Review by jzorbino
"The Definitive Shenmue Review"
Let me start off by saying, this is my first review. Not because I am new to this site, but because I have never gotten around to writing a review before. But after playing this masterpiece, because there is no other word to describe it, I knew I had to make it known to everyone, how good this game truly is.
Audio - 10/10
The music is incredible. Nothing short of perfect. All sound effects sound perfect as well, from the crinkling of a bag of potato chips when you pick up the bag, to Ryo's feet crunching on the thick piles of snow, to the hum of the refrigerator in the Hazuki house, everything tiny detail is paid attention to. The voices aren't on par with the other sounds though, but are pretty good overall. Most characters sound great, but a few sound kinda...ugh. All the bad ones are people you rarely talk to anyway, mostly the children running around in the streets, and a few of the women living in the town. Ryo and most of the significant characters, like Lan Di, Mark, Nozomi, sound great though, so it works pretty well.
Visuals/Graphics - 10/10
Perfect. Beyond Perfect. This game is a year old, (If you figure it was released in Japan late 1999) and is still the best console game in the world today. Better than anything on Playstation2, easily. Environments NEVER pop in, (though people sometimes do) and you can see way off into the distance, seeing the big city from the higher parts of the town, and mountains farther off. People are incredibly detailed, from the faces to the fingernails, and everyone looks amazing. Every detail of this town is paid attention to, both the environment and the people.
Gameplay - 10/10
This is the crucial part of this beautiful game, what makes or breaks it. And, well, just like every other aspect of this game, it is perfect. At first, it doesn't seem like much, and I think that is why so many people are giving this game bad reviews. The first day I played it, I thought to myself, ''This is it? This is the mighty Shenmue?'' Then I got into it, and....wow. The controls are little difficult at first, but you will get used to them in a day or two. Anyway, much of the game consists of going from place to place, person to person, trying to pick up any clue you can about the killers. The bad part about this is you start off asking some guy on the street, who tells you to go see someone else, who says go see someone else, and so on. Don't get too frustrated though, it gets better. MUCH better. As the game progresses, you are forced to get more and more aggressive in your quest, and let me tell you, there isn't anything that is much more satisfying than hunting someone down and beating the living hell out them, and THEN asking for what you want. I want to say more, but I don't want to spoil anything, so I will move on to how fights are handled. There are two different ways to fight, Quick Time Events (QTE) and Free Battle. In the QTE, a button flashes on the screen, you hit it, and Ryo responds accordingly. Sounds simple, but it can get pretty difficult. Most occur as a fight scene, and all fights like this are so cool looking, with great moves by everyone involved, and it looks like one of those great fight scenes in movies when a bunch of guys are involved. Many people criticize this game, and say these aren't interactive enough, but they are not the core gameplay, and are more of a cool extra. They occur at points that would be a cutscene anyway, and the fight changes depending on if you hit the buttons right or not, and are much better than simply watching an FMV. Then we have free battle. The free battle engine is a simplified Virtua Fighter engine, and is not limited to one on one either. You can fight like a fighting game, and when there is more than one guy fighting you can do stuff like grab a guy with one hand, and kick others at the same time. Enemies can be thrown into others and knock down all of them, and the whole thing is always a blast.
Story - 10/10
This is where the game really shines. I have never been captivated by a story like this. I can't pay attention in class, all I can think about is what will happen next. I am gonna shoot myself if the second chapter doesn't hurry up and get here, the wait is torture. This game's story is alone worth a 10, and Yu Suzuki, the creator of the game, said the real story doesn't even begin until chapter 2. It starts out pretty dramatic, with you seeing your father murdered in front of you, and something that was important to him stolen. The killers threaten your life, and he finally gives them what they want, and then is killed. You then go out into the city a few days later, asking people if they witnessed anything that day, and following a trail that leads you out into the city, the harbor, all while looking for your father's killer. Not just to avenge him, but to learn about what it was the killers stole, why it was so important, and what your father had to do with it. Not only this, but what makes this different from all other epic games is, you are NOT the savior of the world. You are just a young man who is going through a difficult time in his life. You have to deal with your housekeeper constantly asking you to come home by curfew, you have friends in the city, a girlfriend, and make new friends and enemies as the game progresses. If you make a scene, or get into a fight, people act like they would if something happened like that in real life. They don't just stand there in awe, like most RPG's, most of the time, they ask what the hell you are doing, or try to talk you out of doing it. One of my favorite examples of this was when I was in a situtation where someone was depending on me to help them, and I go bang on someone's door at around 12:30 at night, and I was welcomed with a ''What the hell are you doing? Do you know what time it is?'' Anyway, it is great.
Replay Value/Extras - 10/10
I had a hard time deciding if I should give this a 10, because there is only one thing to unlock, but here is why it gets a 10 regardless. This game was designed so that you will never have the same experience twice, because in almost every situation, there is more than one way of solving the problem at hand. When you beat the game the first time, it is impossible to have seen everything, including several cutscenes. The arcade tremendously increases this as well, and all the other stuff to do on while on the town doesn't hurt. You can go shoot pool in one of the bars with some guys in there, play Darts, Hang On, Space Harrier, two games in the arcade are designed to work like a QTE, which are not only effective at giving you practice, but pretty damn fun as well. Add to this that there is an entire disc devoted to extras, such as online ranking, viewing cinema scenes, etc., and you can see that this is truly a long lasting game. You can also unlock a seventy man free battle to replay whenever. I think this next feature is unlocked by finishing the game, because I never noticed it until I completed the game, but it could have been there all along. It is a weather option, which allows you to choose the type of weather in the game. You can pick Shenmue Weather, which seems to make weather effects chosen by the game (which is very believable, and after playing with both options, I prefer this because it seems to snow more often), or the actual recorded weather patterns for this area of Japan during the time of the game. Either way, the weather effects are spectacular.
Rent or Buy?
Why don't you ask yourself this: ''Do I like myself?'' If the answer is yes, but it. There is nothing that can compare. Shenmue is on a level all on its own, WAY above Final Fantasy, and this is arguable, but I feel that it is a notch above Zelda and Metal Gear as well. If you don't like yourself, buy it anyway, and you will like yourself just for buying such a wonderful thing.
Overall - 10/10
This game has no equal. Not only does it have no equal, its only true rival is Zelda, and that alone says what kind of game this is.
Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 11/18/00, Updated 11/18/00
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