UPDATE 16/10/18 3:52pm: Sega has been in touch with a statement - "SEGA and D3T indeed had started exploring the feasibility of a full HD remaster for Shenmue I & II. That being said, we soon realised that this was a project with its own set of challenges. Working with original animations and characters but meshing them with enhanced HD visuals gave us a game that we felt would not meet the standards that Shenmue fans expect and deserve. Rather than going ahead with a release that may disappoint fans, we chose to focus on bringing the classic game to PC and modern consoles, so that new players could experience Shenmue's original charm."
Original story: Shenmue - a game of discovery and adventure. It's a timeless classic and one with a deep and fascinating history - which becomes even more compelling today. As we know, Sega tasked UK developer d3t with remastering Shenmue and its sequel for the current generation consoles and PC. What we received was a good game that brought classic Shenmue to today's machines, albeit with visuals based almost exclusively on the original AM2 assets. But what we now know is that prior to completing this work, plans were afoot for something considerably more ambitious - a comprehensive remake with completely revamped artwork more in step with the capabilities of the host platforms. We've seen it and today, you will too.
So, what's the story here? Well, the details are murky but as we understand it, this more in-depth remaster/remake was in development for quite some time before the plug was pulled due to budget constraints and development delays - and perhaps owing to concerns with the nature of some of the changes being made. We only have a rough idea of what happened and we can't presume to understand all of the business reasons behind Sega's change in direction, but the bottom line is that in common with other unfinished and cancelled projects, the work-in-progress video we received adds a further dimension to the history of one of gaming's most celebrated franchises.
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.
I remember my teens, my early twenties. I'm not talking about the febrile highs or the painful embarrassments - although I remember those too - but the sheer aimlessness, the great stretches of unoccupied time, the loafing. Waiting for the one daily bus into town from the Northamptonshire village where I grew up and killing time window-shopping until the one bus back; later, as a procrastinating student, ambling down Coney Street in York, pastry in hand, knowing my afternoon would end in me clocking the Super Mario 64 demo for the umpteenth time in GAME, as if I didn't have anything better to do. Maybe I didn't.
They've only been out a few days, but already mods are popping up for Shenmue I & II on PC.
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.
Sega has given a final release date for its Shenmue HD collection, with the bundle that pairs the original two games with a gentle makeover coming to Xbox One, PS4 and PC on August 21st.
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.