I just finished playing Snatcher, on a Sega CD emulator. The game dates from the late 80s to early 90s, depending on which version you’re playing. It’s billed as a “cyberpunk adventure” and while I found it to be slightly limited by its platform to fully flesh that out, it’s clearly influenced by (chiefly) Blade Runner , Terminator, and maybe even Akira. Snatchers are “bioroids” who are menacing the population by killing VIPs and taking their appearance. You play as Gillian Seed, amnesia victim and newly assigned Junker, which means that of course it’s your duty to track down Snatchers and defeat them. However, it quickly becomes more than that, as you find yourself on the trail of uncovering the very nature and origin of the snatchers.
I loved the style – it made me nostalgic for the 90s anime design – but the writing and voice acting was the standout quality of the game. The translation was natural and clever, while the voice acting was top notch – sometimes I felt like I was watching a movie!
For gamers raised on the games of today, it might be a little hard to adjust to the occasional impassivity of the gameplay. It’s part visual novel, part adventure game of interrogation and travel, part shooter for the 5 or 6 scenes where you use your gun. There are several cuts scenes, and an unfortunate use of the villain info dump in a few spots. But these can be forgiven in light of the genuinely riveting and surprising moments of the game. Even the emotional ones – I have to admit that I sniffled once or twice during the death scene of a character (no spoilers, I’ll try!), after the game had you suspecting him to be the bad guy and it was revealed he wasn’t. Gillian’s storyline of being separated from his (also amnesiac) wife was also touching, as he would inquire after her health, always say he was falling in love with her again, and they should make new memories together, despite her constant refusals. (Never mind the fact that he also hits on just about all the other women in the game, but… I just have a soft spot for beleaguered detective types, okay?!)
It’s a shame this game didn’t perform well when released in America, although it seems to have gained cult status with many players voting it “best game ever“. It feels slightly too short, and the ending is a major cliffhanger, leaving the door wide open for a sequel that never emerged. I feel like if one were to be made today, it wouldn’t be up to the same snuff. There is something about the technological limitations which lends itself to lean and good storytelling rather than focusing on flashy graphics or gameplay (although the graphics in this game are pretty awesome pixel art). A game like this would just be too bloated nowadays, or focused more on the shooting and less on the detective work.
For those willing to take the time to play the game, it’s well worth it, especially if you are a cyberpunk fan. And if you are, check out this music video which reminds me of Blade Runner and, now, even more, Snatcher!