Review by CChan

"Undeniably a truly perfect game with simply lots of things to do, which enters this game to the Guiness Book Records 2001..."

When Shenmue is released, I know that we are going to get something special from Yu Suzuki’s hard-work of seven years all together. And I did. It’s possibly the best game ever created, far superior than any other action / adventure game that Yu Suzuki insists that a new genre should be called for this game, FREE (Full Reactive Eyes Entertainment).

Graphics – 10
The graphics are the best ones I’ve ever seen and they’re completely detailed! Every human and every character in the game have their own resounding expressions and looks. Their looks was well lined-up and their clothing look especially real. The surrounding areas have been re-created and designed into an almost realistic city, where motorcycles are drawn up the road, people walking in the streets, children laughing and playing in one corner and many other features which look incredibly cool.

Watching this game is like watching a movie out of a television screen and if you have a cinema-sized screen, it would look much better (if you can ever buy that screen, of course). The colour of the human skin matches like the Japanese ones and the way their mouth moves interacted with when the voices spoke. The sky will always change from time to time, into when cloudy, or even at dawn and you’re likely not to noticed it because it’s all automatic. The background, on the other hand, are truly perfect as you walk about into this fully 3D roaming world with the internal engines drawing up into a realistic world.

There is actually a slowdown in the game, when there are too many characters in the screen that the internal graphical engine system can’t take it and slows down the whole game completely for a while, until some of the characters are out. It’s not really too slow, only that it’s slower than usual for a short momentum moment. That’s all.

Music – 10
The background music all happens automatically, after a certain scene appears, might it be horrifying or normal, steady talk, they will still be there to entertain you. The music change and vary from time to time, some of them may be either romantic, ghastly or musical themes that will enhance the game even further, together with the tons of sound effects that helped this game to be more realistic.

When you’re walking through the snow, you’ll hear your feet shuffling about into the freezing white cotton and when you knocked on a door, the exact sound from the real world can also be heard. Every single thing, might it be the thundering rain, birds flying about and gossiping women chatting can all be heard.

Voice Acting – 7
The voices themselves are what helping dramatically through all the game as they’re one of the most important aspect of the game. Lots of people will help you through, even from a young girl to an elderly man so it’s crucial for you to hear the conversation of everyone in the game. The kitten, which you can also rear will mew pathetically everytime you went near there and it’s sort of real, even to the ringing of the telephone. The voice acting in the Japanese version was really good, as it has emotions and feelings in it while in the English version… well, it’s good and nice but it’s not as natural as the Japanese version so you might not get used to it or even feel awkward about it.

You will be terribly annoyed by surprisingly horrible voices of most of the people in the game, excluding our main characters, Ryo Hazuki, Lan Di and Harazaki. You will feel like punching those children who annoyingly repeating their endless words, “Hey Mister, you wanna play baseball?” or perhaps “Hey Mister, you wanna wrestle?” where Ryo can just give them a fracture in the bones in their hands easily. While some of them, like our ‘friend’, Fuku-san got the girlish voice ever existed, possibly like Steve Burnside’s.

Gameplay – 10
Yu Suzuki’s seven years of hard work has even entered him to the Guinness World Records 2001 and it was entered under the section Computer Games with the title of Most Expensive Computer Game Development: and here’s the exact quote from the reputable book: “The Dreamcast FREE (Full Reactive Eyes Entertainment) title Shenmue cost over $20 million (£12 million) to develop. The project took seven years, and was the brainchild of Yu Suzuki, the head of Sega’s game-development AM2 division.”

And there’s no denying that Shenmue is a really cool game and as great as it sounds. It combines almost all of the major genres into one: adventure, action, fighting and semi-RPG. Some may say it will fit the adventure/action genre but it’s actually not, since other types of genre are fit inside this game.

The adventure is a bit difficult but can be easy if you know what to do. Listen to other people’s conversation and they often give you bits of clue to catch what you want. There are exciting and thrilling missions very often and they’ll bring you to more new places to explore and lastly, solve the whole game. You can collect items almost everywhere which often are the key to your problems. Best of all, you can have your daily allowance which allows you to spend all you like in shops and arcades and even buses that will take you to a new place!

What makes this game exciting and real? First, it’s because of Quick Timer Event (better known as QTE). When QTE is about to start, you’re treated with a short, automatic sequence and then, a button is presented in the middle of the screen (or directional buttons) where you have to press it quickly. If you pressed either the wrong button or just too late, then Ryo will fail a bit of his mission (maybe knocked onto a person, get slashed by bad guys and etc.).

Well, second is Free Battle. It uses style from Virtua Fighter instead of a one-on-one duel. Ryo may fight more than two person at one time. You can train your moves to enhance it even more, learn more new moves from other people around you.

Third, it’s Free Quest (also known as Adventure Mode) that is used the most in this wonderful game. Free Quest is just what it’s said, you can roam simply anywhere! Talk to people, open drawers and cabinet, play ‘gotcha-gotcha (known as capsule toys in the English version) machines’, buy items from shops, win luck draw, knock on doors, run and do other hundreds of moves and actions in the game!

Alright, how about fourth? The most important concept in the game that can effect the realism in the game and it’s time. Not that you have to use the real time (which will be certainly slow and a waste of time), every second in reality will be about one to two minutes in the game. All shops will only open according to their own time which I find this logical. Pubs will only open at night (ever heard they open in the morning?) and shops will open around ten or later. If you notice the sky properly, it will gradually go darker when the time in the game reaches its specific time (example: 3 p.m. it will be a bit dark). Also, there will be weather conditions like snow, rain, cloudy, sunny that is certainly cool to look and hear.

Fifth, it’s facial movements. Every character is created with their own facial designs. They don’t just open and shut their mouths for no abrupt reasons, they will move the facial muscles (which us humans certainly have) and they can frown, smile, laugh, grin and other feelings that will change the face, just like all of us do in the real world.

Lastly, there are games to play inside Shenmue. Arcade games like Hang On and Space Harrier are inside the game (which you have to pay for it in the game, of course), darts and many others. You can even take care of a little kitten who was ‘dumped’ by cruel people and take care of it until it grows into a mature cat. Feed him with food provided from your nearest, convenience store! The camera is also good and almost follows you wherever you go.

There is also the fourth disc (called the Passport disc and by the way, there are three discs all together excluding the Passport disc) that allows you to upload your high scores to the Internet, tells you how far you have gone through based on your save file, characters' profiles, movies and lots more things to do and see! The short movies will be available more and more based on certain people you talk to and how far you have progressed. You can even download a special file while connecting to the network (I don’t have one, sadly as I don’t have a modem in my Dreamcast) which you can use to trade your capsule toys from your own.

Undeniably, you can do simply lots of things in the game, for the sake of fun. You can buy those capsule toys and get Virtua Fighter characters and Sonic-related characters or even other old Genesis games! The jackpot is a nice addition to the game as you can earn lots of coins that will enable you to be a winner while the lucky-draw, well, it’s the best addition of the lot. You can get lots of things from different shops and you can get special and unique games that will enthrall you further and excite you even more. You can also buy music cassettes from the convenience stores that could be heard by using a radio! Neat!

You can also practice your moves that you have learned, or gain them from various people in the game or through scrolls that you have found. There is also a shop where you can buy your scrolls from but they’re pretty expensive, ranging from different prices and different attack moves. Practicing the moves can be practiced from various places like the car park, or parks, where there are no people around that can be hurt by your attacks. You can even choose to master all of them to the maximum where your moves will be enhanced.

Controls – 9
The controls are purely easy to remember but needs a bit of handling in the beginning for you to get used in this huge game so you won’t get lost. Shenmue used every single buttons that are available in the standard Dreamcast controller, A, B, X, Y, L, R, D-pad and even the analog stick. They vary from different modes, Free Quest and Free Battle so it’s best to remember all of them first.

Story – 10
The story gets Ryo Hazuki, the main character in this game mixed up in several situations (some even terrible). Ryo’s father is mysteriously killed by Shoryu (Lan Di in the English version), the evil villain in the game who wants two special mirrors, Phoenix and Dragon mirrors. There’s a mystery connection between him, Iwao (Ryo’s father) and the mirrors, added with another mysterious and innocent country girl, Shenhua Rei (Ling Sha Hua in the English version) who appears does not knows the feelings of being to hate others. Another mysterious girl which never ever appear in the game (except in the Passport Disc), Shuei Kou. The story is interesting as it centers on an obedient child and how he even risks his life to find the meaning of his father’s death and to get revenge. The story evolved bigger and bigger into serious missions that sometimes risk Ryo’s life.

The story starts in the year of 1986 which means that you have to expect 1980's kind of stuffs, old telephones instead of the 'dial-and-phone' kinds, a bit old Japanese houses instead of modern ones and the list goes on. That's why Space Harrier that is created in 1985 appears in the game! That also explains is why there are no Sonic the Hedgehog or even Sonic Jam in the game. They appear in 1991, six years later after Space Harrier is created.

Replay Value – 10
If you simply play through the game without enjoying every single bits of the game, you’ll have to play through the game, enjoying the jackpot machines, in the arcade center Game You or buy lots of capsule toys which will surprise you even more with their unique looks. While playing through the adventure, enjoy Ryo’s daily talks and earnest finds to unravel more of the mystery or you’ll be sorry. I’ve played through the game over and over for a few times (now’s my fourth) as this possibly the best and most enjoyable game ever.

Overall – 10
Those who gives a score lower than 10 (even 9!) must have their head to be examined and those who gives an even poor score deserves to be executed, for he or she did not have the sense of enjoying this game after literally thousands of people all over the world are commenting the good things about this game (okay, it’s just a joke). Gather all of the information above that I had gave, and consider yourself carefully though this is simply a must-have game that is not to be missed. If you can forgive several errors in the game, like the voices and occasional on-screen glitches, then you might want to get this game. The story has only just begun…

Shen
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+ Real-life and realistic graphics that will simply get you real through the game.
+ Unbelievable cool music soundtrack and real-time sound effects.
+ Simply lots of things to do…

Moo
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- Some of the voice actors are horrible. Honest.
– Occasional graphical slow-down glitches.
– Get addicted for the time being and get red eyes.


Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 01/16/01, Updated 01/16/01


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