Hideo Kojima. Artist. Genius. Rich. Yes, the Konami mastermind may be bathe in weighty bags marked with dollar signs on them thanks to sales of his super-stealth series, Metal Gear Solid (you may have heard of it). But I, for one, will always remember him for another game- Snatcher.
Snatcher is distinctly Kojima-esque- meaning the game is mostly narrative (drum roll). But, jokes aside, this is no bad thing. Snatcher plays like an interactive movie, and would certainly appear familiar to fans of Phoenix Wright or Hotel Dusk. It also carries the Kojima’s trademark cinematic references- uncle Hideo expressing his love of sci-fis like Terminator and, particularly, Bladerunner, as we witness out main character (the distinctly Deckardian) Gillian Seed hunt down psychopathic human-mimicking androids called Snatchers. Not only is the game packed with film gags (hell, one character is modelled on Sting), but references to other Konami titles are ten-a-penny- Sparkster, Contra, Castlevania; take your pick. Your sidekick is even one of the mini-Metal Gears now seen helping a mulleted Solid Snake in MGS4. All this cements Kojima’s title as master of the in-joke; the Tarantino of the gaming world.
But Snatcher truly is pure genius. The storyline, script and voice acting are all spot on, the game being both funny and heart-wrenching, whether you be having a philosophical conversation with a call girl or trying to reach your estranged wife (who, like Gillian, has amnesia). Snatcher ensures you care for your characters, enforcing the impact of its numerous twists and turns. It also nails tense delivery like perfect punchlines; coupled with liberal smackings of gore, the game never fails to surprise you with the scariest set-pieces this side of Killer freakin’ 7. One sequence sees you faced with two suspects- one of them is a Snatcher. Fill in the gaps, sweating profusely as you do so.
The game’s also beautiful, with crisp sprites and a great manga style. Indeed, Snatcher’s beautiful set and character design fully immerse you in the atmospheric experience, complimenting Snatcher’s dedication to the art of storytelling; you can truly get a feel for Kojima’s lovingly-realised world by accessing pieces of its complex history and culture. The main quest is also complimented by pleasantly diverting shooting sequences (better served on the game’s light gun-compatible Mega CD iteration, but still a refreshing change of pace). Not that the main game ever drags- every puzzle, every investigation and every lead is gripping to the end and consistently entertaining, ensuring that, along with the brilliant story, you’ll definitely want to play this one through to the end.
But let’s be honest- it’s unlikely you’ve heard of Snatcher before. And why? I’ll tell you why- Night bloody’ Trap. Let me explain- the Mega/Sega CD (one of Sega’s stream of ill-fated revisions/sequels to the Mega Drive before they finally rolled out the Saturn) was the original home of this game, as it was for Night Trap– one of a slew of bizarre “interactive movie” titles released during the mid-90s. It saw a gang of scantily-clad American teeny-boppers bounce around a slumber-party being chased by vampires and mud monsters, and launched one of those “games are evil” debates that pop up every now and then, sullying not only the reputation of the industry at large but also that of Sega’s console. Married with the fact that this was a lazy and poorly-realised platform whose only other distinctive game was Sonic CD, Snatcher hardly set the world ablaze and remains a rare find (Night Trap, meanwhile, sits awkwardly on the shelves of Exeter’s very own IT Games).
But there remains hope. The Wii and DS have revitalised the genre and perhaps Konami will either relaunch it or put it up on a Virtual Console service (its follow-up, Policenauts, remains untranslated to this day). Kojima is known to be fond of the game, and the recently-unveiled Project S is widely considered to relate to it (at the moment, he’s apparently developing a radio play based on the storyline). Nonetheless, include Snatcher in you’re nightly prayers. Do not- I repeat, DO NOT, resort to the sin of emulation.
As well as being illegal, it’s also frickin’ hard for Sega CD games.