To celebrate the re-release of Shenmue 1 and 2, we decided to get Nerd OD’s very own Reg to write a little something about the game that paved the way for countless titles to follow and changed young Reg forever. #ShenmueSaved
It’s a cult classic, not a best seller…
First and foremost I would like to take this opportunity to advise everyone that this will be an attempt at creating an article that not only does the Shenmue saga justice, but will hopefully shed some light on a games series which in my opinion is the best thing ever placed on physical media. However I am aware that it will end up with me screaming “SHUT UP AND GO PLAY THE GAME”.
Right. Now that’s out the way…
“He shall appear from a far eastern land across the sea,
A young man who has yet to know his potential,
This potential is a power that could either destroy him or realize his will,
His courage shall determine his fate,
The path he must traverse, fraught with adversity, I await whilst praying,
For this destiny predetermined since ancient times,
A pitch black night unfolds with the morning star as its only light,
And thus the saga… Begins…”
I remember being 16 years young, happily working away for well under minimum wage, when I got a phone call from my older brother who told me he had just won some competition and the prize was a Sega Dreamcast with a couple of games. I remember being overcome with excitement and buying the official Dreamcast magazine on the way home from work so I could see what was up and coming in what would be the greatest freebie of all time!
There was a game which straight away drew my attention. That would be Shenmue of course, by none other than Yu Suzuki himself (the creator of such classic gems as Outrun, Hang On & Virtua Fighter). Flicking through the pages of the magazine, they were stating that this game would have a fully immersive world; people would go on about their own business and you could interact with them, change your clothes, get your hair cut and also engage in an epic journey of revenge.
I was hooked and I hadn’t even played it yet!
I could not get enough of this title. I remember being the only one in school who had a Dreamcast so no-one was interested in chatting about it. I remember waiting very impatiently for the release date: December 1st, 2000. Now this was the worst possible timing. I could either buy Xmas presents for the whole family or I could simply jot down who really deserved a present and who quite frankly wasn’t important enough to get one so that I could spend £59.99 on this beautiful looking work of art.
So it’s needless to say that my bro, my best friend and my auntie were rather upset that ‘work messed up my wages’ (I know, I should feel bad, but I know at least some of you have done worse). I strutted into the local games shop and purchased it right after school. I remember seeing the case and turning to my friend and saying ‘how f***ing big?!’
Nothing will ever beat the first time placing the disc in the Dreamcast and shutting myself away for an experience I would never get over. The intro kicked in: that music, those graphics, that EPIC dialogue! This game had me already. I didn’t sleep that night. I also accidentally missed work for the next day or two (sorry Mum & Dad if you’re reading this).
I was in a dark place in my life when Shenmue came out; I didn’t wish to go out, nor did I really want to see anybody, so I used to plug myself into Yokosuka and just play some Space Harrier, Outrun or Darts instead. The game was an escape for me, before the likes of GTA and The Witcher. I could transport myself to a fully immersive world where I could while away the hours people watching and partaking in everyday life activities; going to work, feeding pets and collecting my pocket money to spend on capsule toys and arcades. You could even name and look after a little orphan kitten and these were the kind of details that make Shenmue so great. Sure there is a story there for you to engage with, however if you just want to follow people around the town to see them do their shopping and live out their perfect little lives, you can do that too.
I tried to show the title off to my friends, but they just laughed at the voice acting and paid no attention to what the game was achieving. I may be wearing a thick pair of rose-tinted glasses, but Shenmue will always hold a special place in my heart.
You know how you love Heavy Rain and Detroit? Well they wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for Shenmue. This title was the granddaddy of QuickTime Events. Admittedly QTEs have been overused since, but back then… Imagine putting the controller down to watch a cutscene only to have a button flash up on the screen that you had to press instantly to dodge an attack or to make sure you landed that killer blow. This blew my tiny little mind! You couldn’t even relax during cutscenes anymore!
The one thing which did surprise me with this series was how it made you work to earn the money you needed in order to pursue your father’s killer. By that I don’t just mean training and clue solving, I actually mean working: at one point in the game you hop in a forklift truck and crack on with your job shifting boxes into a warehouse (despite never actually passing your FLT Test), whilst also hunting round the docks for Mad Angels.
Now I could ramble on about the game’s plot, the relationships between the characters, how Chai is just an absolute bastard or the nice little touches with the interactive environment all day long, but I’m fully aware that I’ve already taken up enough of your time. If you would be interested in hearing more about how much this game means to me, we have an actual hour long podcast dedicated to it.
And thus… The Saga Begins… NOW SHUT UP AND GO PLAY THE GAME!!!
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