|Out of all the Japanese games I've played that warranted a stateside release, Konami's Policenauts is one of those that actually deserves all the attention it's been getting over the past few years. Konami of America has been super sheepish about bringing this one out in the U.S., mostly because they feel the game is graphically unspectacular, but this is one case where graphics don't matter at all. Sure the game is a digital comic (mostly still pictures with some animated backgrounds), but it's one of the better ones. The real problem is that this sort of graphic adventure really never took off on home consoles here simply because publishers refused to take the plunge and bring enough of them out to build a big enough fan base. I can think of less than ten of them on the Playstation, IF you count stuff like Silverload or the Discworld games. Snatcher, the prequel (of sorts) to Policenauts, was released here on the Sega CD, but in small quantities. I don't know if it sold all that well upon its initial release, but take a looky over on Ebay, and you'll sometimes see used copies going for upwards of a hundred dollars. If that's not a game in demand, I don't know what is. The Sega CD version was good, but the Saturn and Playstation versions had a few enhancements, like more color and movement in some areas, and a bit less loading time.
A team of talented artists, musicians and led by Hideo Kojima (Metal Gear Solid) created Policenauts, and it's still one of the best games on any platform, in case you've never played it. The plot is a mix of science fiction, action, and drama with bits of comic relief. I'd go into the actual game story a bit more, but this isn't really a review. The game has some scattered connections with Metal Gear Solid, such as the appearance of Meryl Silverburgh as a supporting character, and the opening music of the game, which was shortened somewhat and used in MGS. I have the Japanese versions of Policenauts for both the 3DO and Playstation, as well as the Pilot Disc for the 3DO, which was a collection of interviews, art, music and other information. One of the more interesting parts of the disc was a timeline that showed how long it took to create the game, which is even more reason to want to see the game in English. I've managed to make it through the game somewhat thanks to a few walkthroughs and helpful friends who speak Japanese. All I can say is that the game so far isn't disappointing in any aspect other than the fact that it hasn't been released here. I don't think Konami would have a hard time selling this one at all, especially with Kojima's current status among gamers here. It's another case of a company giving us what they think we want (The Grinch and Woody Woodpecker Racing) rather than what we're actually asking for (Snatcher, Policenauts, and Dracula-X, for example).
It's not like Konami of America is a smaller company that can't afford to take too many chances on a game that quite a lot of people want to buy, and I'm sure Mr. Kojima knows a good deal of his fans here want to see the game. But time and again, Konami has passed on releasing at least two games that would make a lot of people happy- it's not like we want Speed King or even Lightning Legend, you know. And the stale argument that the game's release window is long past is pointless. People will buy and play good games no matter how old they are. Maybe they couldn't think of any way to market Policenauts as "super sexy" like Eidos did for Fear Effect: Retro Helix. Now, that's a great example of audience targeting (he said, quite sarcastically.). Now there's solid proof of an otherwise good adult game ruined by some dumb advertising. "They put the ASS in ASSassin", indeed. Bad games need help like that- good games sell themselves. Then again, bad games seem to outsell good ones most of the time, so that argument goes right out the window. All I know is, if i want super sexy, I'll go play Rising Zan again. Well, this column is going around in circles- I'm going to stop here and let you folks read this while I go back to Outer Heaven and try to solve a little mystery…