Review by Auto2112

"Not so much a game more of a way of life..."

Yeah right, and since when in life has a fully grown man saw a kitten at the side of a road and left it there on it's own? Sorry for that sly dig but I thought that Ryo was quite stupid in that aspect of the game... maybe it's just me being picky though. :)
Anyway, Shen-Mue only just came out this week in England, the date it was released being '29/11/2000' (That being 11/29/2000 to you Americans!). To be honest with you, the hype here wasn't that big. Sure all the magazines went bezerk for it, but apart from that, no advertising or 'nuffin'. Kinda strange but anyway...
Shen-Mue is the first title to ever be labeled as using the 'FREE' technology... this means you can do whatever you want in the game. interact with anything and anyone. It surprised me too... it also surprised me afterwards.

Graphics: 10

Shocking. Real life is one step away in terms of graphics. EVERYTHING is extremely detailed. EVERYTHING. Go into the resteraunt, and you'll see the door that lads to the kitchen, you'll see the owners busy making something, you'll see bottles of ketchup on the tables ready for use, you'll see... the list goes on. This game reeks of reality. If you were to take a photo of Ryo walking down the streets of Dobuita, and showed it to someone, they'd believe it was real for sure. tell them it ain't and they'd be shocked.
The work on each and every individual character is breath-taking. You won't believe there's anyone in the game who looks like someone else because no-one does. They all have their own likenesses, and voices. This is ONE detailed game... BUT...

Gameplay: 7

I thought this was supposed to be 'FREE'? Sure you can switch lights off, sure you can take pictures off the wall, sure you can buy coke machines, but what's happened to picking up grass from the floor? why can't i draw on things with a pen? Why can't i do everything that Sega made Shen-Mue sound like you were able to do? in my view, this is sheer and totally false advertisment. You CAN'T do whatever you wan't. there's very little you really can do in my opinion. And anything that you can do is more often than not just a little, ''Hmm that was a neat touch'' Nothing more, nothing less. I was expecting to do everything I wanted, but alas, Sega fooled me.
To counter-attack that i have to admit though that although initially un-nerving, the control system is brilliant. You use the stick to move ryo's head, D-pad to move him, and the rest of the buttons i'm sure you can figure out.
Also, the fighting system, is quite good, but wouldn't it have been nice to have been able to have grabbed things from nearby to twonk your opponent with? Nice I think, but oh well. Oh and the QTE system is quite fun but irritating in the fact that when Sega said 'depending on your reactions, the QTE's will change how your game plays out'. My back-side it does. Put it this way, there's some instances where you'll lose a QTE fight and then you'll have to start it again. And the first time that happens it will confuse you unbelievably. I didn't understand why i had to re-start a fight. Why didn't Sega just have you running after the culprits? then that could enable you to have a second chance. Again, oh well. A missed opportunity by Sega once again.
Another thing that will bug you supremely. How can you supposedly live a life out in this game if conversation is a no-go in the world of Shen-Mue? You can only talk to anyone about the latest plot progression that you're involved in. So asking 10 people will all result in the same type of talk being spoken. Dissapointing. You can very rarely mention the weather, or ask how someone is, because all Ryo seems bothered about is one thing, and that's his little problem with lan-Di. Personally, if Sega had met up with a certain little 'LucasArts' company, they then maybe could have a proper conversation option. One that allowed you to speak about what you wanted. In other words, monkey Island + Shen-Mue would have been kinda nice... which leads me onto...

Sound: 8

excellent sound effects that surround you. doesn't that kitten sound immaculate? Doesn't that rain sound realistic enough? Don't you love the sound of that huge fog-horn at the harbour every night? Of course ya do! But don't you just HATE the way how everyone talks? Some have awful voices, and unfortunately you end up having to have the text on-screen cos you haven't got a clue what that name was that Fuku-San mentioned. EVERYONE uses San at the end of people's names so it gets confusing after a while. EXTREMELY confusing. stick that text on if you haven't got a clue.

Lifespan: 5

I haven't completed the game yet but considering I got it on Thursday, and by Friday night i'd completed the first disc, things aren't looking promising. The first disc was enjoyable, but nothing stood out. It hasn't been the ground breaking experience all the mags have made it out to be either. Just think of Tomb Raider in a purely urban setting without as much fighting and you'll see where i'm coming from. And stick a bit of Resi Evil in there too because there's a few similarities with that too.


A very good game made easy by incredibly short puzzles. It's also a big farce in terms of the 'FREE' technology being used. It's not as 'FREE' as Sega made it out to be. Things that make you wanna buy this game? Hype, the sheer graphics, and an incredibly detailed gaming world. Things that make ya wanna stick two fingers up to Shen-Mue? Incredibly short life-span, interactivity a lot less than initially thought, and quite a repetitive game after a while too.

Buy or rent?

Probably buy. Well, I did didn't I? But don't expect a huge sprawling adventure set out over a metropolis bustling with activity. You won't get that. Wait for 'Republic' on the PC. That's gonna be a real 'FREE' game.

Shen-Mue was released to be bought by baying customers. They've no doubt bought by the thousands, and on getting home have been slightly but not totally dissapointed. Still, I suppose Sega can only improve this in Shen-Mue chapter 2 right?

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 12/04/00, Updated 12/04/00

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