Snatcher

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For the crime, see Snatch theft.
Snatcher
PC88 Snatcher Front.jpg
Cover of the original PC-8801 version, released in Japan in 1988.
Developer(s) Konami
Publisher(s) Konami
Director(s) Hideo Kojima
Yoshinori Sasaki (Sega CD version)
Producer(s) Tomikazu Kirita
Yutaka Haruki
Designer(s) Hideo Kojima
(Creator)
Artist(s) Keiichiro Toyama (Sega CD version)
Yuichi Kobayashi
Keita Nose
Composer(s) Masahiro Ikariko
Mutsuhiko Izumi
M. Shirakawa
Seiichi Fukami
Platform(s) NEC PC-8801, MSX 2, PC Engine CD, Sega-CD, PlayStation, Sega Saturn
Release date(s) PC-8801:
  • JP November 26, 1988
MSX2:
  • JP December 13, 1988
PC-Engine Super CD-ROM²:
  • JP October 23, 1992
Pilot Disk:
  • JP August 7, 1992
Mega-CD:
  • NA November 30, 1994[1]
  • EU December 15, 1994
PlayStation:
  • JP February 12, 1996
Sega Saturn:
  • JP March 29, 1996
Genre(s) Adventure game
Interactive cinema
Visual novel
Point and click
Mode(s) Single-player
Distribution 5¼-inch DD floppy disk x5 (PC-88)
Sound Cartridge + 3½-inch DD floppy disk x 3 (MSX)
CD-ROM (PCE, SCD, PS, SAT)

Snatcher (スナッチャー Sunatchā?) is a cyberpunk-themed graphic adventure game produced by Konami, originally released in Japan for the NEC PC-8801 and MSX2 computer platforms in 1988. It was followed by a CD-ROM-based remake released for the PC Engine video game console in 1992, which was subsequently ported and localized into English for the Sega-CD in 1994. Snatcher was the second video game written and directed by Hideo Kojima, following the original Metal Gear for the MSX2.[2]

The game's story revolves around an investigator named Gillian Seed, who is assigned to investigate a breed of bioroids known as "Snatchers", who are killing humans and taking their place in society. The game is known for its heavy influence from cult science fiction films such as Blade Runner and The Terminator.[3]

Gameplay[edit]

The game is set in a primarily first person perspective and uses a menu-based interface that allows the protagonist (Gillian Seed) to interact with his environment. The player can choose to "Look", "Investigate", "Talk", "Ask" and "Move" (in addition to other options) to acquire key items or receive vital information from other characters. The player can analyze items in Gillian's belongings or show it to other characters. The player uses Metal Gear (Gillian's robotic assistant) to communicate with other characters via a videophone or save their current progress.

During key points of the game's story, the player must pass shooting sequences to defend Gillian from assailants. These shooting segments uses a 3x3 grid which the player can target to fire at enemies. A shooting trainer, called "Junker's Eyes", is accessible at Junker HQ that allows the player to measure their accuracy.

Plot and setting[edit]

On June 6, 1996 (1991 in the Japanese versions),[4] a biological weapon known as Lucifer-Alpha under development in Chernoton, Russia, is released into the atmosphere, resulting in the death of 80% of the Eurasian population which in turn results in the death of half of the world's population. The contaminated area becomes uninhabitable for a decade, when Lucifer-Alpha mutates into a non-lethal form. This tragic event later becomes known as "the Catastrophe".

Fifty years later, a breed of artificial life-forms or bioroids known as "snatchers" began appearing in the artificial island of Neo Kobe City, killing their victims and taking their place in society. Nobody knows exactly what they are or where they come from. As Gillian Seed, an amnesiac working for an Anti-Snatcher task force called J.U.N.K.E.R., the player's goal is to track down the source of the snatchers and discover Gillian's mysterious connections with them.

Story[edit]

The story takes place in 3 acts.

Act 1: Snatch

The player character Gillian Seed joins the Junker Agency HQ and is introduced to his colleagues. He is briefed by Chief Benson Cunningham and is assigned the navigator robot Metal Gear Mk. II by engineer Benson. Soon afterwards the player receives an alarm from Jean-Jack Gibson, the only other surviving Junker "runner", who has been trapped in an abandoned factory. The player then is dispatched there with an Agency Turbocycle only to find Gibson and his navigator robot massacred by a couple of snatchers, a man and a woman. He and Metal gather all evidence they can before Metal detects the couple briefly, who vanish as soon as Gillian pursues them. They are attacked then by a swarm of Insectors and escape moments before the factory explodes by a time bomb planted by the Snatchers.

Back in the HQ, Gillian finds several more clues in Gibson's possession, and decides to contact Gibson's informer, known as Napoleon. First he pays a visit to Gibson's house where he tries to comfort his daughter, Katrina. There, he finds Gibson's notes stored in an antique PC68 Genesis computer: he had discovered that ultraviolet rays are cancerous to Snatchers' artificial skin and they are forced to use sunscreen even during winter.

Evidence suggested that Gibson's last meal was buffalo. With directions from Napoleon, Gillian purchases a mask from a black market commune called Plato's Cavern and visits a masquerade night club called Outer Heaven, the only place where illegal buffalo meat is served. He gathers the description of the man whom Gibson was stalking, and feeds it into JORDAN who leads Gillian to two suspects: Ivan Rodriguez and Freddy Nielsen. Rodriguez turns out to be nothing more than a drug pusher but in Nielsen's house Gillian is assaulted by his wife, Lisa, who is a Snatcher. Freddy shows up from nowhere and attacks Gillian, but the bounty hunter Random Hajile has followed Gillian and saves his life.

Act 2: Cure

Engineer Harry Benson has recovered some of Little John's memory, and produces a photograph from an hospital with the name "Oleen". With Napoleon's help, Gillian locates an Oleen Hospital only to find out that it is an animal hospital. On his way back, he receives an emergency from Katrina; Gibson's house has been assaulted and he finds Katrina hiding in his apartment. Katrina gives him more clues left by her father, and they find that "Oleen" is a fragmentary reading of "Queens".

Gillian searches the abandoned building and finds a Chinese document. He finds that Napoleon is an employee at Outer Heaven, who helps him decode the document, which reads "Benson". Suspecting that it either refers to the chief or the engineer, he returns to the HQ to find that both are absent. Gillian then receives a call from his wife who has just discovered that Queens Hospital has a secret basement.

On his way back to Queens, Gillian finds his turbocycle has been tampered, but Random once more saves him. They reach the hospital and the basement, where they find stashed some skeletons of snatcher victims: Freddy and Lisa Nielsen, Doctor Chin Shu Oh, and Benson Cunningham. That moment, they are attacked by Chin Shu Oh and a team of Snatchers. During the fray Random sacrifices himself to allow Gillian and Metal escape through the duct.

After a final shodown with the Snatcher doctor, Gillian returns to the HQ to find it assaulted by Cunningham-Snatcher. The engineer was mortally wounded trying to stop him. Gillian pursues the Chief until he holds Mika as a hostage. Finally, Gillian saves her, and the dying robotic body reveals that the Snatchers are ready to enter phase two of their activities. As the chapter ends, Jamie gives a call saying that she is held in "Kremlin" by Snatchers.

Act 3: Junk

Gillian, Mika and Metal gather all the evidence collected so far. They realise that all Snatchers have a connection to Russia and their presence is linked with the appearance of the mysterious SNOW 9 pollen. They find a correspondence between Moscow River and the local Ina River and locate the Snatchers' "Kremlin" beneath a church resembling Saint Basil's Cathedral. Before leaving for there, Gillian sends Mika to the Kyoto Summit, where the Chief was going to attend (and the Snatcher-Chief was going to attack the leaders). In the temple, Gillian finds stacked Snatcher skeletons as well as a skin culturing room. After sending Metal outside to call for reinforcements, and being assaulted by Insectors and Snatchers, Gillian discovers Jamie and Elijah Modnar.

A lengthy villain speech ties the loose ends of the story: Gillian and Jamie, Elijah and his father Petrovich were working in Russia for a top secret weapon for the Cold War. Elijah was striken when Jamie married Gillian and secondly, when their project was disbanded. He caused the Catastrophe and instructed the couple to enter cryo sleep until the effects were subsided. The couple's son was adopted by Petrovich Modnar and turned out to be Harry Benson. Elijah planned to revive only Jamie and leave Gillian asleep, however he changed his mind and left them there while he alone was working on the Snatchers. That was until the couple was rescued by the army without memory from their past. It is also revealed that the Snatchers collected Random Hajile's body; Random was a Snatcher created by Petrovich based on Elijah's appearance and memories, and now he could serve as the solution for their weaknesses: by reverse engineering Random's skin, they would dominate the world unhindered.

That moment Metal shows up and Random is revived. With the help of Random, the couple escapes while Metal guides orbital weapons to destroy the Snatcher base. At the end of the story, Gillian decides to travel back to Siberia and discover more of his past before returning and continue his life with Jamie. At the airport he is greeted by Mika and Katrina, who reveal that they have been good friends with his wife throughout these difficult times.

Characters[edit]

The cast of Snatcher from left to right: Jean Jack Gibson, Harry Benson, Random Hajile, Gillian Seed, Jamie Seed, Katrina Gibson, Benson Cunningham and Mika Slayton.

Note: All spellings used are from the English-language Mega-CD/Sega CD version. Alternate spellings from other versions when they differ are provided in parenthesis.

  • Gillian Seed (ギリアン・シード?, Gulian in the PC-88/MSX version.) The protagonist. An amnesiac with mysterious ties to the "Snatcher" menace. He joins JUNKER as its newest "Runner" (a type of field operative). Voiced by: Yusaku Yara (Japanese), Jeff Lupetin (English)
  • Metal Gear Mk. II (メタルギア Mk.Ⅱ?) Gillian's robotic sidekick. A "navigator" who serves as an on-site forensic analizer and has a built-in videophone. His designer Harry Benson claims that he designed Metal after the "Metal Gear threat from the late 20th century" (a bipedal tank from the eponymous video game). Voiced by: Mami Koyama (Japanese), Lucy Childs (English)
  • Jamie Seed (ジェミー・シード?, Jaime in all Japanese versions) Gillian's estranged wife, who was found alongside him, with no recollection of her past. Employed at Neo Kobe Pharmaceuticals at the start of the game. Voiced by: Kikuko Inoue (Japanese), Susan Mele] (English)
  • Random Hajile (ランダム・ハジル?, Randam in all Japanese versions) A mysterious bounty hunter who assists Gillian during the course of the story. Rides a one-wheeled motorcycle known as the "Road Runner", and bears a strong resemblance to the character Roy Batty from the film Blade Runner, as well as Feyd-Rautha from the movie Dune. Voiced by: Kaneto Shiozawa (Japanese), Jim Parks (English)
  • Mika Slayton (ミカ・スレイトン?, Slaton in the PC-88/MSX version) The receptionist at JUNKER HQ. A young attractive woman of Japanese and Jewish descent. Voiced by: Miina Tominaga (Japanese), Kimberly Harne (English)
  • Katrina Gibson (カトリーヌ・ギブスン?, Kathaline in the PC-88/MSX version, Katherine in later Japanese versions) The young daughter of a JUNKER agent, who works as a model. Voiced by: Miina Tominaga (Japanese), Lynn Foosaner (English)
  • Harry Benson (ハリー・ベンソン?) JUNKER's mechanic. He survived the Catastrophe when he was a child. Designer of the robotic navigators "Little John" and "Metal Gear Mk. II". Voiced by: Ryūji Saikachi (Japanese), Ray Van Steen (English)
  • Benson Cunningham (ベンソン・カニンガム?, Cunningum in all Japanese versions) JUNKER's commanding chief. A special forces veteran. Voiced by: Gorō Naya (Japanese), Ray Van Steen (English)
  • Jean Jack Gibson (ジャン・ジャック・ギブスン?) Katrina's father and the only other living field operative of JUNKER at the start of the story. He has a robotic navigator of his own called "Little John msx011", which unlike Metal Gear, was not programmed with a voice. Voiced by: Isao Inoguchi (Japanese), Jim Parks (English)
  • Napoleon (ナポレオン?) An informant who suffers from allergies. Voiced by: Gorō Naya (Japanese), Jim Parks (English)
  • Chin Shu Oh (陳 周鳳?, Chin Syuuhou in the Japanese versions) The Director of Queens Hospital. Voiced by: Isao Inoguchi (Japanese), Ray Van Steen (English)
  • Elijah Modnar (エリア・マッドナー?, Madnar in the Japanese versions) A Russian scientist who was involved in a top secret Soviet project prior to the events of the Catastrophe. Voiced by: Kaneto Shiozawa (Japanese), Jim Parks (English)

Release history[edit]

Japanese versions[edit]

Cover art of the PC Engine CD version, depicting Gillian, Random and Jamie.

Snatcher was first released in 1988 for the PC-8801 (on November 26) and MSX2 (December 13) computer platforms. The first versions were released on floppy disks and were entirely text-based, instead a unique sounding bleep occurred when a character spoke. Due to time constraints, the developers were forced to truncate the story at the end of Act 2, leaving out the originally planned ending.[5] The MSX version came packaged with a proprietary audio cartridge to match the music and sound effects of the PC-88 version; the graphic screen is slightly smaller and has longer load-times but otherwise no changes from the PC-8801 version. Konami released a spinoff titled SD Snatcher for the MSX2 on April 27, 1990. SD Snatcher, a role-playing video game, features an alternate version of the original Snatcher storyline with its own ending.

Snatcher was remade as a Super CD-ROM² release for the PC Engine under the title of Snatcher: CD-ROMantic, released on October 23, 1992. This version, in addition to offering improved graphics and audio, added voice acting during key portions of the game, as well as Act 3, the planned ending that was not included in the early PC versions. Konami preceded release of Snatcher with a Pilot Disk (released on August 7) containing a playable portion of the game, a trailer-like preview, a database of characters and mechanics of the game, among other features. This was the last version of the game developed by the original team, including Hideo Kojima himself.

In 1996, Snatcher was ported to the PlayStation (February 12) and Sega Saturn (March 29). These two 32-bit versions added slightly redone graphics, a CG animated opening, and other subtle changes (most of them derived from the English Sega-CD version). Most of the graphic violence were censored, the talking heads (when a character spoke) were completely redrawn, and the music was completely remixed.

English version[edit]

North American Sega CD cover art depicting Gillian and Metal, illustrated by Yuji Kaida in a realistic style.

An English localization of Snatcher was produced for the Sega-CD (or Mega CD) in North America, Europe and Australia. It was released November 1994 in North America and December 1994 in Europe.[1] The Sega-CD port was produced specifically for the overseas market and was ported from the PC Engine CD version. The script was translated by Scott T. Hards, with Jeremy Blaustein (who would later translate Metal Gear Solid) supervising the localization. This version adds support for Konami's Justifier light gun peripheral for the shooting segments.

Several changes were made to conform with the different censorship standards outside Japan, mainly due to sexual content: Katrina's age was changed from 14 in the Japanese version to 18 in the English version — due to a nude shower scene she has in the game — and the exposed breast of a dead Snatcher was covered up.[5] A scene featured in the PC Engine CD, which depicts a dying dog twitching with its internal organs exposed was redone so the dog is no longer twitching.[5] The clientele at the Outer Heaven night club, which were originally parodies of popular sci-fi characters, were changed to Konami characters to avoid any potential copyright infringement.[5] The naked Snatchers were also redesigned to lessen the resemblance with the Terminator robot: their endoskeletons were repainted with olive-colored body parts and their eyes were changed from red to green, besides other minimal graphic changes.

The Sega CD version adds an extended opening intro (adapted from the introductory manga story featured in the manual) and Act 3 was revised to allow more interaction with the player. The ending is extended with the addition of Katrina and Mika in the game's final scene, as well as a cameo from Napoleon.

According to Blaustein, the Sega CD version of Snatcher only sold a "couple of thousand units" in North America. He attributes the game's commercial failure due to Sega's waning support of the add-on at the time of the game's release.[6] Because such a small number of copies exist, Snatcher has become one of the rarest and most sought-after Sega CD games, with complete copies usually going for over $200 USD on marketplaces like eBay and Amazon.com. Despite this, the game remains a cult classic even years after its original release.

Reception[edit]

Reception
Review scores
Publication Score
Electronic Gaming Monthly 33 / 40[7]
Console Obsession 9 / 10[8]
RPGFan 95%[9]
Sega Collectors Guild 88 / 100

Snatcher has been critically acclaimed by reviewers. 1UP praised Snatcher for being an ambitious cyberpunk detective novel graphic adventure that pushed the boundaries of video game storytelling, cinematic cut scenes and mature content in its time.[10] Electronic Gaming Monthly described it as "an awesome cyberpunk adventure game.[7] Kurt Kalata of Gamasutra and Hardcore Gaming 101 praised the game for its graphics, soundtrack, high quality writing comparable to a novel, voice acting comparable to a film or radio drama, post-apocalyptic science fiction setting, light gun shooter segments, and in-game computer database with optional documents that flesh out the game world, though not its use of the amnesia theme. According to Kalata, the Sega CD version of Snatcher was for a long time the only major visual novel game to be released in America,[11] where it gained a cult following.[12]

RPG Fan gave the game a score of 95%, praising it for its "amazing story line," every character's "superb development and revelations," the "twists and turns in the plot," and the game's ending.[9] Niall Macdonald of Console Obsession gave the game a score of 9/10, praising it for its "solid game world" as well as "excellent story, stylised visuals and deep concepts." He recommended the game to fans of film noir and cyberpunk, concluding that it is "not just an excellent interactive movie, but an example of gaming at its finest."[8]

Related media[edit]

SD Snatcher[edit]

SD Snatcher is a role-playing video game by Konami for the MSX2 computer platform in 1990 exclusively in Japan. It is a spinoff of the original Snatcher, adapting the same storyline into a different genre. In contrast to the original game's realistic art style, SD Snatcher features a "super deformed" art style, depicting all of the game's characters with big heads and childlike proportions (only the game's ending deviates from this style and reverts to the original game's realistic style). Like the MSX2 port of the original Snatcher, SD Snatcher was released with a proprietary cartridge that contains the Konami SCC custom sound chip, along with three floppy disks containing the actual game data.

Radio drama[edit]

SDATCHER is a seven episode bi-weekly radio play, originally airing for free listening as part of Hideo Kojima's online podcast, Hideradio. The prequel is written by Goichi Suda and directed by Shuyo Murata, while character designs were handled by Satoshi Yoshioka. The drama's electronic score was composed by Silent Hill composer Akira Yamaoka. A commercial CD was released on December 14, 2011, and included extended tracks of Yamaoka's score. The story revolves around Jean-Jack Gibson, a fellow Junker from the original game. The voice of Gibson was provided by Akio Otsuka, notable for being the Japanese voice actor of Solid Snake from the Metal Gear series. Fan translations of the drama into other languages such as English and Spanish have also been made.[13]

Cast[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Snatcher". GameFAQs. Retrieved 31 July 2012. 
  2. ^ "Hideo Kojima's career history". Kojima Productions. 
  3. ^ Hopper, Ben (February 20, 2001). "Great Games – Snatcher". GameCritics.com. Retrieved 2011-08-24. 
  4. ^ All the dates given in the English version are five years ahead than the ones mentioned in the Japanese. This was done since the English version was first released in 1994, three years after the supposed date of the Catastrophe given in the original PC-88 version.
  5. ^ a b c d Ogasawara, Nob (1994). "Interview with Snatcher's Yoshinori Sasaki". Electronic Gaming Monthly (65): 176. Archived from the original on 2012-09-19. Retrieved 2008-06-08. 
  6. ^ "JUNKER HQ (Interview with Jeremy Blaustein by Chris Barker)". "Blaustein: As for (Snatcher): Sega CD, I think that counting you and me, the game only sold a couple thousand units at most in the US. I know the Sega CD sucked and had no software available for it, but where was everyone when Snatcher came out!? Boy, was that embarrassing - having it fail so badly." 
  7. ^ a b "Video Game Buyer's Guide". Electronic Gaming Monthly: 141. 1999. 
  8. ^ a b Niall Macdonald, Snatcher Sega-CD Review, Console Obsessions
  9. ^ a b Snatcher, RPG Fan
  10. ^ Retroactive: Kojima's Productions, 1UP
  11. ^ Kurt Kalata, Snatcher, Hardcore Gaming 101
  12. ^ Kurt Kalata, Policenauts, Hardcore Gaming 101
  13. ^ "SDATCHER Translation". SDATCHER.net. Retrieved 2 December 2013. 

Bibliography[edit]

  • HIPPON SUPER!編集部 (November 1992). スナッチャーのすべて (in Japanese). JICC出版局. ISBN 4-7966-0535-5. 
  • 月刊PCエンジン特別編集 (November 1992). スナッチャー公式 ガイドブック (in Japanese). 小学館. ISBN 4-09-102409-2. 

External links[edit]