This Game Deserves an HD Remake More Than Any Other
<i>Snatcher</i>, the Mega CD's greatest game, is long overdue some modern love.
This article originally appeared on VICE UK
Hideo Kojima is a busy man. The director of Kojima Productions, the studio behind the Metal Gear Solid series and the forthcoming Silent Hills, his 2015 is pretty booked up. Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain is expected this year, while the stir he caused with the Silent Hills–preceding P.T. has made the main attraction one of the current console generation's most eagerly anticipated releases.
These new games will take their places beside a raft of high-resolution remakes available for today's platforms. Kojima's own Zone of the Enders enjoyed a makeover in 2012, while a year earlier a number of Metal Gear Solid games were collected for an HD Collection. This year could see the original Gears of War trilogy remastered for the Xbox One, Double Fine has Grim Fandango's PS4 upgrade ready for the end of January (more on that on these pages, soon), and the iconic Super Mario 64 is getting an overhaul courtesy of a fan remake, to be released for free on PC.
We're happy to receive these HD updates, remixes, and remasters, when it means getting to play both old classics and recent hits alike on our shiny new consoles—keeps the space under our televisions that bit tidier. Both Grand Theft Auto V and The Last of Us benefitted greatly from their new-gen conversions, and "definitive" versions of Sleeping Dogs, Tomb Raider, and the 4A Games' two Metro titles were warmly welcomed. But there's an HD remake I'd kill (very small, meaningless insects, possibly) to play, and it's one of Kojima's very first games.
The cast of Snatcher—Gillian's the guy in the center wearing a brown coat
Snatcher was released in Japan, for the PC-8801 and MSX2 platforms, in 1988. A near-future-set cyberpunk adventure, mixing menu-driven investigation with graphic-novel appeal, it plays out against the backdrop of the fictional Neo Kobe City, 50 years after a biological weapon wipes out 80 percent of the Eurasian population. The player is Gillian Seed, a "Junker," part of a task force charged with combating a new menace threatening the world: an invasion from Terminator-like beings called Snatchers.
It's all pretty generic, really, borrowing (stealing) from an assortment of sci-fi predecessors: Blade Runner, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Dune, The Terminator. It even featured an alien, from Alien, in its original release, enjoying some exotic dancing. See, all the residents of LV-426 needed to do was get a bit sexy on stage, and that whole situation could have been avoided.
But as familiar as so much of Snatcher's setup is, its deep and detailed plot, grisly imagery, surprisingly tense atmosphere, mature themes, and likeably fallible hero marked it out as a break from the norm. At the time, though, English-speaking sorts couldn't play the game easily. Snatcher didn't get a European release until 1994, when it was ported to the Mega/Sega-CD, a platform that was already showing its age against newer, more powerful consoles like the 3DO.
Nevertheless, it was a perfect fit: Snatcher's mostly static visuals transferred splendidly to the Mega Drive add-on, and quality voice acting brought the story to life as engrossingly as any radio drama. The game was made compatible with Konami's Justifier light gun, bundled with 1992's Lethal Enforcers, and revisions were made to both the game's opening and final act. As unlikely as it might have seemed to those watching the machine's decline, the Mega CD's Snatcher is, perhaps, its definitive version.
Never played Snatcher, or simply feeling nostalgic? Here's a full play-through.
It's also a very expensive game to get your hands on today—a scan of eBay puts the asking price for a Mega CD copy at the best part of $300. So you can imagine how frequently I kick myself for not paying $50 for it in 1995. It was then that I played it, borrowed from a school friend's younger brother. Quite what he was doing with it, I don't know—Snatcher certainly isn't a game for kids (although games weren't quite so closely rated back then, with PEGI only established in 2003). Anyway, I had the game for a week or so, finished it twice, and gave it back. What a dumbass.
But Snatcher left a considerable impression—and because of both its striking features and scarcity in the West, the only official English version ever produced being the Mega CD port (also marketed in the US and Australia), it's long enjoyed a cult following. Forums like Junker HQ keep the loyal discussing aspects of the game's appeal, and in 2014 it emerged that keen and clever admirers of Kojima's work were undertaking a remake. I'd have joined the chorus of cheers, but for one salient point: the homebrewers were trying to bring the game to Dreamcast, Sega's swan-song console that was discontinued in the spring of 2001.
I own a Dreamcast, and I'd love to have Snatcher for it—it'd certainly give me a reason to plug the thing back in, and perhaps even pick up Jet Set Radio where I left it. But in this age of fitter, happier, and more seductive HD updates, why is Snatcher not on the production line for release on contemporary platforms? In 2014, Kojima was asked about bringing Snatcher to modern audiences. He said he'd welcome the return of the game, but it'd have to be someone else who takes charge of the project:
"If someone wants to adapt [Snatcher], I would definitely support that person," he said, during an interview broadcast through Twitch. "I would help out that person, but I don't think there are too many people like that."
Images of Collectorvision's Snatcher remake, compared against the Mega CD version
There are people on Junker HQ who've toyed with the prospect of making Snatcher available for today's devices, including mobile platforms. Not that such a project would be entirely legal—as one poster puts it, "Someone out there owns the copyright to Snatcher, and it isn't me." That would, presumably, be Konami, developers and publishers of the original release. And apparently, they're not too keen on accepting the challenge. "I contacted Konami about a remake five years ago," posted Junker HQ user el_ash in September of 2014. "[They] were against either remaking the game themselves, or letting anyone else do it with approval."
Kojima's comments suggest a thawing of this frosty standoff, though. I find it tough to accept that no developer would want to tackle Snatcher—as studios like Telltale Games (The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones) and Double Fine (Broken Age, the Grim Fandango remake) have done so much to reinvigorate the adventure genre, a comeback for one of its most ambitious and acclaimed titles would be riotously received.
Or: perhaps Konami does have something Snatcher-shaped up its sleeve. The makers of that Dreamcast remake, Collectorvision, have been curiously quiet on its progress since posting screens on their Facebook page in February of 2014, and their website carries no news of the project whatsoever. Could that mean that the Pro Evo-makers intervened? Possibly because they see the potential for a high-res Snatcher on tablet devices, the player tapping their way through shooting sequences with the end of an index finger? It's worked for Beneath a Steel Sky and the first two Monkey Island games. I see no reason why it wouldn't for Konami's own adventure.
I don't have $300 to spend on a Mega CD game, but I do want to play Snatcher again, as soon as possible. So, come on. If a Shaq-Fu remake can get successfully crowd-funded, surely we'd meet the target for Snatcher within a week. I'd throw in, what, $50? Seems fair. For a download copy and some Junker tat, sign me up. Please?
Follow Mike on Twitter.