The latest issue of Japanese magazine Dorimaga carries a series of comments on the recently announced Shenmue Online project from series creator Yu Suzuki, reprinted on IGN this week, who claims to have been "interested in massively multiplayer online gaming since the time of the Dreamcast version of Shenmue," and even suggests that a massively multiplayer setting is what "the series was meant for".
Suzuki's comments, apparently taken from an early August launch presentation of the JC Entertainment-developed title in China - currently the only territory that Sega is targeting - offer insight into the thinking behind the project, and how the game will actually work. Suzuki also explains the presence of characters like Ryo Kazuki in screenshots of the game uncovered since the original announcement.
"If asked why Shenmue, it's because with the plan that the original game would have a world larger than any other game and have more characters appear than in any other game, the series was meant for massively multiplayer online," the Shenmue creator explains.
"The game will have the community and level-raising elements of a standard massively multiplayer online title, and will progress centring on the battle system cultivated in Virtua Fighter [Cyber Generation, we assume] and Shenmue. To that, we're adding fighting based on spirit power and weapons, and plan on making it something that anyone can play."
"The game takes place throughout all of China, and has a story set in the beautiful rivers and mountains and in the historic cities of this country. Events, some from the Dreamcast version and others original and meant for this title, will number over three hundred. Of course, we'll have updates, which will make the world gradually grow. Enemies who don't appear in the conventional Shenmue will appear, so please look forward to this world," he continues.
"Conventional Shenmue characters like Ryo Hazuki and Xiuying Hong will appear as Game Masters - that is, NPCs controlled by the computer. The relationship between those characters and the players themselves is a focus of this title."
There's still no word on Shenmue Online reaching territories outside China, but it seems more likely that Sega has yet to make a decision than anything else. We'll bring you more on Shenmue Online as and when we hear it.