One thing I wish I'd see on more consoles are PC-style adventure
games. Stuff from Sierra like Kings Quest, Space Quest, etc. Sure,
there were a few for the NES (Maniac Mansion, Shadowgate and others)
and maybe one or two others, but the genre has never been fully
realized outside of computers.
Enter the Sega CD. Since the point n' click adventures used
lots of graphics, the CD medium was great to store all of the
While many of the games that did come to the Sega CD suffered in
comparison to the original (Rise of the Dragon, Willy Beamish and Secret
of Monkey Island), there was one adventure game that in many ways was
superior to anything that ever came out on computers. Combining
anime style graphics with a deep storyline, Konami's Snatcher is
quite simply, one of the best games ever made.
Snatcher has its roots way back in Japanese home computers, the PC88 and
MSX. It was later redone for the PC Engine in Japan. In one of Konami
of America's few smart moves, they actually decided to translate
it for release on the Sega CD in America. It didn't get much
distribution (plenty of violence, plus the Sega CD was on its last legs)
but those who have plaed Snatcher can tell you that it's worth its
weight in gold.
The setting is the year 2047.
Half a century before, a research laboratory exploded, killing 1/3 of
the Earth's population. Years later, a strange life form mysteriously
appears out of nowhere in the city of Neo Kobe. These robotic beings, which look like the exoskeletons
from the Terminator movies, disguise themselves as humans, kidnap (known
as "snatching") high-ranking people and taking their place in society.
An operation known as JUNKER is set up to combat the Snatchers, to find
out where they came from, what their ultimate purpose is, and how it
connects to the global catastrophe that destroyed so much of the Earth.
The main character in Snatcher is Gillian Seed, a trenchcoat clad rookie
to the JUNKER operation. He has a bit of a strange past...him and his
wife Jamie Seed were rescued from cryogenic sleep somewhere in Russia.
They have no recollection of their past together, or why they were even
frozen in the first place. Gillian and Jamie's amnesia eventually leads
to their seperation. The game actually starts when Gillian decides
to become a JUNKER, for he believes that his mysterious past is in
someway connected to the Snatchers.
When Gillian arrives at Junker HQ, you actually get to take control
of the action. Rather than the point n' click interface of many
adventure games, everything in Snatcher is operated through menus.
Basic commands such as Look, Investigate and Move
are almost always available, plus you can go into your Possessions
menu to use various items. People used to the standard interface might
be thrown off a little bit. You can't actually pick up an object until you
look or investigate it a few times. In some cases, you can't even go through
a door unless you look at it first. It's bound to frustrate long-time
veterans who are used to the direct method, but I got used to it pretty
While you get used to the interface, Gillian
is introduced to all of the people working at JUNKER: the cute secretary
Mika, the head boss Benson, the super-computer JORDAN, and the engineer,
Harry. When you meet Harry, you'll be given your own personal little
navigator (a robot that helps a JUNKER in investigation.) In a cool
allusion to another Konami game, this robot buddy is a miniaturized
version of Metal Gear (the designer of both games are the same, Hideo Kojima.)
While Metal Gear doesn't have any weapons, it acts as a storage unit
for graphical data, operates as a video phone, and also saves your game.
Once you get your gun from Harry, the real action starts: ace JUNKEr
Jean Jack Gibson is at an abandoned warehouse, and has cornered two
possible Snatchers. He calls for backup, and Gillian's on his first
assignment. Unfortunately, when you get there, you find poor Gibson's
head detached from his body. But Gibson left behind a lot of information
about the Snatchers that you need to use to discover more about them.
For instance, Snatchers cannot go out into sunlight, for it rots their artifical
skin. Therefore, if you investigate a possible Snatcher's apartment, you
must look for things like sunscreen and other possible evidence. Eventually
you'll be on the lookout for a hospital where Snatchers can treat their
skin, meet up with a mysterious bounty hunter and eventually learn the truth behind these artificial lifeforms.
In an attempt to add a bit of action to the game (a JUNKER's life ain't all
that easy) there are a few shooting scenes intersparsed throughout. Playing
with the control pad is very easy, as there is a 3x3 grid for you to target
your cursor. The real fun starts if you have the Justifier light gun
that came with Lethal Enforcers. It really adds to the atmosphere when
you get into a dangerous area, have to throw down your controller and
pick up the Justifier to shoot at whatever baddies may approach.
The graphics consist of still scenes for each location, with character
portraits popping up whenever a character speaks. Each of these pictures
are beautifully drawn and well detailed...it's truly amazing. Only the
limited palette of the Sega CD hampers it, but it all looks wonderful in
spite of that fact.
Konami's always been known for their musicical scores, and Snatcher once
again excels here. The music that plays over the introduction ("One Night
in Neo Kobe") accurately catches the flavor of this dank, futuristic city,
and is a damn fine piece of work to boot too! The in-game obviously
doesn't sound quite as nice (since it's using the usual FM chip as opposed
to CD Audio) but it's still marvelously composed. When particularly wonderful
example is when you talk to Katharine, the teenage orphan of Jean Jack
Gibson. It's sad, yet beautiful at the same time. You can almost feel
her pain. The tune used during investigations is also particularly tense
and definitely heightens the mood. Even the sound effects are wonderful...
I always felt a chill run down my spine as Metal Gear's motion detectors
went off, indicating that a possible threat was nearby. Plus the voice
acting is just perfect. In a time when the only company that seemed to
actually ATTEMPT to put effort into finding voice talent was Working Designs,
Konami's dubbing is exemplary. I love Metal Gear...it's a female
voice run through a spatializer that sounds robotic, but also adds
personality to the lovable little robot.
The storyline and writing are definitely the best aspects in Snatcher.
Atmospherically Neo Kobe almost feels like a real place. There's tons
of information about the city and its background in the JORDAN computers,
and there's so much little extra things to find out and do once the game
is beaten (like calling up the game designer on the videophone, or reaquanting
a son with his estranged father-in-law.) They don't have any effect on
the whole picture, but little bits like this add up. And you really
get to know the characters pretty quickly. The chemistry between Gillian
and Metal Gear is undeniably cool (they bicker a lot of course, but it
remains fun without become corny or cliched.)
There's very, VERY little wrong with Snatcher. The only problem may be
its length and lack of difficulty. I was able to beat the game is just
over six hours, with very minimal help. But four of those six hours
were when I was locked up in my room, playing the game, having one of the
best damn video game playing experiences of my life. This is what an
interactive anime should be. Now I only wish that Konami would translate
Snatcher's spiritual sequel, Policenauts, for the English audience