Review: Shenmue (Retro)
Shenmue: Member ReviewRetro 1,418 view 1 like 1 comment
- Release Date (NA): November 8, 2000
- Release Date (EU): December 1, 2000
- Release Date (JP): December 29, 1999
- Publisher: Sega
- Developer: Sega AM2
- Genres: Adventure, RPG, Life Simulator
- ESRB Rating: Teen
- PEGI Rating: Twelve years and older
Single playerLocal MultiplayerOnline MultiplayerCo-operative
I recently picked up a Sega Dreamcast from a used games store and have been trying out a bunch of games. I randomly popped in Shenmue because I heard it was good. Shenmue being "good" is a massive understatement...
Shenmue wastes no time getting into the action so I won't either. Ryo Hazuki, our protagonist, is walking home on a day like any other and sees a car parked in front of his house. He walks in, notices a broken sign and sees that Ine-san(his grandma? caretaker? Im not sure of her relation to the Hazukis) is knocked over on the ground. She directs him to the dojo and then Fuku-san(his weird adopted sort of brother) is tossed out from the doors. Ryo makes sure he's okay and enters the dojo. Inside his father is battling with a mysterious man named Lan Di. Lan Di wants Ryo's father to give up something called the dragon mirror. After being badly beat up and threatening to even kill Ryo, he gives in and tells Lan Di where the mirror is. He retrieves it, kills Ryo's father and takes off in the car. Ryo's father gives his son some last words of wisdom and he passes away. This begins Ryo's quest for revenge.
The man who killed your father, Lan Di!!!
I really liked how strong it starts off, and how it purposely doesn't explain everything right away. Lan Di and his motives as well as what your father's role is in all of this is left for you to discover on your own. The story unfolds as you explore the world and has you taking different paths to ultimately find out what you want to know.
Possible spoiler here, but it does not have a solid end. In fact, it ends on a cliffhanger. Thats because Shenmue is supposed to be a big story spanning several games. While the sequel Shenmue 2 did come out, and relatively quickly after 1 was released, the 2 games did not make back their gigantic budget of $40-70 million dollars so obviously Sega as a business did not want anything to do with that anymore. The series was never heard from again and was once again left on a cliffhanger at the end of 2. Thankfully, last year Yu Suzuki, the creator, and the original dev team created a Kickstarter campaign for the 3rd game, it was funded and it's currently in development. There's your daily trivia.
Shenmue actually has quite a number of gameplay styles. At its core, it is a 3D adventure game. You talk to people for information, collect items and bring them to the correct area to use, and generally just explore the city of Yokosuka. There are mini games to play, items to buy and collect and much, much more. You can even go to an arcade and play real Sega arcade games, as well as some original games like a QTE practice game and darts. You also get an in-game job and have responsibilities. In that way it is also a life sim. Overall, really cool stuff.
Gonna play me some Space Harrier.
The second gameplay style is free battle. The creator, Yu Suzuki, also created the Virtua Fighter series so he took that fantastic engine and put it right on into Shenmue. It works extremely well, you can learn new moves through exploring the areas in the game and can even practice on your own and level up how much damage each move does.
The third gameplay style is something you've probably learned to hate. QTE, quick time event. This game invented QTEs, button prompts during cutscenes. Before you groan and roll your eyes, just listen for a sec. The QTEs in this game are actually really good. The button prompts make logical sense, you need to dodge left so you press left. Need to punch? press the button you've been using to punch in free battle. The QTEs are never ever random and always make sense. They're also quite generous. Almost always you get a second chance to input the next correct prompt before starting the scene over, which restarts quickly to immediately give you another try.
The 3 gameplay styles are all done amazingly. Ones quality isn't sacrificed for the other here, they're all done equally fantastic.
Your in-game job, driving a forklift and sorting boxes.
The graphics in Shenmue are outstanding, especially for the hardware. Environments are detailed to an insane degree. I personally have spent hours just in Ryo's house looking at and picking up items, interacting with the items inside and just marveling at what they pulled off. I don't know any other game where you can buy a video game at the store, take it home, walk into the living room and pull out your Sega Saturn, pop in the game and play it. Almost every object in the world you can pick up and view in a first person mode and move and inspect.
Character models are a mixed bag. Some look fantastic. Generally the rule is that if a character is in a cutscene, they look pretty good. The majority of NPCs you see walking about the town do not look nearly as good. Moving textures for eyes and mouths instead of being fully modeled like the others. While they don't look downright terrible, certainly still looked much better than other games at the time, they are a bit blurry and the quality difference is pretty noticeable.
The game also looks incredibly crisp when played through VGA. I have no idea how the Dreamcast does it but most games look very clear through VGA even on modern displays, absolutely zero blur or smudginess.
Yes, with the proper video cables, your game really can look like this.
Music and Sound
Shenmue has absolutely amazing music. It even has a few fully orchestrated tracks. Now, the voice acting. The voice acting in Shenmue sure is something else. It's terrible, but deliberately. If interviews are to be believed, the voice actors were intentionally told to deliver lines the way they are now. And I kind of buy it, and I honestly actually love it. Its done similarly to an old school dub of classic martial arts movies. I'm sure there are a few VAs in there that actually do suck but I know some of the other actors works and it does lead me to believe the Shenmue voices are intentionally bad.
I personally think the voices are half the fun. There are dozens of hilarious lines you'll be quoting after your playthrough. I didn't find the voices to be bad enough to take me out of the serious moments. It's hard to explain, they're not always terrible, but they are, you really just have to play it to understand.
My favorite aspect of Shenmue is the massive levels of detail put into it. You can go into just about every establishment in Dobuita, many you never need to visit to progress in any way, purely to add to immersion. Almost every single NPC has unique dialog pertaining to current story events. I was pleasantly surprised when Mario the pizza man had something to say about the family heirloom Ryo's father left for him. There's so many things like that that can easily be skipped over by a normal player. Hell I'm on a 4th playthrough right now still absorbing everything that was put into this world. If you decide to playthrough this game I highly recommend taking it slow and not always seeking to progress to the next plot point.
I wasn't lying when I said you can buy games for the Sega Saturn in your house.
Shenmue is an incredible experience of a game and theres too much to talk about without making this review longer than it already is. And get this, Shenmue 2 blows this amazing, fantastic, game out of the water(I'll be reviewing that soon too).
I highly recommend this game as it and its sequel have topped my favorite game list in such a short period of time. Unfortunately, the only way to play Shenmue 1 is on the Dreamcast. I haven't personally tried but I have read it doesn't emulate without a lot of graphical glitches. Lucky for you, Dreamcasts usually sell for less than $50. The game also usually sells at or under $30(or you can just burn it because the Dreamcast rules).
+ -Amazing visuals
+ -Fantastic soundtrack
+ -All gameplay styles are masterfully done
+ -Gripping story
+ -Great pacing
- -Not all the NPCs are looking so hot
- -The voice acting is objectively bad but you might love it like I do
Amazing graphics for the time and they still look great today. Easy to forget its on the Dreamcast and came out in 1999. The music is fantastic and the cutscene direction is very ahead of its time.
The gameplay is equally fantastic in all 3 of its areas, exploration, combat and QTE. There isn't really enough fighting segments for how in depth the system is but when they happen its fun.
Its so easy to miss dialog, mini games, cutscenes, hidden moves and collectibles, there's no way you're getting them all your first run through. I've played this game about 4 times at this point and am still feeling inclined to come back to it.
out of 10
(not an average)
I loved every single aspect and for a game to make me immediately replay it, more than once too, is pretty significant. Everyone should play Shenmue.