While most people are busy thinking about Spider-Man and a new Destiny 2 expansion this week, some of us are still hopelessly obsessed with Shenmue thanks to its recent remaster. If you're still thinking about tracking down sailors and playing games of Lucky Hit, then we have just the show for you.
Genuine console classics properly restored for modern hardware.
21st August 2018
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It may not be the full-on remaster/remake we might have hoped for, but Shenmue and its sequel are finally playable on modern hardware, courtesy of Sega and developer d3t. PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC releases are available, each delivering a remarkably close conversion of the Dreamcast originals, with one or two interesting tweaks.
Let's begin with the first game. It should come as no surprise that Shenmue HD delivers a higher resolution experience. Across all Xbox and PlayStation consoles, Shenmue HD operates with a 1080p pixel-count - whether you're gaming on base or enhanced hardware. The good news is that image quality is terrific. Shenmue uses a form of anti-aliasing that manages to clean up edges to the point where it's nearly impossible to see individual pixel steps. It's an extremely effective solution and it holds up well even when scaled on a 4K TV.
More importantly, in comparison to Dreamcast, shimmering is kept to an absolute minimum with thin objects and fine details appearing temporally stable in the HD version. In its original format, Shenmue exhibits a lot of noticeable shimmering and aliasing - something atypical for the Dreamcast. That's because Shenmue is one of the few games on the system to completely eschew mip-maps - something it shares with AM2's arcade games. My guess is that AM2 felt that the side effects of utilising bilinear filtering in combination with mip-maps - which leads to blurred textures at oblique angles - took too great a toll on the perception of fine detail. Thankfully, the new HD version handles this much more effectively, enabling clean surfaces devoid of shimmering and artefacts.
It's the news many have been waiting for - Sega is releasing remasters of the first two Shenmue games, and they're coming to PS4, Xbox One and PC later this year.
The re-release of Shenmue 1 and 2 will be available together as a single package and will remain "true to the originals", according to Sega, while offering scalable screen resolutions and PC graphics options, modern or classic control schemes and an updated user interface.
You can also choose between English or Japanese voiceovers, for those who want the option.
Sega has said it is "looking into" remasters of the first two Shenmue games.
Shenmue is one of my favourite game franchises of all time. Ryo Hazuki's journey to avenge his father's death first began back when I was just 11 years old, so it's no exaggeration to say I've been following his story for more than half my life.
There's so much of it, it feels impenetrable. Shenmue 2's Hong Kong isn't the biggest of open worlds, and unlike the Yokosuka suburb that preceded it, it can hardly claim to be the densest. Yet AM2's Hong Kong is thick with character and purpose: an overwhelming city where you sink into a gentle rut amidst its wider rhythms, where human life flows through its streets, ebbing in from the harbour before it splashes down sidewalks and sends slow, chattering oxbows around cluttered alleyways.
UPDATE#2: Sony has clarified its role in Shenmue 3 in a recent official stream on the game, and revealed it's helping to bring Yu Suzuki's project to life.
Following its spectacular announcement at Sony's E3 conference, there were questions about what the company's involvement was, and why Shenmue 3 was going to Kickstarter at the same time as appearing on-stage. The $2 million amount announced as a goal on the Kickstarter - which was surpassed within 9 hours - doesn't appear to pertain to the game's entire budget, and instead has been used as proof of interest in the project before other investors dive in.
"Sony and PlayStation is definitely a partner in this game," Sony PlayStation's director of third party production and developer relations Gio Corsi. "It's going be run through third-party production. We're going to help YsNet get the game done. We're going to be partners on it the whole way."
E3 is just around the corner, which means it's obviously time for the rumour mill to creak into action and start guffing out hints that long awaited games are finally going to be confirmed. Today it's the turn of that old favourite, Shenmue 3, the MIA concluding chapter in Yu Suzuki's ambitious and expensive series of adventures about revenge, martial arts and driving forklift trucks.
A trademark application for the long-awaited Shenmue 3 is, unsurprisingly, a hoax.
The trademark listing popped up earlier this week and sparked a fresh wave of rumours that the series was getting a revival. Alas, this is not to be.
"Sega has confirmed that the recent application for the trademark of Shenmue 3 is a fake and is looking into the origins of this application," the publisher told Eurogamer.
Tak Hirai, the main programmer of beloved Dreamcast games Shenmue and Space Channel 5, has announced a new PlayStation Vita rhythm game called Orgarhythm.
Sega is ready to release HD updates of cult Dreamcast classics Shenmue and Shenmue 2, according to a new report.
Shenmue HD and Shenmue 2 HD will be released on the PlayStation Network and Xbox Live Arcade, Gamerzines claimed.
Indeed development of both titles has been finished for over a year, an anonymous source said. The hold up was due to Sega working out the future of the Shenmue franchise, apparently. "Namely, whether or not Shenmue 3 would ever see the light of day," said the report.
Shenmue creator Yu Suzuki has hinted that his YsNet studio might be able to obtain the rights to the adventure franchise from Sega.
Bad news for all those clinging to hope that Shenmue 3 might one day see a green light. A social mobile game spun off from the beloved Sega franchise Shenmue has shut up shop after only 12 months online.
Legendary game developer Yu Suzuki has said SEGA will "probably" let him create Shenmue 3.
Former SEGA mastermind Yu Suzuki has tantalisingly teased that Shenmue 3 is much more than a fantasy - it exists.
Shenmue series creator Yu Suzuki wants to make Shenmue 3.
SEGA has announced plans to release a new instalment in the Shenmue series.
Leaked images that appear to be from Microsoft's PartnerNet developer service suggest that Shenmue II may be heading to Xbox Live Arcade.
SEGA has declined to comment on a report stating that the publisher hopes to release Shenmue 3 on a next generation games console.
It's well over a year since we were first acquainted with Shenmue 2
on the Dreamcast, the platform on which the mysterious, enigmatic
story of young Ryo attempting to avenge the murder of his father
Sega AM2 Publisher Sega A New Chapter Shenmue 2 is probably the best swansong the Dreamcast could hope for. The eagerly anticipated second chapter to Yu Suzuki's magnum opus pushes Sega's final console to the very brink of its capabilities. The most endearing thing about the Shenmue story, for me at least, is the fact that you're never completely sure of your position in the big picture. The beautifully rendered intro sequence merely hints at the direction of the story, and the sense of being led towards something bigger than what we're immediately presented with is forever there. Yes, Shenmue 2 is extremely impressive, at least technically, but does it live up to the previous instalments ability to fascinate, intrigue, and make off with our breath? The game proper obviously picks up where the predecessor left off, as Ryo arrives in Hong Kong in pursuit of his father's murderer and the truth behind the events that led to his death. Your starting task is to simply locate an address, and so as you begin to wander about the harbour it becomes your primary objective to interrogate as many locals as possible. So far, so familiar, apart from the fact that the dialogue is in Japenese. Having English subtitles and Japenese speech is far preferable to the mediocre job the Western voice actors did in Shenmue, and it lends a tremendous amount to the atmosphere. It's All In The Details Of course, Shenmue 2's basic mechanics are the same as its predecessor and after all, we weren't expecting a first person shooter. Graphically, the game surpassed my expectations right from the very beginning. Everything is texturally sharper, characters, buildings and props are more intricately modelled, and the locations are astoundingly huge and complex. The markets are buzzing with locals and the towns feel properly populated. AM2's achievement here is just mind-blowing from the outset. The improvements do take their toll on the Dreamcast and the framerate can occasionally drop to a crawl for a moment, yet this is forgivable due to the sheer scale and beauty you're presented with. You can only begin to imagine what this will look like on the Xbox. The control system and interface have undergone subtle changes. Maps can be purchased and locations subsequently bookmarked in order to aid your progression around the massive street networks. The locals can also come in handy when trying to locate certain destinations, and some will show you the way when quizzed. Gone is the tedious wait for time-based events to happen as well. If you have an appointment at a certain time and you arrive early, the game will give the helpful option of skipping ahead to the appropriate time, instead of having you spend your day wandering the streets. The game wastes no time in dropping you straight into the story, but the overall progression is still very linear. Your main tasks are usually split into smaller chunks, which almost feel like short missions, and this gives you the impression of being occasionally sidetracked from the main storyline, and lends an air of freedom that was not generally apparent in Shenmue. Snails Pace Things start out extremely slowly, and remain that way for the majority of the first disc. The original dragged its feet in a similar fashion, but Shenmue 2 really is a toughie to get into, as you'll spend the first day or so of gameplay time trudging about asking questions and undoubtedly getting lost in the labyrinthine streets. The snails pace is very occasionally peppered with short bouts of action and Quick Timer Events, but these do little to excite when contrasted against the drudgery you're forced to endure for the most part. While the action sequences are few and far between to start with, when you do get to indulge in some button-bashing it can be extremely good fun. The QTE's are a lot less forgiving this time around and require some split-second timing on your part if you're to succeed. Unlike last time, it's not essential that you complete every QTE, and the failure of certain events means that instead of retrying until you get it right, you're made to fulfil your task through further investigation and interrogation. You will, of course, be required to partake in some boisterous fisticuffs at times and, as before, it's superb fun. The fighting system is intuitive and easy to pick up, and with practice you can usually dispatch miscreants with relative ease. However, a certain level of character development is mandatory for later in the game, and learning new moves (there are many ways to do this, including learning them from other characters and purchasing move scrolls) becomes essential. A Tough Nut Besides your main quest, there's plenty to keep you otherwise occupied. Usually the extra-curricular activities involve either losing or making money. You can gamble in street games, pawn off your toy collection (Shenmue 2 even imports your collection from the first game should you have your save file handy), enjoy a relaxing spot of arm-wrestling and pay a visit to the arcade should you ever get bored of, you know, avenging your father's death. It's also advisable, but not essential, for you to find Ryo a job. There are plenty of opportunities to make a steady wage during the game, but none are quite as fun as the forklift driving in the first chapter. The problem is, nothing seems to be quite as special as it was the first time around. That sense of awe and wonder just doesn't hit you with Shenmue 2. Sure, it's an extremely technically impressive game, and there's some decent advancements within the game dynamic, but it's essentially just what we were expecting and secretly I wish it wasn't. There's no surprise, no intrigue, and the proceedings are slightly tainted with a 'here we go again' atmosphere. Have no doubt that once you're into Shenmue 2, you're going to be in there for a good while. This game is absolutely enormous, dwarfing the previous chapter beyond all possible comprehension, and once it gets going it's a decent improvement. However, the difficulty of actually getting into the game in the first place is a concern, and newcomers will undoubtedly be completely turned off from the start. Every Dreamcast owner should at least give it a try, but just be prepared to make a commitment. - Shenmue review 8