Policenauts (ポリスノーツ Porisunōtsu?) is a graphic adventure game developed and published by Konami. It was written and directed by Hideo Kojima, and originally released for the PC-9821 in 1994. A hard science fictionstory, Policenauts is set in the mid 21st century and follows Jonathan Ingram, an astronaut recently recovered floating in space in cryosleep after an accident at a space colony sent him drifting into space 24 years ago. Now a detective in Los Angeles, Ingram travels back to the colony to investigate the murder of his ex-wife and her husband's disappearance. As he begins his investigation, he starts to uncover an illegal organ trafficking ring.
Kojima conceived Policenauts while working on Snatcher (1988), and started development in 1990. He wanted the production quality to match that of major motion pictures, and created a scripting engine to give him more creative control. He pulled creative influences from American buddy television shows, contemporary social debates on Japan bashing and organ trafficking, and Japan's heightened interest in space travel following the first Japanese man's trip to space in 1990. He wanted to explore the concept of how living in space may affect human society and life, socially and physiologically. The original PC-9821 release used pixel art while wider re-releases on the 3DO, PlayStation, and Sega Saturn featured cel animation by Anime International Company.
An English localization was planned for the Saturn, but canceled with Kojima citing technical problems with the translation. After interest in Kojima's work grew with the release of Metal Gear Solid (1998), demand for a translation built until a fan translation was released in 2009. Critics have praised the game's animation, voice acting, and overall presentation. Some called it a blend of cinematic influences pulling from science fiction, action, comedy, and buddy film genres. Many also picked up on Kojima's fascination with science and technology, and praised the technical writing for building an engrossing world and story. Along with Snatcher before it, Policenauts has been called one of the best science fiction works in games and a foundation for Kojima's later work.
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 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 former policenauts, 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 is a graphic adventuregame with a point-and-click interface. It has also been called a visual novel and an interactive movie. The player moves a cursor freely across the screen to click on objects to examine them. During conversations, the player is given dialogue options to choose from. Once the right object in the scene has been examined or the dialogue options have been exhausted, the game progresses to the next scene in the story. In versions with cel animation, these scenes the player must examine are stills from the animated cinematics, so the game moves seamlessly between them and cutscenes. There are occasional action scenes where the player must fire a gun at enemies in a first-person perspective. The Sega Saturn version supports a light gun for these segments.
- Jonathan Ingram makes cameo in the adventure game Tokimeki Memorial Drama Series Volume 1: Nijiro no Seishun.
- Jonatham Ingram, Tony Redwood, Karen Hojo and Ed Brown appears as cards in the video game Metal Gear Acid.
- The PlayStation version of the game is compatible with the PS1 Mouse, while the Saturn version is compatible with the Sega Shuttle Mouse.