Once again, I’m going to provide you my limited knowledge about something purely from a videogame angle. I may miss a few things, and if I do, definitely feel free to leave feedback calling me a retard. Just sayin’. Anyhow, the Shadowrun series is definitely an interesting one, at least in VG format. It originally started as a pen and paper RPG and that’s really all I know about its backhistory.
But I have played the two most important videogames of the series and much like Strider, they are radically different, yet essentially trying to do the same thing. That’s the most interesting point. While Strider was playing fast and loose with the arcade/Genesis version, it was trying to have a more consistent story more closely related to the manga (or so would be my guess).
With Shadowrun, all games exist in the Shadowrun universe, but tell different tales…or no tale at all in the most recent version. Actually, let’s briefly tap on that for a second. The most recent version was a major letdown for me because both the SNES and Genesis versions were such great RPGs, just handling the gameplay radically different and keeping different ideas in focus.
The 360/PS3 version was…well, it wasn’t BAD depending on who you ask, but it wasn’t very good either. Essentially it took a note from Team Fortress 2…and that’s about it. I haven’t played it myself, but most reviewers hate it. There’s still a fanbase for it, apparently, and again, I can’t really talk positively or negatively about it as I haven’t played it, but seriously, just a simple TF2 clone? Come on.
Anyway, where the true meat is is in the 16-bit versions. Let’s start with the SNES version. This game is insanely and unnecessarily hard. You won’t usually find me saying things like this, but this is one of the rare instances where hand holding would have been a plus. You start the game by waking up in a morgue and freaking out the morticians. And that’s it.
No really, that’s it. You have amnesia, don’t know where you are, where you live, or why random people are attacking you. It’s not readily obvious how you heal, use the inventory system, level up, or fucking anything. The game does fuck all to help you and when I initially rented this title I had to die a good 10 times before I found my apartment where you’re actually able to save.
Yeah, I kept dying because I COULDN’T FIND A SAVE POINT. FROM THE BEGINNING OF THE GAME. Of course, once you get over that and get your bearings, it does get better. The biggest fault of this game is not explaining shit. Maybe it would’ve been better if I had the instruction booklet, but again, it was a rental. As a side note, I can’t even imagine what renting Earthbound without the strategy guide would’ve been like…thankfully, I bought it brand spanking new, so it came with.
Anyway, this game is presented in an isometric format and often fights consist of standing still, mashing the action button, until either you or the enemies die. Yeah, it’s nothing brilliant. Really, you have to keep an eye on your health at all times, spend and save karma wisely (which you use to level up), and fight only when absolutely necessary.
Normally I wouldn’t advise going down dark alleys, but I really need to grind some more…
Not that it’s really of much benefit to run; it takes forever to get karma in some cases (unless you know how to farm it successfully) and just because you ran, it doesn’t mean you won’t find another fight right around the corner. The game is brutal at times, but fun. Of course, the decking aspect to this game is crap. See, one thing a lot of cyberpunk games like to incorporate, and yet another reason I love them, is the aspect of cyberdecks.
For all you diaper wearers, cyberdecking is basically Hollywood bullshit hacking. You have a keyboard that plugs into your brain or some shit and an uplink cable that plugs into terminals for which you traverse over the matrix with your little avatar while constantly fighting black ice and various other countermeasures that could fry your fucking brain if you fail.
Unfortunately, it’s incredibly basic and kind of boring in this one. Still, the story aspect is pretty awesome, there are a lot of great environments, and while it doesn’t do a good job of explaining shit (aka Final Fantasy 13 syndrome), it’s still a very fun and challenging game to play. In fact, for the longest time, I’d avoided the Genesis version figuring it was just a graphically weaker version of the SNES version.
Oh how wrong I was. Thankfully I was smart enough to take a hint from Home of the Underdogs while it was still around (actually it may still be around, not sure) and give it a look. Then I couldn’t stop fucking playing it. The Genesis version of Shadowrun not only perfectly captures what Shadowrun is all about, it gives you an open world experience, lots of recruitable team mates, a ridiculous amount of random mission contracts, a metric fuckton of different things to level up, and overall is a more solid action/RPG experience.
EVERYFUCKINGWHERE’S A DARK ALLEY.
First off, no amnesia. Your brother was killed in a recent shadow run and you’re on a quest for revenge. You have to do quite a bit of detective work, so thankfully you’ve got a journal that keeps all pertinent information. You get to select what kind of character you will start as, but much like the Elder Scrolls games, wherever you go from there is entirely your choice.
Adding more cyberware stuff takes down your essense, which is your effectiveness with and against magic. You might say “fuck magic, I don’t need that shit.” You sure don’t…but regardless of how tough you get, magic will ruin your day with one or two hits without a decent amount of essense. And it’s a tough call because there are so many great pieces of cyberware such as wired reflexes, which greatly enhances your overall speed and reaction time.
Balance is key and grinding becomes a necessity. Of course, the most fun aspect of this game HAS to be decking. In the SNES version, it was seriously underwhelming. It wasn’t even fun or remotely interesting. The Genesis version, however, is so fun, so addicting, and so absorbing that you could literally just spend the entire game using karma to enhance your tech abilities, constantly buy newer cyberdecks, upgrade your software and hardware, and nothing else.
In fact, I’ve still yet to beat the game because I have too much fun just decking. It’s actually led me to playing other cyberpunk titles like Decker, Uplink, and Neuromancer. If games were a gateway drug, Shadowrun for the Genesis would be outlawed. It is insanely addictive, ever-expansive, and an incredible experience overall.
Welcome to your new addiction.
So where does that leave us? Well, for the longest time I was worried that that was it for the Shadowrun series. Sure, pen and paper is still around, but I don’t really get into LARP or tabletop stuff. Thankfully, there are people who still give a damn. Yes, Cliffhanger Productions, an independent developer, is working fervently to try to bring out yet another great Shadowrun title…and it looks pretty damn good so far.
So there may yet be hope for more Shadowrun. And hey, as I said before, even if it totally sucks out loud, we’ll always have the classics. Thanks for reading!