Shenmue 2 - Review

Big Cities, Big Brawls

By: Jake Alley

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

30-60 hours


Shenmue 2

   When the original Shenmue was released it met with somewhat mixed reviews. While most who played it enjoyed the immersive real world setting and attention to detail, many were put off by the slow pacing and obtuse fetch quests. Shenmue 2 irons out these flaws and refines the high points, to create a highly satisfying experience.

   Shenmue 2 follows the continuing story of Ryo Hazuki as he searches for the man who killed his father in the real world, circa 1987. However, while the first game was set in Ryo's fairly small home town in Japan, the action is now set in various locations in China leading to a very different experience. At any time of day, the streets are full of people, there are far more buildings to explore, and room and board must now be earned.

   The change of locale also fits in with a somewhat ironic improvement. In the original Shenmue asking for directions would yield only a name at best, as anyone would give in one's home town. As a foreigner however, Ryo will now receive detailed directions, maps, or even have people offer to have him follow them when they're heading towards his destination. Not only does this justify an improvement in gameplay with simple logic, it means one will never be at a loss figuring out where to go next, lending the game a much brisker pace than the original.

Battles tend to be large.
Battles tend to be large.  

   Having shed much of the time consuming searching from the previous game, Shenmue 2 offers up much more in the way of actual action-oriented gameplay. The fighting game style combat is still present, with more moves to learn, and greater customization. Also returning are the QTEs, cinematic events which are effected by pressing certain buttons, or combinations of buttons at the right time. These are at times more complicated than they were in the original, but they now come with much more forewarning, and in some cases failure results in a new possible course of action rather than a chance to retry.

   While Shenmue 2 is quite action packed, it is also very story driven. Out of the sixteen chapters planned for the series, the second through fourth fall within its scope. Therefore, while there are still a good number of loose ends floating by the game's conclusion, the player does gain a great deal of insight into each of the characters, and many questions left from the original game are answered.

Highly detailed characters.
Highly detailed characters.  

   While the gameplay is fun enough, and the plot sufficiently interesting, the greatest strength of Shenmue 2 is the attention to detail. Even the incendental background characters, of which there are hundreds, look totally unique, have their own daily schedules, and are capable of having a wide variety of fully voice acted conversations. While exploring a condemned forty story apartment building, each and every abandoned room can be entered and explored. Even the weather is accurately reflected.

   For those RPGamers who enjoyed the original Shenmue, Shenmue 2 should come as a wonderful treat. For those who found the original too slow paced, it may come as a pleasant surprise. In either case, players will finally learn where that title comes from.

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