Review by Vyse_skies
"A Masterpiece that the Masses have Forgotten"
When I first saw the screen shots of the highly anticipated Shenmue, I was inevitably wowed by its magnificent visual design. I was so excited as I waited in anticipation and I grew more hungry with each preview, and as I was left counting down the days to its release there was just nothing I could find to satisfy my gaming needs. Soon came the day the masterpiece graced the shelves with its heavenly presence and a legacy was born.
The story revolves around a young man named Ryo Hazuki. Ryo is just like every other teenager his age until one day. It's late 1985 and Ryo comes home do discover a black car outside is house. With suspicion Ryo enters slowly to find his family in trouble. A Chinese man of mystery, Lan Di, stands before his father demanding a certain chinese mirror. But as Iwao (Ryo's Father) refuses he is inevitably thrust into a battle that leaves him fatally injured. Ryo steps in but is instantly taken out with ease. It's only when Lan-Di threatens to end Ryos life that Iwao surrenders the mirror. Lan-Di leaves Ryo to watch his father die in his arms and so starts Ryo's quest for revenge. The story in Shenmue is exceptional. Its riveting, intriguing, moving, involving and has its fair share of gritty parts to boot. To sum up its story in one word "Epic"
The Gameplay can be split into about three sections: Exploration, Free Battles and Quick Time Event (QTE) sections. The exploration is the main part of Shenmue and is always set under a third person view. In this mode Ryo can talk, walk, search items, check his inventory, etc... this mode does has its advantages though as exploring can normally lead to little hidden goodies you would never normally find otherwise. Free Battles are full of action and they revolve around Ryo pulling off a bunch of Virtua Fighter style moves to defeat any opposing enemies that surround him. This part plays out very much so like Virtua Fighter and for the most part is very enjoyable and exciting. QTE sections are my favorite though because they can show you the very best of Ryos brutal moves. QTEs require you to tap the button that pops up on the screen, the catch is that you only have a limited amount of time to do so. Failing to tap the button in the time given results in Ryo being punished physically. Get it right and Ryo pulls of some pretty impressive moves and kicks the living daylights out of his attackers. As a whole Shenmue has a lot to offer in all three areas that will keep many occupied for hours during the main story. I loved the integration of these three sections and whenever a free battle or QTE section arrives I get all excited and jump up and down like a little child on Christmas morning. These parts are well spaced out and it feels as though the creators knew exactly what they were doing. Nothing feels rushed and when an action part does come round it feels.......perfect and not misplaced.
Controls for the most part can take a while to get used to. Along your quest for revenge expect to walk into walls, get stuck in walls and get stuck in walls of people (and by that I mean the crowds) The turning isn't very nice either and is rather slow. Sometimes when you're trying to get in to a certain position you may find that you have to turn numerous times in order to get in to the right place. Or you may find you need to lock on to something you never intended to instead of the item you were aiming for, that can become a little frustrating after a while. In free battle though the controls if you're not too good with them can really hamper your gaming experience. Free battles move so fast that when you're surrounded by numerous people all punching you its kinda hard to pull of a decent move and you have to resort to tapping the punch or kick button to get you out of those situations. But the controls after you're used to them aren't really that bad.
Visuals 10/10 (back then) 10/10 (now)
The visuals were so realistic and are beautiful. Every environment is jam packed with so much detail, that even the little details made a big impression on me. Details like from graffiti on a wall; a broken park swing; A little girls drawing on the side of a pavement of a doll; wonderful snowy skies that bask the concrete beneath Ryo's feet; towns packed full of busy people. Every character in Shenmue are distinct, no two are the same, everyone has their own homes. Like I said this game pays extra attention to detail and the visuals that accompany these little treasures are simply fantastic. They pushed the Dreamcast to its very limits and proved that most visuals DC games held on to were just lazy. Sega created something heavenly and memorable here in Shenmue. Shenmue felt like a movie.
Wow! The music it truly fantastic. Every piece fits each scene more than extremely well. Shenmues music works with its story and on numerous occasions tickle your emotions (cough!! Nozomi and Ryo!! cough!!) The voice acting while not as good as the backing music is an acquired taste. You either like it or love it. There is an option though that allows you to have Japanese speech and English subtitles with is a nice addition. Personally I like both versions and both give the characters personality. The Audio section of the game is tremendous and is some of the best I have ever seen in a game.
Replay Value ??/10
It's not possible to see every cut scene in one play. If you like the game its likely that you'll play it again to see more the cut scenes you missed. I completed it six times and I still love it. This game has so much to offer and even now I've yet to see every cut scene, fight every free battle and collect every toy. So much variety and the thought has been placed into Shenmue and even if you don't play for the story the next time, there is more than enough stuff to keep you occupied. (Example) The arcade has two real games in there that are just begging for you to complete them, Space Harrier and Hang-on and are both awesome.
Now this for me is the most ambitious creation in the history of the medium. When Shenmue was first announced and previews were first shown, initially and instantly we were wowed with its fantastic visuals, but beyond those terrific visuals, it was Shenmue's unparalleled attention to realism and detail in a world so vast and unique that made me want to fluently cry, as it manages to become something more than just a mere videogame; it becomes something dreams are made of. Shenmue was special. Critics called it revolutionary; I call it Yu Suzuki's artistic vision in real time. Yu created a world so full of character and depth that is supported by a superb, moving storyline full of emotive, thought provoking and highly dynamic cinematic scenes. If the drama of real life were to ever be captured as a video game, Shenmue would be that game. Unlike other video games, Shenmue had an uncanny ability to captivate the minds of those who understand it. You can feel the tension during intense scenes. You can feel the grittiness when you enter the seedy world of the Mad Angels at the back of Yokosuka Harbour. You can feel the sexual tension and purity of Nozomi as we follow her courageous advances towards Ryo, and when she is rejected, and her heart is broken, our hearts in return are also stolen. Shenmue's moments are all artistically crafted and Suzuki's ability to completely encompass not only our thoughts, but also our hearts, souls and our dreams, is an ability far beyond most contemporary artistic talents. Shenmue is an unforgettable drama, with a wonderful set of intriguing characters and an amazing, gripping and highly riveting plot that swiftly moves along with elegance and grace. Shenmue is an extravagant legend. Its much deserved cult following comprises fans of undying loyalty of which I am one of them.
Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 11/21/08, Updated 09/09/09
Game Release: Shenmue (EU, 11/06/00)
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