Title: SD Snatcher
Platform: MSX-2
Format: 3 720 kB 3.5" floppy disk and SCC+-cartridge
Language:Japanese, although an English bootleg is widely available
Developer: Konami
Year: 1990

Introduction

SD Snatcher is an RPG designed by the famous Japanese game designer Hideo Kojima, who also made the Metal Gear series. The game is an alternate story line to the game Snatcher. The "SD" in the title refers to the Super Deformed- style graphics: oversized heads and small bodies, with the head about 50% of the body size.

Story

The game plays in Neo Kobe, in the year 2042. You start the game as Gilian Seed, a man without a memory. Your memory was lost because you spent 50 years in cold sleep in Moscow. The only thing etched in your mind is the word Snatcher. These Snatchers are biological robots that wear the skin of people they have killed, effectively replacing them. These Snatchers have recently become active and are considered a major threat. Because it's the only lead you have, you joins J. U. N. K. E. R., an organization dedicated to the destruction of the Snatchers and the protection of mankind.

The game starts with you arriving at J. U. N. K. E. R. headquarters in his futuristic tricycle car. He finds out that your wife Jamie, of whom you have no memory, is also a member of J. U. N. K. E. R. The first mission he receives is cleaning out a few warehouses at Pier 17, together with veteran agent Jan. J. Gibson, and his battle computer/navigator Metal Gear Petit Metal (a reference to another Metal Gear).

At the pier, there are no Snatchers. There are, however, robots which the Snatchers use as cannon fodder. You and Jan split up, and from there on, the game beings in earnest...

Gameplay

The gameplay of Snatcher is fairly unique, and, in my opinion, extremely funny in a mildly sadistic way. When not engaged in going through the fairly linear main story line or uncovering the somewhat contrived, but nonetheless interesting background story, you are mostly blasting robots into dust. You do this by walking on top of them. Then, the robot, in Super Deform style, is presented on what looks like graph paper. At this stage, turn-based combat beings. You can then attack the enemy using a gun or an option. Options are things like grenades and mines. The gun is presented as a target reticule. Early guns have one square as a reticule, later have larger reticules, up to 9 squares. That's about half the size of a medium-sized robot or a Snatcher. Using your implement of destruction, you can now select which part of the robot or Snatcher. Does his leg offend you? Shoot it off. That glowing thing that looks like an eye? Shoot it off. Little engine? Kaboom! Gone. The really hilarious thing here is that the enemy has stats like you (Speed, Strength (damage), Health, Defense and Accuracy (enemies only)). If you shoot off a leg, it becomes slower. Shooting its weapon means it deals less damage. Shooting off an eye makes it less accurate. You can shoot pieces of the robot, torturing it to death, going for a quick kill by blowing up critical areas, first making sure it can't dodge by blowing up wheels: anything goes!

After defeating an enemy, you gain experience and money. This experience makes you more powerful, the money can be spent on guns, bombs, ammo and drugs to heal you. Apart from a few rather nasty exceptions, Combat is fairly simple, provided you occasionally grind a bit to get enough money for good equipment.

The platform

The MSX-2 is a type of computer that was mainly popular in Japan and the Netherlands. It is powered by a Z-80 processor and has 128 kb of RAM; this makes the computer somewhat more powerful than a Commodore 64. Given the limitations of the platform, the graphics and and sound are top notch; it's probably the most advanced game for this platform.

If you want to play this game nowadays, your best bet is emulation. A modern PC can easily emulate an MSX-2. Given the popularity of the game, being able to emulate it is a bit of a litmus test for emulators; many can handle it. You don't need the cartridge to play the game, altough the sound will be worse without the SCC sound cartridge. Downloading this game or the English bootleg is probably technically illegal, should this bother you. One more thing about the bootleg: I was informed by someone in the scene that this game was translated from Japanese to Dutch and then from Dutch to English by a high school kid. This shows in the translation.

If you are into retro gaming, I can wholeheartedly recommend this game. It's fairly unique in both story and gameplay, and it demonstrates the limits of the MSX-2 platform. It's also interesting to see that in the 18 years since this game was published, almost no similar games have been brought out. Especially the combat system is unique and funny.

Sources

The game itself http://www.generation-msx.nl/msxdb/softwareinfo/1267S

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