Review by falk aspargs

Reviewed: 04/13/06

Its not just about looking for sailors.

The first five minutes of this masterpiece sets the story for the entire game and series. These five minutes are the most important part of the whole story and series. The game starts out with Ryo Hazuki running to his house. When he gets there, he sees the wooden gate to his front yard is broken and there is a mysterious black car outside. He goes into the back yard to the family dojo to see a tall man in a silk robe talking to his father. It is after all the questioning when Ryo sees this man who goes by the name of Lan Di, murder his father in front of his own eyes.

Its from this event five minutes into the game where you, as Ryo Hazuki, embark on a journey to find the man who murdered your father. Sure, we have seen stories like this before, the heroes father is killed, the hero wants revenge, but in this game, you get to play out the story yourself, not just watching it on a tv. Also through out the game, you get sort of mini stories, such as taking care of an orphan kitten, which are in a way directly linked to the main story.

The story will suck you in. You will keep playing this to find out what happens next.

The gameplay in Shenmue is fantastic. There is so many things you can do. First of all, there is the actual story line that you follow. You can also train your moves to make them stronger and more efficient, so you have a better chance at winning the fights you will encounter throughout the game. These fights are known as Free Battles. They pit you up against several enemies in battle where you must use the moves that you know, in order to drop their health bar down to zero. You can also experience Quick Time Event, or QTE, battles and events. In the event of a QTE, buttons will appear in the center of the screen, and you have to press the corresponding button on your controller within a certain time limit.

Some times throughout the game, several characters will ask you questions or for advice. An option menu then pops up, and you are given various answers that you can give to that character. You select an answer using either up, down, left, or right. These can affect what happens at that current time in the game, such as getting an additional task or a piece of information that will help you continue the hunt for Lan Di.

There is also an arcade that you can go to and spend money to play various games. There are QTE games, darts, and real video games, such as Hang On and Space Harrier. Achieving a certain score in each game will give you a capsule toy of that particular machine. You can also spend your money on capsule toys located in machines scattered everywhere, and collect whole sets. Other things you can do with your money is spend it in the convenience stores for stuff for your collection, or for things you might need to continue on with the story. You can also spend your money to get your fortune read. Getting your fortune read can give you hints about what to do next in the game. If you feel like gambling, there is a slot house in the game, filled with slot machines. Reaching a certain amount of coins can get your various different capsule toys. You can also do pool challenges at one of the bars in the game. There aren’t full games of pool though, just different one shot challenges.

Later on in the game, you will get a job as a forklift operator. So for a few game days, you will be driving a forklift for a good chunk of the day. To start of the day, you have races for capsule toys. Then you are given a map and are told to transport the crates from one place at the harbor to another place.

There are several different controls for different actions in Shenmue. There are the basic controls, you move with the D-Pad, run with L, do actions with A. If you press R, you will zoom in on some objects, then can pick them up, open them, etc. with A. Once you hold something, you can move the D-Pad to further examine it.

Then there is the QTE. These use up every direction on the D-Pad, and uses A, B, X, Y.

For Free Battles, some of the controls are the same, while others change. The D-Pad is still to move Ryo, and L is to run. But now, X is for hand moves, B is for throw moves, A is for leg moves, and Y is block. Mix these up with different movements with the D-Pad to do different moves.

For the forklift and the one time you ride a motorcycle, the triggers control acceleration and braking. A also controls the fork movement on the forklift.

The graphics are amazing. There is a lot of detail put into the graphics. You could spend entire game days doing nothing but just staring at the surroundings. From trees, to flowers, to buildings, and even the people, so much was put into this game. Each NPC looks unique. Unlike other games, each NPC is different, you will not find a duplicate looking NPC anywhere in the game. Most of them even have their own names. Its striking point though is the whole scenery, all the nature, it looks life like. Even when you pick up things and examine them, you can see all the detail that was put into them.

The game also looks extremely beautiful at nighttime, with all the lights on. This is especially true in the Red Light District of Dobuita, where all the bars on the street are lit up with neon lights.

The sound is the kicker for the series. It is absolutely beautiful. First, most of the music is composed by an orchestra. The type of music changes depending on what is currently happening in the story, or the time of day it is. One minute you can have happy cheerful music, the next minute you could have solemn quiet music. Also, when you enter a shop, each place has its own theme song.

The non musical sounds are also great. When there is snow on the ground, you can hear Ryo’s footsteps as he walks through the snow. Sometimes when a motorbike goes down a street, you can hear the puttering of its engine from down the street. When you buy a can of soda, you hear the sound of the flip-top opening the can.

This gets a 9 though for the voice acting. Its not that bad, and its not that great. When the characters talk, they usually sound dull and boring. Sometimes it even looks as if their words don't match the way their mouths move.

Shenmue seems more like an experience rather than a game. It has excellent gameplay, beautiful music and sound effects, and stunning graphics. Everything about this game is great. You would have a fun time playing it. If you are like me, you will fall in love with Shenmue. There are many questions that can only be answered if you play this game. Will you catch Lan Di? Why did he kill your father?

I would say that this is a must buy. It’s a great game for any Dreamcast collection. Not only is it kind of rare, but its relatively cheap. You can find them for a good price on either Amazon or eBay. You may never know when you might come across this gem of a game again.

Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

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