Review by RHibiki

Reviewed: 02/07/00 | Updated: 06/14/01

Hey! You've killed my father!!!!

What is Shenmue?

This is a question that's on every gamers lips. Is it a person? Is it a place? Is it a bird? Is it a plane? Er.. Well, that's what I'm gonna find out!

What would you do if you find your housekeeper injured, your brother thrown out the door, your father dead, and a mysterious man wearing elaborate Chinese clothes driving away with a large disc in a black Merc? Assume that the local library have sent round their hit squad to reclaim that 3 month overdue music CD? That wasn't the case with Ryou. It's much worse than your local visit from your library!

Set in Yokosuka in 1986, the game casts you as Ryou, and must search for a Chinese mobster named Souryu who killed your father over an ancient artifact. Throughout your journey, you'll speak to locals, friends and meet new people. By doing so, enables you to move forward into the story. When something important is said about something then this information will be stored automatically into your notebook. Very handy for those really tricky to remember phone numbers!

You have an inventory to hold your notebook, torches, matches, chocolate, squid flavoured crisps, empty coke cans, cat food, Yu Suzuki (the guy you made Shen Mue possible) action figures, Timex Indigo watches, must I go on? In your inventory, you also have a record of fighting techniques. You can learn new moves from people or from scrolls. You need to practice your moves so that you can become stronger in that technique. I've been in a couple of fights, one was in a Virtua fighter style but the other was in QTE - the famed Quick Timer Events. Similar to the button system in Die Hard Arcade, you press certain buttons on your pad corresponding to the on-screen instructions. QTEs can come up anytime in the game, so you have to be alert at all times! It mainly happens in fights but in one particular scene you have to QTE through the streets to catch a pickpocket. Another area where QTEs are put to good use is in the arcades.

In QTE Fight, you have to punch the red pads as fast as you can. Each time you punch a corresponding red pad, you score points. The longer you do this without any mistakes, the higher your points are. You can then submit these points in the ''Hall Of Fame''. This requires the Shenmue Passport CD; and we'll take about that later. Another QTE game is called Excite QTE. Remember the school activity that you had to do, where by you had to drop a ruler for the other person to catch and the person with the lowest centimetre would be the one who has the fastest reaction. This is exactly what this game is all about! But that's not all, oh no... You can even play a perfectly emulated version of the arcade classics, Afterburner and Super Hang On! These games are great, you'll probably spend more time and money (Oh yes. It wouldn't be a real arcade if you didn't pay for your games) on these than the actual game! Fortunately for you, pocket money comes in at a daily rate. 500 yen to be exact. A lot more than my old 500 pence a week allowances!

I've been going on about what you can do in Shenmue but I haven't mentioned anything about graphics. And let me tell you, it's gorgeous! Better even than Soul Calibur! The characters blink realistically when they speak, the detail of the eyes, the fine hair, the movement of the mouth. It's remarkable when you walk around Ryou's house. When you open up draws, you'll see magazines, clothes and pictures. There are objects that you can pick up and look at. If you look at the cupboards in the kitchen, you'll see a couple of bugs crawling about. The detail of the streets in Shenmue is very impressive, too. The road, trees, and even cats make the streets feel like a real street. You see kids walking from school, housewives making conversations, men fixing bikes and what have you...

The shadows and lighting are really impressive, too. Each object has a shadow, which bends and shapes depending on where the light is. Light reflections can be found in places like the eyes. The world mimics day and night, similar to the system in Zelda 64. The sky start to sunset at certain times and when it becomes night, the world becomes dark with only the street lamps as your source of lighting. To make even more realistic, certain shops close and open in the day or the night.

It also mimics the weather system; it will rain, snow and be sunny and bright. Meteorological information of Yokosuka was taken to mimic the exact weather conditions of the period in which Shenmue was set.

There is a fourth disc in the pack called Shenmue Passport. This disc contains music and movies from the game which can be unlocked. You also have an information option, where by you can watch and hear certain characters from the game. Surprisingly, you can listen to this dude who speaks to you in English about money! The fourth option is the Internet bit. This is where you can go into the Shenmue website, access the hall of fame (this is where your highest score for the arcade games are sent and stored) plus the F355 Challenge option. If you stick the Shenmue discs into a PC, you can access artwork of the cast of Shenmue. The limited edition comes with a music CD featuring lounge lizard music from Shenmue's Heartbeat bar.

However, no game is perfect. There are some glitches in the graphics, like overlapping shadows. You'll find that the same people will be on the same bikes, talking to the same people. The look mode can be a bit clumsy as the camera might focus on an object that you don't want it focused on. Also the movement of Ryou can be a bit slow and painful. You sometimes find yourself walking into the wall instead of through the door.

Those minor points aside, this is a really big game. There is so much you can do it just impossible to convey the sheer scale of the game. The language issue is an important one; obviously without a grasp of Japanese, you often find yourself relying on luck or internet guides to get through certain stages, but the sheer awesomeness of it all makes it worthwhile. the experience To Yu Suzuki, its a FREE style game. I say it's just an RPG. The only real way to find out is to play yourself. No doubt RPG fans will love this, and only sceptics will loathe it.

Overall Rating: 10

Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

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