It's one thing to retell the narrative of a video game in anime form, but it's an entirely different beast to tell your own story while still retaining the game's vibe. Cyberpunk: Edgerunners, a new anime from Studio Trigger and CD Projekt RED, elevates the viewing experience for players of Cyberpunk 2077 by incorporating elements of gameplay and in-game locations into the show without it feeling gimmicky or unearned. That, quite frankly, sets a very high bar for any future video game anime adaptation.
There are Cyberpunk: Edgerunner spoilers below.
Cyberpunk: Edgerunners Could Believably Exist in 2077
After playing through Bandai Namco's Scarlet Nexus last year, I decided to watch the anime that aired shortly after the game's launch. While I played through Scarlet Nexus and thoroughly enjoyed it, I dropped the show less than halfway in. The difference between the two was night and day. Cyberpunk: Edgerunners is a natural extension of the game's world, rather than a cheaply made retelling of player character V's story.
Studio Trigger and CD Projekt Red make an immersive connection to the game in multiple ways: through locations, incorporation of in-game mechanics, and realistic references to 2077's in-game characters. The first two episodes of Cyberpunk: Edgerunners give us the most detailed look at the everyday life of Night City, as the main character, David Martinez, walks through the streets on his way to school and home.
There are multiple instances where I could directly identify where David was located based on my own experiences in-game. The most obvious connection was David in and around the area of Arasaka Tower -- it's a building you really can't miss. Even more menial elements become overt, like the crosswalks that blare out "Walk" using the same voice they do in-game, or watching as David takes the rail system hanging above Night City's streets.
The attention to detail is really impressive. There's several episodes that have scenes within the Badlands outside of Night City. In a heated car chase, I noticed the entrance (or exit) from Night City and recognized I had taken a screenshot of that exact location during my first playthrough of Cyberpunk 2077. If you put a decent amount of time in Cyberpunk 2077, you're likely to have the same sense of recognition as I did.
In terms of mechanics, Cyberpunk: Edgerunners pays tribute to 2077's gameplay quite appropriately. Lucy, a Netrunner on David's crew, is frequently seen hacking in the show. Her technique is identical to how V hacks in 2077, through a mini-game involving numbers on a grid. Lucy seems to be much more proficient at it than V as she rapidly scrolls through these number combinations, but it feels natural in the show. As a viewer, her actions spoke to me on a deeper level because I had been through the same hacking routine many times over during my 2077 playthrough.
The show's particular focus on cyberware draws some parallels to 2077 as well. David's spinal implant, the Sandevistan, allows him to achieve superhuman levels of speed. To him, it looks as though he's slowing down time, and to others David is moving inhumanly fast. From my personal experience with the game, I have cyberware that can achieve the same effect. Trigger's over-the-top style makes the Sandevistan look overpowered, but it isn't far from what V can achieve as well. It's incredible to see that you can, in-game, achieve similar feats as David.
Almost every character in the show can fight on the same level as you, the player.
As cyberware and combat go hand-in-hand, there's characters that shoot grenades out of their arms with the Projectile Launch System, or the Tiger Claw gang member's Mantis Blade viciously slice at the air. The show is visceral and portrays combat with not just cyberware, but guns and melee weapons too. As a fan, it's easy to appreciate the attention to detail in the show because the same gun brand some lowly thug uses is something V's had in his arsenal at one point or another. Almost everyone in the show can fight on the same level as you, the player.
Edgerunners' Character Connection in 2077
Similar to my experience with Scarlet Nexus, I jumped back into the Cyberpunk 2077 world for the game's 1.6 update, which added characters and items from Cyberpunk: Edgerunners. One instance is a questline resulting in V's acquisition of David's signature coat. Picking up an illegal braindance device innocently on top of a pile of trash results in V viewing James Norris' rampage as a cyberpsycho. This is already pretty cool, but at the end of the braindance you're given a warning not to repeat the same mistakes as David Martinez.
Okay, that's pretty ominous, right? V, intrepid as he is, decides to pursue this lead and find more information on David. This leads to a short questline, ending in a short conversation via text with Falco, one of David's crew members. As a reward, you're given David's coat. It's rare to see an extension of yourself (in this case, V) interact with characters you just saw in a show that expands on the game's universe.
And indeed, while you're able to talk and interact with characters from, say, Scarlet Nexus, the anime and game share the same story -- what you see in 2077 is a result of the aftermath that took place in Edgerunners. After donning Dave's coat, I unexpectedly found myself at the site of this cyberpsychosis incident just by happenstance. The feeling of discovery -- recognizing how much detail Trigger packed into their own show to remain faithful to the game's world -- is a wonderful thing.
Delving into spoiler territory, the last episode of Edgerunners results in more than a few losses for David's crew. Rebecca uses her signature shotgun throughout the series, and that exact shotgun can not only be found in 2077, but also at the site of her death. If you connected with her in the show, you can't help but feel some emotion. The weight of wielding her gun in battle is all the more heavy, knowing the circumstances of why the gun is was laying there in the first place.
Future video game adaptations have a lot to learn from Edgerunners. It elevates the player-viewer experience by including elements from the game into the show naturally, and vice versa. One could argue League of Legends' incredibly popular Arcane brought adaptations to the next level, but Jinx and its other characters are fighting in MOBA lanes. It's hard to express how special it is to see Lucy's quickhacking or visiting the exact locations you see in the show without you doing it yourself. If there was ever a reason to return to 2077, it's after watching the wildly engaging Edgerunners.