The NZA Posted December 23, 2004 Share Posted December 23, 2004 A few years back, when Sega was in a position to throw some heavy money at experimental ventures, director Yu Suzuki (of the Virtua Fighter series) announced his plans to unfold the most massive, encompassing RPG (role-playing game) series consoles had ever seen. Set in Japan in the 80's, Shenmue would take players to Hong Kong, China, and everywhere in between, with a full 3-D world going on around them, and even do away with traditional RPG combat, leveling up, etc in the prcoess. Moreoever, like Panzer Dragoon Saga before it, Shenmue would accomplish all this with very little text: the entire game was voice-overs. What he created wsa the finest RPG series no one every played. Ryo Suzuki returns home to his family dojo one day, to find a deadly, mysterious kung-fu master named Lan Di vicously fighting with his fater; Ryo attempts to intervene and is nearly killed. After telling his father it was "vengence for what happend in Hong Kong all those years ago", Lan Di kills Ryo's father with his bare hands, right in front of him, takes an object called "the dragon mirror", and leaves. Ryo vows to find out who this man is, why his father was killed, and of course, vengence. For one, the game runs in seemingly real-time; you can walk around town and ask people for information, spar/train to improve your skills, and meet a series of people at seedy bars & such at certain times when theyre there to move the plot along. But the world in the game moves on without you: at 5 or 6 AM, people leave their homes, open markets, fish, etc, and days turn into months, and into seasons. You have a limited amount of time to investigage, before "missing the boat", but its pretty lengthy, leaving the game wide open for non-linear exploration. The engines are interesting, too: going through towns can be third or first person, with amazing rendering done for the Dreamcast's capabilities (i found myself actually watching rain, snow etc at times). Some happenings, called "Quick Time Events", require quick reflexes, and are reminiscent of Dragon's Lair type controls: an arrow comes on, out of nowhere, tell you to push right and button A, and youve 3 seconds to respond...choices you make (or not) will affect your quest in a number of ways. Combat, given the game's director, is that of a fighting game. You can work mroe jobs, to purchase more ancient scrolls & learn more moves, but its not gonna do you any good if you dont spar/train daily at whatever time or place you like, and get the buttons down. As opposed to experience points, Ryo gets better, faster & stronger at each move as you practice them over time, making the more complicated ones actually useful in fights. Personally, i loved this engine: even though the controls werent dead-on, it was such a break from monotonous, formulaic turn-based combat. Reviews werent always stellar: people didnt know what to expect, and like other "Episdoe 1's", the entire game, vast though it seemed, was about 1 chapter of the story, and served only as a prequel. By the time you felt things were really going somehwere, it was over, and time to wait for the 2nd installment. Additionally, there were montonous tasks that needed to be done to move things along....you'd spend weeks loading cargo in the docks just to get info on Lan Di's ship passing. Still, it was an amazing game, and highlights included barfights, Lan Di's henchmen, searching the dojo for the other half of the mirror - the Phoenix, and of course, the 100-man Yakuza fight towrads the end. As if that wasnt enough, the game came with a "passport" disc to play online - compete with others in the 100-man timed fight, check the in-game weather forecast for the next day, or even trade the various Sega trinkets you could buy from vending machines, with other players. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Years later, part 2 would finally debut, and it was crazy: encompassing 3 or 4 entire chapters of the series, the game boasted towns bigger than part 1. The only problem? The Dreamcast was on its way out the door, and Sega USA wasnt going to shell out for voice dubbing. Fortuntately, fans would have 2 options: eventually, the game would come to X-box (and do poorly, despite an ad campaign....after all, who's buying chapter 2 of an obscure RPG they never heard of, or played part 1...?) or - as i did- simply import the European version a few years earlier. The DC didnt even need to be hacked to play imports, and better yet, it meant the game was in japanese, with subtitles, which added a lot more feeling to the characters. It spanned 4 discs, and found Ryo far from home in Hong Kong. Without allies (or the native tongue, when talking to some villiagers), Ryo again found himself working odd jobs to work his way around, until getting invovled with more undgerground figures. Carrying only the Phoenix mirror, Ryo would find himself in everything from caged matches to being in personal prisons of dangerous drug overlords, the most memorable of which had your new, closest ally handcuffed to you as you try to escape the complex, with real-time gaurds gunnign behind, as well as the massive overlord himself.... The plot was great in this one. Ryo has to seek out the only name he could find in his father's dojo, and is taken aback when the katrate master he meets is not only a beautiful woman (who has lost family to Lan Di's clan as well), but after destryong him in a fight, makes the revleation that, even if Ryo had found Di, he simply wouldve died too. Ryo steps his game up a bit from here, and by the game's end, is taking down right-hand men to Di (setting up a great staredown with Di's only appearance, in the end of disc 3), and closing out in some far eastern land, with Ryo assembling a family sword in hopes of completing his quest. The original japanese voice acting is superior, and the soundtrack is both haunting and amazingly fitting for many of the scenes. Though again the supporting cast isnt fleshed out as much as it perhaps could've been, should you actually make it throughh this massive intsallment, it feels as though youve gone through so much with Ryo, youre eager to see how close you are to Di at every turn. Again, despite a limited ad campaign, sales were dismal: only the hardcore imported it for a dead system, and X-box players simply didnt give it a go. The problem was that with one of the largest video game production budgets behind it, and 2 games that didnt break anywhere near mainstream, Final Fantasy sales, the series looked doomed, despite the reviewers who did get their hands on it singing its praise. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Therefore, the fate of Shenmue III - the game's final chapters - is still officially unkonwn. Sites like Shenmue Dojo talk about an online-only version of the game in the works, hoping to get public interest and therefore funding back into part III, but it's still hard to say at this point. 2 left on the worst cliffhanger, really built itself beyond what normal RPG's can do - and again, i found it more envoloping and interesting than a majority of other series, including Final Fantasy - but Suzuki has gone back & forth on its statues, being cancelled or not, as Sega's been trying to rebuild itself via its arcade and third-party games. The last news I found ot it was at RPGamer: Shenmue III Confirmed, For Real This Time This game was supposedly confirmed, then it was in uncertain status, now it is back on track. It was just a little over a month ago that Yu Suzuki himself spoke of his uncertainty as to whether or not a third Shenmue game would be produced. The series' creator said that the story was mostly finished, but no official plans existed to make the game. More recently, news confirming the game's impending production has come forward. Developer Sega-AM2 has announced that it will be the company responsible for the development of Shenmue III, and also noted that the planning process is not quite 100% complete. Details regarding a targeted release date and the console on which the game will appear were not discussed. Sega-AM2 did not specify how much or how little the decision was assisted by the number of letters the company received on the matter. More details are said to be coming in September. Only details since then have been the online game, so we'll have to see. Meantime, I know there's a few RPG fans here, and I was hoping to bring some excellent sereis like Suikoden, Lunar, Xenosaga etc to light in the future through threads like this....I started with Shenmue becuase, put simply, its the greatest unkown series I've every played. Quote Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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