"One of my top favorite games, and possibly the greatest Dreamcast game ever..."

If you like solving mysteries, fighting, and Japan, then by all means you MUST play Shenmue for the Dreamcast.

In Shenmue you play as a young man named Ryo, who basically goes through the average daily grind as every teenager does...until one day something unexpected happens. To sum it all up quickly, I'll just say that a strange man (a foreigner) kills Ryo's father.
Ryo quickly takes up the seemingly impossible task to avenge his father's death -- and he is willing to go to great lengths to do this, to finally find out who killed his father and why. A noble cause, indeed, and Ryo is really a character that you can sympathize and empathize with, pivotal to any successful RPG.

It's really a great story overall, and it unfolds in an RPG-type fashion,as the gamer is left to find all of the clues themselves, in any way and order that they want to. On top of that, players must train with Ryo ever day, whether that be in the family dojo, or just down in an abandoned parking lot.

The training is where the whole "fighting" aspect comes in. Basically, it's a full-fledged fighting game with only one playable character, that being Ryo. By repeatedly executing moves you level them up, therefore making them more powerful. Really, most of the fighting will be done towards the end of the game, and it's certainly a good idea not to slack with the training, otherwise you'll find yourself repeating scenarios A LOT. It's advised that you train with Ryo daily, for at least a couple of hours (game time).

But like any other teenager, Ryo has a curfew and an allowance that are also just as important. Since his grandmother nows takes care of him, Ryo is told to come home at 11:00 every night...but basically, all that will happen when you break the curfew is a couple of minor rant sessions and not much else. But hey, just remember that your grandmother also pays your allowance DAILY, so you better not piss her off too much.

The better part of your monetary spending in Shenmue is spent on collectable items -- that is figurines, and casette tapes for your walkman. It's all really just about having a collection, sorta like Brave Fencer Musashi with the packaged action figures. There is also an arcade where you can play a bunch of really kick-ass games including darts, and Hang On, among a few others. A lot of fun, to say the least, and a great way to relax after a few hours of cumbersome training. Also, by doing really well at the arcade, you can collect rare figurines!

It just amazed me how much you can do in this game. You can interact with almost anything, anywhere. People, inanimate objects, it doesn't really matter. I spent about 15 - 20 minutes alone just going through everything in Ryo's house, through all the drawers and closets, and bedrooms. Sometimes you discover some cool items, for example, the cassette player in Ryo's desk.

What was definitely the best about this game though was just the overall environment, feeling like I was indeed in a completely different place than Upstate New York (where I live). The people were all extremely interesting and fun to talk to and the scenery just boggled my mind...for a majority of the game you feel as if you're just living life -- going to sleep, waking up, training, talking to friends,etc...but later in the game things get much more complicated.

By a certain point in the game, Shenmue is no longer about the goofing off and childs play of a teenage guy -- because of all of the clues that you'll eventually find, you'll be led into much deeper, darker and dangerous scenarios with enemies who will cream your ass if you're not prepared.
This game really elegantly portrays Ryo as an average teenager -- safe within the confines of home and it's close surroundings, and then suddenly thrust out into the big,bad world where he is completely on his own. I think it will strike a chord in the majority of gamers out there, at least the ones old enough to relate.
Sadly, Shenmue's biggest flaw is the fact that the story doesn't resolve in this first installment of the series (there is also Shenmue II out there), so you'll be left trying to wrap up a lot of loose ends. But hey, you can't really hold that against a game so great as this...Shenmue is simply an essential experience for any gamer out there. Buy!

PROS --
1) excellent and unique gameplay
2) the arcade and collecting figurines are cool little side-quests
3) the environment is beautiful and soothing as well as immersive
4) the plot is extremely deep, and you really begin to feel as if your actions affect it
5) kicking-ass as Ryo is really fun!

CONS--
1) training can become a little cumbersome
2) some of the voice-overs are a little annoying
3) I want to know the ending!
4) the curfew...I wanted to explore all night!


Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 06/09/04


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