Part 1: In which we meet our hero
Welcome to the title screen. I, for one, would like to applaud Konami for their bold graphic design choice entitled: "Embossed Logo on Bathroom Counter-Top."
I guess in order to be informative, I should tell you that this logo - which I call The Vitruvian Astronaut - is based on an actual logo found on EVA suits.
By adding a gun, the viewer's gone from thinking about astronauts to some portmanteau of "Police" and "Astronaut." Maybe we'll even find out what that is!
Before we start the game, I want to show you something that was excised completely from the English ROMhack:
If you wait at the intro screen long enough, you see this: ENGLISH.BIN. It's a small executable Konami threw into the PSX/Saturn versions that gives this Engrishy summary of the Prologue, Act 1, and part of Act 2. Why?
We have no idea. We didn't know exactly how to "translate" it, outside of fixing it, but since none of us particularly wanted it in there, Marc asked me to remove it completely. So I shrugged and did it. After Act 2, I'll post the whole thing if you're interested, since it spoils up to there.
Note too, that the text that scrolls over it was stored as an image of white text on transparent background, meaning it just wastes a ton of space rather that encoding the text as... you know, just text. Yes, Policenauts understood English and had that font on board, so there was no good reason they couldn't have.
Considering the nightmares we faced dealing with all the proprietary compression crap Konami did to fit all this shit on 2 CD-ROMs, I fucking hated it when they did wasteful crap like this. Anyway!
Let's start da show...
If you prefer watching the video to reading screenshot stuff, search ahead for a *** Previous video covered up to here *** marker like that.
Thank your for your patience. And now, our feature presentation. We hope you enjoy the show!
(Is it bad that I wrote that without referring to my screenshots or anything?)
The game opens with this disembodied woman's voice, who tells you the above. Apparently, back in the day, this is how a lot of movies started when you went to see them in the theaters in Japan. It's quite relaxing considering what you were about to see probably involved giant robots and/or sexual deviancy.
The year was 2010. Mankind had completed its first space colony, Beyond Coast. We finally outgrew our cradle.
See, Konami? This is why we don't put hard dates in our Sci-Fi. Class, why don't we put hard dates in our Sci-Fi? That's right, because then years later when the dates pass, we look like George Orwell, and he died wrong, wrong, wrong. Pfft, 1984. The government won't start controlling our lives until like 2014!
Technically, you're not supposed to know who's speaking right now, but he's going to introduce himself in the next few lines, so I'll just tell you it's our hero, Jonathan Ingram.
A group of police officers trained as astronauts was charged with providing security for those expected to immigrate to the colony in 2013.
This is where a lot of people who know a little Japanese start to suspect something's not right with the translation. See, the Japanese voice actor actually phrases it:
"2010: ...stuff about Beyond Coast." "2013: ...stuff about the police officers." In other words, the years are spoken at first to sort of demarcate what Jonathan's talking about. Marc decided against that and incorporates the "2013" into the sentence proper, which is slightly different wording, BUT ENTIRELY ACCURATE.
At first, I thought it should be the original way to parallel Snatcher's intro, which is divided into "June 6, 1996: Stuff about The Catastrophe" and "Fifty years later: Stuff about Snatchers." However it doesn't quite match up because the first part of Snatcher's intro is a hard date, and the second part is a vague time frame, whereas in Policenauts, it's just two vague years and the "sections" are like a sentence each.
I swear to God, I don't consider myself a Kojima fanboy somehow.
Anyway, sorry, we were talking about the police officers.
From Scotland Yard, Gates Becker. From Tokyo Metropolitan Police, Joseph Sadaoki Tokugawa. From NYPD, Salvatore Toscanini.
And from LAPD, Ed Brown and me.
The five of us, the world's elite, became astronauts with police authority.
We were called the "Policenauts".
The different versions of Policenauts decide to reveal different things about the plot in advance. In the PSX and Saturn versions, they reveal there's a saboteur on Beyond Coast (see preceding screenshot), but in the original PC98 version, that was meant to be a plot twist revealed later.
There's other spoilery kinda differences we'll get into when the time comes, but in all honesty, I do think Konami jumped the gun even showing this.
People have pointed out to me that Jonathan Ingram, here, looks an awful lot like Gillian Seed from Snatcher. I don't really see it. Is it racist to say most anime looks alike to me?
It goes without saying of course, but Jonathan's having control problems with the vernier thrusters on his Yuri EMPS. It's no longer responding to his control.
From left to right, these are Gates Becker, Salvatore Toscanini, and Ed Brown. It's not shown in the intro, but all three are saying, "No, not the Vernier Thrusters!" in unison.
The camera closes up on a yelling Ed as Jonathan's EMPS tether breaks away. For the slower video game players out there, Konami decides to follow it up with a klaxon and some big red text.
You're going to see some Engrish here and there in the movies. This is mostly because the video compression, though it looks a bit like MPEG-2, apparently is just some proprietary Konami thing.
The ROMhacking team (myself included) decided there's no case egregious enough which warranted writing our own codec so we could try and frame-by-frame edit what's wrong and recompress the video.
Not that Marc didn't ask.
At any rate, "Start A Rescue Operation" is a maybe a little awkward, but how else do you expect a survival ball to talk? What's a survival ball, you ask? You can better see it in the video, but it's this ball tethered to his EMPS. No, I don't think astronauts actually have one. Stop it with these hypothetical questions! We're going to learn more about it in a bit.
Irrelevant technical detail: Though "25 years later" thematically starts the next section, it's actually the end of Video 1.
And here's our first graphical change! That was originally "KONAMI presents" on one line, but Marc asked me to add a linebreak and I did. Again, this is encoded as a graphic and not text for no good reason at all.
This is the start of Video 2, in which someone is cutting through metal to reveal an astronaut's crotch.
We see a cryogenically frozen Jonathan Ingram, and our story can being proper as the title track rolls on in.
Fun fact: At the beginning of the ROMhack project, I told Zorak (who would later be a beta tester and 'science advisor') that there was no way in Hell I would translate the opening credits. Fortunately, it turned out to be a lossless graphical overlay on a separate track.
I also did all those graphics myself using GIMP.
In contrast to Snatcher's Neo Kobe, the man-made cyberpunk island modeled after Blade Runner, Policenauts starts in Old Los Angeles - henceforth referred to as Old LA. Those are snowflakes falling in LA, and the game will acknowledge that soon.
This whole thing is a cavalcade of Kojima references, and by cavalcade, I mean two or three. See if you can spot them all! It's a fun little contest where there are no winners, only fanboys. (The only not so obvious one is that QUEEN is a place referenced in Snatcher.)
Copyright infringements all over the damn place. Marlboro trademarked cigarettes and Beer trademarked beer. I hope our vice-loving Vice-belonging protagonist likes getting his ass sued.
For those of you who enjoy anime, I'm sorry I hypocritically pretend not to on the SA Forums. Also, AIC is a real deal animation company, who created a bunch of well known animes. They were commissioned by Konami to render some of the cutscenes with beautiful hand-drawn animation that will be compressed to look like hell in order to fit on a couple of PSX/Saturn discs.
Jokes aside, these scenes are done with sprite art in the PC98 version - and I will say that there's more of a disconnect here than in the original when the fully animated sequences arrive.
Ladies and gentlemen, meet our protagonist Jonathan Ingram: Police turned astronaut turned Policenauts turned... well, we'll let him tell you.
(Pictured: One of the game's very helpful character identification telops.)
30 years ago, I was one of Beyond's Policenauts.
Course, it feels like practically yesterday thanks to the EMPS accident. They're vivid memories. My wife, friends, career.... All gone. That accident ruined my life.
Now I'm a private-eye-cum-negotiator in this wonderful place we call "Old LA". I negotiate with child kindappers and human traffickers, intermediate ransom exchanges, track down escaped cons.... It's dangerous work. But for a guy at the end of his rope like me, scum like that are the only thing putting food on my table. Guess it still beats being out there.
This place is full of all sorts of mementos. There's some newspaper clippings and photos on the walls, and a couple other photos on my desk. They keep the blanks in my memory filled.
*** The preceding video covered up to here. ***
This gets kinda glossed over in Policenauts, but much like Snatcher's protagonist, Jonathan suffers from a form of amnesia. He has memory gaps from his cryogenic hypersleep. Now, this is rarely brought up in the game, and it really only serves to:
1. Provide an explanation for why the player (as Jonathan) is looking at mementos that he's presumably already familiar with.
2. Maybe fix a plot hole or two down the road. Not that there are any. I'm just sayin'. (Note: This is intended as a joke, I really can't think of any plot holes the amnesia fixes. In fact, as far as I can recall, it's not actually brought up in any significant way in the game.)
Meet the NEXT GENERATION OF SNATCHER'S new interface: A mouse cursor!
If you play the game on ePSXe, you can use your computer mouse to emulate a Playstation mouse and be happy. This is very helpful for the adventure game(ish) sequences like we're currently seeing, but not so helpful for the action sequences we'll be seeing later.
In all honesty, I recommend just sticking with the keyboard, or at least switching over at some point in Act 2, because some of the action scenes really are quite difficult.
At any rate, we can "click" (point the cursor at and press the action button) objects on screen, which will bring up a menu of verbs, with which we can act on whatever we're pointing at. We also have a "menu" button which brings up a standard menu no matter what the cursor's pointing at. In "development", I always called it "right-clicking" since that's what I think it's most akin to.
If we click on that green framed picture on the desk, for example, we'll get a Menu with the option to "Look" and nothing else. So, let's try that.
Lorraine.... My wife. No, that was a long time ago. She moved to Beyond and remarried after my accident. She's someone else's wife now. She's a Nisei - half Japanese, half American. There was something kinda mysterious about her.
Note: I'm using italicized text to signify voice acted dialogue, and regular to signify text simply printed onscreen. I'm not doing the "put words in the characters mouths" for these updates.
Another Note: Hideo Kojima is a huge fan of George Lucas, and "Lucas World" is a fictional theme park, also mentioned in Snatcher.
Another Another Note: That voice acted dialogue will appear once when you look at either picture on the desk.
Just one more: If you like, you can look at individual parts of that picture and discover it was taken on Christmas Eve of 2010.
Last one I swear: Looking at this picture is one of eight things you have to do to advance to the next scene. The player is never made aware of this.
This picture was taken on August 24, 2009 which is Hideo Kojima's 46th birthday, and also the day we released the English translation patch. That was not a graphical edit on our part. We were just close on the date anyway when we were finished.
We've now done 2/8 things to advance to the next scene.
On the right is a totally optional thing: A "videophone answering machine". When you use it, you'll get the option to play its messages, and when it's activated, you get holographic static. Jonathan's purposefully disabled the video portion, because Old LA is that seedy.
Here's all the messages we can get:
Sorry! Wrong number.
Thank you for wasting my time.
After this message (and some others), Jonathan will say either "Still no offers." or "When's someone gonna call with an actual case." In one of the many, many technological feats achieved in this game, it's randomly decided from those two responses.
Let's try another message.
Hello, Mr. Ingram, this is the Department of Water and Power. This is your final notice regarding your water bill.
Maybe if you gave me something I could actually drink.
Damn, what a zing! Take that, Old LA Department of Water and Power recorded reminder!
(woman's voice) Jon, where you been? I feel like crap too, you know. That's why I'm in a bar. Call me!
Yeah, yeah. Maybe next time.
The background music playing in that woman's message is a remix of the Outer Heaven music from Snatcher.
(angry guy) You piece of shit detective! Remember me, you little punk? I got news for you - this ain't over! Watch your back!
That wasn't very nice.
Fun fact: Out of all the parts of the ROMhack I could talk about, that message is one of the least interesting. Next!
Hi, Tom Olsen, we talked before. Listen, I'm not going to be needing your services after all. Thanks anyway.
There goes another.
... Alright, so there's a very minor Easter Egg here. In the original script, the guy just identifies himself as "Olsen". I have a friend in real life named Tom Olsen, so I asked Marc to put him in. It's America, anyway. You wouldn't just identify yourself by last name.
Unfortunately, it's kinda the only Easter Egg put in there. There's another I requested, but we'll get to that when the time comes. Next message!
The signboard! The SIGNBOARD! It's got an extra pair of legs, god dammit!
This is why some people shouldn't have kids.
*** That last video? It covered up to here. ***
At any rate, the whole answering machine is completely optional. So let's get going with the next scene and look at one of the pictures in the back.
Ed Brown.... The one guy I'd trust with my life, my best friend... and a good partner.
3/8 til we're done with the Prologue. I'll take this opportunity to tell you: There is a hell of a lot to look at here.
Necessary thing #4 is to look at the Policenauts photo here. In the PC98 version, we don't get that intro on Beyond Coast, so actually, this would be the game's introduction of the Policenauts themselves. There's a lot of descriptive text in the Prologue. Here's a selection you can get just by looking at this photo multiple times.
We're wearing ejection escape suits here. These are obsolete now. Back then everyone thought the orange-colored suits were cool. This photo was taken to commemorate the selection of the Policenauts. Five officers out of all the world's police organizations were chosen and trained. We were called the "Original Cops", after the Mercury program's Original Seven.
It's the Policenauts commemoration photo. I was absolutely ecstatic. But Lorraine, she was against me going to space. Then when I went to Mars... that was when we started to drift apart. After this was taken I left Lorraine behind on Home and moved to Beyond.
Just a note, you can completely miss this detail about Jonathan and Lorraine drifting apart as he goes on to be a Policenaut. Let's look at an optional thing - the gun on Jonathan's desk.
She's a bona fide recoil gun, equipped with a laser sight. I use special 10-round magazines with armor-piercing bullets.
One other neat thing Kojima does is a ton of scientific research in his games. While it doesn't always work out for the best, like trying to explain away a vampire, it does make for interesting detail. Like...
I doubt anybody else uses this kinda gun in the 21st century and everything. With the birth of the Colony Age, nearly all guns are now lift guns. People don't use recoil guns in weightless environments, for obvious reasons. But her, she's a part of me.
And there's one last thing, that's a little creepy and that you might miss when playing. Looking at the papers on the desk:
This is an investigation report to a client, though I haven't gotten very far with it. It was another child kidnapping, but... my negotiations with the kidnappers failed. I couldn't save the child. He's probably already been cut apart and his organs trafficked to buyers. Sorry, kid....
Yeesh. Moving onto the newspaper article clippings on the walls (four, to be exact, and looking at all of them moves us onto the next scene.)
Yes, we could have fixed "25 Years of wandering! Miracle Recovery! POLICENAUTS: Astronaut Ingram!" I think we just didn't really notice that Engrish until near the end of the project. By then, we'd already changed nearly 100 graphical files. I kinda remember this one being discussed, but I think we ultimately decided it wasn't important enough to spend a lot of time on.
The gist of this article is that Jonathan survived in cryogenic sleep inside of a "heliosphere" (the survival ball) for 25 years and was rescued when an unmanned exploration vessel named "Propoganda" found him. It took over a year for his muscles to "return to normal" when he got back. It also reveals something interesting: Jonathan fears space.
I spent 25 years inside this thing waiting to be found. I've had cosmophobia ever since. I just can't go back out there anymore.
Let's go to the next article.
Apparently, as part of his extensive Policenauts training, Jonathan manages to be among the first humans to land on Mars. Also, Lorraine and he split up during this time. It's lonely when your spouse is ... you know, on Mars.
This is a 2010 article from the Neo Kobe times (Snatcher reference number six of one-thousand nine-hundred and ninety-six.) about the construction of Beyond Coast. You might be interested to know that the colony was constructed near Lagrangian point L5.
And feel free to count: this is 8/8 things we have to do to advance to the next scene. This last article:
This is a newspaper article about my accident that occurred during the EMPS space walk outside Beyond. "EMPS Prototype Malfunctions, Policenaut Ingram Missing". It happened just 3 months after I moved to Beyond. "A malfunction occurred in the vernier thrusters of the Yuri EMPS prototype during a test space walk of the device yesterday. The Yuri had been scheduled to be used by the Policenauts outside the colony. The EMPS has since vanished without a trace. The Yuri is equipped with a survival ball, but because an SOS signal can't be isolated, the chances of test pilot Jonathan Ingram being found alive thought to be slim. ... I remember what Salvatore said. 'Whatever you do don't screw this up, Jonny boy. Everyone back Home's gonna be watchin'."
Looking at all eight things nets us an impromptu knock on the door. And to end this update on the only plot twist we could possibly have:
*knock knock knock*
Next update: Let's talk to our estranged wife! Hey Jonathan, if I were you, I'd hide those pictures in a drawer somewhere.