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Shadowrun on Sega Genesis: A Cyberpunk Blast From the Past

by Lord Bucket
Shadowrun for the Sega Genesis

Shadowrun on Sega Is A Cyberpunk Video Game Staple

With Cyberpunk 2077 now delayed until November, let’s take a moment to talk about one of the best old-school cyberpunk games of all time: Shadowrun on Sega Genesis.

The game is a moderately faithful recreation of the pen & paper Shadowrun game, except with some of its weaker points blissfully altered for sensible gameplay. For instance, no trivial rearranging of points to start a fresh character with an entire lifetime worth of cash. No need to spend dozens of hours to gain any useful character advancement. Instead of karma for character growth being awarded only at the end of lengthy shadowruns, you’ll find yourself also receiving it incrementally from kills and matrix encounters at an entirely reasonable rate.

But despite the admittedly large amounts of text and numbers the game smothers you with, this isn’t a game you’ll play just to manipulate stats, but rather, for the gameplay.

Impressive as a 61 color 320x240 screenshot can be, Shadowrun clearly is not a game to be played for its graphics.
Impressive as a 61 color 320x240 screenshot can be, Shadowrun clearly is not a game to be played for its graphics.

Sega Did What Nintendo Didn’t

The Sega Genesis was a 16-bit, fourth generation console. This was the era that followed Nintendo Hard. While Shadowrun on Sega never reaches Ninja Gaiden or Punchout levels of difficulty, it certainly takes a hands-off approach and lets you discover on your own that there’s a wrong way to do everything. For example, first-time players will inevitably find themselves wandering into a mid-game dungeon in the starter town and being one-shotted by ghouls.

For that matter, you might find yourself randomly pressing keys in the first few minutes of play just to figure out what they do, only to open fire on a recruitable npc. Rather than being immune and friendly, as he would be in most modern games, in Shadowrun he gets annoyed and shoots back at you.

There is sort of a bright side. Instead of death resulting in game over, Shadowrun lets you wake up in a hospital–minus a few creds.

Of course, if you’re playing this game today, odds are good you’ll be playing on an emulator, so easy access to memory dump quicksaves will remove much of the difficulty.

Shadowrun on Sega Has A Beautiful, 16-bit Open World

Shadowrun’s premise initiates play as Joshua, a shadowrunner who’s just arrived in Seattle to investigate the death of his brother. Where the game really shines isn’t the story so much as its general delivery of an authentic Shadowrun experience: the gloomy techno atmosphere with a discordant mix of science fiction and fantasy elements amidst the utterly contemporary mundanity of a world that doesn’t care about you.

The game features a generally open world with both storyline and randomly generated missions.

Shadowrun on Sega Genesis: A Cyberpunk Blast From the Past
The Open World of Shadowrun

You can go anywhere you’d like and pick and choose which npcs to recruit and which to ignore. While you can certainly find your Mr. Johnson and do whatever he tells you like a good little errand boy, you can just as easily jump off the rails the moment the game starts, refuse to pursue the main plotline, and instead recruit some random elven decker in a bar to go hacking into systems for fun and profit.

Shadowrun Returns
Shadowrun Returns

Best Matrix Layout of Any Game

Speaking of which, this game features the best implementation of the matrix that I’ve even seen in any Shadowrun game, ever.

Instead of presenting a simple visual reskin of ordinary play like Shadowrun Returns did in 2013, the 1993 game implements the matrix through an entirely unique set of mechanics.

You’ll be given an overview map where you’ll explore various nodes to identify the unique layout of the system you’ve penetrated, as well as a third-person combat view where you’ll engage intrusion countermeasure programs with a variety of tools.

Instead of simply blasting everything, you’ll also “sleaze” and “mask” your way through, bypassing security programs and presenting yourself as an ordinary user rather than an intruder. You’ll upgrade your cyberdeck several times and purchase upgraded programs which can be assigned to any of five ability slots. This allows you to customize your run with different styles of play, all of which bear no resemblance to the real-world portion of the game that presents itself largely as a traditional top-view RPG.

While I’d love to link you a direct download, distributing game ROMs is at best on sketchy legal ground. So think of this as your shadowrun for the day. Go find a Sega Genesis Megadrive emulator and give Shadowrun from 1993 a try today.

Hey, chum. These posts don't write themselves. If you wanna stay in the know, it's gotta be a two way street.*

Leave a Comment


David Bailey August 17, 2020 - 5:57 pm

I’m creating a Cyberpunk game called visualhacker2D. You can play it on simmer.io. it’s probably a year away.

Rodney Kahane September 5, 2020 - 3:48 pm

If only the could have combined the sega versions mechanics with the snes’s story and atmosphere …


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