Shadowrun - Retroview

Seattle's a Scary, Scary Place.

By: Anton North

Review Breakdown
   Battle System 6
   Interface 6
   Music/Sound 7
   Originality 7
   Plot 7
   Localization -
   Replay Value 4
   Visuals 5
   Difficulty Medium - Hard
   Time to Complete

10-20 hours


Title Screen

   "The year is 2050, and the Megaplexes are monsters casting long shadows.." So says the intro sequence to Data East's Shadowrun for the SNES. If you're not familiar with the pen-and-paper game, Shadowrun is a futuristic cyberpunk romp, complete with elves, dwarves, orcs and dragons. Throw in ballistic weapons and cybernetic implants, and you've got one heck of a good time. The game takes place in Seattle, and lucky for you, there's no Microsoft Way in sight.

   The battle system is really quite simple: Once you've armed your character, you push a button to draw your weapon, which also brings up a handy firing cursor. The same holds true for magic, as well. The slight hitch to this idea is that you can't move while targeting or firing at an enemy- so you might want to make sure your armour can take a few hits. Another system which I'll mention here is the Matrix; no, don't worry, you aren't going to have to listen to Keanu say "Whoa" yet again. Once you've progressed far enough, you can access computer systems directly with your mind, using an implant. Once inside, there are little impediments called ICs, or ice, meaning intrusion countermeasure. In order to successfully raid the system and unlock the door or steal the money, whatever your objective was, you've got to get past them. Unfortunately, this is a rather uninspired process involving blind luck and your computers skill. If you fail to destroy too many IC units, you're flashed back to reality to see your character drop dead. For this reason, I'd suggest saving before attempting feats like someone out of a William Gibson novel.

   The non-combat system is also quite simple, with one button bringing up a cursor allowing you to interact with your surroundings and another landing you in a standard status menu. It takes a little getting used to, but is really quite basic in its execution.Conversing with characters, however, is where this game really shows off innovation. Talking with NPCs and other characters is achieved through a menu system consisting of different keywords. By talking with someone about a certain subject, you may open up more topics for your character to mention. With a few exceptions, most characters only respond to one or two keywords, giving a sometimes humorous message of disinterest to the others. Though this idea has seen wide use, when this game was released in 1993, it was quite new.

Hey, didn't we see this in Blade Runner?
Hey, didn't we see this in Blade Runner?  

   The musical score has a few excellent mood setting tracks, although some of the others get quite tedious and repetitive as you play through the game. The sound effects are fairly basic, but they fit the game well. Expect to here a lot of gunshots, and even a few dogs barking. The club music, though often reused in the game, is quite noteable.

   In 1993 when Shadowrun was first produced for an unappreciative public, it was quite an original idea. That is, unless you played a lot of cyberpunky role playing games. Some of the plot elements have been duplicated today, but most still remain rather unique.

   When the game begins, your character wakes up in the city morgue, much to the surprise and terror of the two med techs who brought him in. He, of course, has amnesia, and his mission in the game is to find out who tried to kill him and why. This takes you pretty much through the entire course of things, and is used somewhat effectively, even if it doesn't win any big points for originality. There are a couple of points where things can get rather confusing, but for the most part it's all pretty straightforward. Though, whether busting vampires or raiding systems, Jake Armitage is never *TOO* sure what for.

Do yourself a favour and take the lady's advice.

Do yourself a favour and take the lady's advice.


   Unfortunately, this game sorely lacks in replay value. The only reason, aside from all-around fun, to play it again would be to find the elements necessary to get any spells you may have missed. There's only one ending, and though it promises a Shadowrun 2, Data East never got around to publishing it.

   The graphics in this game were largely average. The level of detail on some of the character sprites was quite nice, but for the most part the visuals were comparable to those of other games at the time. The character portraits in the talk menu weren't too bad, but by the end you've seen most of them reused a half dozen times.

   All things considered, the game isn't too difficult, though there are a few points where it's easy to get stuck. Missing keywords can force players to start over in the worst cases, and simply being underpowered can cause difficulty in others.

Unfortunately, every Mad Hatter gone postal in Seattle is after our hero.
Unfortunately, every Mad Hatter gone postal in Seattle is after our hero.  


   All in all, when you weigh the negatives against the positives, the game only comes a bit above average. While rather unspectacular, it is quite fun, so I do suggest giving it a try sometime if you haven't already. The game is fairly short, barring major mistakes, of course, and should only take between ten and twenty hours to complete. Final word: Decent and worth playing.


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