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In 1994, while researching in China for Virtua Fighter, Yu Suzuki
began to create his concept for a new adventure game.
His original plan was to create a traditional RPG with the characters
and storyline of Virtua Fighter. However, as development went on, the game moved
away from its Virtua Fighter roots and became its own unique universe. Never having an
official title, the game was known only as Project Berkeley.
While originally a Sega Saturn game, the project suffered from massive delays and
a slow development process. When the Sega Saturn met its demise, the project was
shelved until it was eventually moved to Sega's next console, the Dreamcast.
During the game's development, anticipation started to grow. Many became intrigued by
Yu Suzuki's concept for an open world environment that demonstrated the power of Sega's new
console. The game was viewed as a flagship title and killer app for the Dreamcast.
It was released in November 1999 in Japan and a whole year
later in North America under the title Shenmue.
The game featured an open world environment that consisted of actual towns in Japan.
There were many people and objects to interact with, real-time cutscenes,
and a fighting system based on Yu Suzuki's Virtua Fighter.
Every character was fully voiced in either Japanese or English dialogue.
The game also featured Quick Time Events which involved pressing certain buttons in order during a given event.
Many perceived Shenmue as an RPG game, while the gameplay focus was more akin to an adventure game.
Yu Suzuki didn't want to associate Shenmue with a typical RPG,
so he coined the term FREE,
which stood for Full Reactive Eyes Entertainment. This term was used to refer
to the real-time weather changing system,
night and day cycles, and the interactive characters with daily routines and schedules.
The soundtrack was composed by numerous video game music composers including
Yuzo Koshiro, who was best known from other Sega titles as Sonic the Hedgehog and Streets of Rage.
The story begins with a mysterious girl overlooking a cliff in the mountains and awaiting a young man who comes from the East.
This young man's unrealized potential is a power
capable of either destroying him or realizing his will.
His path in life will be fraught with adversity which must be faced and endured by his courage.
Her destiny is to encounter this man and travel together with him on his path.
While her presence is shrouded in mystery, she will have a deep influence on this man's fate.
On November 29, 1986 in Yokosuka, Japan, Ryo Hazuki
returns home to his family dojo to discover that his home has been
invaded and his family has been attacked.
He finds his father Iwao Hazuki in the midst of a battle with a mysterious
man in Chinese attire named Lan Di.
The man demands Ryo's father to
hand over a stone dragon mirror but he refuses.
Lan Di easily defeats Ryo's father as well as Ryo himself in battle and then
threatens to kill Ryo if his father doesn't give in to his demands. Reluctantly,
Ryo's father reveals the location of the mirror to Lan Di.
After finding the mirror, Lan Di reveals to Ryo that his father killed a man named Zhao Sunming.
Then, in one final attack, Lan Di kills his father and leaves with the mirror.
In his final moments, Iwao apologizes to Ryo for what he has done to him
and tells him to never let go of his closest friends before taking his last breath.
Four days later, Ryo, still haunted by the memories of the night his father was
murdered, finds a letter written to him in his father's room.
According to the letter, his father knew that he was going to die.
Ryo becomes determined to find the man who killed his father and get his revenge.
In order to do so, he begins by investigating the events that occurred on the day of the murder.
Ryo begins his quest with the help of friends and people in the town.
Fuku-san, a live-in student at the Hazuki dojo, tells him what he recalls
from the events of that fateful day. Tom Johnson, the local hot dog vendor,
gives Ryo a better description of the man who murdered his father. Ryo learns from the
chinese people in the town that Lan Di may be associated with a chinese
black market cartel that recently set up base in the nearby harbor.
Nozomi Harasaki, Ryo's childhood friend, has always had a strong
relationship with him, but despite their love and affection for each other,
their relationship is never able to progress beyond friendship. As Ryo becomes more
involved with the search for his father's killer,
Nozomi can only watch from a distance while she continues with her high school graduation.
Things take a turn for the worse when Nozomi learns that she must return
home to her mother in Canada who has recently become ill.
She becomes divided between her family and a potential future with Ryo.
However, as Ryo becomes more focused on his search for Lan Di, they begin to grow further apart from one another.
One day, Ryo's housekeeper Ine-san tells him of a letter that arrived for his father shortly after his death.
The letter, written by a man named Zhu Yuanda,
told Ryo's father of Lan Di and to seek the aid of a man named Master Chen.
On the back of the letter is a phone number to a warehouse in the nearby harbor.
Ryo tracks down the warehouse and meets up with Master Chen along with his son Guizhang.
Master Chen tells Ryo that Lan Di is the leader of a crime organization known as the Chiyoumen.
They also tell Ryo of his father's relation to Zhu Yuanda. Supposedly,
Zhu and Ryo's father brought back two mirrors from China.
Ryo recalls that Lan Di only knew of and stole one of the mirrors from his house.
Upon investigating his house, he discovers a hidden basement underneath the dojo and finds
the other mirror with a phoenix design.
When Ryo returns to Master Chen with the Phoenix Mirror, Master Chen tells him of
an ancient chinese prophecy.
According to the prophecy, when the dragon and phoenix meet, the gates of heaven
and earth will open unleashing a mythical chinese monster named Chiyou that would devour the world.
Master Chen believes that Ryo must never allow Lan Di to obtain both mirrors.
Before they finish conversing, they are interrupted by a strange man named Chai
who works for Lan Di and attempts to steal the mirror.
Guizhang believes that Chai is linked to the Chiyoumen and the Mad Angels, the
local gang that's been causing trouble for Chen's company.
Master Chen believes Lan Di may be heading to Hong Kong next.
Upon hearing this, Ryo decides that he must travel to Hong Kong and continue his pursuit.
He asks Master Chen and Guizhang for assistance but they refuse believing that Ryo
shouldn't waste his life on revenge.
To learn more about the Mad Angels, Ryo gets a job working at the harbor with
the help of his friend Goro. Soon after working at the harbor, he is harassed by many members of the Mad Angels.
After constantly refusing to give in to their demands, they threaten him
with the endangerment of his friends and family.
Soon, Ryo learns from his fellow co-worker Mark of an upcoming black market deal
called the Long Xia which involves the Chiyoumen and the Mad Angels. Ryo interrogates one of
the Mad Angels to reveal to him
the identity of Terry, the boss of the Mad Angels. Later that night, Ryo
learns that Chai has kidnapped Nozomi which forces Ryo into an encounter with
Terry. Terry admits to having met with Lan Di and agrees to let Ryo meet him
under the condition that Ryo get rid of Guizhang. The next day, Ryo meets up
with Guizhang and demands a fight with him.
During the fight, Ryo tells him to fake a defeat. Guizhang refuses and continues to
fight until they both knock each other out.
Terry uses this chance to kill Guizhang himself but Ryo saves him at the last moment
and they both confront Terry.
However, before they can fight him, Terry calls upon all 70 members of the
Mad Angels to confront Ryo and Guizhang in one final battle.
When they catch up with Terry, Guizhang chooses to fight Terry alone and comes out victorious.
With the Mad Angels defeated, Ryo
interrogates Terry about the whereabouts of Lan Di.
Unfortunately, Terry tells him that Lan Di has already left for Hong Kong.
Despite this setback, Ryo is still determined to track down Lan Di but is left with few options.
Guizhang understands Ryo's determination and decides to ask Master Chen for assistance.
With their help, Ryo acquires a boat ticket to Hong Kong.
To help Ryo locate the whereabouts of Lan Di in Hong Kong, Master Chen tells him that
Guizhang will be traveling along with him.
However, Chai attempts to kill Ryo
but Guizhang saves him while getting injured himself. Ryo and Chai square off one last time and
Ryo is finally able to defeat him.
With Guizhang incapacitated at the moment, Master Chen decides to introduce Ryo to
Tao Lishao, one of Hong Kong's elder masters. So, with these instructions in hand,
Ryo leaves his home country and continues his journey in Hong Kong.
Unbeknownst to Ryo, his quest to find Lan Di would reveal to him a destiny
that has been predetermined since ancient times. His fate would become a far
greater importance than he could ever imagine.
While his journey in Japan is complete,
many questions still remain.
Why did Lan Di kill Ryo's father?
Who is Zhu Yuanda, the man who knew of Lan Di's pursuit?
What is the true significance of the two stone mirrors?
And who is the mysterious girl who waits for Ryo's arrival?
After Shenmue was released,
many critics and gamers praised what they considered was Yu Suzuki's finest achievement yet.
Shenmue was acclaimed for its amazing cinematic experience and interactive open world.
To this day, Shenmue’s soundtrack is considered one of the greatest videogame soundtracks of all time.
However, just as Shenmue received much praise, there were almost just as many people who were turned off by the game.
Many found the gameplay to be very tedious and boring,
while others couldn’t deal with the lengthy and numerous cutscenes
or some of the hilariously bad English voice acting.
Ultimately, these flaws prevented many gamers to enjoy the game for what it was.
Even with these complaints from gamers and critics, the game managed to sell well
over 1 million copies worldwide, one of the few Dreamcast games that did.
Shenmue was one of the most expensive games in development for its time,
costing up to $70 million.
This was likely a result of the several scrapped versions of the game such as
the early Sega Saturn version.
Fortunately, during the development process, Yu Suzuki had already
established the groundwork for future installments in the Shenmue saga.
The first game was planned as the first chapter in a sixteen part series.
Fans didn't have to wait long until the next installment of Ryo's adventure.
Unfortunately, it would be the last time gamers would ever step into the shoes of Ryo Hazuki.
Next time in Part 2 of this Shenmue Retrospective,
Ryo arrives in Hong Kong.
Ryo's journey continues in the harbor town of Aberdeen, the city streets of Kowloon, and the region of Guilin.
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A Shenmue Retrospective (Part 1) - The Nostalgic Gamer

5438 Folder Collection
阿多賓 published on April 11, 2013
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