Sometimes when you look back on certain video games they remind you of more than the game sometimes they will remind you of a time, a place or a person. A lot of the games I have reviewed and talked about have connections like this. Combatribes for example reminds me of a local Pizza parlour in my home town. The main reason for this is because they had it in there for a long time, it was pushed in the corner and you’d stick a few twenty pence pieces in it and see how far you could get while you were waiting for your pizza to be made, most of the time this would be after having seen something in the local cinema. The cinema is gone now as is the arcade machine but the pizza parlour is still going strong but every time I pass it I look in that lonely corner and sigh wishing there was still an arcade machine there.
The game I am going to talk about today though doesn’t remind me of a time or a place it reminds me of a person, a friend. This particular friend had a love of RPG style games that seemed to have no limit, he was the first one to get and play all of the final fantasy games, secret of mana, etcetera. Most people would quickly see what he had gotten and after listening to him excitedly go on and on about it or after him turning up at their house with it singing its praises well let’s just say they would be buying it as soon as possible. One game though he just couldn’t seem to get anyone interested in, I have to admit on first glance even I couldn’t see what it was that attracted him to it. After sitting and watching him restart the game in front of me though it wasn’t long before I was asking for a go. The game was ShadowRun.
I had heard a little bit about the original Shadowrun the pen and paper role playing game but when it came to that kind of thing the people I knew where generally into citadel miniatures Warhammer 4000. I still have never played the original roleplaying game of Shadow run so I won’t be comparing this game to it nor have I ever done but knowing this at the time did give me a rough idea of what to expect.
Ok so the story goes a little like this it is 2050 you play a guy called Jake Armitage, an information courier who is shot supposedly dead and taken to the morgue. You wake up on the slab with a sore head and no idea of who you are. Your basic mission throughout the game is to try and work out who you are and what happened to you. You’re in a world with guns which are basically based on sort of current technology, but there are orcs and trolls, not the dumb kind who walk around naked holding spears and axes, no these guys wear leather jackets have shotguns, pistols, uzi’s, hacking computers and hire themselves out as thugs, protectors, hackers, killers etcetera. I won’t spoil any more of it than this but this gives you a basic idea of the world this game is set in and your place within it.
Ok so to get a few things out of the way this is not a graphically impressive game for a start the sprites are small, sometimes rather lacking in detail but there is often quite a lot of enemies moving around on screen shooting all over the place so you can kind of see why.
The levels of animation on the sprites are also at times rather limited and there are issues of repetition with sprites and the portraits used for faces when you are speaking with people being reused again and again. I can see why some people would be put off by this but it would be a shame if people were to judge it based on appearances and not try and get in to it.
The music is decent and easy enough to listen to, but it’s not impressive not when compared to some of the beautiful RPG soundtracks that found their way on to the SNES but it fits and it doesn’t annoy so it works.
The game almost feels like you should be playing it with a mouse, its part RPG but then there is also at times a sort of point and click element to it. You highlight doors or cupboards and select options like ‘’look’’ ‘’open’’ etcetera. You also do the same sort of thing when interacting with individuals picking what you want to say. The talking with people part is handled quiet interestingly there are various topics of conversation that you can use these form a database which can be made larger through picking up new terms from the people you talk to. So, to explain this, imagine that you talking with a person and they mention a club ‘’the purple banana’’ then the name of this club if it is highlighted will go into your topics database, and you will able to ask anybody that you meet about the club by selecting ‘’the purple banana’’ from your list of topics (this club is not really in the game but it helps me make my point without spoiling anything). This actually makes you feel you have a lot more freedom than in some games when it comes to talking to other characters, there is a lot of un-needed answers added in just to make the world feel real and I appreciate the effort that’s gone in to this.
The graphics are not amazing nor is the sound, the story is interesting if clichéd at points but the world they have built up around the game feels big and real, if you can get past how basic it looks on the surface and get your head in the game, get your heart in to the story then you have an incredible game here. I feel very comfortable giving this game a very hearty recommendation and scoring it 9 out of 10. It only loses out on perfection due to its lack of graphical and audio polish and a bit of repetition but none of its issues can hold it back once you have found yourself deep in its clutches. It is also quite a long game so provides a good ratio of bang for your buck. An English cart typically seems to end up going for around the £35 to £40 price point which is a lot, I haven’t even seen a boxed one in I don’t know how long, but if you can play American games you can with some searching cut that price down to around £25 and this is a rare case when I would say its worth it (Also to my knowledge there has never been a digital virtual console version of this on any system). As a side note if you don’t want to invest so highly in this game either because it’s a fair bit of cash or your worried that it won’t be your thing there are some new PC shadowrun games available on steam which are very much in the style of this game. Shadowrun Returns and Shadowrun Dragonfall are both about £11 each but I have seen them go down to as low as about £4 during steam or humble bundle store sales so if it sounds interesting keep your eyes open.
So what happened to my friend who introduced Shadowrun on the SNES to me? He has moved to America now and no longer plays Video games. I don’t get to talk to him that often as he is busy with his work and family but I will always think back and remember him as that excited guy who couldn’t wait for RPG’s to come out, who would buy some of them in Japanese and just plough his way through them the best he could and I will never be able to play a shadowrun related game without thinking of him and smiling.