Rewind Review: Snatch one of Kojima's earliest works.
If there is one thing to be said about any game designer, it's that they were greatly influenced by some massive inspirational force that allowed them to create the masterpieces, or not-so-masterpieces, that we have come to love or loath. Hideo Kojima is one of these wonderful game designers' that was inspired by some fantastic, earlier work for our gaming pleasure for our gaming pleasure or pain.
His chosen inspiration was that of films. He has been quoted as saying that in his younger days he would frequently visit the local cinema. It was there that he would unknowingly soak up a rather large fancy of the art that he would later pursue being a film director not only as a career, but as a life goal. It was his dream to create the kinds of stories and even much deeper and complex ones than were on display of the silver screen. But it wasn't until he played Shigeru Miyamoto's medium-defining game, Super Mario Bros., that Hideo Kojima knew that video games would be the path he would pursue to smash ground and make himself known.
Snatcher is just one of the fine examples of what Hideo Kojima can produce when inspiration strikes. With many references stemming from his love of classic films including The Terminator and Blade Runner, it's a physical definition of Hideo Kojima style video game design that has made him famous today.
Set in 1996, Snatcher tells a tale of a major catastrophe that nearly results in the genocide of the entire Eurasian populous. Fifty years later, menacing "bioroids", a.k.a. snatchers (who look striking similar to terminators) appear from an unknown location and begin murdering victims to take their place in society. The city of Neo Kobe, obviously resembling New York City, is the only city dealing with the snatchers. In order to combat the snatcher threat an anti-snatcher task force was formed and dubbed J.U.N.K.E.R. Gillian Seed, the game's amnesia suffering, and a bit humorously perverted, protagonist (who shares some characteristics with Harrison Ford in the movie Blade Runner) is the newest recruit of J.U.N.K.E.R. and it is his duty to track down the source of the snatchers and terminate them.
Along his journey of snatcher eradication, Gillian meets a whole palette of characters that includes a stocky Chinese informant branding the name Napoleon, his beautiful wife Jaime (who he is separated from), his equally beautiful secretary Mika, Harry the engineer, Random Hajile the bounty hunter who resembles Sting's character in Dune, and Metal Gear. Yep, you read that correctly there is a Metal Gear in this game with the model name Metal Gear MK II (yes, it appears to be similar to the one in the upcoming Metal Gear Solid 4). The exception of this Metal Gear is that it is there as your partner/multi-tool and not some never-ending array of massive robots sporting thermal nuclear warheads used in some psychotic criminals ploy to rule the world.
Though there are many references to the actual Metal Gear games, it is debatable that Snatcher is actually set within the Metal Gear timeline. I won't really go into it, but instead I will just leave it to the reader to play the game and decide whether or not there is evidence to support that this is true or just a gimmick of his "fourth wall" breaking style of design.
Mixing themes of the noir, sci-fi, and cyberpunk genres, Snatcher creates a dark, gritty, and often humorous detective novel. Because that is what Snatcher truly is - an interactive hard-boiled detective novel who's "gameplay" revolves mainly on how the player uses their thinking abilities to solve situations presented throughout the game. There are battle events that occur within Snatcher that resemble an arcade-type shooter where the player will have to maneuver an aiming cursor around sections of a targeting grid to shoot various enemies that pop onto the screen. The Sega CD release had support for the light gun accessory which completed the arcade experience during these events. When attempting Snatcher, one should try to keep in mind that it is not Snatcher's job to wow us with game play. Instead, its job is to entrap us with a compelling story as the adventure game/interactive novel genres decree it so.
Officially, there were six versions of the game released. Each of these six versions had its own variations of game content. The game was originally released in Japan only for the PC-8801. The debut version is sadly also the least complete version. Pressed for time, the development team rushed out this version leaving out the final act of the game instead replaced with a much different ending that did not tie up much of the plot and left players in a state of confusion. This version also lacked any of the voice features as later additions would have.
The game was ported to two other systems before leaving Japan. The first time was on the MSX 2 with the addition of a packaged sound card that made for better audio and sound effects. However load times were reportedly unbearable. The second port came on the PC-Engine. This is the last version in which Hideo Kojima had a direct hand in creating. This is often dubbed as the most complete version of Snatcher. Nothing was omitted and it is both the first CD-ROM version and the first version to include the final act and the true ending the way he had envisioned it.
The Sega CD received the only English version of the game officially released. Due to tougher censorship some of the games content was altered. Censored alterations include the date of the "Catastrophe Incident", some scenes of nudity, and Gillian's showing of his more perverted side when he obtains a character's underwear and sniffs it. There is also a special ending made just for this release. As mentioned before it also has light gun support.
Finally the Sony PlayStation and Sega Saturn in Japan got one last port. This one had much heavier censorship done to it which softened the most violent scenes, if not completely ridding of them. But it did sport some nice 32-bit color! The Saturn version was a less censored port of the PSone version.
Although Snatcher was a hit in Japan, it flopped here in the States. At the time of its release, Sega was already planning out their next system, the Saturn, which ironically would flop as well. Support for the Sega CD was never big and at the end it was abysmal. For that, Snatcher's sales suffer innumerably with only a few thousand units shipped and far less sold. According to Jeremy Blaustein (who localized both Snatcher and Metal Gear Solid), Snatcher's failure also was due to Konami not promoting the game enough. It also didn't help that Snatcher was carrying a "T" rating at the time for its gore and sexual themes.