- Original release year: 1994
- Consoles: Genesis
Shadowrun is originally a tabletop, traditional role playing game. Not being a virgin, I haven’t personally played it, so can’t comment on how the video games adapt the source material, so instead I’ll just comment on the merits of the Genesis game. There have been a few Shadowrun games in recent years, but back in the 1990s there were only two Shadowrun games (or three if you include the obscure Sega CD game that was only released in Japan). One for the Sega Genesis and one for the Super Nintendo. Both were entirely different games, with entirely different takes on the franchise, developed by entirely different studios. That was the norm back in the 90s. There were multiplatform games, but it was more common for franchises to have completely different releases on the different consoles.
I do enjoy the SNES game, so I probably will feature that one at some point, but right now I really want to comment on the Genesis title, because I feel it was truly revolutionary and innovative at the time. Why? Well because it’s more or less open world and plays a lot like modern RPGs do, offering non-linear gameplay, choices over the order you complete missions in and a big open world to explore. It also oozes in atmosphere.
Set in Seattle, in 2058, Shadowrun presents this incredible, murky, bleak version of the future, full of dangerous gangs, violence, dirty large buildings and a world controlled by big corporations. The world is dark and the world is corrupt. Controlling ‘Joshua’, a Shadowrunner, the game begins with you in Seattle, wanting to avenge and find out information about the death of your brother. From that point on the game is pretty open. The first thing you need to do is raise a certain amount of money before you can progress, so you have to complete side quests to raise money. Just like a modern game, you pick up your quest and then you travel to the right place (or places) in the map to complete your missions. You can choose which missions you accept. As you complete missions, you’ll gain experience and money and will slowly be able to level up your character like in any RPG. Combat is real time and mostly done hand-to-hand or with guns. There’s even police to watch out for, just like in Grand Theft Auto.
Shadowrun is undeniably a really complex, yet easy to get into, RPG, with a non-linear, open gameplay system. That’s what makes it so awesome and ahead of its time, in my opinion. It’s an overhead 2D RPG, but it’s full of detail and really stands out from other 16 bit RPGs. There’s even a decent selection of classes to choose from before you begin your game (Samurai, Decker or Shaman). I like how you can pick up different tasks and missions and can complete them at your own pace. I love how most aren’t essential to the story either, so it allows the player to get as deep into the game as they desire. Just want to focus on the story? No problem. But if you want to see everything and do as many missions as possible, there’s loads to explore and loads to do. You can easily put in well over 20 or 30 hours into the game, if you do all the tasks to level up your character and earn money. The tasks you pick up can vary. You may have to deliver a few suspicious packages, rescue a civilian and take them to safety or you you may have to hack into a government computer system and steal some confidential information. You might also have to head inside some buildings that will be full of security cameras to avoid and tough enemies to kill (or avoid).
The hacking and heading into ‘The Matrix’ is also like another game in itself. These parts are completely different to the rest of the game. You control a ‘persona’ and have to fight different security programs when reaching different nodes. It’s really interesting and really fun.
Shadowrun on the Genesis is a really fun and unique game. I feel like the plot is kinda, well, totally, paper thin and not much to write about, but the gameplay was truly ahead of its time. There’s so much to see and do in the game and I really enjoyed the futuristic setting, which is very different to the traditional fantasy based RPGs that were in abundance back in the 90s. If you like 16 bit RPGs and haven’t given this gem a try yet, I really cannot recommend it enough.