|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
Sega CD: NA November 30, 1994 EU December 15, 1994
PlayStation: JP February 12, 1996
Sega Saturn: JP March 29, 1996
|Genre(s)||Graphic adventure game, interactive movie, visual novel|
Snatcher (スナッチャー?, Sunacchā) is a cyberpunk-themed graphic adventure game directed and written by Hideo Kojima and produced by Konami. It was originally released in Japan for the NEC PC-8801 and MSX2 computer platforms in 1988. A CD-ROM-based remake for the PC Engine was released in 1992, which was subsequently localized into English for the Sega/Mega-CD in 1994 in North America and Europe. The enhanced version was later ported twice more to the PlayStation and Sega Saturn in Japan.
The setting and story of Snatcher is heavily influenced by cyberpunk and science-fiction media, taking place in a large futuristic dystopian city. The story revolves around an investigator named Gillian Seed assigned to investigate a breed of bioroids known as "snatchers", who are killing humans and taking their place in society. Gameplay takes place in from a first-person perspective in a menu-based interface. The player can choose from pre-defined options such as "Look" and "Talk" to interact with the environment and its characters.
Snatcher is widely regarded as groundbreaking for the adventure genre, in that it introduced visual novel characteristics to flesh out a deep back story. Sales outside Japan were poor due to Sega's waning support for the Sega/Mega-CD, but the game has gained a cult following. The game has spawned a spin-off role-playing game released in Japan titled SD Snatcher, and a radio drama, SDATCHER.
On June 6, 1996 (1991 in the Japanese versions), 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, in 2047 (2042 in the Japanese versions), 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. The story takes place in three acts.
Act 1: Snatch Edit
Gillian Seed arrives at the Junker Agency HQ and is introduced to his colleagues. He is introduced by receptionist Mika Slayton to Chief Benson Cunningham, who gives him his Junker ID and briefs him on his authorities and rights as a Junker. Gillian is assigned the navigator robot Metal Gear Mk. II by engineer Harry Benson, along with a blaster. Soon afterwards Metal Gear receives an emergency call from Jean-Jack Gibson, the only other surviving Junker "runner", who has cornered two possible Snatchers in an abandoned factory. Gillian 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 reads through Gibson's notes, stored on a floppy disk for 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 meat (whale meat in the original Japanese versions), which is illegal to serve in most of the city. 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 discovers a bottle of sunscreen. Confirming his suspicions of Freddy being a Snatcher, Gillian is suddenly assaulted by his wife, Lisa, who is also a Snatcher. Gillian manages to shoot and kill Lisa, but suddenly Freddy shows up from nowhere and attacks Gillian. Random Hajile, a bounty hunter who has followed Gillian, kills Freddy and saves Gillian's life, and the two decide to help each other out.
Act 2: Cure Edit
Harry Benson recovers 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 call from Mika; Gibson's house has been assaulted and Katrina has gone missing. Gillian rushes to Gibson's house and, finding evidence that Snatchers have been there, searches frantically for Katrina, but finds no sign of her. Her dog, Alice, is thrown through a window, having been eviscerated. Fearing the worst, Gillian and Metal comb throughout the city, until he finally finds Katrina hiding in his apartment. Katrina explains that she ran from her house when she realized she was in danger, and gives him another clue left by her father: a list of illicit hospitals. Together with Metal's help, they comb the list and find that "Oleen" is a fragmentary reading of "Queens". Gillian heads to Queens Hospital, but finds that the building appears to have been abandoned for several years. Nonetheless, he heads in to investigate.
Gillian searches the abandoned hospital and finds a patient record written in Chinese. He finds that Napoleon is an employee at Outer Heaven, who helps him decode the record, which contains chemistry symbols for beryllium, nitrogen, sulfur, and oxygen, forming "Be-N-S-O-N". Suspecting that it either refers to the chief or the engineer, he orders Metal to disengage all transmissions back to HQ, and returns there to find that both are absent. Gillian then receives a call from Jamie, who has just discovered that Queens Hospital has a secret basement.
On his way back to Queens, Gillian finds his turbocycle has been tampered with; his accelerator is stuck and he is heading towards a cliff, but Random once more saves him. They reach the hospital and uncover the basement, which is a perfect duplicate in layout of the hospital's main floor. After searching the area, they uncover the morgue, and find stashed within some skeletons of Snatcher victims: Freddy and Lisa Nielsen, Doctor Chin Shu Oh, and, to Gillian's shock, Benson Cunningham. At that moment, they are attacked by Chin Shu Oh and a team of Snatchers and are both injured. During the fray, Random sacrifices himself to allow Gillian and Metal escape through an air duct and into the abandoned TransLiner subway system, and detonates explosives hidden in his belt to blow Queens Hospital and the Snatchers off the map.
Making his way out of the subway, Gillian finds himself back in Freddy Nielsen's apartment, and deduces that the Snatchers have been using the abandoned subway lines as a means of moving around and staying out of the sun; Freddy had used this same system to escape the factory after murdering Gibson and to get the drop on Gillian earlier. Gillian attempts to ride a black taxi back to HQ, but the driver turns out to be the Chin Shu Oh Snatcher, who attempts to ambush Gillian. Gillian kills Oh, and returns to the Junker HQ, only to find it assaulted by Cunningham-Snatcher. He finds Mika, who tells him that the Snatcher had attacked her, and Harry had locked her in her booth to keep her safe while he went after it. However, Harry was mortally wounded trying to stop him, and dies in Gillian's arms. Swearing to both Harry and Random that he'll kill the Snatcher no matter what, Gillian pursues the Chief until he finds him holding Mika as a hostage. Gillian saves her and manages to kill the Cunningham-Snatcher, 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 Edit
Gillian, Mika and Metal gather all the evidence collected so far. They realize 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 the Moscow River and the local Ina River and locate the Snatcher's "Kremlin" beneath a church resembling Saint Basil's Cathedral, which is also very close to the abandoned subway lines. 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). Before he leaves, Mika asks Gillian for a dinner date, which he promises to her should they make it out alive. 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 is safe, but the two are suddenly confronted by 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 infatuated with Jamie and was jealous of her blossoming relationship with Gillian, and was stricken when Jamie married Gillian and secondly, when their project was disbanded. He caused the Catastrophe and instructed the couple to enter cryo sleep with him until the effects of Lucifer-Alpha were subsided. The couple's son was adopted by Petrovich Modnar and turned out to be Harry Benson. Elijah revived automatically after 10 years, and initially planned to revive only Jamie and leave Gillian permanently asleep, however he changed his mind and left both of their cryo capsules permanently on 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.
At that moment, Metal shows up and Random reactivates. With the help of Random, who holds Modnar in place, the couple escapes while Metal guides an orbital weapon to destroy the Snatcher base. Modnar is shocked at Random's actions, claiming that he is just a machine, but Random counters by saying it's his own will to destroy the Snatchers. He gives his regards to Gillian and Jaime, and to Metal, as the orbital weapon fires on the temple and obliterates it.
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. Mika informs Gillian that a new chief will take over JUNKER, and she will continue her role in the group. Metal Gear suddenly shows up as well; Random saved Metal from the brunt of the orbital laser, and while his body was destroyed, his CPU and memory banks were intact and attached to a temporary body. Metal begs Gillian to allow him to come along with him, which Gillian happily accepts. Jamie promises that things will finally work between her and Gillian, and promises to be there for him when he returns. Gillian and Metal depart for Siberia, while Jamie watches, with tears in her eyes and a smile on her face.
The story concludes with one final narration: "Throughout history, suspicion has always bred conflict. The real conflict, though, resides in people's hearts. This conflict has just begun..."
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 use 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.
- 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.) Voiced by: Yusaku Yara (Japanese), Jeff Lupetin (English): The protagonist. An amnesiac with mysterious ties to the "Snatcher" menace. He joins JUNKER as its newest "Runner" (a type of field operative).
- Metal Gear Mk. II (メタルギア Ｍｋ．Ⅱ?) Voiced by: Mami Koyama (Japanese), Lucy Childs (English): Gillian's robotic sidekick. A "navigator" who serves as an on-site forensic analyzer 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).
- Jamie Seed (ジェミー・シード?, Jaime in all Japanese versions) Voiced by: Kikuko Inoue (Japanese), Susan Mele (English): 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.
- Random Hajile (ランダム・ハジル?, Randam in all Japanese versions) Voiced by: Kaneto Shiozawa (Japanese), Jim Parks (English): 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 film Dune.
- Mika Slayton (ミカ・スレイトン?, Slaton in the PC-88/MSX version) Voiced by: Miina Tominaga (Japanese), Kimberly Harne (English): The receptionist at JUNKER HQ. A young attractive woman of Japanese and Jewish descent.
- Katrina Gibson (カトリーヌ・ギブスン?, Kathaline in the PC-88/MSX version, Katherine in later Japanese versions) Voiced by: Miina Tominaga (Japanese), Lynn Foosaner (English): The young daughter of a JUNKER agent, who works as a model.
- Harry Benson (ハリー・ベンソン?) Voiced by: Ryūji Saikachi (Japanese), Ray Van Steen (English): JUNKER's mechanic. He survived the Catastrophe when he was a child. Designer of the robotic navigators "Little John" and "Metal Gear Mk. II".
- Benson Cunningham (ベンソン・カニンガム?, Cunningum in all Japanese versions) Voiced by: Gorō Naya (Japanese), Ray Van Steen (English): JUNKER's commanding chief. A special forces veteran.
- Jean Jack Gibson (ジャン・ジャック・ギブスン?) Voiced by: Isao Inoguchi (Japanese), Jim Parks (English): 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.
- Napoleon (ナポレオン?) Voiced by: Gorō Naya (Japanese), Jim Parks (English): An informant who suffers from allergies. He is of Chinese descent.
- Chin Shu Oh (陳 周鳳?, Chin Syuuhou in the Japanese versions) Voiced by: Isao Inoguchi (Japanese), Ray Van Steen (English): The Director of Queens Hospital.
- Elijah Modnar (エリア・マッドナー?, Madnar in the Japanese versions) Voiced by: Kaneto Shiozawa (Japanese), Jim Parks (English): A Russian scientist who was involved in a top secret Soviet project prior to the events of the Catastrophe.
Differences between versionsEdit
The game was influenced by several science fiction films such as Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Blade Runner, The Terminator, Wicked City, and Akira. Due to time constraints, the developers were originally forced to truncate the story at the end of Act 2, leaving out the originally planned ending. 1992's Snatcher: CD-ROMantic was the last version of the game developed with Hideo Kojima's involvement.
Japanese versions Edit
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. 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 spin-off 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 story-line with its own ending.
Snatcher was remade as a Super CD-ROM 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.
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
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. The Sega-CD port was produced specifically for the overseas market and was ported from the PC Engine 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. A scene featured in the PC Engine version, which depicts a dying dog twitching with its internal organs exposed was redone so the dog is no longer twitching. 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 and certain locations (such as the Joy Division mask shop) were renamed for similar reasons. 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.
One minor plot change was made to Jean Jack Gibson's last meal in the English version: his final meal was originally whale meat, which was changed to buffalo meat for the localization. Because of the later release of the English version, the year of the Catastrophe was changed from 1991 to 1996 and all other dates in the games were moved accordingly by five years.
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, such as a series of shooting sequences just before Gillian's encounter with Elijah Modnar. The ending is extended with the addition of Katrina and Mika in the 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.
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