It’s 2022 and people are talking about Cyberpunk again. The Netflix original anime release Cyberpunk: Edgerunners has everyone hunting for their sleekest prosthetics and coolest weapons, and partying like it’s 2020. But how does this animated criminal hug compare- Like the futuristic fireworks concocted by CD Projekt Red in Cyberpunk 2077, their highly anticipated reinterpretation of Mike Pondsmith’s tabletop game? Beyond critical reception (the anime becomes great reviewsand gaming, well, not at first), how do these two visions of the shiny chrome future compare?
Choose your character
We can start by looking at the stories told in each version. In the year 2077, players control V, a low-level criminal in the sprawling underworld of Night City. V has three stories to choose from that influence some minor elements of gameplay and dialogue, but all roads lead players to the same ill-fated plan to steal a saved version of the consciousness of dead freedom fighter Johnny Silverhand (Keanu Reeves). What follows is a massive conspiracy involving the world’s biggest megacorporations, as everyone and their half-robot brother sue V for possession of their powerful stolen technology.
In Edgerunners, the same illicit technology and the plight of petty crooks fleeing big power brokers is still present. Our “hero”, David (Ken’ichirō Ōhashi in the Sub, Zach Aguilar in the Dub), a struggling kid at the bottom of Night City’s economic pyramid, finds himself at the receiving end of a string of bad luck that leads him straight to a team of legally dodgy operators, the titular Edgerunners who will accept any job for the right amount of credits. From there, we follow David as he has fun with the gang and is drawn deeper and deeper into the seedy underworld of organized cyberpunk crime, all the while increasing the amount of augmented technology in his body – becoming more cyber at as it becomes more punk, find?
As for the protagonists, we get to know David a lot more than V due to him being a written character and not a player avatar. Edgerunners can be specific and intentional with David’s upbringing, his struggles with poverty and abandonment, and his need to prove himself, in a way that customizing a video game story around the entry of a player just can not explain.
Meet the crew
One of the highlights of 2077 was its supporting cast. Judy Alvarez, the amorous braindancer operator, and Panam Palmer, the rebellious nomad, come to mind as characters who felt like fully realized people trying to create a life in the desert of tomorrow. Some of the best and most nuanced characters in the game, like Joshua the Repentant Criminal, are relegated to side missions that the player might completely miss.
The supporting cast of Edgerunners all cut memorable numbers. Among those lovable Rogues we have Maine, the hardened vet of the Edgerunner crew, battling his own demons and addiction to cybernetic augmentation. Lucy is the hacking prodigy with big dreams to finally escape this hellish game everyone is playing, and Rebecca is a killer gremlin on the team who is fiercely loyal to those she loves. They may start with generic neo-noir tropes, but they all have greater depth and a humanity that unfolds over the show’s ten episodes.
Their designs are also far more varied and expressive than those of 2077, such as the mountainous Maine physique and Giancarlo Esposito’s icy operator Faraday, who sports a column of three eyes on the right side of his head. In 2077, everyone’s cyberware mostly looked like high fashion. In Edgerunners, people are really expanding what a human body can be.
Because Edgerunners characters don’t have to act as NPC quest givers and depend on a player character to run their entire world, they are allowed to have inner lives and ambitions that exist independently. of David and independently of the viewer. Everyone feels much more alive when their very existence isn’t dependent on a player’s actions, and because of that, Edgerunners’ Night City feels much more like a living, breathing metropolis.
2077 and Edgerunners both revolve around what are effectively crime capers – high-value tech, people in the wrong place at the wrong time, too-good-to-be-true jobs turning into double and triple crosses, and so on. , again, this is how Edgerunners doesn’t flatter David and his team into thinking they’re the main characters in the world. Even when the action of Edgerunners reaches its climax, the story still feels contained and focused, rooted in the character and not just the escalation of the show (although, to be clear, the show is truly spectacular).
In living color
Visually, both 2077 and Edgerunners are at the top of their respective fields. When working properly, the three-dimensional night city of 2077 is brimming with style and atmospheric beauty. Edgerunners gives us a walking tour of this city, borrowing many locations from 2077 and rendering them in the light, kinetic style that Studio Trigger has done its MO with titles like Kill La Kill and Little Witch Academia. While the action in Cyberpunk 2077 may end up looking/feeling a bit too similar to any other open-world 3D shooter, the frenetic and fluid combat in Edgerunners is a non-stop visual treat for the candy factory. Each fight has weight, speed, and power, making the clashes and gunfights larger than life in ways it would be hard for a player to imagine.
Speaking of combat, Edgerunners and 2077 also bring buckets of violence and sex to their visions of the future. While there aren’t any lengthy, awkward first-person sex scenes in Edgerunners like there are in 2077, Night City’s riskier side is very frequently on display. Bodies are tossed in just about every configuration you can imagine – so too is the extreme, gratuitous violence that splatters the guts in both the series and the game. Whether you prefer virtual guts to spray Organic 2D drawing is up to your personal taste, but it’s fun to note how both recent Cyberpunk adaptations have felt the need to slather themselves in red when given the chance.
The sounds of the future
Both 2077 and Edgerunners have excellent soundtracks, befitting a series and genre so narrowly defined by its aesthetic sensibilities. While 2077 is mostly about hard rock and angry jarring noise, which suits its aggressive and rebellious streak, Edgerunners balances its heaviest moments with examples of dreamy pop and synths. The effect is a calmer feeling of timeless nostalgia, an undeniable longing for the future we want, not the one it looks like we’re going to have.
Edgerunners focuses more on adulthood in a broken system and the loss of innocence that’s inevitable when you have to scratch and claw to survive – the soundtrack perfectly captures David’s descent into the criminal underworld as well. than his resilient desire to find calm Happiness.
Every time I go out they bring me back inside
Perhaps the greatest compliment I can give Cyberpunk: Edgerunners is that it made me want to redownload the 100GB bear of a game that is Cyberpunk 2077. Even nearly two years later, after looking at the game, putting it down and picking it up as the patches rolled in, there’s something appealing about the city lights and the roar of my Akira motorbike beneath me (another interesting bit of Edgerunners is its lack of pop culture references on the nose).
Edgerunners exemplifies what Cyberpunk as a genre, and Cyberpunk 2077 as a game, can do best, in isolated moments. The fact that they sustain the joy of these moments for ten half-hour episodes is the mark of true technological magic.
You couldn’t get me to live in Night City, but Edgerunners is more than enough to get me back.
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