Review by FRIEDSTRUCK
"In a Word: Epic."
Shenmue has always been considered to be one of the greatest games ever made by fans and pundits alike. When January 6th 2006 rolled along, my name was added to the list. Never before had I experienced such an epic story, with fantastic game play, and equally well done graphics and sound. This is the world of Shenmue, and this is the review.
Game play: 10/10
The game play in Shenmue is simplistic enough, and the new game play elements that were added (QTE) is easy enough to learn and master within a few tries. Walking around Yokosuka provided for much a good time, between the slot machines, the arcade, the free battles, and the world that you could accomplish all of these in; never has this much detail been put into a game. Though the basic game plays like many before (with asking someone a question, them giving you an answer, and you move on to collect more information), it is difficult to classify this as an RPG, or an Action-Adventure when it comes to game play, hence why creator and producer Yu Suzuki coined Shenmue's genre as FREE (Full Reactive Eyes Entertainment). Aside from the FREE part of the game, there is also (as mentioned above) the Free Battle mode, and the QTEs. In Free Battle, the game plays almost identically to Virtua Fighter (save for the ring-outs), and can involve one on one battles, to up to 70 on one battles! QTE requires you to press the corresponding button on your controller to what is being displayed on the screen. Its a great niche aspect to the game, and it has been copied by other games recently also. 2 largely innovative elements of the game play in Shenmue include the in-game clock, and best of all, the magic weather system. Yokosuka is a real place in Japan, as is Dobuita, and Yamanose. For 1986/87, each day of weather was recorded, and used in this game. Thus, if it was raining at 9:30 am in Dobuita on October the 23rd 1986, when you reach that date and time in-game, it will be raining also. The story is another perfect element to the game and it is only the start of a series...
Ryo Hazuki runs home, only to see a giant black car, and his home's caretaker (Ine-san) injured, outside of his house. He rushes to his dojo, when his friend (whose name will not be mentioned here) is sent flying out onto the dojo steps. Ryo enters the dojo, and sees two men in black suits trying to apprehend him. In the centre of the dojo though, he sees his father being attacked by a mysterious Chinese man, who uses a style of martial arts Ryo has never seen before. After Ryo's father and the Chinese man speak, it is learned that Ryo's father has a special mirror that the man (known as Lan Di) wants, and that Ryo's father also killed a man named Sun Ming Zhao. Once the mirror is recovered by one of the men in black, Lan Di kills Ryo's father, and thus the game begins. The rest of the story is built up throughout the course of the game, with many new characters, locations, and events springing up to further add to the story. Once completed, the story continues in the next chapter, and then further in Shenmue 2. Graphics will be covered next.
This game on VGA is still one of the best looking games you can play in 2008. The sheer amount of detail and effort put into the visuals is seen throughout the game, from the unique characters (Every character is different, with a different voice actor), to the buildings/houses that you see (also each is unique), there is an incredible amount of detail and precision. There is not much more to say, other than the visuals are simply stunning, and that they still stand up today, very well. As do the sounds.
While the voice acting is not synchronized well with the movement of the character's voices in the North American release (since it is simply a dub of the Japanese game), the voice acting in the game was groundbreaking for its time, and very few games have had better voice acting than Shenmue since it came out. Aside from the brilliant voice acting, there is an in-game sound for everything, from the vending machines, to the gum ball stands, to the fighting, each has its own unique sound. Finally though, the best part of the perfect sound element, is the music. Critically acclaimed, and one of the featured soundtracks in many Video Game Music orchestra shows, the musical score is one of the best in modern video game history, which includes many different tracks, ranging from pop, to J-pop, to classical. Where the game takes a minor hit is when it comes to replay ability.
Replay ability: 7/10
To fully experience all of the nuances that the game has to offer, this game should take a good 2-3 weeks to complete (you are given over 4 in-game months to complete the game). Aside form completing the game though, you may only redo the 70 man battle from the main menu, and that is about it when it comes to replay ability. Again though, one cannot stress how important it is to complete the game fully, not in a linear fashion.
Buy or Rent?
Being a Dreamcast game, it cannot be rented, however if you own a Dreamcast, this game is a must buy, plain and simple.
Few games have the magical aura that Shenmue has, and with the trend that video-games are becoming, it looks to continue to be one of the few games with a magical aura. Being a Dreamcast owner, and a Sega nut, I am truly thankful to AM2/Yu Suzuki for ever creating this game. It is an experience that every gamer should undertake, and who knows? You may have a little fun with it a long the way. "He shall appear from a far Eastern land across the sea. A young man who has yet to know his potential. This potential is a power that can either destroy him, or realize his will. His courage shall determine his fate. The path he must traverse, fraught with adversity, I await whilst praying. For this destiny predetermined since ancient times... A pitch, black night unfolds with the morning star as its only light. And thus the saga, begins..."
Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 02/04/08
Game Release: Shenmue (US, 11/08/00)
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