Top 100 SNES Review: #39 – Shadowrun (1993)


Jake’s future dystopia quickly becomes your present one.

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Sydlexia’s Ranking: #39/100
My Rating: cropped-smooth-star

Shadowrun was doing everything so right.

When a puzzle arose, different hypotheses could be formed and tested with the appropriate interplay of challenge and reward. You never were at a complete loss (having no clue where to start) using the last resort plug-and-chug method (recounting every step, taking to every NPC, trying every command). The story pointed you in the right direction — it was then up to you to piece it together.

You had to do some repetitive grinding for levels and endure moments of uncertainty, but a framework held it together. Until this wacka-doodle of a game spirals out of control.

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Lamenting the early portions of the game — clues, hints, and logic.


The game opens up in a morgue with two doctors having just stored the body of someone who was murdered. After they leave, the murdered man stumbles out of storage still alive. After investigating his surroundings and personal belongings, clues begin to mount: a torn piece of paper with instructions, a matchbox with a club name on the back, his own name of Jake Armistice.

Jake leaves the morgue, scaring the two doctors en route, to be greeted to a future, cyberpunk, dystopian Seattle. A man running down the street is surprised to see him after personally seeing him get gun down, and warns that he needs to procure a firearm since he’s assailants are still on the loose.

With this little bit of direction, the world of Shadowrun opens to the player, and Jake begins to problem solve his way through the mystery.

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Can you spot the problem?


To solve puzzles in an adventure game, there has to be context. Things have to make sense. The reasons you use a special key word with a NPC is because you know it’s meaningful to them and will strike up a new conversation. This points you in a certain direction, not with the answer mind you, but with the next plausible action.

Imagine, though, a disconnect: that the story and actions no longer fit what you are supposed to do. You have no direction of where to go next because a story that started about gunman doing a hit job turns into one of dog spirits, shamanism, finding the true name of a jester, shape shifters, and more.

Look at this fence below (its a zoom-in of the picture above). 

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What if I told you to continue the game, you had to realize this fence was a bit off and it was actually a gate. A gate that when opened would allow a dog to escape that would give you a key item that you needed? The only clue to do this is when you meet your dog shaman spirit who tells you to collect three things from each of his followers. Well, that isn’t so bad, right? I mean he is a dog spirit, and this the only other dog around so you could have made some connection, right?

Well, how about a hurt shaman in a graveyard is actually also a follower of the dog spirit? Looking at guides online, it requires a healing patch to heal him. This healing patch is about a 5×5 pixelated area in a fridge in the morgue. There are no in game clues of how to heal him or that this patch exists.

Or afterwards that you have to call a house of vampires, but to do so you have to show a NPC on the other end of town an item to get their phone number, and that this item was actually from one of the dog followers but it doesn’t have any connection to the vampires, dark blades, shape-shifter, rat spirit, or jester man that all appear?

I refuse.

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The beginning of the end.


This game was so good in the beginning. It was a rare find. It was something I had never played, felt superiorly retro, and was phenomenally fun. The joys of figuring out the puzzles in the beginning were just right. Yes, things were hectic and screwy, but you never were that far off.

Then it all falls spectacularly apart into a game that required old school grinding then requires you to grind during every puzzle encounter. It adds characters and elements that don’t jive with anything else that you are trying to do. It leaves you rudderless, back tracking again and again to figure out what to do.

Games that require guides to complete them in a fun manner aren’t games.

Other People’s Thoughts: 

  • RVG Fanatic: Not only is it a blast to play but I love the whole vibe of the game. There’s no teenage angst or love side story BS. It was just a man on the run fighting time, magic, monsters and unraveling the mystery of the puzzle piece by piece. Good stuff.”



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