abasm's Snatcher (Sega CD) review

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Does SNOW-9 come from Cloud Nine? - A Snatcher Review

  "Adventure"? Certainly! "Cyberpunk"? Not so much.
Since my last review was about an extremely expensive and difficult to acquire game, I thought it would be best to cover a similarly rare and expensive game. The logic of winners, I assure you. But as with my last review--and I'll be up front with you about this--this is another game worth the expense. And this time, it's in English! 

Say "Konami Omni" ten times fast.  
Hideo Kojima's Snatcher is an odd bird. It does not fall within the confines of any particular game genre; in fact, calling it a game might be considered misrepresentation. Calling it anything else, however, would be far more misleading. To be sure, the game possesses some patently game-exclusive concepts: the exploration of one's environment, tests of skill weighted with the consequences of failure, and spotty voice-acting, to name a few. However, the game at large plays out more like a movie, or, rather, a talking comic book. 

That depends. Can I sit in your FUTURE-CHAIR?
Snatcher is linear is presentation, you see. It defies the (admittedly attractive) classification of "visual novel" by placing pivotal choices outside of your hands. The game is as straightforward as a book, from cover to cover, and you play it, in essence, by searching for the next page to turn. Snatcher lays out a road, a straight shot from start to finish, devoid of branching paths and tricky decisions. 

"Neuro-Kinetic. Because JUSER just doesn't roll off the tongue as easily."  
Ah, but the devil, or the Snatcher, perhaps, is in the details. In the journey itself lies the feat of design, the perfection of story delivery that most games struggle to achieve, only to fall short in execution. True to Kojima fashion, the game's story features a number of startling twists that it develops in a manner befitting of the pulp fiction of old. What truly makes this game great however, is the ability to insightfully explore your environment. This is a technique more commonly employed in point-and-click adventures, which, in themselves, are often mired by tedious gameplay mechanics. Bad writing is rarely ever an obstruction to good gameplay, but bad gameplay can effectively quash the delivery of excellent writing. In Snatcher, the gameplay IS the writing, and that is precisely why it is so brilliant. Allow me to explain. 
Within the game's environment, you afforded two exploratory commands, "Look" and "Investigate". "Look" will give you the information the main character, Gillian Seed, gleans from a passing glance, while "Investigate" will give you the information he draws from closer inspection. The beauty of this system (that some initially fail to realize) is that one can examine an object multiple times in both of these fashions, yielding different responses each time! This system extends to other aspects of the game as well. As you talk to people, you pick general lines of inquiry, and each inquiry on the same topic will yield a new conversation. (Until, of course, you've exhausted that option, at which point you'll be left with a repeated response.) 

 In my mind, few things top the Full Throttle interface: Look, Touch, and Mouth. Of course, one can only hear "I'm not putting my lips on that," so many times before it loses its charm.  
This system becomes necessary at several points in the game, but is otherwise optional. While, in any other game, such a system might give way to monotony and frustration, the writing and impressively airtight localization render it quite the opposite. Pushing Gillian to investigate his environment and the people in it is an absolute blast, as his responses are often both enlightening and humorous--not to mention the banter that often ensues with his robotic partner, Metal Gear. (Did you catch that reference, I wonder?) Both Gillian and Metal Gear possess immediately likable personalities: Gillian is not free of his own problems, but he doesn't brood, and finds time to crack jokes amidst the crisis around him. He is human, and we understand why he does and says the things he does.  Metal Gear, on the opposite hand, is decidedly robotic, though not without endearing qualities. 
Both Gillian and Metal are complemented by a small, but well-developed cast of characters. This cast is fleshed out by an abundance of voice acting, (the power of Sega CD being put, for once, to good use) which, while not free of awkward moments, is always charming and appropriate to the game's tone. To put it simply, the game is a very cohesive and tight package that knows what it aims to do and does it...in spades. 
Snatcher, in itself, is an exercise of self-satisfaction, on the part of Kojima himself. Kojima's near-fetishistic attention to detail is proudly on display here, much to the benefit of the consumer. The Metal Gear Solid saga is oft criticized for its long and windy cutscenes, but is never terribly held back by them, as the game mechanics are terrific besides. This produces an unholy combination of sorts, a wonderful story affixed to a wonderful game, but not integrated terribly well into it. To think, if Kojima weren't so damn good at making games, he might be writing more of these charming little interactive narratives. I'm certainly [not] disappointed! 

I ran out of screenshots, by the way.
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