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What Only Gamers Know About Netflix's Cyberpunk: Edgerunners

After the success of "The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt," Polish game developer and publisher CD Projekt Red set their eyes on the world of noir, dystopian futures, and high-tech. Adapting Mike Pondmith's tabletop game of the same name, the studio released "Cyberpunk 2077" in 2020. "Cyberpunk 2077" proved to be a massive success, selling over 13 million units during the first two weeks of release (via Business Insider). The first-person action RPG, set in the fictional Night City, follows a mercenary named V who begins to share the consciousness of Johnny Silverhand (Keanu Reeves), a deceased rockstar. Due to player choices, V and Silverhand's journey can go in different chaotic directions, making each playthrough of the game unique based on individual decisions.

Before the game's release, CD Projekt Red commissioned an impressive marketing strategy, including several tie-ins with existing brands. Perhaps the biggest instance of cross-promotion was the studio teaming up with Netflix to work on an anime series set in the world of "Cyberpunk 2077." Titled "Cyberpunk: Edgerunners," the 10-episode stand-alone series was created by Studio Trigger. "I've always loved cyberpunk as a genre, but always found it difficult to create as an original work," said Studio Trigger CEO Masahiko Otsuka in a 2020 statement (via IGN). 

After years of anticipation, the anime series has finally been released on Netflix, making it the first non-gaming project in the larger "Cyberpunk" multimedia franchise. While newcomers to the franchise can dive right into the seedy world of Night City, gamers have the upper hand when it comes to understanding the "Edgerunners" secrets.

Cyberpunk: Edgerunners is a standalone story that follows a new character

Critics have praised "Cyberpunk: Edgerunners" for making use of the game's rich world and characters while crafting a unique, intriguing story that doesn't let up. Dubbed by Paul Tassi of Forbes as "absolutely incredible," the writer described "Edgerunners" as "a beautiful, haunting realization of Night City" that captures the authenticity of the CD Projekt Red game. Indeed, one of the highlights of the Netflix anime is how it recreates the world of Night City for the small screen. The series follows David Martinez, a youth from the streets of Night City who ends up at a charter school run by the nefarious Arasaka Corporation. After becoming an orphan, Martinez implants himself with cybertech, becoming an Edgerunner, a mercenary for hire.

"Cyberpunk: Edgerunners" is set before "Cyberpunk 2077," though the Netflix series isn't specific as to how much time takes place between the two. Seeing as the Studio Trigger anime is a prequel to "Cyberpunk 2077," one might assume that the series might feature a cheeky cameo from V, Johnny Silverhands, Jackie, Panam, or any of the game's beloved characters. Unfortunately, main characters don't pop up in "Edgerunners," solidifying the Netflix series' standalone nature. Similarly, Martinez isn't seen in "Cyberpunk 2077," though that could change as CD Projekt Red continues to work hard on paid expansions. The studio most recently released a "Cyberpunk 2077" update that features items from the Netflix anime series. While it may be disappointing to some to know that V won't pop up, the anime makes great use of the already established Night City, drawing from the fictional city's various locales and hangouts, which occasionally feature some familiar characters.

Cyberpunk: Edgerunners features cameos from 2077

Spoilers ahead for "Cyberpunk: Edgerunners"

"Cyberpunk: Edgerunners" makes excellent use of the larger world created by Mike Pondsmith and CD Projekt Red. The series repeatedly features the various gangs created for the game, including The Mox, who own Lizzie's Bar, a club David Martinez visits. Other gangs with screen time include Maelstrom, Tyger Claws, Animals, and the 6th Street gang. Perhaps the most notorious villain to show up in the Netflix series is Adam Smasher, who shares a complicated history with Johnny Silverhand. One of the primary villains in "Cyberpunk 2077," the cyborg ends up making Martinez's life a living hell by the time the final episode comes around (via IMDB), not too dissimilar to how he treated V. 

While V's various friends from "Cyberpunk 2077" aren't in the Netflix anime, gamers will spot several familiar favorites in "Edgerunners” that will leave them excited. In Episode 4, "Lucky You," Martinez visits the iconic Afterlife club, where he brushes shoulders with the owner Rogue, who was once Silverhand's ex-lover. Though Rogue wasn't a lead in "Cyberpunk 2077," she was one of the few characters who could be romanced, a player choice that leads to interesting conversations with Silverhand. In the episode, Rogue acknowledges Martinez after he saves Rebecca from Afterlife bouncers. Afterlife bartender Claire Russell can also be seen in the background.

Pachinko parlor owner and fixer Wakako can be heard in Episode 7, "Stronger." The character provided V with several main and side quests in "2077," so it isn't surprising that the underground criminal crosses paths with Martinez. Fixers Sebastian Irra and Regina Jones also pop up for a quick cameo via a hologram. Both characters are remembered for giving V a slew of jobs as they rise up the ranks in Night City.