, go out and rent this sucker. Harkening back to a time lost to realistic special effects, Snatcher should more than satisfy most RPGFans/movie goers.
Just don't bring a date.