Snatcher
Box Shot
Snatcher
Platform: Sega CD
Publisher: Konami
Designer: Konami
Genre: Adventure
Players: 1
Published Date 1994
Reviewed by: Kurt Kalata

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 backgrounds. 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 quickly.

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 to enjoy....