Review by Racer1445

Reviewed: 08/01/05

Closer to perfection than any other

Shenmue is one of the most expensive games ever made - when it was introduced, it was a revolution in videogaming and was the first game in the new 'FREE' genre of games. If it hadn't been for Shenmue, chances are the 3D Grand Theft Auto games wouldn't have been made at all (or wouldn't have been nearly so good). While two difficult games to compare, I would certainly say Shenmue runs rings around the GTA games.

This is a superb plot, brilliantly executed and very gripping indeed. Teenager Ryo Hazuki sets out to avenge the death of Iwao, his father, who was killed by a mysterious man known as Lan Di. Ryo must talk to the folk of his town, Yokosuka, in order to discover clues as to where Lan Di currently is, who the man Ryo's father was suspected to have killed and what the Dragon Mirror he demanded and subsequently stole was about. The story unfolds and you can take many, many different paths as you learn more and more and get to know the townsfolk. The story is involving and you really do feel for Ryo throughout, and for other characters involved in the story.

There is far too much to do in Shenmue to detail in just this review. You do, in short, roam the different areas of Ryo's home town searching for clues, getting into battles, quickly pressing buttons in the QTE's and can learn new moves. But there is so much more you can do. Telephone friends; play games such as Space Harrier, Hang On and darts in the arcades; collect different toys from the capsule machines (such as Sonic and NiGHTS) and even try your luck as raffles.

Throughout the game, you will interact with a whole host of different people who clearly have different personalities. some who like Ryo and some who don't. You can contrast different people's attitudes in Shenmue, for example the kind and quiet Nozomi (who has feelings for Ryo) and Eri, another friend of Ryo's who has a very short temper. The games you can play are just fantastic fun and you can set records which will be kept and remembered. There is even the option to submit these online if you achieve a particularly good score.

The number of events that happen are countless, each and every FMV sequence being magnificent, enjoyable and exciting. I don't want to reveal the plot and spoil it for you, but suffice to say you'll be seeing many interesting twists and turns in the story, much depending on the different paths you decide to take. You even get a job which is great fun and, despite its repetitive nature, doesn't get boring.

There is just so much to do in Shenmue; you'll never, ever get fed up with what's happening and while you've got a long wait before a particular event, you could drop into countless different shops and arcades. It's a masterpiece, pure and simple.

The graphics are incredibly good. The attention to detail is second to none, and it will be apparent from the start. Not a thing is out of place or missed out. The weather effects are perfection - rain and snow all falls remarkably realistically. The people are detailed very well and look realistic, each with their own clothes and traits. Every single object, whether it be the motorbikes which are scattered around the city, the forklifts (even which are numbered differently) and the general footpaths and stalls has been placed with striking realism and terrific smoothness. It amasses to a true graphical treat that few games will ever better.

There are so many different actions in Shenmue, so they'll probably take a while to get used to. Remember, the directional buttons move Ryo, and the stick is used for looking around. One point I'd like to stress - make use of the Zoom feature, which lets you zoom into certain objects and pick them up and do actions where appropriate. It will be accessed using either the L or R button (depending on how you set it up). This will be essential later on in the game... believe me.

Sound effects are smashing - Ryo's feet sound just how they would in real life, and general background sounds are also fantastic. Dogs can be heard howling in the evenings, motorbikes roar through the streets with great motor sounds and the cars and buses sound great. The harbour effects also impress, especially the spooky sounds in the warehouse you enter about halfway through the game.

Generally, Shenmue isn't all that difficult to complete in the time allowed, but there are some seriously tough battles you'll have to master and the forklift may be tricky to control at the best of times. The espionage mission is also extremely hard to complete... until you get some help from a friend. But let's be honest, extreme difficulty isn't really the point here... the point is you enjoy playing a real-life type game.

It takes a very long time to complete Shenmue, and you really shouldn't hurry your way through the three main discs. Part of the point of the game is that you make use of the masses of additional features the game offers, such as the arcade games, slot machines, collectable toys and the like. There is also some extra material for once you complete the game which will offer enjoyment (I don't want to spoil it for you)... but you WILL NOT play through Shenmue and think it's too short. Because it's incredibly long and offers so much more.

Overall score: 10/10

-Truly gripping and sensual story.
-Addictive and will keep you playing.
-Fantastic graphics.
-So many different paths to take.
-Huge length of the game.
-All the games you can play and people you can interact with.

-Some may find it a bit slow and boring.

Final Thoughts:
I have no hesitation whatsoever in giving Shenmue a perfect 10/10. It is, quite simply, the best game ever made. This is much less violent than GTA (thank God) but still offers some great and memorable fights. There are so many different moves you can learn as well; all part of the make-up of an unbeatable game.

Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

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