Shenmue - Review

Tekken Meets 90210


Review Breakdown
   Battle System 7
   Interface 6
   Music/Sound 9
   Originality 10
   Plot 7
   Localization 9
   Replay Value 5
   Visuals 9
   Difficulty Easy
   Time to Complete

15-30 hours


Title Screen

   I will admit that I was a bit skeptical of this game in the beginning. By all accounts it appeared to be an overly-glorified fighting game with boatloads of vocalized dialogue. To say that I owe my friend for making play it is an understatement. And, although there were some flaws in the game (which game doesn't have flaws?), I am more than eagerly awaiting the second title in the series. Come on Yu! Speed it up, man!

   Have you ever played a 3D fighting game? Welcome back to your button-mashing playground my friend! The battle system in the game is awesome overall. If you've got the mastery of each maneuver covered and you know your opponents well, you can mercilessly crush and drive them before you. But, if you don't really care about becoming the universal soldier and just want to press buttons, you'll probably survive fairly well.

   Like real life, if you want to get better in Shenmue Combat, you need to practice. This is a simple matter of finding the nearest empty parking lot or going to the Dojo and beating up Fuku-san. You can set your practice to specifically use just one move, one family of moves (e.g. hand, foot, throw), or just an all out, practice and smash everyone and everything. It really pays off to know what you're doing but it might take a while to get into the flow of things. Just practice often (in every spare moment you have) and your victory is almost assured.

Right Down Santa Claus Lane!
Right Down Santa Claus Lane! 

   Musically, the game is more mood setting than a great many recent RPGs. Some of the tracks are really good and (almost) all of them are red-booked to some degree. The nifty addition of the in-game sound test, is very creative and wins creater, Yu Suzuki, brownie points in my book. Sound effects are an extremely well thought out and planned part of the game. Every character - no matter how minor - is voice acted (hence, the 3 GD ROMs). This can become sorta tedious after a while, though, but - for that very reason - there is a skip option that let's you jump over the spoken dialogue and read it instead. Not only that but you can change the sound settings in much the same manner as an Anime DVD (sub-titled; dubbed with sub-titles; dubbed...). I'd have to say that this particular area wins the game a standing ovation. A few of the tracks are even so memorable as to be actual Christmas-type music. I was more than pleased with the sounds and songs of the game in virtually every circumstance.

   At first glance, the game has a storyline that left me nonplussed. It quickly folded out into an expansive mystery novel-esque mess of subterfuge, gang violence, Chinese smuggling cartels, and murder. That having been said, I won't suggest this one to little kids on the off chance their parents might sue me. Try to think of all the messed up Manga and Anime you've seen. Set them out of the Science Fiction and into the really real 1986 (I was 5! Woohoo!). You've now got something like Shenmue... Something...

My Sister Thinks He Has A Cute Butt...
My Sister Thinks He Has A Cute Butt... 

   All the voice samples and text are very realistic. Arguments sound like arguments; foul language is minimal; it's a storybook, really. Truly awesome. The first Dreamcast RPG that really pushed the boundaries of translation mayhem.

   Shenmue is really, fairly short. If you accidentally go right to the person you need information from you can cut hours out of your play time. Clue finding and knowing where to go are the two most important things you can ever have in an RPG and that's what 95% of this game is about. If you want to master all the attacks and fill out your whole journal, be ready to do everything in the book.

   Artistically speaking, the game and its' graphics are superb. They are extremely highly detailed and are colored with nothing less than brilliant tapestryesque clarity. They are very realistic and don't skip over the edges of polygons (thus creating a lifelike quality) with texturing. The detail is so precise that the morning after a day of snow, there is still slush on the ground! Color me impressed! These graphics are the exact reason that I love my Dreamcast and will likely never buy into the PS2 madness. Why ask for a crappy DVD player when you already have a good one?


   I didn't see much in the way of immediate replay value but - like a good many RPGs - I'll eventually get around to it again, probably. There are enough things to see and do that each replay will probably find something new in your agenda and another voice sample that you missed the time before.

   Like a good number of other people around here, I'm eagerly awaiting Shenmue 2. From the sounds of things, Yu Suzuki took the gamers' complaints seriously and the sequel to this awesome title is going to be even better than this great game. Although I originally bought the Dreamcast for Resident Evil: Code Veronica (essentially paying $245 for one game at first) I now have a fairly good collection of RPGs for the system, a healthy new taste for Sega, and another 'overdrawn' notice from my bank telling me I need to stop buying games all the time. Oh well! If all the games I play are like Shenmue, what's a few angry bank clerks?

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