Suda51’s Sdatcher – Inspired by Snatcher
Suda51’s Sdatcher – Inspired by Snatcher
Konami Digital Entertainment
December 14, 2011
Buy at CDJapan
In the late 80s, famed game designer Hideo Kojima created Snatcher, a tribute to science fiction, particularly movies such as Blade Runner and Terminator. The game became a cult hit, but it was only with Metal Gear Solid that Kojima’s name and his distinctive approach to both writing and game design gained international fame. Over two decades later, a kind of prequel to Snatcher was created in the form of a radio-style drama released on the Internet. It featured a script by Goichi Suda, also known as Suda51, and music by Akira Yamaoka, whom Kojima specifically requested for the job. The result was Sdatcher.
The drama’s story, taking place before the original game, focuses on a man named Jean-Jack Gibson (played by anime’s favorite deep voiced seiyuu, Akio Otsuka), who discovers the secrets behind the snatchers, robots that look and act like humans. He is accompanied by Little John, a small robot helper voiced by Hideo Kojima. Jean-Jack’s discoveries eventually lead him to his wife, Lisa, to whom the snatchers attach particular significance. The acting, handled mostly by big name, A-list seiyuu, is well-done throughout and clearly articulated, and Yamaoka’s atmospheric electronic score complements the overall atmosphere. The booklet contains character illustrations and extensive credits, but not the script, so people looking to follow along will have to search elsewhere. At the end of the disc there are brief interviews with the creators, who explain the genesis of the project.
The second disc contains the entire soundtrack, with extended versions of each track used in the drama, and it lasts almost as long as the drama itself. Akira Yamaoka’s score is primarily electronic, but rather than the funk and pop influences of the original Snatcher and SD Snatcher soundtracks, it is primarily inspired by the spacious synth pads of Vangelis’s Blade Runner score, although it contains dashes of minimalism and techno as well. Although Yamaoka has primarily worked on Silent Hill games over the past decade, he had previously contributed electronic material of this kind to the PlayStation port of Speed King and various beatmania titles.
The soundtrack opens rather anonymously. “Undercover” is an ambient electronic piece featuring a droning background of synth pads and choir, with pulsations weaving in and out as it progresses. The whole is well put together, but not distinctive otherwise. “Sdatcher (Main Titles)”, melding together a pulsating techno beat, a vocoder sample, and Hollywood string chords, is more recognizably Yamaoka. “Counterfeit”, with its echoing tones, its oddly arrhythmic jumps and starts, and its wide open sense of space, could be by no one else. Later in the track, a gentle rhythm on cymbals preserves the pulse amongst the electronic murmurs. “Old Friend”, with its distant tolling of bells and piercing electric guitar, would fit right in with Yamaoka’s Silent Hill work. The same could be said of “Suspicious Vessel”, with its ingenious interplay of soft synth voice and harsher tones, but like the other examples here, it has a distinctive sound, less gritty than Silent Hill’s claustrophobic world. The perfect example of this is “Red Eyes”, with its striding groove unsettled by synth accents in a different meter entirely. The content is Yamaoka’s, but the style is unlike Silent Hill.
“A Man and the World”, in addition to the techno beat and vocoder (here calling out city names), features analog synths akin to those found on the score to one of the inspirations behind the original game, the movie Blade Runner. Like many movie scores of the 80s, its music was composed entirely of synthesizers, and although this sound tended to age badly, it proved a good match for the hermetic vision of Ridley Scott’s future LA. In Sdatcher, they call that era to mind, but with the addition of modern sampling, it remains contemporary in its sound. These sounds also dominate “Ultraviolet”, which ends with a powering down of sorts.
Several of the tracks have a distinctly minimalist feel (in the Classical sense) with their use of slowly changing arpeggiations, and phasing effects akin to the work of American composer Steve Reich can be heard in “Head Shot”, which adds to this formula a free drum rhythm accentuating the changes in feel. It’s a characteristic touch that helps to shape the track a good deal. “Bioroid” is more traditionally minimalist track, but some high harmonics add a bit of color. “Undead Souls” combines minimalist arpeggiations with the analog synths heard earlier.
Less easy to describe is “Cargo Owner”, which opens up with static ambience, but develops into a chord progression like a distorted love theme. It recedes into silence. Rising from this abyss, bells sound out in “Top of the Tower”, these bells continue to toll under an ambivalent chord progression on synth pads, which disappears as suddenly as it appeared. The song-like melody in “Gibson” flanks a middle section which builds up slowly and quietly back to the original theme. The effects overlaid onto the piano seem a bit much at times, but the shuffling cymbal rhythm and bells in the background help to create the atmosphere. “Creeping Silence (ver.51)” uses the sounds of the SCC (the chip Konami used for the original Snatcher soundtrack) alongside modern synths. “Farewell” features a relatively simple melody and chord progression, but every sound is refracted, turning inside and out, like an auditory hall of mirrors. The closing “End Titles” brings together the minimalist arpeggiations and the 80s synths heard elsewhere, but with cross rhythms that recall the American composer John Adams. It winds down to a close by subtracting each layer, one at a time.
In Suda51’s Sdatcher, Hideo Kojima’s homage to classic science fiction got an homage of its own. The drama is well written and well acted, and for those who are interested in the game and its legacy, it makes a worthy addition to its legacy. Akira Yamaoka’s electronic score, while still bearing the distinctive traits of his music in its open spaces and complex polyrhythms, uses the sounds of the 80s to evoke the movies that inspired Kojima. Some of the tracks are more anonymous than others, but for fans looking for a different side of Yamaoka, Sdatcher is a worthwhile listen.
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Posted on August 1, 2012 by Ben Schweitzer. Last modified on August 1, 2012.