Gaming History 101

Know Your Roots

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

One Response

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  1. Hmmm… the ending of paragraph 3 seems to be missing a sentence. Something about the Konami code (not) activating censored parts.

    Andrew

    March 1, 2015 at 4:30 am


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