It's the time of the year when the days get shorter, retailers stay open longer, big games are released and there seems to be a holiday every other week. Defunct Games wants to ring in this festive season with a look at the most memorable video game themes of all time. For five weeks straight, Cyril Lachel and Kevin Bailey will share their thoughts on themes from the last thirty years. Join us every day between November 22 and December 25 for The 34 Game Themes of Christmas!
Based on the popular pen-and-paper game, Shadowrun plays out like Advanced Dungeons & Dragons for the cyberpunk generation. There's computer hacking, monsters, magic, a tree of life and a Matrix that has nothing to do with Keanu Reeves. Although Shadowrun made an appearance on both the Super NES and Genesis, they are not ports. Instead they are two completely different games that retro fans argue about to this day. But we're not here to fight, because everybody knows that the worst Shadowrun is on the Xbox 360 ... and Mitch Gitelman was an asshole.
Shadowrun on the Genesis really surprised me. This theme starts out with a foreboding progression; full of low notes and potential danger. Little do you know that it is actually setting you up for something far more spirited. After a few measures of the menacing melody, the song switches instruments entirely with a short harpsichord section. Before long, the low notes are back, but this time with a playful wah-wah effect. Just repeating these two parts would have been enough, but Shadowrun goes the extra step by adding a bridge to the eventual loop. The whole thing comes together perfectly, making this one of my favorite 16-bit themes. This is a song that seems tailor made to be sampled on a DJ Shadow album, which may be the greatest compliment I can give a cartridge-based theme song. There's a debate to be had over which Shadowrun game is best, but nobody can deny the greatness of this Genesis theme.
Shadowrun has a very simple theme, but it does have some unusual instrumentation. You might notice that the song is very dark. This is because there seem to be two bass parts making up the majority of the song. At first, these two bass lines are all you hear. A soft snare roll then introduces the very sparse keys and guitar, which both have simple lead riffs, but more interesting to me is that between the repeats of the keys riff the lower bass has a long sustained note with a heavy tremolo effect. It's not something I hear very often. From a musical standpoint, this song is very basic, with only the pair of basses and tremolo bass section really standing out. This makes the whole song stand out though, and more importantly it feels right for the dark, futuristic setting.
This game's title is misleading. Yes, there are two people, but where are the dragons? I was promised two dragons. Don't you dare tell me that these two "brothers" are supposed to be dragons, because they're not!