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Shadowrun is a cyberpunk action RPG for the Super NES adapted from the pen and paper RPG Shadowrun by FASA. The game was developed by Australian company Beam Software (now Melbourne House) and released on November 1 1993 by Data East.


The player takes on the role of Jake Armitage, a courier who is shot and nearly killed in the streets of Seattle in the year 2050 by a hit squad. He wakes up in a morgue with significant amnesia as to what he was doing that resulted in his near-death --- in fact, he was thought to be literally brain-burnt, which he himself felt as if he was when awakened.



As an action RPG video game, Shadowrun combines both the statistical factor in the tabletop game with real-time gameplay. For example, the player controls Jake, moves him around using the controller, and when attacked, must use guns or magic commands to respond. Some battles within the game require sharp reflexes. This is further complicated by the fact that the Seattle in the game is a rather tough city - practically every screen contains at least one hidden assassin who, from random locations, opens fire on Jake; the player must immediately find the source of the attack and respond or risk getting killed.

At the same time, Jake builds up "karma" from killing enemies - on a steady basis from killing regular enemies, and in large chunks from beating bosses. This karma can then be allocated by the player into different attributes, skills, and magical powers. Physical attributes include basic factors as how many hit points Jake has. Jake also has the ability to learn new skills, such as "negotiation" and "leadership," which allows him to haggle prices and to retain the loyalty of henchmen.

As the title of the game implies, Jake is described as a "shadowrunner," a mercenary character common within the Shadowrun RPG. Moreover, in the game, Jake is able to hire other shadowrunners as henchmen. It is possible for the player to win the game without hiring a single shadowrunner.

In interacting with non-player characters, Shadowrun uses an unusual system. Whenever Jake hears a new and unusual term, this word is highlighted, then added to a sort of database of terms he can use. From that point on, when speaking with NPCs, Jake is able to ask them about this new word; only in this manner can a player progress with the game.

The game also includes an unusual way of entering into cyberspace. After a certain point in the game, Jake, using a cyberdeck, is able to hack into computers to retrieve information, as well as gain more money, which in the game is nuyen (which is pronounced "new yen"). During such scenes, the gameplay becomes two-dimensional while an icon of Jake moves through cyberspace, fights intrusion programs, and retrieves data. As in the original RPG (and cyberpunk literature in general), if the player dies in cyberspace, he dies in real life as well.


Much of the gameplay consists of Jake running into people he supposedly knows, and trying to regain his memories. Although it takes much digging and many missions, the following plotline slowly emerges:

  • Jake was carrying a program in his "head computer" that was able to destroy artificial intelligence. Shortly after he got a copy of this program, a corporation trying to construct an extremely powerful AI, aided by a mysterious figure known as "Drake," destroyed both the company that created the program (Matrix Systems) as well as the computer programmer who created it (Raitsov). As Jake has the last-known copy, Drake sends hit men to assassinate him.
  • On the verge of death, Jake is saved by a kitsune character. Later in the game, Jake meets this kitsune, who takes the form of a lady, and is apparently attracted to Jake. Unlike other shadowrunners, Kitsune will never leave Jake once hired.
  • Unbeknownst to him, Jake is really a shaman (a possible player class in the original RPG). With a dog as his shamanistic totem, Jake is able to learn and cast magic, as well as gain insight into his situation.
  • The mysterious Drake is in reality a dragon with a secret lair located in a volcano. He must be defeated before Jake can attack the final enemy, Aneki Corporation, which is behind the entire plot.

In order to successfully win the game (and to regain his memories), Jake must complete a number of missions that, at times, seem unconnected. Such missions include:

  • Tracking down his underworld contact, Glutman, to inform him of the assassination attempt, and to temporarily be relocated to a safe location away from Drake.
  • Successfully defusing a "cortex bomb" in his head, implanted to protect the secret program. This must be performed before Jake can attempt to enter cyberspace. Doing this also allows the doctor (Maplethorpe) to implant Jake with cyborg improvements.
  • Locating Kitsune and the shamanistic dog spirit, which can only be done after eliminating a street gang hired by Drake. After a minor mission from the dog spirit (killing the "Rat Shaman"), Jake can begin to learn magic. However, learning magic involves gathering far-flung and rare materials from around the game, which can be a mission in itself.
  • Gaining the control of the "Jester Spirit," the only entity in the game strong enough to enable Jake to take on Drake. In order to do this, Jake must crash the club of a vampire, Vladimir, and learn the spirit's true name. Then Jake must travel to a wrecked ship to trap the spirit.
  • Destroying Drake. Jake must first eliminate foes in Drake's Seattle office headquarters, then commandeer a helicopter to go to Drake's lair and kill the dragon.
  • Shut down Aneki Corporation. Jake must, floor-by-floor, eliminate the behind-the-scenes corporation and, within cyberspace, destroy its AI and records.

Many players see the end of the game as somewhat anticlimactic — the mission to kill Drake is arguably the most difficult segment of the game, while the raid on Aneki is simply a repeat of the first half of the Drake mission. Likewise, the ending of the game has disappointed many players (Jake and Kitsune simply escape from the destroyed Aneki building), as many questions are left unanswered, but perhaps the biggest disappointment was the reference to a sequel which never appeared. Ironically, the ending is entirely appropriate considering the usual motifs of cyberpunk literature.


  • Jake's last name, "Armitage," appears to be a homage to the character of the same name in William Ford Gibson's novel Neuromancer, an early cyberpunk novel. Naming a character 'Armitage' seems to be a cyberpunk habit.
  • In one version of the game, the people at the morgue are referred to as the "chop shop guys". A later revision of the game replaced this phrase with "morgue guys", as well as making several other minor changes that slightly toned down the game.

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