We’re roughly a week away from finally getting the Shenmue 1 & 2 HD remaster that I’ve essentially been wishing for about the last 10 years. I’m a huge fan of the series to the point that I got involved in the Kickstarter for the third game as soon as it was announced, a game I honestly never thought would ever happen despite desperately clinging on to the hope that I’d be proven wrong.
Everyone has a gaming series or two that means a shitload to them, one of mine is the Shenmue series. The original game came out in 1999 and the sequel in 2001 at a point where I was working at Electronics Boutique (which later became Game) and it was a time where I met my two closest friends so there’s an element of being reminded of a simpler time in my life where I was 17 and all I really wanted in life was to play computer games with my mates all the time.
Shenmue is notorious for having cost Sega an absolute shit load to develop, and while some of this contributed to Shenmue 2 in time neither game made enough money to justify making the third game at that point in time. This was a kick in the bollocks to fans as the second game ends on a pretty big cliffhanger. The poor sales versus the initial outlay combined with the failure of the Dreamcast and demise of Sega as a console manufacturer meant it was essentially off the table for over a decade.
Fast forward to E3 2015 where Sony had two announcements that really caught my imagination – The Final Fantasy 7 remake and Shenmue 3. It’s one of those things where you have to almost pinch yourself because there’s a chance that you’ve lost your mind. I’ve never contributed to a game via Kickstarter before, and likely may never do again but this was something that I desperately wanted to contribute to and all being well, as a result, my name should appear in the credits which is pretty fucking cool when all said and done.
Back to the original games, the actual premise is pretty simple. You control Ryo Hazuki who arrives home one day to witness his father being killed. He swears vengeance on the man who did it and what follows is two games of working to make that happen, essentially beating the shit out of a fuckload of unpleasant types in Japan and Hong Kong in so doing. Obviously, this hasn’t resolved as yet and the rumour is that Yu Suzuki is hoping to make more sequels beyond 3 when it’s finally completed.
Game mechanics are that the exploration parts of the game are 3rd person perspective, controlled with the D-pad and the analogue stick used to look around as this was before dual analogue stick controllers. The series also coined the phrase quick time event (QTE) and is utilised quite a lot. Combat shares some similarities with Virtua Fighter which is understandable given that this was also created by Yu Suzuki, and coincidentally Shenmue started life as a Virtua Fighter RPG.
What really makes the game’s standout, apart from the impressive at the time visuals, is the sheer amount of detail there is. In the first there are shitloads of items which can be interacted with, this was scaled back for the sequel as it’s largely unnecessary but it’s a nice in a game that’s literally filled with nice touches and random shit to do to distract from the main quest.
In terms of those distractions from the main game, you have things like darts, pachinko, arm wrestling, duck racing and dice for starters. There are also arcades where you can play Sega classics Outrun, Space Harrier, After Burner and Hang On as well as some other generic arcade games using the game mechanics. My personal favourite distraction has always been the capsule machines, there’s something insanely addictive about collecting the little figures you get from them, I spunked a lot of money up the wall trying to collect all the Sonic the Hedgehog figures.
Shenmue was originally released in December 2000 and this combined with the fact that it’s set in winter always makes it a game I associate with Christmas. It became part of a personal ritual that every year as part of the run up to Christmas I’d start a new game and play through, this went out the window as the Dreamcast got put away and I changed TVs making the Dreamcast harder to hook up, so it’s nice that I’ll be able to revive this personal tradition this year. It’s always nice when a game can make you feel sentimental.
Both games have also had the effect of making me want to travel, I was always interested in Japan anyway but there’s always something about seeing parts of it in games that reinforces that desire to go there and peep it out someday. Hong Kong is the other factor, don’t get me wrong I’m sure there are a million and one differences between how it gets shown in-game and how the real place is but it looks absolutely fascinating and is another location that’s definitely on the bucket list.
As you can see I’m pretty bloody eager to play through both games again. I’m already plotting the best ways to win the forklift truck racing and how to get the Super Sonic toy. I’ve got the collection preordered already and I’m impatiently waiting for release day. I know full well that once it’s out I’m going to hammer it, I just hope the updated control scheme works well but we’ll see what’s what on the 21st of August.