Snatcher (MSX) review
"Hideo Kojima’s SNATCHER is a kickass graphic adventure that’s best described as an inspired synthesis of “Blade Runner,” “Terminator,” and “Wacky Japanese Perverts on Parade.” No doubt you’re already well aware of this thanks to the highly sought-after Sega CD port, but the MSX2 original is definitely worth checking out – particularly since it’s been completely translated into English."
Hideo Kojima’s SNATCHER is a kickass graphic adventure that’s best described as an inspired synthesis of “Blade Runner,” “Terminator,” and “Wacky Japanese Perverts on Parade.” Trapped in a futuristic city full of synthetic-skinned endoskeletons who murder humans in order to steal their identities, you’re the amnesiac investigator Gillian Seed who blows them away with his big manly gun. No doubt you’re already well aware of this thanks to the highly sought-after Sega CD port, but the MSX2 original is definitely worth checking out – particularly since it’s been completely translated into English.
Actually it’s been translated into Portuguese and then English, because as we all know the MSX is very popular in Brazil. The resulting script is pretty awkward (and frequently hilarious) yet still easy to understand, and in many cases provides a more literal translation than Konami’s polished (and considerably localized) one. More importantly, it retains the blend of dark, violent cyberpunk and slapstick absurdity that makes this game so memorable.
On that note, the graphics in this version are still totally awesome, showcasing exceptional detail, great use of the palette, and even more of the explicit gore that made the Sega CD so notorious. Unfortunately these visuals are confined to a window surrounded by walls of text, but it does change size and shape depending on the scene, and features some nice panning shots as well. It’s also interesting to see how some of the artwork differs from the later releases, most notably the naked snatchers sporting human eyeballs or the times when Gillian looks like an utter buffoon.
Unlike the simplified scheme used in the remakes, here you control Gillian’s investigative actions and general buffoonery via a long list of commands selected by hitting the appropriate number on your keyboard. You’ll also notice that there are a lot more options like “take,” “ask,” and “other,” which is usually reserved for something “naughty.” That’s because in the original game Mr. Seed is a total pervert who’s constantly presented with the opportunity to take off his clothes, closely examine suspicious-looking breasts for clues, and carry around teenage girls’ panties as evidence. When you’re not too busy hitting on your ample suspects, leggy coworkers, and not-so-leggy coworkers’ jailbait model daughters, you can also crash their computers for an instant game over (oops). There’s even an extra puzzle that’s exclusive for what quickly becomes an obvious reason, but it’s a fine example of Kojima’s “clever in a dumb sort of way” style of breaking the fourth wall.
Unfortunately the shooting sequences are closer to being simply “dumb” as they’re infrequent but make up for it with pure nastiness. While your health gradually replenishes itself during a firefight it isn’t restored afterwards, so you might start the very next battle at death’s door. To make matters worse you suffer a huge chunk of damage every time you get hit, which is extremely difficult to avoid because combat requires you to hold down the shift key and then use the numpad to fire in the desired square of the target grid. Although it’s not normally a huge issue, you can expect to die pretty often when you’re pitted against waves of killer insectors that pop in and out from all corners of the screen while you flail away at the keyboard.
Speaking of things that are killer, thanks to Konami’s SCC+ sound cartridge and some outstanding compositions, the vast selection of music is truly excellent from the first ominous strains of “Bio Hazard” to the twenty minute closing theme. Since there obviously aren’t any voiceovers, the dialogue is also accompanied by a different sound effect for each character that does manage to give them an extra bit of personality, whether the ladies’ higher-pitched pings or Metal Gear’s mechanical chatter.
There are a number of changes to the plot as well, most of them minor; the dramatic exception, however, is that there’s an alternate ending and it occurs right after the tense conclusion of Act 2. The third and final act had actually been planned all along before being cut due to time constraints, but this rather large omission and cliffhanger of a finale result in a much darker, Blade Runner feel to the story’s overall tone. Of course since the missing portion is basically an hour’s worth of noninteractive exposition that reveals every last mystery behind the plot in laborious detail, dropping it has the side effect of streamlining the gameplay, but only at the cost of a tremendous amount of foreshadowing left unresolved.
This isn’t the first release of Snatcher – it was actually designed for the rival PC-8801 with slightly better music, resolution, and load times – although it came out less than a month later and is far better known than its ultra-rare predecessor. Obviously it isn’t the best release, either – that would probably be the 16-bit remake for the PC Engine, which features better graphics and voice acting over the Sega CD without the inferior new soundtrack and ridiculous censorship seen (and heard) on PlayStation and Saturn.
But those have the slight handicap of being completely in Japanese, whereas this translation finally offers you English speakers all the increased violence and unbelievable mounds of perverted humor that you missed out on the first time. And while it’s not a substitute for the enhancements and added content of later editions, the MSX2’s many unique qualities are sure to please anyone who loves Snatcher or the MSX in general. In other words, nerds. Fortunately my data indicates that this more than likely applies to you.
Staff review by Sho (August 09, 2006)
Sho enjoys classic video games, black comedy, and poking people until they explode -- figuratively or otherwise. He also writes a bit.
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