Policenauts could, quite possibly, be one of the most finely crafted pieces of interactive fiction ever. I'm one of the extremely lucky few who've played it, having seen it in a local branch of Computer Exchange back in the mid-90s. Naturally, I bought it immediately and without hesitation, because I just knew it'd be gone next time I was in there. Policenauts was one of many reasons I bought my first Sega Saturn, and it's certainly the only reason I bought my second - a fully converted machine - since there was never an English language/PAL version. Why on Earth, then, would I buy a new machine just to play a game that's in Japanese? Two reasons - I'd heard high praise about this game as well as it's creator, Hideo Kojima (now recognised as one of the true auteurs of the videogame industry), and - at the time - it was rare.
On the subject of praise, my thanks go to Chris Hoffman for writing the bomb-defusing guide, and Lee Slone for pointing me in the right direction. Without their help, I would probably never have finished the game! Huge thanks also to my lifelong best friend Paul, who found the PlayStation version and bought it for me to play under Bleem! - a popular PlayStation emulator at the time - enabling me to get more screenshots. Thanks also to Marc Laidlaw, who translated the Policenauts script - enabling me to expand and improve upon the FAQs and Spoilers when I first started this resource - and was a major contributor to the English patch, released for the PlayStation game in 2009, with the Saturn version following in 2016.
Screens from the intro movie, the second introducing Jonathan Ingram (JYO-NA-SA-N-I-N-GU-RA-MU)
Playstation screen captures provided by Kurt Kalata
In a nutshell, Policenauts is the story of Jonathan Ingram - pictured left - one of five 'Policenauts' (what else would you call a Police officer who's also an Astronaut?) assigned the task of upholding the law on a huge O'Neill Cylinder-type spacestation called 'Beyond Coast'. If you've ever read Rendezvous with Rama by Arthur C. Clarke (or suffered the progressively worse sequels by Gentry Lee), seen the gardens on Babylon 5, or watched any of the Mobile Suit Gundam cartoons featuring a similar space station thing, you'll know roughly what form BC takes. Jonathan Ingram was (ahem) lost in space after an accident left him out of control in his spacesuit. Luckily for him, his suit was equipped with a kind of cryogenic life-pod thing - his frozen body was recovered 25 years later. Jonathan is unchanged, but the world around him is very different, and the other four Policenauts are old men. Worse still his wife has remarried and had a daughter.
Jonathan returns to Earth and becomes a Private Investigator/ Hostage Negotiator, but is reluctantly drawn back to Beyond Coast when his ex-wife's new husband goes missing, and she gets blown up after visiting Jonathan to ask for his help... So begins an investigation that reunites Jonathan with his former partner - now close to retirement - and introduces him to a familar face from the Metal Gear franchise, taking him around the enormous colony, and to the moon, and revealing exactly what his former Policenaut colleagues have been up to since the accident.
It's an incredible game, but it's made rather difficult by the fact that all the text is in Japanese (natch), and there's lots of it - there's even an online database/encyclopaedia sort of thing. I finally completed the game on the 25th April 1999, and it was one hell of a ride from the opening firefight against Lorraine's masked killer to the final revelation as to the depth of the mystery. The only way the game could have been better is if western branches of Konami had made it available in English from the start. Far from being purely an adventure game, or interactive Anime, Policenauts seamlessly integrates the point'n'click shenanigans - which proved so popular on the PCs not too long ago - with precise shooting sections ranging from exchanging hot lead with an escaping killer while chasing him down a highway, to calmly shooting away the faceplates of a couple of heavily armoured spacemen, to taking on a whole legion of troops in the villiain's huge office building. The game is presented as an interactive cartoon of sorts, with many fantastic cut-scenes, well crafted and memorable characters, and in incredibly atmospheric soundtrack of movie quality. In short, this game puts Western attempts at 'interactive movies' to shame. It's got everything you'd expect from a good mystery (and from Hideo Kojima, for that matter) - plot twists, 'deep throat' informants, double crossing, murder, kidnapping, drugs, bombs, organ harvesting, robotic mosquitos, and a high bodycount.
Throughout the game, you are partnered by an old collegue, Ed Brown, now 55 and suffering desk duty. In the basement. From the very beginning it's clear that Ed and Jonathan were always good friends. In his office on Earth, amongst the pictures of his ex-wife, Jonathan has a picture of himself and Ed, and later you find Ed has the same picture at his home on Beyond Coast. The best analogy I can make is that he's Murtaugh to Jonathan's Riggs, not least due to his complaints about being close to retirement, and having to caution Jonathan about how he behaves. When you first meet up with Ed, you get a real feeling that things have gone bad for him over the last 25 years, and he's initially reluctant to help Jonathan. It's not all bad, though, as he shares his office with a short squinty bloke called Dave Forrest, who always seems to be eating something, and the legendary Meryl Silverburgh, she who puts the fox into FoxHound (Metal Gear connection - Hideo Kojima created the Metal Gear games and Snatcher and by my reckoning, Policenauts is set about 5 to 10 years after MGSolid). Meryl seems to be one of those girls who's just not comfortable unless she's got a huge knife in her hand, and is only interested in a man who can best her in a fight, or beat her record on the firing range.
For more information, check out Policenauts.net, and the game's page on Fandom.com's Ultimate Pop Culture Wiki. Here - until I'm told to remove it - I have UK games mag Computer and Video Games' preview of the 3DO version.
If anyone's interested, and wants to ask me some questions, I'm compiling a Policenauts F.A.Q., where you can find out where to buy Policenauts, how to play it in English, and read about certain key parts of the game. I am still working on the Policenauts Spoiler Zone, which will include secrets and spoiler-filled character info.
Have a look at some details of the characters from this great game...
|Jonathan Ingram||Ed Brown||Joseph Sadaoki Tokugawa||Gatse Becker||Salvatore Toscanini|
|Kenzo Hojyo||Lorraine Hojyo||Karen Hojyo||Tony Redwood||Victor Jurgens|
|Meryl Silverburgh||Dave Forrest||Kris Goldwin||Marc Brown||Ana Brown|
I'd still like to set up a UK Policenauts Fan Art Gallery, so any artists out there who want to contribute, please do send any Policenauts related pictures my way. I'd hate for it to just be my pictures (especially since I've still not finished any yet)!
|All the Policenauts graphics
and character portraits on these pages are © Konami
Custom graphics © Gordon Wallis