Thursday, 28 June 2012

Snatcher (Sega Mega CD)

By request, today I'm taking a quick look at Snatcher, Hideo Kojima's next project after he finished Metal Gear.

It was originally made in 1988 for the PC-8801 home computer, but only in Japanese (you wouldn't find many PC-88s outside of Japan). It took 6 years for the game to finally get an English release on the Mega CD, so that's the one I'm playing. All the other versions, MSX2, PC Engine, PlayStation and Saturn, are all in Japanese only.

The game starts with a narrator telling the history of the future, over these awesome animated computer screens. Shame the 'hundreds of constantly shifting numbers and charts over a blue grid' look never caught on for UIs in the real world.

Anyway, the narrator explains that the release of a man-made plague in 1996 led to the death of half the world's population, an event later known as 'The Catastrophe'. The greatest biohazard in history.

Then, 50 years later, (that's... 2046 then) mysterious killer robots started to appear, disguised in living skin. They became known as 'The Terminator'. I mean 'snatchers'. Totally different from terminators really. For one thing, terminators don't fire lasers out of their mouth.

Amazingly, this guy actually looked more like a T-800 endoskeleton in the Japanese game. They edited the art for the Sega CD release to give him less of a resemblance.

The game takes place in Neo Kobe, Japan, which looks like it's maybe slightly inspired by the movie 'Blade Runner'.

Not that it's a bad thing to be inspired by Blade Runner, especially if you've got an artist like this on the team.

This intro's skippable by the way.

We're playing as a robot hunting detective with a mysterious past and a trenchcoat (that's two for Blade Runner).

Three years ago Gillian Seed and his wife Jamie were involved in a mysterious incident that totally wiped their memory. Seeing as they were now total strangers they decided to separate and Gillian trained to become a J.U.N.K.E.R. (snatcher hunter), hoping that he can find clues to his past.

Flying cop car brings the Blade Runner homages up to 3. Terminator's falling way behind here.

Though it's a little more... sparkly than the one in the movie.

And so Gillian flies off to start his first day as a Junker. Or night, I guess. Do cyberpunk dystopias even have daytime?

Whoa, the Junker HQ is in the KONAMI OMNI BUILDING. In the grim darkness of the far future, there are only video game companies.

Okay I've finally hit gameplay. My first goal: to actually get into Junker HQ.

There's no TALK option, though I've got a LOOK and an INVESTIGATE option, with LOOK describing the object and INVESTIGATE giving some info about it.

LOOK > CAMERA: "It looks like a security camera."
INVESTIGATE > CAMERA: "It looks like they're monitoring the offices."

I tried to ENTER but Mika, the operator, wouldn't let me in. Authorised personnel only. Though at least this earned me a TALK option.

After a short voiced introduction the characters go back to speaking in text. I tried to TALK to Mika, but that just made her mock me for repeating what I just said.

So I thought I'd ASK her to let me in, but this brought up three other choices: 'About Junkers', 'About Neo Kobe' and 'About Mika'. It seems I had to ask all three before she'd let me in.

Finally I'm in, and Mika takes me up to meet the boss.

The boss explains that (including me) there's only five Junkers working here. And out of that, only two of us are 'Runners'; the people who actually go out and do the snatcher hunting (+1 Blade Runner reference). That's myself, and a guy called Jean Jack Gibson. (Presumably no relation to William Gibson).

This is what the original 1988 version looked like by the way, in case you were wondering. It's technically double the res, but they've had to waste half their pixels trying to squeeze more visible tones out of their 8 colours. I think it's fair to say the Genesis/Mega Drive wins this round.

I tried to EXIT to continue my tour of HQ, but Mika wouldn't let me leave as apparently the Chief has more to say. I ASKed him stuff, LOOKed at his poster, INVESTIGATEd his sofa (apparently it's the latest in robot sofas, employing chaos system technology), and eventually tried to EXIT again. Nope, Chief has more to say. Great.


Damn, Gillian doesn't waste any time, all I did was choose to LOOK at her! He's technically still married by the way.

Hell yeah, I met the Junker's tech guy and got my sci-fi gun. Apparently he's got a 'navigator' to give me too.

METAL GEAR?! This little navigator is an analysis robot assigned to follow me everywhere and help me do my job, named after the Metal Gear crisis of the late 20th century.

Metal Gear Mk2 later showed up again in Metal Gear Solid 4, though it's definitely not meant to be the same device. I doubt the two games take place in the same universe and even if they do, Snatcher takes place 30 years later.

Just as they're showing off the features of my shiny new navigator, I get a call on its videophone from Jean, the other Junker detective, asking for help. Finally an excuse to get out of this building.

Before I race into action I should probably save though. Mk2's a handy little sidekick, and can save my game at any time.

Dramatic driving face. Actually the car drives itself, he's just sitting bored.

Okay cool, we're here. And of course there's no ENTER command, so I'm going to have to go LOOKing and INVESTIGATing everything until it appears.


Well we're finally in, but it seems like we spent so much time fucking around outside that we were too late. Well, too late to save the guy's navigator anyway, but perhaps Jean's still okay.

They're really laying on the atmosphere here. It feels like any moment it could jump into an action scene, and I'll have to be ready to react.

Probably a good idea to ask Metal Gear to use his motion sensor again just to be safe.

Yeah, I think I should probably be concerned. I searched Jean's body for evidence, quickly scouted out the rest of the building, then made a hasty retreat. Though of course I can't EXIT yet, that'd be too easy. Time to LOOK and INVESTIGATE everything in every room until Metal Gear's satisfied I've collected all the clues.

Turns out I had to search the body twice, I think. This time I found a note (saying "search the house"), collected hair and skin samples, and Metal Gear decided it'd be really useful to cut into Jean's stomach and take a sample of his dinner. Listen mate, I know you're trying to help out but I think I can determine the cause of death myself this time.

Shit, now I'm being attacked by robot spiders, and I have to shoot the correct box to kill them before they get me. Well it's alright as a minigame, and it's over with soon enough.

Metal Gear had mentioned a ticking sound (he even told me to turn up my TV volume, but I ain't falling for that one) and it turned out to be coming from a time bomb, so I've got to evacuate the premises sharpish.


Jean's key (which no one uses anymore) unlocked a drawer in his desk, containing a 5 inch disk (which no one uses anymore). No one uses a lot of things anymore in the Snatcher future it seems.

I went to try the disk on the office computer, but of course there was no disk drive (because no one uses them anymore), so while I was here I decided to look up some information on Jean instead. I  have to type in the letters of anything I want to search for manually with the controller instead of selecting it from a list, which is a bit awkward. The characters even make a point of saying how strange it is that the advanced computer even has a keyboard... as no one uses them anymore.

Okay, next clue. The note said 'search the house', so I'll go do that.

Jean's daughter sensibly wanted to see some ID before inviting strange people into her house. But then she decided that wasn't good enough and now she wants me to answer a question about her dad. Fortunately I'd just looked that up, so I actually had an answer for her.

But then she decides even that's not good enough for her, and now she wants me to prove my identity by telling her what 'unique mark' she has on her body. Because a robot hunting detective is the only person who'd know that.

Her logic is that only someone like a Junker would have access to personal information like that on their computer, so now I have to go look it up. But I don't have remote access to the Junker mainframe (or the internet for that matter) so I decided to videophone Mika and ask her to get me the info. Somehow Gillian has failed to get her videophone number though, or anyone else's number either.

Can't believe I have to drive all the way back to HQ and go all the way to the computer room just to get into this house.

I really hope she's hasn't got a third question lined up.


Finally I make it into the house, and Gillian decides to cut to the chase this time. Strangely enough she's not really interested in a going on a date with a complete stranger the night her father had his head torn off by killer robots.

Gillian really is a slimy bastard when it comes to women. And the menu choices are so vague that it's easy to stumble into saying things like this by accident. This must be why no one ever gives him their number.

Oh, it turns out that 'search the house' actually meant 'use disk in the computer'! Good job he left me that clue or else I'd have never figured out that the man who owns the disk might also own a device to read it.

Why did he need to be so cryptic anyway? Was he worried a snatcher would find the note or something? Surely that would have just ended with killer robots paying his daughter a visit. Anyway, this seems like a good place to bring this investigation to an end.

I can definitely tell this is a Hideo Kojima game. It's full of movie references, fourth wall breaking, interesting ideas, strange jokes, and lots and lots of words. It's almost more like a visual novel than an adventure game so far, with more time spent reading descriptions and having conversations than actually solving things. Though Gillian and Metal Gear are a likeable team, it's atmospheric, and I suppose if you're the sort of person who likes systematically going through every option in a menu tree you might enjoy it. More than I did anyway.


  1. You should note that Snatcher is only available in English on the Sega/Mega-CD.
    All other version are only available for japanese machines.

  2. Can you do Policenauts next?

    1. I totally would, but it still hasn't had an English release and I don't play fan translations. It doesn't seem like the kind of game I'd get anywhere in without understanding the dialogue so I can't just play it in Japanese either.


      cough cough

    3. Hah, I said I DON'T play fan translations, not that I didn't play fan translations. Just because I did at one point play a single fan translation doesn't in fact mean that playing fan translations is something that I currently do. Because I don't.

    4. Having played through Policenauts' (excellent) translation pretty recently, I can say with all objectiveness that it's a mildly above-average game at best. There's a rather lot of really embarrassing homophobia/sexism/misogyny in the game as well. Snatcher had some too, but (mostly) not nearly as severe as Policenauts.

      Snatcher is just infinitely more interesting in every way, and is still a game that I'd recommend to just about anyone.

  3. From the looks of things, this game looks like it rips off Terminator and Blade Runner waaaaaay too much. Makes me wonder if Kojima is actually a bit overrated, as much as I like the Metal Gear series.

    And yeah, Gillian looks like a scoundrel.

  4. Old science fiction works are so interesting..... its funny to see how the future is so advanced but retro!! You can make videophone calls, but your phone cant call automatically stored numbers!
    Well, I liked this game a lot!!!!! Its really repetitive and slow most of time, but story is so good that it was worth playing! I mean, there are evil robotic replicants in a Blade Runner future =D
    But I agree with your first impression about Snatcher, its only for those who have the pacience to look and investigate, and look and investigate again, then look and investigate another time, just to give up looking and investigating and hear Mk II saying that you should search the area some more XD

  5. Snatcher is not a bad or unplayable game, but it's a simple digital point and click comic that has become extremely overrated. I was bored to tears with it, there is scarcely an original idea to be found in the game, Kojima just rips-off from popular films like Blade Runner, The Terminator, Dune, etc. It's not as if characters look somewhat like them, they look as if they were literally taken right from their films and placed into this game because Kojima is that untalented... and that hasn't changed with him at all. But this game always gets a free pass on that from the fans who over-hype it...


Semi-Random Game Box