Shenmue – Sega Dreamcast
Utter Perfection at the Turn of the Century
Platform: Sega Dreamcast
Developer: Sega AM2
Release Date: (NA) November 8th, 2000
Nerd Rating: 10 out of 10
Reviewed by Part Time Cynic
The year was 2000, and Sega was fast approaching the end of its console empire. And although the Dreamcast was a final spin for Sega, there were several games that still ring with nostalgia today, such as Sonic Adventure. Shenmue was another of those gems. Even gaining enough following for a sequel, Shenmue has been named one of the greatest games of all time on several occasions.
The story opens on November 29th, 1986, as the protagonist Ryo Hazuki witnesses the murder of his father Iwao by the mysterious Lan Di, who is in search of something called a Dragon Mirror. Ryo vows revenge against his father’s murderer, and begins investigating throughout his home of Yokosuka, Kanagawa for information on Lan Di and the Dragon Mirror.
The player acts as Ryo, with the main goal of searching for clues of his father’s murder. The game adopts an open-world exploration style that allows the player to do pretty much anything, from talking to locals to playing at the arcade or even buying a soda if you get bored. Every character in the game has their own pattern of behavior, schedule and personality, which gives you plenty to work with when conducting your interviews. The quests are deep and involving, and Ryo’s notebook is filled automatically with plot-important information to keep you on the right track.
Several action scenes are also spread throughout the game, and are divided into two basic systems: real time Battle, and Quick Time Event (QTE). The combat in Battle is very well developed and easy to manage. Some fights are more difficult and frustrating than others, which actually adds more realism to the roleplay elements. QTE is a way for the player to interact with some cutscenes by pressing a correct sequence of buttons when prompted, like in the Naruto: Ninja Storm games. It’s fairly simple, and gives the player some extra satisfaction at the end of the scene.
The controls are easy enough to manage, given the somewhat quirky nature of the Dreamcast controller. Any complications with control are either due to a faulty button or just to human error. A modern player may quickly be dissuaded by the control scheme, but anyone familiar with the Dreamcast should feel right at home.
Visuals and Sound
The graphics are absolutely stunning, giving true testament to the Dreamcast’s abilities and even comparing to modern graphics. The textures are flawless, and any images outside of the realistic style (such as blurred movements during a fight or dream sequences) are intentional for dramatic effect. The music is fully engrossing, even further setting the ambiance for cutscenes and other dramatic moments. Depending on the season, you’ll also hear the charming music of the town playing over the speakers, which keeps the mood light enough.
Not many people remember, but the Sega Dreamcast was the first home console to include online connection as a standard feature, including a disc for a Web Browser and online communities. Anyone that bought Shenmue also received a disc titled Passport, which included an online community and help forum for all players. The forum is discontinued now, but it was a nice addition to an already amazing game. In addition to the online play, the Passport also provided a series of videos starring the game’s main characters that showed several elements of the game, including cutscenes, music, and the innovative Magic Weather System.
There’s not much more to say for Shenmue but that it is a wonderful game. The graphics and sound are stunning and only add to the fully compelling plot and character development.The gameplay and controls completely pull the player into the story, and even the story itself is a fast-paced adventure. To anyone that gets a chance to play this gem, know that it comes highly recommended. It’s a blast to play, and there is nothing better than the nostalgic satisfaction you get during the end cutscene when Ryo sails away into the cliffhanger for Shenmue II. Shenmue had definitely paved the way for all modern open-world RPGs, and I believe that there still isn’t a game quite like it.
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