Policenauts (ポリスノーツ, Porisunōtsu) is a graphic adventure game with a hard science fiction storyline, written and directed by Hideo Kojima, and published by Konami. It was initially released for the PC-9821 computer platform in 1994, followed by remade versions for the 3DO in 1995, and the PlayStation and Sega Saturn in 1996. The game has never been officially released outside Japan, despite plans for an English localization of the Saturn version. On August 24, 2009 (in honor of the 46th birthday of the game's designer, Hideo Kojima), an unofficial English translation patch was released for the PlayStation version. On October 6, 2016, an additional translation patch was released for the Saturn version.
Policenauts, like Snatcher before it, pays various homages to previously existing works. An obvious one is Jonathan's and Ed's (the main characters) respective resemblances to Riggs and Murtaugh from Lethal Weapon, another one is some scenes that are inspired by the 1978 film Coma. The game also pays homage to the ancient Japanese tale of Urashima Taro. The game centers on a detective who travels to a space colony to investigate the circumstances surrounding his ex-wife's murder and her new husband's sudden disappearance.
The game is set in a primarily first person perspective and uses a point-and-click interface: the player can move the cursor and have the protagonist (Jonathan Ingram) analyze objects around his environment or talk to other characters in the game. Like in Snatcher, the game features shooting segments where the player must defend their character from incoming enemies. The player can use the shooting trainer at the police department to test their reflex and accuracy. There are numerous puzzles in the game, including an event where the player must dismantle a bomb by following their partner's instructions.
The console versions of the game all include support for their respective mouse peripherals. The Saturn version features light gun support for the shooting segments.
The game centers on Jonathan Ingram, one of the five "Policenauts", astronauts with police training, assigned to ensure the safety of Beyond Coast, mankind's first fully functional space colony in the year 2013. Jonathan tests a new space walking suit, but drifts away into space by accident and is presumed dead by his colleagues. He is found alive and well 24 years later thanks to the cold-sleep module connected to the suit. Three years later, Jonathan (now a private investigator working in Old L.A.) is visited by his former wife, Lorraine, who asks for Jonathan's help in solving the disappearance of her current husband, Kenzo Hojo, the only clues he left behind being a torn leaf, a set of capsules, and the word "Plato". Jonathan is reluctant to take her case at first, but after Lorraine leaves his office, she is attacked and murdered by a man in a black motorcycle suit. Jonathan, unable to catch the culprit, decides to fulfill his ex-wife's final request and travels to Beyond, where he is reunited with his former partner from his LAPD days, Ed Brown, who agrees to help Jonathan investigate the circumstances surrounding Hojo's disappearance and Lorraine's murder.
During the course of the investigation, Jonathan and Ed learn that Becker and Tokugawa have been involved in running an illegal drug and organ trafficking ring in order to counteract the negative side-effects of being in space for long periods of time. Hojo had been included in the business in order to save his daughter, Karen, and ultimately wanted to leave, only to be murdered. During a stand-off with Becker, Jonathan records Becker's confession about the scheme and has Meryl broadcast the recording live, exposing the scandal to the colonists. Ed saves Jonathan from death, while Meryl and the remaining police arrest Tokugawa. Jonathan donates his bone marrow to Karen upon learning that he is her biological father, and returns to Earth.
Policenauts was first released for the NEC PC-9821 on July 29, 1994. The PC-98 version came on a single CD-ROM disc, with a floppy disk containing system data. All the cut-scenes were rendered using hand-drawn pixel art as opposed to the cel art used in the later versions.
The first console version was released for the 3DO on September 29, 1995, consisting of two CD-ROM discs. Animated cut-scenes were added to this version along with CG animation, and all the graphics were redrawn. Limited edition copies came bundled with the 3DO mouse and a mousepad. Prior to releasing the full version of the game, Konami issued the Policenauts: Pilot Disk for the 3DO on April 21, 1995. This disc contains a playable demo that covers most of the prologue, a glossary of in-game terms, featurettes, concept art, and information about the game's voice actors and developers.
The PlayStation version (January 19, 1996), also on two discs, made further additions by digitally fixing most of the graphics and movies from the 3DO version. A supplemental disc, titled Policenauts: Private Collection was later released for the PlayStation on February 9, 1996, featuring much of the same content as the Pilot Disk, but replacing the trial version of the game's prologue with a collection of shooting sequences from later portions of the game, as well as an earlier draft of the game's screenplay.
The last console version, released for the Sega Saturn on September 13, 1996, consists of three discs and adds support for Sega's Virtua Gun light gun peripheral. The glossary, featurettes and shooting trainer from the Pilot Disk and Private Collection supplemental discs are included as unlockable content in the Saturn version. The glossary can be accessed at any point during gameplay in this version.
The PlayStation version has been re-issued twice. The first time was under the "Konami the Best" label on September 18, 1997. A second reissue under the "PSone Books" series was released on August 7, 2003. The game was added to the PlayStation Store's Japanese Game Archives on May 15, 2008, making the game downloadable for the PlayStation Portable and PlayStation 3.
The Saturn version of Policenauts was officially announced for a North American release by Konami on May 1996. A mock-up cover art was produced and featured on a promotional Sega pamphlet packaged with certain games. However, the North American version was never released. According to Kojima, work began on the North American version, but the developers were unable to synchronize the English dialogue with the animated FMV cut-scenes.
A fan translation of the PlayStation version has been produced, which has gained attention from the video game media. Although the translation of the game content was nearly completed by Marc Laidlaw and Artemio Urbina during the summer of 2007, the translation project could not find a programmer to complete the insertion of translated material into a version of the game and progress stalled.
In August 2008, Something Awful forum member Michael "slowbeef" Sawyer began experimenting with approaches to add text to the PlayStation version of the game which led to a revival of the project.
On October 6, 2016, a fan translation was released for the Sega Saturn version. This version features additional scenes and dialogue, an in-game glossary, light gun support, and other new features, as well as an updated translation.
GameFan's three reviewers scored it 100, 94, and 92 out of 100. One of the reviewers said that "Policenauts has one of the best game storylines ever." Another reviewer said that he "truly thought adventure gaming could get no better than Snatcher" but Konami "has outdone themselves in everything from the beyond-beautiful music to the professional quality cinemas."
RPGFan rated it 97% for story, 95% for sound/music, 94% for graphics, 80% for gameplay, and 80% for control, with an overall score of 98%. They called it "a masterpiece" and concluded that, from "the incredible graphics and soundtrack, to the compelling story, Policenauts is a true classic."
Reviewing the PlayStation fan translation for Eurogamer, Simon Parkin scored it 8 out of 10, calling the game's story "mesmerising" and saying "the level of detail built into the world is astonishing." He concluded by calling Policenauts "a triumph of gentle interactive storytelling - a product so polished and rounded it's no surprise Kojima left so much promotion for the game in his subsequent title, Metal Gear Solid."
The game was notable for being an early example of extensive voice recording in video games. It also featured a theme revolving around space exploration and occasional full-motion video cut scenes. The gameplay was largely similar to Snatcher, but with the addition of a point-and-click interface and some first-person shooter segments. Policenauts also introduced summary screens, which act to refresh the player's memory of the plot upon reloading a save, an element Kojima would later use in Metal Gear Solid. The PlayStation and Saturn versions of Policenauts can also read the memory card or storage device, respectively, and add easter egg dialogue if a save file of Konami's dating sim Tokimeki Memorial is present, a technique Kojima would also later use in Metal Gear Solid.