Xmas Retrovision – Snatcher: Operation Xmas

Time for another game that’s perfect for a festive playthrough.  Though I’m guessing it’s not the first one that comes to mind when you think of Christmas and gaming.  Nevertheless, the cult visual novel Snatcher, is one game that you shouldn’t overlook at this time of year.

Originally released in 1988 on the MSX before later coming to the Mega-CD, Snatcher has garnered a cult following over the years, and quite rightly.  Directed and written by legendary game designer Hideo Kojima, Snatcher takes place 50 years after a chemical catastrophe has killed off half the world’s population, leaving those who remain living within a Cyberpunk future.  One taken straight out of the set of Blade Runner.

Snatcher Cover
Japanese cover art for Snatcher.

All set within the rebuilt Japanese city of Neo Kobe, robots known as Snatchers are now trying to overwhelm society through manipulation, kidnap and secrecy.  Nevertheless, there are some that are aware of the Snatchers and their plan.  These include the Anti-Snatcher task force.

Within this group lies Snatcher’s lead character and protagonist.  The amnesiac Gillian Seed.  A man looking to track down the source of the Snatchers, and possibly with it his lost memories.

Snatcher Cover Gillian
The game’s memorable lead Gillian Seed on the Western cover for Snatcher.

So what has this all got to do with Christmas then?  Well, this cult classic actually shares a certain something that has made memorable films like Die Hard, such a trademark of Christmas for so many.  Namely, the setting.

You see, whilst the plot itself may not have a massive amount to do with the festive spirit, the entire story takes place upon the backdrop of Christmas.  In fact, decorations can be seen all over the futuristic metropolis of Neo Kobe City, and a variety of Christmas tunes can be heard throughout the game.  Not only that, but you’ll even find a cameo from a certain Santa Claus, well sort of.

Santa Distance
Gillian spots Santa in the distance.

In one memorable scene from this groundbreaking game, Gillian will catch a glimpse of old Saint Nic himself.  However not soon after this, it becomes obvious that this isn’t any old Santa, but is in fact one of his informants named Napoleon.  So why is Napoleon dressed as the Santa Claus?

Well, with a group of Snatchers hot on his trail, Napoleon takes action, and disguises himself in order to escape.  So, with festive fever having gripped the City, what better disguise than the Santa Claus himself?  Yes it may not be the biggest of Christmas gaming scenes, but it’s certainly one of the most memorable.

Santa Napoleon
Napoleon reveals himself to be disguised as Santa to Gillian and his robotic assistant Metal Gear (yes you read that right).

Snatcher may not have that Christmas storyline, or be about Christmas itself per say.  However, as I said earlier, just like films such as Die Hard, the backdrop of Christmas, alongside an amazing experience, really makes this a perfect Christmas title.  We’ll have a review in the New Year, but don’t let that stop you from exploring Neo Kobe City this Winter.

Quite simply Snatcher has it all.  Robots, a dystopian future, Cyberpunk, mystery, and even Christmas to boot.  What more could you ask from Hideo Kojima?

Simon Aubrey Drake

A lifelong gamer with a fanatical love of all things Nintendo and Japan. So much so that I've written a thesis on one and lived in the other. Currently on a quest to catch every last Pokémon. Follow me on twitter via @DudeXChill or @RingsandCoins.

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