GameSpite Journal 10 | Shadowrun

Shadowrun | Dev.: Beam | Pub: Data East | Genre: RPG | Release: May 1993

It was the best of times, it was the worse of times, it was the age of Mode 7, it was the age of Blast Processing, we had Super Metroid before us, we had Vector Man before us, it was the year 2050, it was the year 2058, it was definitely Seattle, everyone seems to be in agreement on that, it was rather bizarre that a sentence with terrible grammar and seventeen commas in it was held up as an example of fine literature, it was time to drop this gag.

The SNES received a game called Shadowrun in 1993, and the Genesis saw its own arrive in 1994. Both were top-down action-RPG adaptations of FASA’s tabletop RPG of the same name. One would naturally assume that the Genesis release was a port of the SNES game, or possibly a sequel, but the simple fact is that different developers were given the rights to make a game for each system, and both opted for a similar basic approach. People often debate which of the two is the better game, and which is more faithful to the original tabletop game. Now that the 16-bit console wars are behind us, with Mario and Sonic appearing in games together as a gesture of peace and good will, we can look back with a gentler eye. The truth is that they’re both good, just different.

People are usually quick to point out that the Genesis game adhered much more closely to the original rules, and it did. The SNES Shadowrun made a much simpler mini-game out of jacking into the matrix to snoop around, and ignored the whole “essence” mechanic, letting you load the protagonist up with some seriously nifty cyberware without impairing his magical abilities. The thing of it is, while it played a little looser with the rules than what the Sega kids’ version, it made up for it by doing an amazing job of capturing the tone and feel of the source material.

Shadowrun is very deeply rooted in the sort of cyberpunk stories where someone begrudgingly takes a job that seems a bit too easy for the pay, then things spin out of control, dropping them into some complex scheme where they’re meant to play the patsy in some elaborate plot their contact is working on. Then it puts a unique spin on things by injecting magic into the world, with shamans conjuring nature spirits to do security work for major corporations, massive trolls getting jobs as nightclub bouncers, and huge dragons running for political office.

The SNES game completely embraces this, with an amnesiac protagonist trying to figure out who screwed him over and stuck a bomb in his brain, while a gigantic orange dragon keeps making angry phone calls to his apartment asking where his money went. The whole game plays more like a graphic adventure than a standard action-RPG, with an interface that feels like you should be using a mouse, and the player collecting clues with an elaborate topic-based dialogue system. Further strengthening the adventure feel is that while you do face off against that dragon at one point, the game ends with a big heist mission, not a boss fight.

By Jake Alley? | Jan. 9, 2012 | Previous: Alien 3 | Next: The 7th Saga