Five Things We Learned From Shadowrun

By Aaron Matteson in Five Things, Humor, Lists!
Tuesday, September 27, 2011 at 11:00 am

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Shadowrun is, at least in part, about the future of sunglasses fashion.

Some visions of the future are nice. There are floating cars, robot butlers, and steak dinners in pill form. Imagine -- a pill! With a steak in it!

But if science fiction authors and futurists are to be believed, the nice, happy future is sort of a long shot. Judging just from the ratio of dystopias to utopias in pop culture depictions of the future, odds are about five thousand to one that instead of robot butlers we'll have robot masters, and instead of steak pills we'll have pills that violently awaken us from our drugged slumber to make us aware that we are living in a big goo-egg with cords coming out of our spinal column, our life force used as an energy source for those robot masters we mentioned. And don't even get us started on the floating cars. Do you have any idea how much it takes to insure a god damned flying car?

Shadowrun, a dark cyberpunk thrill-ride for the SNES, was derived from the popular role-playing game of the same name. The setting is Seattle in the year 2050. You are essentially a weird-looking future version of Jason Bourne: you wake up near-dead with no memory of how you got there and no idea why people are trying to kill you. It's up to you to put the pieces together and fight the dragon.

Oh yeah. You fight a fucking dragon.

1.) It pays to be alert.

 

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Every window is suspect.

 

It's understandable that one might be slightly disoriented after waking up in a morgue with no memory. Hell, it's understandable to flip out and weep uncontrollably at this turn of events. It's a shocking and disturbing position to be put in.

But in Shadowrun, that's only the beginning. As Jake Armitage, the player character, finds out almost immediately after his miraculous resurrection, no place is safe for a wanted man in this bleak future.

That's not a hyperbolic statement used for effect. No place is safe. Literally everywhere in the world of SNES Shadowrun there are hitmen who try to murder you. Sometimes they'll just show up on the street and shoot at you. Other times they'll peek their gun out of thin, medieval-style arrow-slot windows and take potshots at you. And over the course of the game you will encounter so many assassins in dumpsters that the mere sight of a trash can afterwards will make Jake Armitage crap his cyberbriefs.

If you're a wanted man, it pays to stay sharp.

 

2.) Capitalism is a little evil.

 

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Jake Armitage, class warrior.

 

The game has a strange way of damning the corporate world in a subtle, underhanded fashion. As Jake, you are armed with a number of weapons in the game, and you also accrue karma based on your moral victories or failings (for a game about badass internet mercenaries, it's very spiritual). If you try to shoot a civilian, who has done you no harm, the voice of God (or Dog, more on that later) will reprimand you, and if you persist, will drain your karma.

But there is one exception: businessmen. You pass by a lot of businessmen on the street. None of them bother you. Sure, they're kind of brusque if you try to talk to them, but they're harmless. However, God does not get mad at you if you attack them. Not even a little. You lose no karma for going berserk, as long as you only harm assassins and businessmen.

 

3.) Why question friendship if you're low on friends?

 

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"I think maybe I should cut down on the amount of glue I've been huffing."

In Shadowrun, friends are hard to come by. While, as we mentioned before, killers pop up all over the place, Jake has no such luck with buddies. That's why, when Jake befriends the totemic Dog spirit, he doesn't so much think, "What?" or, "HOLY SHIT THAT'S A TALKING DOG." Instead, he's happy to have guidance.

 

4.) Conversation is an art.

 

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An intense moment of Shadowrun where Jake discovers that he's been geeked.

Talking to people and gleaning information from what they say is a big part of Shadowrun. Unfortunately, Jake is a terrible, terrible conversationalist.

Essentially, you have two options in a conversation with someone -- just "talk" to them, or "ask about" a specific topic you've heard about before. Most people in real life, if you talk with them, will tell you a fair amount. In Shadowrun, usually they tell you something mildly useful, drop a key word, and then call you a "drekhead" and tell you to piss off. We don't see what Jake says to these people, only their responses, but it must be something like this:

 

JAKE: What's up?

SHADOWRUNNER: I'm for hire, bub. A hundred thousand nuyen buys my loyalty.

JAKE: So what's up?

SHADOWRUNNER: Like I said, I'm for hire. I'm good muscle to have around, if you've got the dough.

JAKE: Hey, what's up?

SHADOWRUNNER: You are a drekhead.

 

If you aren't any good at conversation, you're going to get a lot less out of people than you'd like to.

 

5.) The information age is an amazing time to live.

 

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