Everybody knows Hideo Kojima for creating the ground breaking Metal Gear Solid series. The game designer is famed for his titles resembling movies being that he originally aspired to become a film director. The Metal Gear series was heavily influenced by movies such as Rambo, Escape from New York as well as many others, but did you know Kojima was a Blade Runner fan too? Enter Snatcher.
Snatcher was Kojimas foray into story driven adventures, its more famous follow up being Policenauts. Snatcher is a dark and gloomy cyberpunk thriller where robots known as Snatchers murder their targets and wear their skin, akin to Invasion of the Body Snatchers, hence the title. Controlling Gillian, a member of an anti-Snatcher task force, the adventure plays out in first person visual novel style with action moments as he goes all Decker to put them into retirement. Commands such as talk, look and use are employed as well as basic movement much like a point and click adventure game. Accompanied with a rather jazzy soundtrack, it piled on atmosphere in spades.
Snatcher first saw an outing on the PC-8801 in 1988, quickly followed by the MX. This eventually spawned copies on the Playstation, Saturn and even an American Mega CD release complete with English dub – quite a feat back in the 90s. Each copy had its pros and cons with some having the backgrounds completely redrawn and others boasting much better musical scores. Kojima only got involved in one of these CD releases, the PC Engine one dubbed the CD-ROMantic, a ludicrous tag line which would haunt further versions of games such the Metal Gear series with additional bizzareness. However, this is forgiven as the title was improved with voice acting, minor changes and full blown additional chapter to wrap things up, ironically chapter 3, mirroring the unfinished state of Metal Gear Solid 5: Phantom Pain. Each release of Snatcher either kept or toned down some famous moments of gore, including a full blown visual decapitation and a rather unfortunate dog. Back then, detailed gore was quite shocking to behold, unlike today’s common depictions of ultra-violence.
In its own right, Snatcher was a commercial flop in the US but raved over by critics and fans. It managed to break out of Japan, a rare feat for static adventures such as this. A clever script, compelling characters and more than a few twists cemented its reputation. However the beauty of Snatcher is the insight into Kojimas attachment to his flagship Metal Gear series.
References are everywhere. Benson is said to be from Foxhound during the game and even turned up in Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops. A strip joint is called “Outer Heaven”.
But the biggest is blue runabout robot dubbed Metal Gear mk2. Not only was he named after the fictional walking tank, the little helper was updated, fleshed out and included in Metal Gear Solid 4 as a playable machine with its own moveset. In fact, Snatcher is constantly referred with each subsequent game in the series.
It’s either a constant reminder of Kojima’s roots or a sign of George Lucas-esq madness, unable to let go of a project. Either way, a Bladerunner style 80’s cyberpunk detective adventure. What’s not to like?