alex9234’s Sunday Review
Hi folks, and welcome to another edition of Sunday Review. This time I’m going to review one of the rarest video games. It’s so rare that the only English version is on the Sega CD, and prices for this game are so sky high that it can even rival that of EarthBound’s! Well, what game could this be, Alex? Well, this game is Metal Gear creator Hideo Kojima’s second game, and is still one of his most beloved games. The game I’m reviewing tonight is Snatcher, which originally came out on the NEC PC-88 and MSX2 in 1988, was later ported to the PC Engine in 1992, as well as the PlayStation and Sega Saturn in 1996. But, since those versions never got translated into English, we’re going to review the only version that did make it stateside, the Sega CD version which came out in 1994.
On June 6th, 1991 (6 months before the actual collapse of the USSR in our timeline), a biological weapon known as Lucifer-Alpha is under development in Chernoton, USSR. The bio-weapon somehow gets loose and makes it’s way into the atmosphere. It spreads all over Eastern Europe, the Middle East, Central Asia, and other parts of Eurasia, killing over 80% of the population there, which results in half the world’s population being wiped out. The contaminated area becomes uninhabitable until 2001 when Lucifer-Alpha mutates into a non-lethal form. This event is known as “The Catastrophe.”
It is now 2042. A breed of artificial life forms or bioroids known as “Snatchers” begin appearing on the artificial island of Neo Kobe City, Japan. They kill their victims and take their place in society. The origin of the Snatchers are unknown to the general public.
Snatcher follows the story of Gillian Seed, an agent for J.U.N.K.E.R. – the anti-Snatcher task force. He suffers from a very serious case of amnesia and is trying to find out who he really is, as well as his past. At Junker HQ, he is introduced to his colleagues – receptionist Mika Slayton, chief Benson Cunningham, and engineer Harry Benson. He gets his Junker ID, blaster, and navigator robot Metal Gear Mk. II. Soon, Metal Gear gets a call from the other Junker agent Jean-Jack Gibson who has cornered two snatchers in an abandoned factory. Gillian and Metal Gear then hop in their Turbocycle and head to the factory, and there, they find that Gibson has been murdered and his navigator robot destroyed. They gather as much evidence as possible and fight their way through an army of Insectors to escape in the nick of time as a time bomb set by the Snatchers explodes in the factory.
Back at HQ, Gillian and Metal Gear find more clues in Gibson’s office and contacts his informant, who goes by the name Napoleon. The two of them then head to Gibson’s house where he meets his daughter Katrina, and offers his condolences. At Gibson’s house, Gillian reads through Gibson’s notes which was stored on a floppy disc for an old PC68 Genesis computer (see the references?). He learns that Snatchers are vulnerable to Ultraviolet(UV) rays, as it is cancerous to their artificial skin, and they are forced to use sunscreen even in winter. An autopsy of Gibson reveals that his last meal was whale meat, which is outlawed in most of the city. With the information he learned from Napoleon, Gillian buys a mask and heads to a night club called Outer Heaven, the only place in Neo Kobe that serves whale meat. He manages to get the description of the man that killed Gibson and feeds it into Junker’s computer JORDAN, which gives Gillian two possible suspects: Ivan Rodriguez and Freddy Nielsen. Rodriguez turns out to be a drug addict, while in Nielsen’s house, he discovers a recently used bottle of sunscreen, which confirms his suspicions of Freddy being the one that killed Gibson. He is then attacked by his wife Lisa, who is also a snatcher. Gillian manages to kill Lisa, but is attacked by Freddy from behind and gets saved at the last second by a bounty hunter named Random Hajile. Random reveals that he has been following Gillian’s movements, but the two of them decide to work together and find out more information about the snatchers.
Harry manages to recover some of Gibson’s navigator robot’s memory and produces a photograph with a hospital called “Oleen.” With Napoleon’s info, they find an Oleen Hospital, but it turns out to be an ordinary animal hospital. On his way back to HQ, Gillian and Metal Gear get a call from Mika, who tells them that Gibson’s house has been broken into and Katrina has gone missing. Gillian finds out that the Snatchers vandalized the house and killed Katrina’s dog, Alice. Fearing the worst has happened, Gillian and Metal Gear search all over the city and then find out that Katrina has been hiding in Gillian’s apartment. Katrina gives Gillian a list of illicit hospitals, and after Gillian and Metal Gear examine the list, they find out that Oleen is actually a fragmentary reading of “Queens”, and that Queens Hospital is the location they’re looking for. Upon arriving, they find out that the hospital has been abandoned for several years, but they head in to investigate anyway. Inside, Gillian finds a patient record in Chinese. He then goes to Napoleon to translate the record, and the record contains chemistry symbons for Beryllium, Nitrogen, Sulfur, and Oxygen, forming Be-N-S-O-N. Concerned that it may be the Chief or the Engineer, Gillian orders Metal Gear to cease all communications with Junker HQ, and they find out that both of them are not at Junker HQ. Then Gillian’s wife, Jamie, contacts him with information about Queens Hospital, and she tells him that the hospital has a secret basement.
On their way back to Queens Hospital, Gillian finds out that his Turbocycle has been tampered with – his accelerator stuck and is heading straight for a cliff, but Random arrives in time and saves Gillian and Metal Gear. The three of them head into Queens Hospital’s basement, which is a perfect duplicate of the hospital’s main floor. After searching the area, they uncover the morgue and find it stashed with the skeletons of snatcher victims – Freddy and Lisa Nielsen, Dr. Chin Shu Oh, and to their shock, Junker Chief Benson Cunningham. Then, the three of them are ambushed by the Snatcher Oh and a team of snatchers. Random sacrifices himself to allow Gillian and Metal Gear to escape into an abandoned subway system and then detonates explosives hidden in his belt, which destroys Queens Hospital and all the snatchers in it. After making his way out of the subway system, he ends up in Freddy Nielsen’s apartment, and finds out that the snatchers have been using the subway line to move around and stay out of the sun. After making his way out of the apartment, Gillian attempts to take a taxi back to HQ, but is ambushed by Chin Shu Oh, who tries to kill him. He kills Oh and returns to Junker HQ, only to find out that it had been attacked by the Benson Cunningham snatcher. Harry, the engineer is killed by the snatcher, and Mika has been taken hostage. Gillian then destroys the snatcher and saves Mika, and before it dies, the snatcher tells Gillian that the snatchers are moving on to phase two of their plans. Jamie is then kidnapped by the snatchers, who tells Gillian to come to “the Kremlin.”
Gillian, Mika and Metal Gear gather all the evidence they had collected, and find out that the Snatchers have a connection to the former Soviet Union and their presence is linked with the mysterious SNOW 9 pollen that has been appearing in Neo Kobe. They find similaries between the Moscow River and the Ina River in Neo Kobe, and locate the Snatchers’ hideout beneath a church that resembles Saint Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow. Gillian then has Mika go to the Kyoto Summit which the chief was supposed to attend, and then heads to the Cathedral. Can Gillian put an end to the Snatcher nightmare and save Jamie?
Snatcher’s gameplay is usual visual novel fanfare. You select your commands in the menu below – you can move to a different area, examine your surroundings, listen to noises in the distance, examine items you’ve picked up, use Metal Gear to make a phone call, etc.
There are also occasional shooting segments where you have to fight off enemies by aiming with the D-pad on the Genesis controller and pressing A to shoot. Your health replenishes after every battle, so don’t worry.
Gillian Seed – The main character of Snatcher. He suffers from a serious case of amnesia and has mysterious ties to the Snatchers. He is Junker HQ’s newest “runner”, which is what they call their field operatives.
Jamie Seed – Jamie is Gillian’s wife. Like Gillian, she also has a serious case of amnesia and also has mysterious ties to the Snatchers. She works at Neo Kobe pharmaceuticals as a pharmacist and gives Gillian vital information during the events of the game.
Harry Benson – Harry is the in-house mechanic at Junker HQ. He designed Metal Gear Mk. II as well as Gillian’s blaster.
Metal Gear Mk. II – Metal Gear is Gillian’s navigator robot. He serves as an on-site forensic analyzer and he also has a built-in videophone. He also stores evidence that Gillian picks up over the events of the game.
Mika Slayton – Mika is the receptionist at Junker HQ. She is an attractive young woman of Japanese and Jewish decent. Early in the game she is put off by Gillian’s advances, but she eventually admires him and they become friends.
Random Hajile – Random is a mysterious bounty hunter that assists Gillian throughout his investigation. He sacrifices himself midway through the game at Queens Hospital and is supposedly dead.
Katrina Gibson – Katrina is the daughter of the late Junker agent Jean-Jack Gibson, who also has a job as a model. She helps Gillian throughout the course of his investigation by giving him vital information.
Well, while I was writing this review, I thought about all the good times I had playing Snatcher, and just thinking about it makes me regret selling my Sega Genesis and Sega CD. I really enjoyed playing Snatcher during the time I had a Sega CD. No, I didn’t buy a copy (you really thought I’d shell out $300-600 for a copy?!), I burned myself a copy onto a CD-R considering the fact that the Sega CD does not have copy protection. Anyway, this game is great. The story is great, and the plot twists are unbelievable at times. The gameplay is also very well done, though the shooting segments can be difficult to get used to and get harder as you progress through the game. The characters are also great and some of them have surprising backstories, especially Gillian, Jamie and Harry. The voice acting is also surprisingly good too, considering that a lot of games from the 4th and 5th generations have bad voice acting, so this is a rare exception from that time. But considering that this is a Hideo Kojima title, you know the voice acting is gonna be good. A couple downsides though – the controls for the shooting segments are hard to get used to and the enemies can be very unfair, it is very easy to get lost in this game, and I feel it hasn’t aged as well as this game’s successor, Policenauts. But overall, Snatcher is a classic and you should check it out. Well, if you have the money, that is. As I said earlier, copies of the Sega CD version of Snatcher usually go for around $300-600. Yikes! But this was ported to the PC Engine, PS1 and Sega Saturn, and those versions are significantly cheaper, so if you know Japanese, go right ahead and pick up those versions. But go check this game out if you ever get the chance.
My score: 8.5/10