Gust Blog by Ben aka Shenmueso
It was a hard sell even back then. Shenmue was set apart from other console releases thanks to the game-world's tone, pacing and depth, it's realistic use of time and routine and it's uncompromising demand of your patience. You had to sink into Shenmue to get the most out of it, but for those who did it was a gaming experience quite unlike anything that had come before it. Shenmue was a serene and surreal murder mystery investigate-em-up, seamlessly interspersed with action & story as you freely pursued your goal....
The day of the incident. The game explodes with the ultimate revenge motive; your father has been slain by the ruthless Lan Di before your very eyes and nothing will stop you from tracking the killer down, except maybe a few goes on Space Harrier down at the local arcade. You settle into a routine and allow yourself to be distracted because you are really inhabiting this game world, and investigating a super secret crime boss takes time.
Mixing the mundane with the frantic pulled you deep into the Shenmue universe, creating an immersion that felt robust and organic. Each NPC has their own daily routine, whether it be running their stall then returning home at night or getting drunk and stumbling around in the wee hours, the locations felt more alive than anything we'd seen before. This was impressive in Shenmue 1 but was really given full voice in the sequel which features huge and detailed locations, teeming with life and character.
Shenmue spoke to the player with wisdom and culture. Controlling the young and impetuous Ryo, you encounter many sage words of advice and you sense the protagonist grow as a result of teachings like that of the Four Wude. It was a subtle and ethical narrative in a time when the most popular games went for over the top gore & violence, Shenmue... doesn't have even guns. It didn't need them, the game started life as 'Virtua Fighter RPG' and it shows. For its time the combat in Shenmue was very impressive and it still holds up today. Expanding this central aspect of the game is one of Suzuki-san's intentions for the third instalment.
Shenmue was released on the Dreamcast which sold just 10.6 million units world wide. Later, that console generation's victor the PS2 would sell 155 million units while the Xbox sold 24 million consoles world wide. The Dreamcast simply did not have a big enough install base for a game as expensive to produce and as hard to sell as Shenmue to make it's money back. Hell, the sequel (by far the better game) wasn't even released in the US on the Dreamcast since the console was already on the way out and SEGA had decided to sell the US exclusive rights to Xbox. Originally developed for Saturn then moved over to Dreamcast, the game took years to produce, was ahead of it's time and incredibly ambitious and it lost SEGA a lot of money. Once the Dreamcast went down Shenmue was left in limbo, the 2nd game climaxed at a point of bizarre intrigue, a dreamlike sequence that was in sharp contrast to all that had come before it. A story on a cliffhanger for 14 years. Untill E3. That day. It is surely unprecedented that something like this has happened. Forgotten games have been resurrected by popular demand before, but they've had to re-brand to dodge copyright issues and they've been just another romp using a familiar and fun game concept, like Mighty No. 9 or Yooka Laylee. Shenmue is different. This is the next chapter in a saga that was already planned out, an unresolved story that was so powerful for those who submerged themselves in it that 14 years later, thanks entirely to their sustained demand, that story will be continued... but not yet concluded.
This time around Shenmue can have a much bigger audience, not only have many new fans discovered it's magic in the intervening time, but the third instalment will be released on platforms that far outsold the Dreamcast and original Xbox. If Suzuki-san creates the game he knows Shenmue III deserves to be, reviews and word of mouth may see game be a success. We could very well see his planned Shenmue's IV and V created under their own steam, without the need for another Kickstarter. The full story of Ryo's revenge threatens to play out over several games across real life decades, raised from the dead by the raw passion of those who were seduced by this quite unique game.
All that's left now is to see just how much of his vision Suzuki-san can bring into focus, and that may rely entirely on the budget he has to play with. The Kickstarter broke records and Pay-pal will be open soon, the fight is not over and the road will be long but for Shenmue fans, who hold the virtue of patience in particular abundance, it'll be a walk in the park. In Yu we trust.
~ Shenmueso Check his Youtube channel here
Retro Game Reviews. Mega Drive, Super Nintendo, Sega Dreamcast and more
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