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Snatcher Review

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snatcher_megacdsnatcher_boxPlatform: Sega/Mega CD (only this platform for US/Europe); PC-8801, MSX2, PC-Engine CD, Mega CD, Playstation, and Saturn releases in Japan
Released: 1988-1996 depending on platform (Japan), 1994 (US/Europe)
Developer: Konami
Publisher: Konami
Digital Release? No
Price: $256 (disc only), $300 (complete), $1500 (sealed) according to Price Charting (US only prices)

Fred’s Take

snatcher_shootingI’m an avid fan of cyberpunk as am I an avid fan of the only series I’ve ever played by Hideo Kojima, Metal Gear (both Solid and the MSX titles), so you would think naturally I would love this game.  Granted, being an adventure game that is slower in pace was somewhat of a setback for a player like me that doesn’t care for the genre, but the “annoying” light gun sequences helped sweeten the deal.  I will confess to having my light gun not hold up to the shooting sequences and since playing through this title I’m fairly certain my Justifier light gun no longer works, but I can safely proclaim that it wasn’t Snatcher that broke it.  Anyway, put it altogether in a Blade Runner type game and I’m sold from start to finish, even if the pacing of this title is its biggest weakness.

snatcher_1You play as Gillian Seed who is starting his first day at Junker Headquarters, which is an acronym for the policing body that searches for Snatchers, the bioroids (cyborgs) that kill and replace a human body as they attempt to blend into society.  Seed has amnesia and has been trying to cope with this discovery and the fact that his estranged wife, Jamie, and he are at ends because they can’t be forced into love they don’t feel.  Gillian, for the record, is much more interested in seeing it work than his wife but his character also seems to hit on anything with two eyes and a set of…legs.  Your story mostly involves the solving a simple crime that gives way to uncovering a large hive of Snatchers in the Neo Kobe.  The game is separated into three acts, of which the first and second are of equal long lengths and the final act is a short and sweet action wrap-up followed by a decade of cutscenes a la Metal Gear Solid 4.  I am appreciative that the list of notable characters is left to single digits (eight specifically) with a sprinkling of recurring side characters, so there’s little chance you’ll get characters confused or not know who is being discussed in major plot points.

Snatcher is violent. You may also notice a Metal Gear Mk. II sidekick at the bottom.

For the most part this is a story-based game where you traverse many levels of dialogue options in order to progress the story and uncover large portions of the mystery.  You can’t really die save for the handful of action sequences, and even then the game just returns you directly to that sequence unless you give up and take the game over.  From that perspective I can see where this is more of a visual novel than an adventure game – although that’s really splitting hairs – but it’s reassuring that if you make a stupid statement, screw up a line of questioning, or just plain continuously hit on someone’s teenage daughter that it doesn’t affect your progress in the game.  I am particularly fond of the anime style, of which this game borrows heavily, and I like the way the story unfolds along with the very Japanese touches present in the game from bright colored hair to the “accidental” catching someone in the shower scene.  If you’re a big fan of Kojima, you will also notice a bunch of staples from his other works including your robotic partner, a Metal Gear Mk. II, and although it doesn’t do anything (as we’ve continued to debate while playing this title) the presence of the Konami code in the Junker HQ computer system.  At the end of the 6-8 hour campaign you will get an interesting and fun science fiction story that marks a much simpler plot than most of Kojima’s Metal Gear work.

snatcher_3

Anyone look familiar?

That said it’s far from a perfect game and the lack of action can actually make this title difficult to play for extended periods of time.  You can watch our entire longplay video and clearly see long stretches where I’m doing nothing more than selecting every option in the book and not really caring what response I get because it’s not plot important.  This doesn’t take away from the game’s appeal but it does make for a more broken out experience as I found it better to play in short bursts due to a lack of action.  It should also be noted that if the plot isn’t interesting to you this game has nothing really to offer because the random shooting sequences leave much to be desired from a gameplay perspective and aside from the 20-30 minutes you will spend beating all of them the rest of the game’s campaign is plot and more plot.  It’s a niche title and you should know that going in – adventure fans will scoff at the lack of puzzle solving and horrendous action sequences whereas traditional gamers will scoff at the lack of much gaming activity and the slow pacing.  Then again, this was a Sega CD release and if you compare it with the brunt of games of that era it stands out as one of the few complete and quality experiences that platform has to offer, but few are trying to find a Sega CD and a handful of games to make it worthwhile.

Perhaps this review is a little disjointed as is my true feelings on the game club we did.  I can understand that because for the first time in a long time I feel like I really didn’t do much and thus can’t really speak to the experience of playing it outside the fact that it seems to merge reading a book, watching a movie, and playing a game albeit in uneven ratios.  I liked the game a lot, I get why it’s popular, and I plan to replay it again sometime.  Much like cyberpunk it’s a bit clunky, the technology is based on good intentions but not quite there, and it can be a somewhat cold experience, but I hadn’t really played anything like it before and I’m pretty sure I won’t be again either.

Final Score: 4 out of 5   (review policy)

Jam’s Take
Snatcher is a game with an incredible cult following. Widely considered as one of Hideo Kojima’s lost gaming gems, which however few gamers have even played on the Mega CD (Sega CD in the US).  Now as I pull on my cyberpunk t-shirt, lets see if it’s as shiny on the inside as it is on the out.

snatcher_5Blade Runner, I mean Snatcher, is set in a cyberpunk city called Neo Kobe and if your a fan of this genre then it may just bring a smile to your face when the games opening credits dedicates it to “all the cyberpunk fans out there.” Now I’m just going to come out out and say it: your enjoyment of Snatcher will be dependent on how much you like the story. If you love films like Blade Runner or Terminator it’s likely you’ll enjoy this; or you may just complain about how much the game kind of rips off these famous franchises. Snatcher puts you in the shoes of Gillian, a guy with a long trenchcoat recovering from amnesia (seriously in Japanese stroylines this condition is more of an epidemic than the common cold). You’ve joined an organisation called J.U.N.K.E.R who basically hunt down Terminators to save John Conner, sorry I mean Snatchers, who are robots posing as identity thieving humans. For an organisation that is supposed to be defending the city from such a deadly threat it was surprising to see how small the team was. Expect to meet many colourful characters throughout the gameplay experience. Also expect to hear their entire back story, probably far more than is needed, but this is pretty typical for a Kojima title.

snatcher_neokobeVoice acting, smooth jazz in a cyberpunk age, and graphics are the key focus. So the voice acting was not the highlight of the this title unless you like your Saturday morning cartoons. It was probably much better in the original Japanese but the English dubbing was rather void of emotion and came across as wooden. It did lead me to wonder if they’d been taken over by Snatchers themselves. The music in the game is a bit different mainly a lot of smooth jazz which under the setting of the story is a bit strange but like Arnie and the 80’s it seems to just work. Finally the graphics, they’re your standard colourful animie style which look excellent on the Sega CD and do wonders to make a dystopian Los Angeles come to life.

snatcher_4If your coming into Snatcher looking for a deep and methodical gameplay experience then your probably going to be deeply disappointed. When you play Snatcher you will only be interacting with the game in one of two ways: either you’ll be scrolling through various options to desperately advance the story or you will very occasionally be shooting robots using either a controller or a compatible light gun (which would make chasing those Replicants far easier). Since I was playing this game on an emulator I had to use the keyboard which proved rather challenging especially during the action-packed finale. Speaking of which, the general plot of the title was pretty good until I reached the finale, during which time I mainly watched as new characters were suddenly introduced complete with their own back story and I began to forget why my character was even there. Almost like I was watching some kind of Spanish soap, but then I realised my girlfriend had just changed the channel – although finding out who killed Julio was far more entertaining than the end of this game.

Overall, I did enjoy my time with Robocop, I mean Snatcher. It was interesting to see where the origins of Metal Gear Solid‘s over the top long cutscenes originated from as well as the typical Kojima twist in the story. Just like the Metal Gear Solid series in general this is very much a take it or leave it experience. If you’re looking for a heavy story based experience with a tiny amount of actual gameplay, then you will certainly enjoy Robocop vs Terminator. Though I personally had mixed feelings on where the plot ultimately ended in the game, I couldn’t help but be sucked into the cyperpunk setting. It was a fun ride while it lasted but not an experience I will probably be rushing back into again. This really feels like a game you will only ever play once.

Final Score: 3 out of 5

Written by Fred Rojas

February 26, 2015 at 11:00 am

Retro Game Night: Fire’n Ice and Skyblazer

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This week the “$130 episode” features the NES sequel to Solomon’s Key Fire’n Ice and the recently featured Retronauts favorite Skyblazer for the SNES.

Written by Fred Rojas

August 17, 2014 at 5:57 pm

Podcast: Finding An Analog

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interactivevision

When video games started invading toy store shelves the industry was stunned by a product that not only buried traditional products but dominated at generating revenue.  Secretly they all wanted a piece of the pie and the hope was that the dominant video medium, VHS, could be the gateway.  Enter the failed consoles of the Action Max, ViewMaster Interactive Vision, and canceled Hasbro Control-Vision (codenamed NEMO).  Oddly enough these consoles did have roots with some very top people in both toys and gaming in addition to creating the building blocks of the Full Motion Video (FMV) game.

Tetris on a skyscraper video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sUFwDqrSI5s

Action Max gameplay vids: http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=action+max

ViewMaster Interactive Vision Channel: http://www.youtube.com/channel/UC1L81ahLRzf4xIIHIjgAs2w

IGN’s fantastic NEMO article *MUST READ*: http://www.ign.com/articles/2013/12/25/finding-nemo-the-story-behind-hasbros-nintendo-killer


Download this episode (right click and save)

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Video: Michigan: Report from Hell Longplay Part 4 & Finale

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And here’s the wrap up of easily one of the most expensive PS2 games I’ve ever owned.  At 4.5 hours with the bonus material, probably not the strongest campaign out, but Michigan is an experimental “out of the box” title that probably will never be repeated again.  Either way, here’s the end of the journey:

Also if you wish you can check out the entire playthrough in a full playlist here.

 

Written by Fred Rojas

January 13, 2014 at 9:11 am

Michigan: Report from Hell Longplay Part 3

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And here’s the third part of the Michigan longplay (for the initial post on this game click here):

Written by Fred Rojas

January 10, 2014 at 11:00 am

Michigan: Report from Hell Longplay Part 2

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In Part 2 of our Michigan longplay (you can read about the game as a whole and see the original video here) we continue our playthrough of this super rare (for the English version) title.  Enjoy!

You can go on and see part 3 here.

Written by Fred Rojas

January 9, 2014 at 12:06 pm

Retro Game Challenge: Daze Before Christmas

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dazeMerry Christmas fellow readers.  Today we are looking at one of the only true Christmas themed games, which is also one of the most rare 16-bit titles released.  Originally developed by then newcomer Funcom, Daze Before Christmas took a whopping year to develop (most games took 4-6 months back then) and was really just a conversion of the developer’s other game We’re Back: A Dinosaur Tale.  It eventually wrapped up and publisher Sunsoft decided to release it exclusively to Australia (a PAL region) in 1994, which is why the title is expensive and hard to find.  Near the end of the summer of release (most games came out in the summer to prepare for word-of-mouth advertising in the holiday season) an SNES port released in Europe, but only in Germany, which again explains its rarity on that platform.  Sunsoft USA had begun work on a US version for both consoles but it was canceled as Sunsoft USA was nearing its closing in late 1994.

It’s really too bad because aside from being super easy, the game is a solid Christmas themed platformer with Santa as the playable character, bright colorful graphics, and a synth Christmas soundtrack.  While a legitimate copy will cost you on the upwards of $100+ today (not to mention the mods needed to a Genesis/SNES to actually fit the cart in your console), reproduction carts like the one I got are much more affordable around $30-$40 online.  For a game that can be completed by almost any seasoned gamer in about an hour and a very narrow theme that may seem like a hefty price tag, but I’ve seen people pay more than that for a copy of fellow holiday game Christmas Nights so supply does justify the purchase.  Either way, Merry Christmas and enjoy Daze Before Christmas.  Friendly warning: I get too close to the mic for portions of the playthrough so I apologize for the jet engine breathing.

Written by Fred Rojas

December 25, 2013 at 1:06 pm

Retro Game Night: RE Gun Survivor 2 and Michigan

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For this week’s video and Retro Game Night we are playing requested titles Biohazard (Resident Evil) Gun Survivor 2 (Japanese Version) and Michigan: Report from Hell (European English Version).  Both titles only released in Japan and Europe so here they are in all your viewing glory.  Due to language and violence both of the games and the commentary, viewer discretion is advised.  Michigan is continued via additional longplay videos starting with Part 2 here.

Written by Fred Rojas

December 14, 2013 at 11:14 am

Retro Game Night: Fatal Labyrinth and Call of Cthulhu Dark Descent

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In what is easily the two hardest game titles to spell, we are going dark for this week’s Retro Game Night.

First up is user @NeoJakeMcC requesting one of the first ever rogue-likes from the Genesis/Mega Drive: Fatal Labyrinth.

Next up is the relatively rare hybrid between survival horror, first-person shooter, and adventure: Call of Cthulhu Dark Descent.

 

Written by Fred Rojas

July 20, 2013 at 8:39 pm

Retro Game Night: Patriotic Edition

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This week we post a little early and celebrate America’s Independence Day with patriotic video games:

First up is actually a Japanese game, Parodius Da! but it has quite the patriotic boss so it’s here because I love this game and found a connection:

Next up is a rare unlicensed NES game by Color Dreams entitled Operation Secret Storm:

Third on the list is a digital pinball game from the PS1 era, because why not right?  Here’s Patriotic Pinball (please excuse my technical difficulties):

And last but not least we close the show with a game so American, so amazing, so awesome it was only released on one console (Xbox) and in one region (Japan).  Yeah, you read that right.  Since I have no way of getting my hands on it and don’t have a Japanese Xbox to play it on, here’s a great flashback of 1UP’s Broken Pixels show bragging about From Software’s 3rd person uber-American title Metal Wolf Chaos:

Hope you enjoyed those and have a safe and happy 4th of July!

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