Snatcher

Tagged: Game

Videogame (1988). Konami. Designed by Hideo Kojima. Platforms: MSX (1988); PCEngineCD (1992); MegaCD (1994); PS1, Saturn (1996).

Snatcher is a menu driven graphical Adventure game with some real time combat sequences. Designed in Japan, it draws heavily on the style of Blade Runner (1982) and 1980s sf Anime such as {BUBBLEGUM CRISIS} (1987-1991); only the 1994 MegaCD version has been released in English. The game is set in the twenty-first century, fifty years after the accidental release of an experimental bioweapon wiped out half of the world's population, including most Europeans. The player character is an amnesiac, drifting through life in Japan after being rescued from cryogenic suspension in one of the areas devastated by the disease. Confused about his identity, he has separated from his wife and decided to join a special police unit which is responsible for tracking down and destroying the titular Snatchers, biomechanical Androids of unknown origin which kill and replace human beings. Many classic themes of Japanese Cyberpunk are present, including artificial humans who are unaware of their own nature and a noir vision of the future city. The player can eventually uncover the secrets of their character's past, along with a madman who wishes to improve humanity by replacing first its leaders and then the rest of the population with a superior form of Android.

The most important aspect of Snatcher is its story, which impressively translates the typical concerns of sf Anime to an interactive form. Most scenes are displayed as still images in a style derived from manga art. The essentially linear plot (see Interactive Narrative) involves elements of greed, jealousy, love and humour in a somewhat melodramatic style. While the choices available to the player at any point are quite limited, the careful selection of options and use of a genre within which the player's preferred actions are readily predictable give the actual narrative experience a surprisingly unrestricted feel. A similar, though perhaps less subtle, approach to interactive storytelling can be seen in many later Japanese Console Role Playing Games (see Computer Role Playing Games), including both Xenogears (1998) and its successor series, Xenosaga (2002-2006).

Related works: Super Deform Snatcher (1990 Konami, MSX) designed by Hideo Kojima is a remake of the original as a CRPG, using the "super deformed" visual style, in which characters have small plump bodies and exceptionally large heads. It was only released in Japan. [NT]

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