SHENMUE I & II REMASTERED
By Ferry "Sadhonker" Adams on August 20, 2018
Do you remember a time in which we had a console called the Sega Dreamcast? Well, I sure do! This awesome piece of hardware was way ahead of its time, which might well be the reason for its inevitable downfall. Nevertheless, the Dreamcast gave us a number of excellent games, including one that rocked the world of gaming. Why? Well, mainly because it was a game the likes of which had never been seen. A game with a solid plot, awesome graphics, countless gameplay options, a vast open game world, enough characters to fill a large city and dialog up the yin-yang. The game I am rambling on about is, of course, Shenmue!
Now, because this game was released almost twenty years ago, not everybody will be familiar with this monumental piece of software. To remedy this, Sega set out to release a high definition port of Shenmue and Shenmue II for PC, Playstation 4 and Xbox One. Complete with overhauled graphic rendering, English and Japanese voice acting, save game transferring for Shenmue II and updated control schemes, these Shenmue remasters aim to bring a gripping tale of deceit, danger and honor to a whole new generation of gamers. And, as luck would have it we, here at DumeeGamer.com, are the proud owners of both of these games. So, let's jump right into the action and see if Shenmue successfully withstood the test of time!
Originally released for the Sega Dreamcast in 1999, Shenmue actually blew gamers away! It was unlike any game we'd ever seen up till then. Shenmue follows the story of Ryo Hazuki, a young man who, after returning to his family dojo, witnesses hid father fighting a tall unknown man. The man and Ryo's father however, seem to know each other pretty well, but are not really on the best of terms (and that's putting it mildly). The tall man, who is called Lan Di by Ryo's father, is searching for an item known as the "Dragon Mirror", which Ryo's father refuses to give up. After an intense battle, Ryo's father is thrown to the ground, and Ryo tries to save his father by intervening in the fight. Lan Di however, being much quicker and more agile then Ryo, knocks Ryo off his feet with a stunning hit and threatens to kill him unless his father reveals the secret of the Dragon Mirror. Fearing for his son's life, Ryo's father finally gives in and reveals the secret location of the mirror. After retrieving the mirror, Lan Di fights Ryo's father one last time and finishes him with one last deadly blow. He and his henchmen finally leave the Hazuki dojo, leaving behind a wounded Ryo and his dying father. After his father dies of the blow sustained in his last fight with the mysterious Lan Di, Ryo swears bloody vengeance upon the man who is responsible for his father's death. After a few days of rest and mourning, Ryo sets out to unravel the mystery of the killer's identity.
If you're thinking: "Oh my god what a lot of text", then I'll have to be honest and say that Shenmue might not be the game for you. The paragraph you've just read encompasses only the intro of the game. The game itself hasn't even started yet! But when you're okay with a lot of conversation options and cutscenes, then Shenmue is right up your alley. Absolutely loaded with conversations and non player characters, it's not so much a game as it is a journey. By exploring the rich environments in which Shenmue's story is set, you'll encounter a lot of people, talk to them (a lot) and even kill a few of them. Fighting is always story driven, so you don't get to randomly beat up everyone who looks at you wrong...
When a fight occurs, it comes in one of two variations: free fight or QTE (Quick Time Event) In the free fight variant, you use mastered techniques to beat the saké out of every bad guy that attacks you. In the QTE variant on the other hand, the player has to follow a series of on-screen prompts to successfully bash an opponent's head in. Apart from being used in fights, the QTE principle is also worked into other facets of the game. A lot of times a QTE will occur to determine the flow of the story or even the outcome of the cutscene that is playing at that moment. At the start of the game the QTE's are simple and slow, but as the story progresses they become more complex and need to be executed with a lot more speed than before. Because of the fact that you'll never know when a QTE might be lurking around the corner, it keeps you on edge while playing, and by doing so, really gets you involved in the story of Shenmue.
After having thoroughly investigated his hometown of Yokosuka, Ryo receives a letter that was originally addressed to his late father. The letter is written by a man called Yuanda Zhu and warns Ryo's father about Lan Di and his devious plans. This mysterious Zhu also suggests that Ryo's father seeks the aid of Master Chen. Ryo takes this advice and starts looking for master Chen, who is rumored to work at the docks. When Ryo meets Chen, he learns that Lan Di has left Japan and is heading for Hong Kong. Chen also tells him that the mirror that Lan Di stole is the half of a set of two mirrors. With the help of Master Chen, Ryo locates the second mirror and decides to follow Lan Di to China.
Two years after the first Shenmue game graced us with its presence, Shenmue II hit the shelves and continued Ryo's story. Ryo's travels have brought him to Hong Kong, where he meets a whole new cast of awesome characters and is forced to beat up even more bad guys. Shortly after arriving, Ryo is accompanied by Ren, who is the leader of a Hong Kong based street gang. A motorcycle-driving girl named Joy also joins Ryo on his search for Master Lishao Tao, the only one who knows anything about the whereabouts of Yuanda Zhu. Zhu is the one that sent Ryo's father a letter, warning him about Lan Di and his devious plans.
If you thought Yokosuka was an awesome town with tons of NPCs, then just wait until you get a load of Hong Kong! Shenmue II does everything its predecessor did, only on an even grander scale! Visually, both games don't really differ that much, but Shenmue II just seemed to contain more of just about everything. The story unfolds and we get to meet even more awesome characters and visit beautiful locations, ranging from busy city streets to tranquil forest paths. The fun thing about Shenmue II was that, although it was released for the Dreamcast in 2001, gamers had to wait another year for the English version. The Dreamcast version only featured the original Japanese voice, albeit with English, French or Spanish subtitles. The English-spoken version did not appear until 2002, when it was released for the original Xbox console.
Having in depth story-telling and lavish environments is all nice and good, but why stop there?! That's exactly what the creators of Shenmue must have thought. Even the non player characters in both games are voiced and have their own daily routine. Daily?! Yes, daily! Oh, didn't we mention... Shenmue has a day and night cycle, as well as ever-changing weather patterns. And that's something that was absolutely unheard of back in those days! The weather could range from sunny to rainy to snow. And every weather change brought about a change in the look of the game. The non-player characters reacted to the change in weather and appeared in a different set of clothes, or carried an umbrella if it rained. Every weather pattern reflects the season the game is currently set in. Put all of this together with a greatly responsive control scheme, fun side-missions and a soundtrack that seamlessly reflects the grandeur of the game, and you have yourself a winner.
It doesn't matter how many other games I play, I never get tired of Shenmue. The only downside at the time was that the whole Shenmue adventure stopped after Shenmue II. After the game released, there were big plans for Shenmue III, but after a few years, it went terribly, terribly quiet. After years of hoping... nothing! Well, when I say nothing, I mean: nothing tangible. A lot of talk and speculations, but not a game in sight! This changed when, in 2015, Shenmue's creator, Yu Suzuki, started a Kickstarter campaign in order to realize his dream of a third installment in the series. Shenmue III became the fastest campaign ever to be backed on Kickstarter, clearly showing the world that Shenmue was still very popular. Shenmue III has a provisional release date of 2019 and I, for one cannot wait for it to arrive, so this monumental game series will have its final moment in the sun and can provide us with the long awaited conclusion to its intriguing story. In the meantime, I'm really glad that Sega decided to re-release the first two games, so I can once again enjoy all the fun there is surely to had by playing them. So, as we wait for Shenmue III, I'm just going to play the first two games until my fingers bleed!
SHENMUE I & II REMASTERED
August 21, 2018