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Retro Retro Games Returned #1: Snatcher (1988)

ROMhack

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Note: this is the first in a series of posts I’m going to be making about retro games. I guess they’re kinda like the LTTP threads but less about my experience and more about the game existing so we can get discussion going. I’m open to feedback/recommendations for future posts.



Developer: Konami
Publisher: Konami
Designer: Hideo Kojima ( MiyazakiHatesKojima MiyazakiHatesKojima )
Platforms: PC-8801, MSX2, PC Engine, Sega CD, PS1 and Sega Saturn

Background and Story

In June 1996, a biological weapon known as Lucifer-Alpha is released into the Earth’s atmosphere. The event, known as The Catastrophe, results in the death of over half of the world’s population. Fifty years later, a band of cybernetic artificial lifeforms known as ‘Snatchers’ begin to terrorise the man-made island of Neo Kobe City. Their origin is a mystery and an anti-Snatcher task force, J.U.N.K.E.R, is established to hunt them down. Thus enters the main character: Gillian Seed, an amnesiac dude tasked with finding out more information about them, as well as a hidden past that suggests involvement.

Snatcher is the brainchild from very brainy child Hideo Kojima. It was the third game he worked on, arriving one year after the first Metal Gear game. Partnering with Japanese developer Konami - who still made videogames at that time - Kojima set about designing a science-fiction game based on what I assume was his favourite movie, Blade Runner (1985). He took further inspiration from cyberpunk literature such as William Gibson’s novel Neuromancer (1984), as well as artwork by Jean Giraud (a.k.a. Moebius). Snatcher is widely regarded as one of the groundbreaking hits of the adventure game genre. It sold well inside of Japan but not out of it, which is presumably why it now costs a billion dollars on eBay. Interestingly, it arrived the same year as Katsuhiro Otomo’s, Akira (1988).





Gameplay

As noted, you play as Gillian Seed: a very Harrison Ford looking fella. Gameplay takes the form of reading information, watching cut-scenes and providing adequate responses. It takes a verb-style system which includes classic options such as “Look”, “Talk”, “Ask”, and “Move”. You get an inventory full of stuff that you pick up along the way. You can analyse it for more information You also have a quirky robotic companion called Metal Gear who lets you save the game and talk to other people via videophone (how futuristic is that!!). The game takes place across three separate Acts. There’s also a whole of bunch of shooting scenes that use a 3x3 grid, which gives the game a strong action element.

Interesting Facts
  • Owing to constraints, the developers were forced to cut Act 2, meaning they had to change the original ending.
  • The game spawned an audio drama in Japan, which has since been translated into English.
  • It originally came out for the PC-8801 and did not have spoken audio. Instead, when a character spoke, a beep was emitted. This was later rectified for the MSX version release.
  • There’s a spin-off RPG title called SD Snatcher featuring a bunch of chibi-looking characters, released for the MSX in April 1990.
  • The PSX and Saturn versions came with updated graphics, a new CG animated opening and, much like Sony of today, censored some of the violent scenes.
  • The English version was released in 1994. Changes included increasing the Katrina's age from 14 to 18; removing a scene where a dog lies twitching in agony before death; removal of parodies of popular sci-fi characters in the Outer Heaven nightclub; and changing Jean Jack Gibson’s last meal to buffalo meat rather than tasty whale meat.



Your Thoughts

Did you play it?

Did you love it?

Did you always mean to play it but never did?

Will there ever be a remaster?

Did you, like me, get halfway through the game on your PSP before it refused to work meaning you’ve sadly never finished the game?


 
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thatoldlimey

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I remember picking up the Japanese PC Engine version when it came out, I was studying Japanese at the time so I could navigate the menus somewhat. Loved the music, but the story was lost on me as I couldn't fully read everything then. Would love to go back and play it again sometime.
 

Porcile

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Being a huge MGS fan and playing the emulated version back when I was a teenager made me feel like a total bad ass. Like I was playing some amazing lost treasure. I mean, it still kind of is a lost treasure, but its existence is well known now. I'll probably get the Saturn version some day.
 
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ROMhack

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Thanks to whoever gifted me gold! :)

I remember picking up the Japanese PC Engine version when it came out, I was studying Japanese at the time so I could navigate the menus somewhat. Loved the music, but the story was lost on me as I couldn't fully read everything then. Would love to go back and play it again sometime.

Is your Japanese good enough now to play it? I imagine that'd be super fun.
 
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Where is the decapitated protagonist? A thread is not complete without one.


I honest to god hope that Konami come to their senses and release an English version of this on the PC Engine mini. A bit pointless if you can't read Japanese. :(
 
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DGrayson

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Whats the definative version? Is there a version that restores the cut content while keeping the good updates? I guess there must be a rom hack or something.
 
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ROMhack

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Whats the definative version? Is there a version that restores the cut content while keeping the good updates? I guess there must be a rom hack or something.

Good question. The impression I got was that the PSX and Saturn versions look better but cut out some of the original content. I've always been under the impression that the Sega Mega CD version is the 'best' one as it's always the one I've been recommended by others. I dunno about fan projects or rom hacks, ironically.
 
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DGrayson

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Good question. The impression I got was that the PSX and Saturn versions look better but cut out some of the original content. I've always been under the impression that the Sega Mega CD version is the 'best' one as it's always the one I've been recommended by others. I dunno about fan projects or rom hacks, ironically.

haha ya i thought the same joke.

I was actually just checking this thread


and while the thread is from 11 years ago it would appear it is between the Sega CD version and the PC Engine for "best"
 
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I played this and Policenauts for the first time 2 years ago and it was amazing, didnt feel like Im playing something so old that is unplayable by todays standards. Loved every moment tho Policenauts for me was a better game.
 

ClanOfNone

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I'd play it if it was readily available, it's one of the few cult hits that I missed during that era. I never had the hardware to play it, and it was virtually unknown in the states at the time.
 

Neff

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Sits in my top ten games of all time.

I played it obsessively when the english version first released 25 years ago, and I haven't been as absorbed into a game's world as much by anything else since.

A classic, a masterpiece.

Whats the definative version? Is there a version that restores the cut content while keeping the good updates?

The cut content really isn't worth sweating over. Just a bit of gore (and the Western release is already very gory) and slightly more emphasised Kojima lewdness. The Mega CD version has everything an english-speaking player could want.
 
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#Phonepunk#

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some day i need to sit down and play through this. when i heard some of the Snatcher music in Ground Zeroes, it blew me away. the art has always seemed cool as well.
 
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pramod

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some day i need to sit down and play through this. when i heard some of the Snatcher music in Ground Zeroes, it blew me away. the art has always seemed cool as well.

The music is at least 50% of why this game is so great.

Still one of the top 5 game soundtracks of all time IMHO. I think the Sega CD version has probably the best music, it combines CD tracks with excellent redone PCM music from the MSX version.

 
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MrCunningham

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I will give your thread a thumbs up. I have a copy of Snatcher for the Sega CD, I purchased it for about $20.00 back in 1996, or some. I found a copy in a bargain bin at a Video Game Boutique (I think?) . I remember picking this one up because game fan magazine was hyping it beyond believe as one of the best games on the Sega CD. I was into collecting Sega CD games back then, so it was an instant purchase for me.

I have never played the original PC88, MSX or even the PC Engine versions. I am only familiar with the Sega CD port, and I have played it many times. It is a great localization for the game. Especially from a 1994 release, when Japanese to English localizations were generally trash. The voice acting is quite respectable too. It put later PS1 games to shame like the original Resident Evil.

Interesting Facts
  • The English version was released in 1994. Changes included increasing the Katrina's age from 14 to 18; removing a scene where a dog lies twitching in agony before death; removal of parodies of popular sci-fi characters in the Outer Heaven nightclub; and changing Jean Jack Gibson’s last meal to buffalo meat rather than tasty whale meat

The Sega CD game also has a reworked third act. It is longer than the PCE ending, has some additional shooting sequences to help sell the Justifier compatibility. Also, story elements have changed too. A lot of script changes were made in the Sega CD/ Mega CD port. The game did get the same treatment that Metal Gear Solid 1 on the PS1 received.

It would be a shame if the PCE CDROM version of Snatcher that is being released on the PCE / TG16 classic didn't have an english translation. It is a version I really want to play, but has never received a localization of any type.

As far as I know about the PS1 and Sega Saturn ports. These ones were actually based on the Sega CD game. Japan never got the Sega CD port because that add-on was dead in that region. Plus they already had Snatcher on the PCE-CDROM. The 32bit ports apparently retain all the changes made to the US release, but retranslates the game back to Japanese. The PS1 port is censored a lot worse than the Saturn port, as the saturn game does retain the 'sexual content' of the PCEngine release, while the PS1 port has the censorship of the Sega CD game. Both of these versions do have additional censorship to cover the violence, but the PS1 port was censored heavier than the Saturn port.
 
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MrCunningham

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The best thread of July, in my honest opinion :messenger_heart: 🔥

It's a game that has been elusive in my eyes. I want to play it so badly, but I don't know how!

This is one of those games where I say, just download the Sega CD ISO and either play it on real hardware (The Sega CD has no copy protection) or emulate it on Retroarch, or something like that. It's not like Konami is losing any money here. Plus the game goes for a lot on Ebay. Not worth it, unless you really want to have an original physical copy. Yes, the game is great. But it can go for $200+++ dollars.

Another option is to buy a "back-up" copy from sites like this, which is really nothing more than a burnt copy on a CDR. There are also fan made english patches for Snatcher and SD Snatcher for the MSX2. The PCE CDROM version does not have an english fan patch.

Even if Snatcher was released in english on the TG16/ PCE mini, it still wouldn't be the same version as the Sega CD/ Mega CD port. The Sega CD/ Mega CD port is really like an assembly cut of Hideo Kojima's PCE version. Hideo did not have any involvement in the Sega CD port, so many changes were made without his knowledge. But Hideo did have some involvement in the Japanese only 32bit releases,
 
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Pantz

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Snatcher has been permanent member of my top 5 games of all time ever since playing it. I was around 12 when I first played it with my next-door neighbor friend who owned it on Sega CD. It was almost like playing through a rated R movie for us. We took turns playing and actually writing down clues that we needed for our investigation. It was awesome. We played with a younger neighbor kid too and it scared him so bad he was afraid to go into certain rooms of his own house for fear that Snatchers were in there. I've played it many times since and every time it's mentioned or I see an image some of the music tracks will start playing in my head since they're so good and memorable.

Any kind of remaster or port would be most welcome. Dreams of Snatcher 2 seem pretty much impossible.
 
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MrCunningham

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One night in Neo Kobe is a fucking banger.


Indeed. This is also a red book audio track, so I am pretty sure that this is the exact same music track found on the PCE version. But as mentioned above, many of the music tracks for the PCE and Sega CD versions use the system's audio hardware. Which makes for some interesting and different results.

Endless Peruser Sega/ Mega CD:

Endless Peruser PCE:

Decadance Beat PCE:

Decadance Beat Sega/ Mega CD:

Creeping Silence PCE:

Creeping Silence Sega/ Mega CD:

The Entrance To Hell Sega/ Mega CD:

The Entrance to Hell PCE:
 
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Northeastmonk

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I own the Saturn version and I bought a repo of the Mega CD version. The Mega CD wasn’t cheap either. I almost wish there was a digital Remaster of it. Too bad Kojima couldn’t get behind the scenes due to leaving Konami.
 
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Snatcher is sensational. I played the mega-cd version the same year Guns of the Patriots came out and it really made MGS4 look like trash by comparison. Game is full of superb pixel art.

 

MrCunningham

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Game is full of superb pixel art.

Interestingly, the Sega CD version has quite a bit of redrawn pixel artwork in comparison to the PC Engine version. Not just redrawn artwork for censorship changes, but things the artists thought they could re-draw and try to make look better for the Sega CD version.

Like this scene for example:

PC Engine:


Sega CD:


Not huge changes. But the gun is redrawn, the hand is at a different angle, Gillian's head was made a bit wider. This is just one example of the many art changes made for the Sega CD version.


here is an image of the PC88 original for comparison:



This is basically the same art used for the PCE version. But is obviously lower colour. Also background art changed perspective. But I think the pC88 version may be higher resolution.

here is the same scene from the Sega Saturn port (which is also the same as the PS1 version)



This one tries to combine the elements of the Sega CD version and the PCE version. The gun is back to its original perspective, but redrawn, The hand is redrawn yet again.

People also generally cite the Sega CD version as being more censored than the PCE version. But that is not the case in all instances. In some cases, the Sega CD is actually more graphic. For example:

Original PC88 version:


PCE:



Sega CD:


The PCE is a higher colour version of the PC88 version (though I do think the PC88 version may also be higher resolution as well). But the Sega CD version is redrawn. In the original artwork, the upper torso is spun around so the neck is facing the wall. But in the Sega CD version, the neck is facing the camera and you can see the blood comming out of the severed neck.

yeah, there was censorship to cover up sexual/ pervy content. Also there is that scene with the dog that was toned down for the Sega CD version... probably because of PETA. But it seems like the human gore was turned up a bit in the Sega CD version to compensate for the other censorship.

Also, here is a GIF I made showing this scene on the PS1 port:



The quality is crap because I pulled this off of Youtube. But this one goes back to the original art and moves the head to the bottom of the screen. Then pixalates out after the camera pull up.

Sega Saturn version:


This one is basically just like the pS1 version. But there is no desaturation/ pixalization.

the Sega Saturn/ PS1 ports have many art alternations themselves. In some cases replacing pixel art for CG art. Like this scene:

Sega CD (this scene looks basically the same in the PCE version, with some colour/ resolution differences):


Saturn/ PS1:


the 32bit ports also add some pretty bad looking 90's era CG intros like this:


That replace the extended intro in the Sega CD version.
 

Sleepydays

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I've never been particularly drawn to Kojima stuff. Being a fan of the cyberpunk aesthetic I learned about Snatcher a few years ago, and was suitably intrigued. I gave the Sega CD version a try on an emulator and was completely blown away.

I don't think I've ever been drawn into a game's story quite like this before: it's just such an appealing world. Visual style is super-appealing, voice acting is surprisingly good for the era. The soundtrack is absolutely phenomenal. The game does a really good job of ratcheting up the tension when you encounter the snatchers.

I'd LOVE to have a legitimate, easy way of playing this on a modern console. I bought the soundtrack on vinyl and the PC Engine CD (purely just to own SOMETHING physical) but I'm not quite ready to spend the crazy bucks on an original copy. Give me this on Switch (complete with a special edition full of plastic tat) and I'll be a happy camper, Konami!
 

chilleverest

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Awesome OT there, chief. I look forward to this series. I guess i'll watch a longplay of this game for what its worth.
 

MrCunningham

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Here's a few more image comparisons. Keep in mind that I pulled these images from youtube playthroughs, so the quality will vary from image to image.

PC88:


PCE CDROM:


Sega/ Mega CD:


PS1/ Sega Saturn:


The PC Engine version is generally based on the original PC88 artwork, but with a higher colour pallette. The Sega CD version, makes this character a couple years older, and changes her outfit. The Ps1/ SS port has redrawn artwork for Katrina. But she is wearing her original clothes. Also the design of the table behind her changed.

PC88:


PCE CDROM:


Sega / Mega CD:


PS1/ Sega Saturn:


There's not too much different here, aside from the name of the black market being called Plato's Cavern for the Sega Cd version. The other versions use the name "Joy Division". The reason why the name changed is because Joy Division is the name of a rock band in America. Also, the 32bit versions do have higher colour pallet

. PC88:


PCE CDROM:


Sega / Mega CD:



PS1/ Sega Saturn:


The PCE version is closely based on the original art, just with a higher pallet. The Sega CD version, Mika's shoulders have been modified, and her hair was redrawn. Also, her neck-line has been cleaned up. In the 32bit versions, Mika was almost redrawn as a generic anime girl.


PC88:


PCE CDROM:


Sega / Mega CD:



PS1/ Sega Saturn:


This one is interesting. All other versions are based on the somewhat isometric perspective image used in the original PC88 game. But the Sega Cd version is completely redrawn from a low camera angle, behind the characters. .
 

sephiroth7x

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Played it. Loved it. Still have my copy.

What I will say is that in terms of writing, it is some of Kojimas best work outside MGS (the PS1 game) and Policenauts.

It really clicked with me and how the story progressed. Though I do feel some of the shooting sections are tacked on. And the final act is needlessly overdone with shooting scenes for no reason.
 

Neff

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The best thread of July, in my honest opinion :messenger_heart: 🔥

It's a game that has been elusive in my eyes. I want to play it so badly, but I don't know how!

Just emulate it.

If you're at all torn about the moral issue of emulating, just buy the Japanese version on PSN, then go get the Sega CD version and run it in GENS or Retroarch or whatever.


This game just has the best fucking atmosphere of any game I've ever played. I could live in it if it wasn't so scary.
 

RAIDEN1

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Not sure if anyone else has mentioned it already, but at the beginning of the thread it mentions Blade-Runner as being (1985) correction needed there, it was released in 1982!
 
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Played through this game last year and thought it was really great. Design wise, how you investigate and interact with stuff is very inconsistent. That's the one part that's a hassle. Trying to go about things logically to progress is a waste, often times. You mostly end up just having to exhaust every option there is until you trigger the next story beat.

But the games strengths in terms of a plot with trademark Kojima insanity, top tier aesthetics and memorable character moments make Snatcher a classic. The opening to Snatcher is top 10 in all of gaming. So awesome, the music is fucking killer and there's just the right balance of camp and genuine gripping sci-fi.
 

KOMANI

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According to Kojima, act 3 was supposed to be a sequel. SD Snatcher was the first version of Snatcher to have all acts. Then, for the PC engine version, the team and Kojima took some visuals from SD’s act 3 and incorporated it to the PC Engine’s Snatcher. The radio drama was written by Suda 51 and it’s a prequel to the original Snatcher. Kojima voice acts Little John. Akio Otsuka (the japanese VA for snake) plays Jean Jack Gibson.
 

KOMANI

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Good question. The impression I got was that the PSX and Saturn versions look better but cut out some of the original content. I've always been under the impression that the Sega Mega CD version is the 'best' one as it's always the one I've been recommended by others. I dunno about fan projects or rom hacks, ironically.
The PC engine is the first version of Snatcher with all 3 acts and isn’t censored at all. It’s not localized.
The Sega CD version is slightly less censored than the saturn and playstation versions and it’s translated under Jeremy Blaustein’s supervision.
 
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Shifty

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Excellent OP, ROMhack! Never got to play the game myself, but I've been highly entertained having watched a couple of playthroughs over the years.

That trick with the volume dial sure is classic Kojima.
 
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ROMhack

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Excellent OP, ROMhack! Never got to play the game myself, but I've been highly entertained having watched a couple of playthroughs over the years.

That trick with the volume dial sure is classic Kojima.

Oh, what's that?
 

Shifty

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Oh, what's that?
There's a scene where you're investigating a warehouse, and a snatcher has planted a bomb in there unbeknownst to the player.

Metal Gear then explicitly asks you to jack up the volume on your TV to max so you can make out any quiet noises that might reveal a clue.

And then BOOM!
 
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I tried to play it maybe 3 times in the last 10 years, never got past the second screen, despite my love for the theme, unfortunately text adventures don't do much for me.