December 22, 2019 at 3:22 PM #652
Shenmue I & II
Rating: 4.5 – Outstanding
The greatest game in history and its sequel are back.
Shenmue is the legendary ground breaking series created by Yu Suzuki, the mastermind of many SEGA arcade hits like After Burner, Space Harrier, Hang-On and Virtua Fighter. The game for many was the last great SEGA game made before they famously bowed out of the console industry with the wonderful but overwhelmed Dreamcast. The game was the first in an epic series of games planned by Suzuki that spanned 10-13 chapters (though Suzuki later clarified he always wanted Shenmue to be 4 games) and was more or less the swansong for the Dreamcast. It was infamous for its then large development costs (it was said to be 70 million but Yu claims it was more around 47 million) and pretty much being doomed from the start as a money maker. The 2nd one was only released on the Xbox in America because by the time the second game was ready, the Dreamcast was dead in the west. Both games were flops but they gained a mega passionate following and many hail the games as all time classics. On the other, the series has a quite large vocal set of detractors who have spent years bashing the game. One of the more infamous examples of this over the top bashing was on the Top 10 show on the now dead and buried G4TV, Filter. The incident happened on its top 10 worst games ever show and the show choose Shenmue as the 2nd worst game ever losing only to Zelda: The Wand of Gamelon for the Philips CD-I, which confused even the people interviewed on the show. The reception was so fierce that the show was more or less turned into a Hollywood entertainment tonight like show and canceled soon thereafter. Shenmue is a like it or hate it series, there’s no middle ground.
Shenmue was a groundbreaker for creating the QTEs, adding other games in the game itself via the You Arcade, and its graphics that were about 4-5 years ahead of their time. As for myself, I personally managed to get into the first game right before the DC was put down in 2002, thanks to my little brother who was dead set on having a DC. My brother was so set on owning one he already had a game or two by the time I finally got a DC in 2001 for my birthday. As soon as we heard Shenmue 2 was coming for the Xbox, we waited for the following Christmas to get the console and of course Shenmue 2 was one of the first games we got for the system. The series went dormant for years until Shenmue 3 was announced in 2015. Finally after years of begging from fans, SEGA released the first two games in a collection for the consoles of today. This was a highly requested release since the first game had become notorious for not working on Dreamcast due to disc failure making it not the easiest game to play anymore. For the record I have played both games several times through and will focusing on the 1st game on the collection mostly to talk about the port itself. If you want a detailed breakdown of Shenmue, please look up the other wonderful reviews in the Dreamcast or Xbox sections right here on Gamefaqs.
This is a port for the most part with a few bells and whistles added. The graphics are polished up for HD and both English and Japanese voices are available and are seemless to change. Loading times are much faster than on the DC, and you can save anytime now which is a godsend. The games are focused on exploration and interaction with characters all of whom were fully voiced which was a novel concept when the original game dropped in 2000. The game plays just like it did 2000, so purists will have no trouble playing it again. Newer gamers may not like the slow pace, and minimal combat in the 1st game. The 2nd game is more combat based with less emphasis based on interacting with characters. There is also trophy support as well, most of which are very easy to attain.
The port has some problems though. They are many minor bugs in the game at this writing, mostly occasional missing audio, a graphical hitch every now and then, but nothing game breaking or rampant enough to be a problem. I did run into one hard crash though, it was while i was listening to Toms boombox in the harbor when the game switched to the night cycle. With the latest patch, most of the minor problems have been cleared up, so rest assured the game plays fine. The main problem with Shenmue is the pacing, in that you have to wait at times for events to happen. They didn’t add the time skip feature 2 has so it can still be as tedious and boring to wait for in game hours and days to pass as it did on the DC. The waiting is just a pain, if they added a speed time up feature it would have been more acceptable. The second games does run well now with patches. That said their are moments in two that just drag on and on. The worst parts of this are the Kowloon escape, the ghost hall building, and the last part of the game. The last part of the game just drags on and on. While the first game drug on due to the time mechanics, the second game suffers from a really slow paced story in certain parts, and for that I still feel the first game is the better game. That post Kowloon in the second game just drug on and on, I forgot how painfully slow it was.
Conclusion: While the tech hiccups and the slow pace of both games are annoying, this is still a great return from a series that was left for dead in 2002. While we wait for 3, these two games are a great nostalgia trip for fans and newcomers. Is Shenmue really the greatest game of all time? No, but its still worth playing especially if you grew up in the fifth gen like I did. If you are a fan at all, then buy it. If you are a newbie, its worth it but be aware these are not fast paced games. With all the patches out, now the port while not prefect, is still a wonderful experience for Shenmue newbies and vets alike.
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