Arasaka Corporation: The Worst of the Worst – R. Talsorian Games’ “Cyberpunk” Alternate History

Cyberpunk Red Core Rulebook, available on Amazon

In the alternate history of R. Talsorian Games’ Cyberpunk games, there really isn’t anyone who can be considered a prototypical “good guy”. There are plenty of individuals and corporations that fit the role of “bad guy” in the setting. Then there’s the Arasaka Corporation, one of the largest MegaCorps in the setting and perhaps, the single biggest villain the series has created up to this point.

For those that haven’t played the video game Cyberpunk 2077 or read any of the Cyberpunk RPG books, there are going to be spoilers ahead.

The Arasaka Corporation is a Japanese zaibatsu, or business conglomerate, and one of the largest MegaCorps in the world of Cyberpunk. The primary focus of the corporation, at least to outsiders, is corporate security, banking, manufacturing (including arms manufacturing). The MegaCorp also has the largest armed forces of any corporation in the setting, with Militech (the subject of a future essay) coming a close second. Beneath the corporate façade, though, is a company built by a single man, Saburo Arasaka, with more byzantine machinations than any real-world counterpart could hope to create.

Founded in 1915 by Sasai Arasaka, the Arasaka Corporation mainly focused on manufacturing, which enabled them to become extremely wealthy in the lead-up and during World War II. The defeat of Japan during the Second World War and the surrender order of the Emperor had a profound effect not only on Sasai but on his son and heir, Saburo Arasaka (who was a lieutenant in the Imperial Japanese Navy. In the midst of committing seppuku (ritual suicide), Saburo had a vision of how his family’s company could be used to reassert Japanese dominance in the world. Foregoing his suicide attempt, Saburo threw himself in to studying political theory, economics, history, and any other subject that could assist in his attempts to grow Arasaka Corporation once he took over for his father (which he eventually did in 1960 after Sasai passed away).

Using wealth that Sasai had hidden away before the Japanese defeat in World War II, Saburo created the Arasaka Security division, which would provide both personal and corporate security services, including electronic and computer security. By the 1990s of the Cyberpunk timeline, Saburo’s business savvy had moved the Arasaka Corporation into being one of the preeminent corporations in the world. By this time, there were three key divisions within the corporation: Arasaka Bank, Arasaka Manufacturing, and Arasaka Security. When the Collapse of 1994 came about, Arasaka Corporation was one of the few corporations to actually benefit from the crash, able to shrewdly buy up companies and corporations that went under in the financial collapse brought about by the Gang of Four’s ill-advised manipulations of the European stock markets. It was during this period of financial instability that Arasaka began its global expansion, setting up corporate headquarters around the world.

Saburo Arasaka, the CEO of the Arasaka Corporation. Source

Saburo also kept an eye on things at home in Japan. Training facilities were created throughout the Japanese mainland to create the future generations of Arasaka soldiers and bodyguards. Much like the dedicated samurai of a previous era, these foot-soldiers were loyal to the Arasaka Corporation entirely and to Saburo and his family. This wasn’t to say that everything was going according to plan, though. Afraid of the growing political clout Arasaka had in the Japanese parliament, a group of Japanese corporations called FACS (Far Asian Co-prosperity Sphere) moved to counter Saburo’s growing influence, proving to be a thorn in the Arasaka chairman’s side.

By the late 90s and early 2000s of the Cyberpunk timeline, Saburo was one of the wealthiest men in the world but he was still not satisfied until the Arasaka Corporation was the single most powerful corporate entity on Earth. Publicly, Saburo stepped down as CEO of the MegaCorp, being replaced by his eldest son Kei Arasaka. Behind the scenes, though, Kei was little more than a puppet ruler, with all key decisions still going through Saburo.

It was during the early 2000s that the first small-scale skirmishes began with Militech International, a U.S.-based arms manufacturing and personal security MegaCorp. The first such skirmish involved Taiwan and Mainland China (which in this timeline was still staunchly Communist and received military aid from Militech). With the assistance of other corporations as well as Triad and Yakuza forces, Arasaka claimed a significant victory over the forces of Mainland China, allowing the corporation to claim Hong Kong and repel Chinese forces from the region.

America, however, would be where Arasaka faced its most troubling challenges. Having established a corporate headquarters in Night City, California, Arasaka Corporation set to work increasing their influence in the region. One act, in particular, would set dominoes in motion that would come to cause so much grief for them in the future. A netrunner named Alt Cunningham was forcefully “recruited” by the Arasaka Corporation in 2013 to create a version of her revolutionary AI program dubbed Soulkiller. The Soulkiller program developed by Alt could disconnect the digital mind of a netrunner from the Net, effectively transforming a person’s mind into a computer program or “engram”, which also resulted in killing the body. The problem Arasaka Corporation didn’t count on was Alt’s on-again/off-again boyfriend Johnny Silverhand, a  Rockerboy who had always taken a hard stance against the growing influence of the Arasaka Corporation. In an effort to save Alt, Johnny Silverhand recruited his ex-girlfriend Rogue Amendiares and the Nomad Santiago to storm Arasaka’s headquarters (using a free concert with his former band Samurai to cause a riot as a distraction). In the process, Johnny murdered Toshiro, the CEO of the American branch of Arasaka. However, Alt was already dead, having been one of the first victims of the new Soulkiller AI she had developed. But this wouldn’t be the end of the story between Arasaka Corporation and Johnny Silverhand.

As the 2020s started, the Arasaka Corporation was on top of the world, having gained political power in many areas of the world. By this point, the economy of Japan could be said to really be Arasaka’s economy due to the pervasive presence the MegaCorp held within the mainland. And with the new Soulkiller AI “acquired” from Alt Cunningham, Arasaka was able to take out netrunners that could prove a threat to the MegaCorp’s control of the Net. This all changed as 2021 rolled around when Arasaka accepted a contract from CINO in their corporate battle with OTEC, setting the stage for the Fourth Corporate War.

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