Snatcher Mega-CD Review
Snatcher is a cyber-punk adventure game that was released on several platforms and was written and directed by Hideo Kojima. Despite being unfortunately released to the Western market on one of the most neglected console add-ons of the nineties (the Mega-CD), it has gained quite the cult following. Largely inspired and heavily influenced by classic movie and novel material such as the The Terminator, Neuromancer, Invasion of the Body Snatchers and of course, Blade Runner. Not that it doesn’t have a few ideas of its own but the first 30mins of play will clearly show that these sources have left their mark on Kojima, with even the opening of the game having more than a passing resemblance to Blade Runner. So far so good.
The story itself is based around a dystopian society after a major worldwide disaster. July 6th, 1996 (gotta love old sci-fi) a super man made virus was accidentally released causing the death of 80% of the Eurasian population before mutating and becoming harmless. Some 50 years on in Neo-Kobe, a city built in the bay of Tokyo a new more sinister threat has appeared. A form of android with artificial skin (the titular Snatchers) is killing and replacing people in the population. The world’s governments are both confused and frightened by this bizarre threat, and demand for Japan to eliminate it. You play as Gillian Seed who has been assigned to the special anti-Snatcher force, The Junkers.
I would love to continue with the story but seeing as it’s the games strongest point I would be doing it a grave injustice. I will say however that I was surprised by its depth, strong character development, superb use of suspense and emotional involvement. You can really see where Kojima started his addictive elements of storytelling which he would later go on to use in the Metal Gear Solid series.
They will shock you, make you laugh out loud and maybe even make you reel in horror. Indeed the graphics are not stunning by today’s standards but they are very stylish and detailed. Its dark artist palette and moody soundtrack also add massively to the film-noir setting, with a couple of good cheesy moments in there too. I may also point out that this is an adult game with graphic violence, a mature storyline and has strong sexual themes, such to the extent that when it was released on the PlayStation, it was heavily censored. In the earlier versions released only to the Japanese market on the PC-8801, MSX 2 and PC Engine the game was more explicit, but was toned down only slightly for the English Mega-CD release.
However, an involving plot and arty graphics are nothing with out some form of gameplay. Unfortunately the actual gameplay of Snatcher is a rather generic linear affair, not that it’s bad. It’s just that it’s all been seen before. It plays mostly like a text-based adventure, without the typing, which is pretty handy when you’ve only got 3 buttons. To be honest it’s definitely the best option as mouse pointer searching and typing “look at room” is very long in the tooth. It does mean that scrolling through and selecting currently available actions is the norm and usually through them all. This would be terribly boring but seeing as this is a CD game many of the conversations and such are voice acted, and well done at that. Banter between Gillian and his personal robot assistant called Metal Gear (yup, he even looks like the one in MGS) is very entertaining as well as Gillian’s shameless attempts on the female characters.
Having said that, the adventure game elements are well supported by the puzzle/detective elements of the game. I was pleasantly surprised that I actually had to use my brain a little to get through particular sections of the game. Some of the puzzles are actually quite tricky and had me scratching the old noggin, this I was glad to see. I don’t know how many more times I want to wander through a zombie infested police-station, carrying a bronze shield until I find a locked door with a shield shaped hole in it……Snatcher was rather refreshing in that respect. There is also a shooting section which appears quite a few times in the game, which is basically an arcade style shooting gallery. Whilst it doesn’t sound very exciting, it can actually be very engaging due to the tension in these sections and towards the end of the game it becomes incredibly challenging! Also, if you own the SEGA lightgun you can use it during these sections which would be a lot of fun.
I think the main reason that Snatcher is still such a good game is not just because of the story, puzzles or the action. It’s because of the incredibly detailed world that has been created for it. Snatcher, like many games such as System Shock, Deus Ex, Crusader and Baldur’s Gate has staggering layers of detail. Admittedly Snatcher’s is lower in density than these titles but the premise is the same, to create a real world. Exploring the computer system in the Junker HQ gives rise to detailed accounts on everything from the Snatchers to popular sports, travel systems to political groups, economics to environment. This background is not useless either as you will find references to it throughout the game world. This solid game world, coupled with an intriguing story and puzzles makes Snatcher a truly interesting experience.
Snatcher is still a stunning game due to its excellent story, stylised visuals and deep concepts. I find the reoccurring themes of deception, greed, jealousy, international conflict, impending disaster brought on by human beings and lost love make Snatcher a very interesting and compelling game. Fans of film noir and cyberpunk that enjoy a good story are recommended to try this one out. Snatcher is not just an excellent interactive movie, but an example of gaming at its finest, I just wish it didn’t have to come to an end.