Follow

    Shadowrun

    Game » consists of 1 releases. Released 1994

    Based on William Gibson's Neuromancer, Shadowrun for the Genesis is a darker, grittier, and more open-ended game than its counterpart on the SNES.

    Mega May Madness: Shadowrun

    Avatar image for mento
    Mento

    4720

    Forum Posts

    536583

    Wiki Points

    506

    Followers

    Reviews: 39

    User Lists: 200

    Edited By Mento  Moderator

    For May 2022's "May Madness" feature I'm just playing a bunch of Sega Mega Drive / Genesis RPGs that caught my eye after researching for the Mega Archive blog series. You can see how well I'm doing by visiting the first entry, here.

    No Caption Provided

    I'm not sure I've made it clear with my history writing on this site that I have an equal affinity for both "Western-style" RPGs and "Eastern-style" RPGs: I assuredly spend more time writing about the latter, but I first cut my milk teeth on the former as a lil' stinker with his own Atari ST 520 home computer to tinker around with. However, when it comes to older consoles, the Western-style RPGs (which is a shorthand I'm using for RPGs that tend to have: a more anonymous hero, or party of heroes, that the player creates from scratch; a linear plot followed in a mostly non-linear fashion; a deeper focus on character customization; and that are usually based on table-top games) are usually shown a disservice when translating its elaborate UIs and steep learning curves to a three-button gamepad and a limited native resolution. As such, though I'm a long-time fan of RPG franchises like Might and Magic that made a cursory appearance or two on the system, I'm going to leave them well enough alone for the sake of this feature since their PC incarnations were often far better.

    However, there will be one exception to this, and that is BlueSky Software's Shadowrun, released only in North America and Asia in 1994 and exclusively for the Mega Drive (at least, with this particular adaptation). Based on the cyberpunk pen-and-paper RPG campaign setting of the same name, Shadowrun sees a near-future Earth suddenly have to contend with the cyclical return of magic. Hitting in the middle of a high-tech capitalist dystopia as it does, there's some integration issues when it comes to all the elves, dwarves, mages, dragons, undead, and other fantasy staples suddenly reappearing in human society. Shadowrun is in some ways an allegory of how capitalism separates us into tiers and shits on the less wealthy, the less connected, and the less "normal"; likewise, it follows other cyberpunk in exploring the end result of such a system of civilization if left unchecked and allowed to rot. For others less concerned with symbolism, it's an excuse to have hackers (sorry, "deckers") fighting Black ICE, cyborg dudes carving up gang hoodlums with samurai swords, and orc shamans tossing fireballs all within the same campaign setting (and, sometimes, in the same party). The Shadowrunner him- or herself is a mercenary and fixer that flits around the urban underworld completing tasks of dubious legality, avoiding factions both overtly hostile - like the many street gangs and hit squads - and covertly hostile, like the many "corps" and the law enforcement officials they have under their thumbs. In this particular adaptation of Shadowrun, you are a 'runner named Joshua who sets off to Seattle in order to discover who betrayed your brother's Shadowrunner group and left them for dead.

    My dude gets so upset at this newsfeed that he apparently switched it over to a Commando re-run on TCM.
    My dude gets so upset at this newsfeed that he apparently switched it over to a Commando re-run on TCM.
    Gunderson, one of many 'Mr. Johnsons' (the ones who set up Shadowrun missions), will give you tasks with randomized variables. I sure seem to meet a lot of Billy Gibsons, how odd.
    Gunderson, one of many 'Mr. Johnsons' (the ones who set up Shadowrun missions), will give you tasks with randomized variables. I sure seem to meet a lot of Billy Gibsons, how odd.

    As any true chummer knows, there are two equally important halves to any Shadowrun adaptation worth its salt: meatspace and cyberspace, otherwise known as the Matrix. In this Shadowrun's top-down version of meatspace all combat happens in real-time: enemies will start moving towards you from off-screen and you can quickly target them and either engage them with melee, use guns to pick them off from a distance, or fling pre-prepared magic at them. It's superficially similar to Infinity Engine combat though I've not figured out how to do the tactical pausing that would make it much easier to react to threats in time. I think the developers realized the inherent difficulty in this real-time approach - especially since the action is zoomed-in enough that you usually only have seconds of advantage as a ranged attacker before they're on top of you - and made death penalties as minimally punishing as possible. In GTA fashion, you simply respawn at the nearest hospital with 10% of your held cash removed for medical bills. This also creates a double-layered incentive to constantly spend on improving yourself: whether that's through buying better gear such as guns and body armor, consumables like medkits and ammo, upgrades and programs for your deck, or cybernetic enhancements to your body for as long as your "essence" holds out (a universal hard limit for cybernetic upgrades based on one's natural life force; any more and you'll die from not being sufficiently alive, as it were). Better gear means better survival odds and more opportunities for making money, and also having less cash on you to vanish into the ether the next time a ghoul or a gangster or a rent-a-cop knocks you on your ass.

    Meanwhile, the online travails of the decker class of Shadowrunner are far more elaborate and interesting than I was anticipating from this era. Hacking nodes in a computer system is also treated like a real-time RPG - though this time closer to Final Fantasy's ATB gauge, as you select your next program and wait for your turn gauge to fill before you can use it - and each computer system is a maze of sub-processor units, I/O ports, CPUs, and datastores, the last of which is your primary target for all the juicy, salacious info contained within. Most nodes are protected by ICE anti-virus software, some of which are far more dangerous to deal with than others; you eventually learn from the visual forms they take which are the ones to avoid, and it's often better to go stealth with deception codes and false password generators where possible than to brute force the node with your own attack viruses. So far I've run into nothing but trouble while tracking to hack - lost one of my few combat programs to a particularly malicious form of ICE that permanently drained it right out of my deck - but I think with a few more character points put into computing and the related stats of quickness (dexterity) and intelligence jacking-in might prove to be a lucrative source of funds in the future. Looking at some of the prices of high-end decks and programs, though, I think anyone who decides to focus on that half of the Mega Drive Shadowrun experience will find quite a high ceiling to pursue.

    Here I am as Virtual Pepsiman, ready to hack into this node for the priceless data within. I've spent more cash than I want to admit on a cutting-edge deck able to get me this far...
    Here I am as Virtual Pepsiman, ready to hack into this node for the priceless data within. I've spent more cash than I want to admit on a cutting-edge deck able to get me this far...
    ...Ohhh.
    ...Ohhh.

    Speaking of stats, the game also adapts the original table-top game's character development system where you earn "karma" for completing Shadowrun jobs. Karma points can then be spent in an interface that is only available when resting in hotels and dives where you can pour points into either stats that give you a bonus to all related skills, or the specific skills themselves. These include melee and firearm skills, magic, electronics (used mostly for lockpicking), biotech (improves healing from medkits), and negotiation (reduces prices). Deficits in your build can be made up by hiring other Shadowrunners, often found in bars across Seattle: you can pay a small fee for them to join you on your current mission only, or ten times that amount for them to join you "permanently" (which I think lasts until you get killed and respawn at the hospital). Karma can also be easy enough to grind if you want to spend time developing your character early on since there's no end of radiant quests to pick up and complete. That's what I did, because I found the combat was too much to handle without some better gear and I kept doing the basic fetch and escort quests available to you in the first area of the game until I was satisfied. I eventually ended up with a great pistol, some decent armor, a datalink implant needed for decking, and enough karma to max out my Body stat (health and damage resistance) and improve a few other necessary traits. Of course, it was more than just a little grindy, but that's often the nature of these older RPGs and I'd been prepared for it since this feature began. It also conveniently and cleverly offers players a way to set their own difficulty; how much they grind with these simple missions early on can make the later story-critical tasks easier to handle.

    Notably, I can see where the Shadowrun Returns reboot took lessons from this particular adaptation, in much the same way they were inspired by the far more linear and story-driven SNES Shadowrun adaptation from Beam Software. A typical Shadowrun table-top campaign would be built around a series of imaginative scenarios devised by the game's GM, or Game Master. However, the reality of such a profession in such a world would be more one of routine "9-5" assignments and slowly building one's professional skillset and underworld reputation, working up to those rare cases that prove to have significant repercussions or story/character development. In some ways, both the Mega Drive and Shadowrun Returns games recognizes the inherent grind - for better or worse - as you develop your stats, skills, and equipment loadouts dealing with small fry in preparation for the serious assignments ahead with higher stakes. For as monotonous as I'm making it sound, it does also provide a certain degree of verisimilitude to the idea of the Shadowrunner as an ignoble profession, going from an easily-suckered greenhorn to a seasoned professional able to read the scene and make the best decisions. After a rough start with its difficult combat and investing in that side-quest loop grind before you can afford to do anything, I developed a burgeoning respect for how it brings you into its world and makes it feel real despite the limited tech on hand.

    By the time you notice these dudes, they're inches away from your grill. Might've been a better idea to invest in melee instead.
    By the time you notice these dudes, they're inches away from your grill. Might've been a better idea to invest in melee instead.
    The game has a posture system that allows you to prioritize attack or defense, and also determines AI behavior too. That set of two-letter buttons at the bottom take you to the other menus; I guess there wasn't enough space for ideographs. Also, no, you can't not be Joshua. Who even wants to be a badass cyberswordsman called Joshua?
    The game has a posture system that allows you to prioritize attack or defense, and also determines AI behavior too. That set of two-letter buttons at the bottom take you to the other menus; I guess there wasn't enough space for ideographs. Also, no, you can't not be Joshua. Who even wants to be a badass cyberswordsman called Joshua?

    The grind is, sadly, extremely real indeed. Almost every story juncture I'm at now - I've got to save some park ranger dude's brother from a corporation building filled with security before he'll spill the beans on my dead brother's unusual trip outside the city, and there's a fixer who knows something about dear bro's fateful botched mission but as soon as I get anything concrete from them a corp strike team shows up - leads to my near-instant death, unless I'm prepared to spend many, many hours earning enough karma and money to get into late-game shape for these ostensibly mid-game challenges. The game isn't exactly forthcoming with information about itself either; there's a whole mess of mechanics I've barely explored such as finding contacts and what cyberware to install and which fellow Shadowrunners to recruit, and true to its roots as a PC RPG-influenced game I suspect I'll need a manual the size of a phonebook for the nuance I'll need to thoroughly explore my options. All of these options, incidentally, cost a considerable amount of money: the kind of amount where you really have to want to dedicate about an hour of completing radiant missions to obtain it, and that's hard to judge when I don't know what benefits any of these options will bring (without save-scumming I suppose, but even then there might be long-term consequences or rewards for these expenditures that won't be apparent immediately). It's the model of RPG that went out of style a long time ago; the sort that demands many dozens of hours of your time before any of it makes sense, and then a similar amount of time again to execute on a run that hasn't wasted resources on dead ends and poor decisions. There's plenty of merit to a denser approach to RPG game design like this, of course, but it requires more patience than I'm willing to muster for this month-long sojourn through the Mega Drive's RPG library. If Light Crusader and Soleil were too much on the slight side, this overly faithful Shadowrun adaptation perhaps goes too far in the other direction. I guess it's time to jack... out? (gotta be careful to get the right one here) and try something else for a spell.

    < Back to Mega May Madness

    Avatar image for manburger
    Manburger

    248

    Forum Posts

    28

    Wiki Points

    0

    Followers

    Reviews: 0

    User Lists: 7

    Although not personally afflicted by Mega Madness, I am enjoying this series!

    Avatar image for paulwgraham
    paulwgraham

    145

    Forum Posts

    0

    Wiki Points

    0

    Followers

    Reviews: 0

    User Lists: 0

    #2  Edited By paulwgraham

    Shadowrun and Battletech (both products of FASA) will always hold a very special place in my heart. I stumbled across a whole shelf of the novels at my local library when I was kid. I was just at the right age and just the right kind of kid to have that stuff hook me hard.

    And since I'm old this happened at a time before personal computers where common and the understanding of electronic networks and connectivity was widespread. Well, at least not widespread in suburban Idaho.

    It's hard to describe what the genre of cyberpunk felt like back then. Nowadays cybercrime is mundane and quite lame but back then the thought of it had a kind of magical quality to it. Cyberpunk stories fired the imagination much in the same way classic sword and sorcery stories might.

    Shadowrun not only recognized this kindred feeling but embraced it, merging the two genres into a kind of Uzi and Sorcery universe.

    I played both the console games and though I didn't spend much time with the Genesis game and consequently didn't have much feeling for it, I loved the SNES game. I still remember the awesome electronic skull title graphic and how awesome the game was at setting the mood by starting the game with the player waking up in the morgue.

    Looking back through thirty years and thick clouds of nostalgia I can say it is one of the best games I've ever played.

    This edit will also create new pages on Giant Bomb for:

    Beware, you are proposing to add brand new pages to the wiki along with your edits. Make sure this is what you intended. This will likely increase the time it takes for your changes to go live.

    Comment and Save

    Until you earn 1000 points all your submissions need to be vetted by other Giant Bomb users. This process takes no more than a few hours and we'll send you an email once approved.