Title: Shenmue I & II
Platform: PS4 (reviewed), Xbox One & PC
Release Date: 21/08/18
Price: £24.99 – Rapid Reviews UK was very kindly provided with a review code for this game.
What the Developers say
A tale of revenge.
In 1986, teenage jujitsu artist Ryo Hazuki returns to the dojo of his father, Iwao Hazuki, only to witness his murder by a Chinese man, Lan Di. Lan Di steals a mysterious artefact known as the Dragon Mirror. Ryo vows to avenge his father’s death and sets out tracing Lan Di’s path.
The best Shenmue experience:
Updated user interface
Choice of modern or classic controls
Japanese audio available for the first time for a global audience
Fully scalable screen resolutions
An epic legend:
A tale of revenge on a grand scale
Solve the mystery of your father’s murder
An experience never to be forgotten
The world feels alive:
Talk to anyone, scour the world for clues
NPCs live independent lives on their own schedule
Faithful recreations of 1980s Japan and Hong Kong, China
Distract yourself with arcade games, collectibles, duck racing, and more
Nostalgia is the aim of the game here with Sega’s remaster of the first two titles in the Shenmue series. I played the original Shenmue when it was released in 2000 on the Dreamcast, marathoning it in a weekend perched on the end of a bed with Sonic the Hedgehog sheets. As a purely console gamer at the time, it was my first real taste of the adventure game genre and also my introduction to 70s and 80s classic martial arts movies. Following completing the game I found Enter The Dragon in my family’s VHS collection and practically wore out the tape.
That’s a roundabout way of saying I have a lot of nostalgia for Shenmue. But until now I had never played Shenmue II as the game was so hard to find in the UK on release. As I played through the first game I was very excited to get to new Shenmue content, but was it worth the 18 year wait for the next chapter in Ryo’s story? You’ll have to finish reading this Rapid Review to find out.
Looks and Sounds
Let’s get this out of the way right now – Shenmue and it’s sequel looked fantastic in their day. Shenmue was the most expensive game ever made on release, and you could tell. There were so many tiny details that no other game had even thought to include.
Shenmue I & II collection however has some stiffer competition in the current day with games as stunning as God of War, Red Dead Redemption 2 and The Witcher 3. Honestly it doesn’t hold a candle to those games. It looks truly fantastic for an 18 and 15 year old game, and the developer of the remaster d3t deserves praise for how well they have cleaned up the graphics. The whole game (aside from cutscenes) is now presented in widescreen and the characters and environments are clean and sharp. If you wanted to play Shenmue this is the version to play.
Sound wise I have some… reservations. The voice acting is of incredibly poor quality. It sounds like the voice cast was recorded on a microphone wrapped in about a foot of foam. The Japanese voice is better, so make sure you play with that, but the English is almost intolerable.
The music fairs better than the voices, but still has some odd issues in places. However this feels more like a stylistic choice to match the feel of old martial arts movies. In general the music is very good, I’m listening to it as I write this review and am reminded of the scenes as I type.
Gameplay and Replayability
The gameplay in Shenmue is at times shockingly modern and at others has aged very poorly. One aspect that has aged poorly is the movement control. Reminiscent of the tank controls style of older Resident Evil games, Ryo is not super fun to run around as. The combat is lifted straight from Virtua Fighter, a series that Sega has all but left behind that I enjoyed. The fight sequences are enjoyable if you want to get in to them, but if you don’t you can spam one or two moves and cheese your way through most of them. The moment to moment gameplay that makes up the majority of the game is the investigation into the mysteries of Shenmue and this is what I was referring to as shockingly modern.
You must investigate Ryo’s father’s murder and the ensuing story in a very analog way. You explore locations and talk to people and write any new conclusions in your notebook. Recently several indie games like Return of the Obra Dinn have used similar methods of memorisation and investigation to great effect, and this gameplay is still interesting and challenging.
In Shenmue you are often waiting around. The tattoo parlour opens at 2pm and closes at 7pm, and you find out you need to speak to the tattooist at 8pm. That means you can’t progress the story until 2pm the following day. To pass the time you can play classic Sega arcade games, darts, collect capsule toys and multiple other activities. Or, like me, you can play all of those activities once and then just start putting the controller down and reading a book. In Shenmue II they added a feature that allows you to skip this waiting period and fast forward to when shops open and I am shocked they didn’t implement this in the first game when developing the remaster.
Shenmue I & II collection is a perfect example of the concept “Your Mileage May Vary”. If you had some experience of the Shenmue series in the early 2000s that will let the game trigger your nostalgia you’ll probably love this new remaster. If you’re new to the series you might want to stay away from this game unless you’ve got a lot of patience or a deep love of classic 70s and 80s martial arts cinema.
Rapid Reviews UK Rating
You can purchase Shenmue I & II on the PlayStation Store at the following link, https://store.playstation.com/en-gb/product/EP0177-CUSA08355_00-SHENMUE12BUNDLE0