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Posted on Feb 23rd 2022 at 01:00:00 PM by (SirPsycho)
Posted under menu adventure, konami, graphic adventure, sega cd

Developer: Konami
Publisher: Konami
Platforms: PC-8801, MSX2, PC Engine Super CD-Rom^2, Sega/Mega CD, Saturn, Playstation
Years of Release: 1988 (PC-88), 1988 (MSX2), 1992 (PC Engine CD), 1994 (Sega/Mega CD), 1996 (Saturn), 1996 (Playstation)

Snatcher is a legendary game in the modern era. Today it is considered a great opus of interactive fiction, and it largely stands above most of its contemporaries among those that have played the game. In its time, it was heavily overlooked by most of the international audience despite a wealth of rave reviews. Snatcher was originally developed and published by Konami for Japanese computers, releasing on the NEC PC-88 and MSX2 in 1988. Development was quite lengthy and expensive for Konami and shows many of the trademark behind the scenes issues with projects led by Hideo Kojima that would eventually lead to their fallout decades later. The project suffered from an unrealistic scope, as roughly half the story was condensed or axed altogether. Despite this, development still took far longer than most projects of the era. All of this would not pay off in Konami's eye, as the game's initial PC sales were underwhelming. A cult following developed around the game, and this likely led to Konami issuing later ports. The first one being 1992's port to NEC's PC Engine Super CD-ROM^2. What is interesting is that this PC Engine CD release was not just a straight over port, but it included the game's 3rd Act as a mostly cinematic experience. 1994 would see a strangely Western exclusive port released for Sega CD that allegedly only sold a few thousand copies. This Sega CD release further expanded on Act 3, adding some extra exploration and action. The final ports were released in 1996, exclusively in Japan, for the Sony PlayStation and Sega Saturn.

Players of Snatcher take on the role of Gillian Seed, an amnesiac who is assigned to the JUNKER task force of Neo-Kobe, Japan. Junkers are agents who specialize in tracking down, investigating, and eliminating Snatchers. Snatchers are a sort of biological android who kill a person, wear their skin, and assume their role in society as best as they can. Gillian is first introduced to Junker's secretary Mika Slayton, then goes on to meet the rest of the staff on hand at HQ, chief engineer Harry Benson, and the Junker chief Benson Cunningham. Harry gives Gillian his robotic companion, Metal Gear Mk. II. Immediately afterwards, a videophone call is received from Junker's other main agent, Jean Jack Gibson, who has found a pair of Snatchers and requests backup. Gillian is quickly sent onto his first mission, where he will learn much more about Snatchers and the dangers they pose to society. Snatcher's story does deal with some mature subject matter, and it does take itself more seriously than most Western developed adventure games of the time did. Ideas such as relationships and divorce, social corruption, political control, environmental devastation, and others are presented to players. It really is a Kojima game after all. Despite all this, many of the narrative ideas and world building come across as cheap imitations from other highly popular cyberpunk and action works of the 80s.

Actually playing Snatcher can be a rather dull affair, even for those that are into adventure games. It's entirely menu driven, outside of some text entry for investigations and puzzles, which means it is almost impossible for players to remain stuck in any one area for too long. If a player feels stuck, then they can keep trying every option available to them until they find the trigger to advance. One great aspect of the Sega CD release is that support for Konami's Justifier light gun was implemented for the action segments. The game can be played without it, but it does add a little extra detail to make the game feel more immersive. Gillian and the player will draw their gun at the same time to fight off the Snatcher menace. The menu based limitations do not fully take away freedom from the player though, and there are plenty of tools to play with for fun, such as Metal Gear's videophone and JUNKER HQ's JORDAN computer system. Easter eggs can be found in these by inputting names of development staff or finding secret videophone numbers.

Snatcher is filled with beautiful pixel art. It is an absolute triumph in regards to art direction and skillful execution with limited technology. There is a plethora of animations, both of characters and scenic backgrounds. The game is filled with beautiful cityscapes that truly bring out the hellish urban feeling of cyberpunk literature and movies. One moment players are exploring a high class VIP night club buried deep in Neo-Kobe's red light district, the next they're going deep into the harshest of slums, surrounded by darkness, misery, and filth. Some of the city's backgrounds contain hidden details that can be found and used by the player, such as videophone numbers flashing as advertisements in certain parts of the game's world. What really sells the atmosphere of Snatcher is the wonderful chiptune music. The audio design paints a perfect picture for the riches, dregs, and uncertainty surrounding Neo-Kobe. It does show its age, as it's quite obvious the music and sound effects are not taking full advantage of the CD format. The voice acting is also quite competent for its time but is frequently delivered in a cheesy manner during more humorous segments.

Snatcher is a great adventure game. Many of its aspects are no longer groundbreaking. The menu-based interface is not the most fun to navigate but serves its purpose. The voice acting is amazing for its time and still holds up well, and it has enough cheese to it to be fun to listen to, like an over the top 90s surfer dude stereotype. The story was quite praised for its time, as many of its more mature and adult elements, not even the skin shown, but the scenarios such as Gillian and Jamie contemplating their marriage to each other, were highly praised by many contemporary reviewers. However, many aspects of its world and main scenario design come across as little more than copycats of other works such as Blade Runner and The Terminator. Despite this, Snatcher is still a heavily character driven drama at its core, and its characters and their interactions with each other are quite strong. If you're looking for an engaging narrative experience without any sort of grind, and you want an authentic, original era cyberpunk romp, then Snatcher is a must play. I would say Snatcher is a must play for anybody interested in graphical adventure games, even with no experience with the genre. It's old, it's a classic, and there's been a ton of changes and improvements, but there's still enough meat to enjoy the ride that Snatcher takes you on. Sega CD copies are currently well north of $1000, so the ability to play the game in English is heavily limited, and the lack of modern re-releases makes the shadier options the best way to play Snatcher today.

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Great write-up. As a Kojima fan, I've been wanting to play this forever. I tried it on my Wii a few months ago and it wasn't stable at all. May try again on PS3 or XBOX at some point. 

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