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 Shenmue Review (Dreamcast)

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Laxman
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PostSubject: Shenmue Review (Dreamcast)   Tue Oct 19, 2010 8:01 am

Since we at AAG deal in whats hot, meaning the new game consoles, I thought it a good idea to use this forum to express opinions about some of the classics. Be it from SNES Days, my personal favourite the Dreamcast, PS2, anything! Just try to remember that the game may have been released a long time ago, and to todays starndards I dont know many if any games that were released 10 years ago that would get above a 2 or 3 from any honest critic now, so give it a go reviewing it in a nostalgia kind of way, taking into consideration the time of its release but also comparing it to what we now consider the norm.

Ill Start us off with one of my all-time favourite games... Ever.

Shenmue 1 & 2 Review
Games were just starting to really impress people. You were starting to see choice in stories, gameplay etc, and graphics were starting to really wow people. Bring it forward 10 years and the games we have today would have absolutely blew people away back then, even the ones that lots of people take for granted now, so consider youself lucky to be playing games in such an amazing time for the industry. But for its time, Shenmue was a one of a kind - a game of untold scale and unprecidented detail. Im reviewing both Shenmue 1 & 2 in the one review because they are essentially the same game; with a record breaking development cost that would have honestly meant that everyone with a Dreamcast buy 2 copies of the game for Sega to make money back, it was a wise idea to split it into 2 for at least a bit of financial leverage.

Gameplay
For a game that has such varying amounts of gameplay mechanics and gimicky side-missions, its surprising just how well developed Shenmue really was. Sega used thier top-quality Virtua Fighter engine to produce the games fighting, which plays a major part of all aspects of this one, and this was both an easy way to develop a major part of the game and to make said game actually play wonders. It could be called a cheap move and an easy-way-out, but the final product cannot be argued with.

Shenmue is primarily an RPG game, but with very limited customisation/growth/improvments that most modern RPG fans are accusotmed to with games like Elder Scrolls, Fallout, Dragon Age and Mass Effect. In fact, aside from learning new fighting moves, there wasnt anything a player could do to make Ryo feel like thier own. At the time, i was only a kid playing this, so I didnt know what I was missing out, but after recently playing Shenmue 2 again, I can say that this was one of the games biggest flaws.

There was so much to this grand adventure that I cannot really fathom it all by memory as I am doing with this review. But what I do remember is constantly being wowed by the sheer size of eveything in the game. You could talk to and interact with every NPC in sight, and they all felt like a truely unique person. It gave a very believable sense of being a single man in a large city, and it was great, adding a lot to the already dramatic and cinematic storyline. Which in case you dont know, is the story of this young man-boy (they never make it clear his age, but you will very constantly wonder if he's 15 or 25) seeking revenge against the man who murdered his father in front of him, in true Japanese style - with some kick-ass martial arts moves and deadly hits.

Graphics
Its no secret that games didnt used to have the smooth visuals and stunnign scenery of todays AAA titles. Shenmue may not have even had the greatest looks for its time. But apart from very bland character models, there was a lot to be respected about Shenmue's graphics. As I mentioned about the games feeling of sheer size, the graphics were a way of furthering these feelings. The enviroments are wonderful, and the background, backdrops and large draw-distance all tie together well in making the game feel bigger than it is.

The story takes you from small mountain town to big city, and everywhere in between. There are tons of interiors to enter, with even more NPC's to interact with. You can explre shops, market, and even get a part-time job as forklift driver at the pier (in fact, you have to do this, and its become a kind of in-joke with fans of the game - see Sonic All Stars Racing). What im getting at here is that Shenmue may not have had the best looking graphics around, but it most certainly had the most. I hadn't, and still dont think I have played a game with such grand amounts of individual detail and visual cunning as this title, especially in the second game.

Sound
Now, I havent played the games in thier original Japanese voices, but in my English versions, by God is it terrible. I dont know of any way to sugar coat saying this, but Shenmue has the worst voice-overs I have ever experinced in a post-'95 game. Its a complete joke and will literally have you laughing at most of the strange NPC's you meet along the way of the story. So in a way its not all bad - you get a good laugh to make up for terrible (terrible, terrible!) voice acting.

The rest of it though, it quite good. The ambient sounds of the streets of the Japanese/Chinese cities (I cant recall exactly where its set - sorry!) and the desolate slums of Hong Kong are all actually quite good. Great in fact, even for some of todays standards in this department. The score is also quite spot-on, with a great range of dramatic mood-setters that suit every one of the games many drama-fueled moments.

Time Appeal [This is a new section - to compare the game to todays standards]
Comparing Shenmue to todays RPG's a big smack to the face of poor young Ryo. There is no where enough freedom and choice in the game to satisfy the masses of modern RPG Fans, and the graphics are undoubtedly horrific in comparison to the likes of Mass Effect. But even today some games fail to uphold what i fell in love with this game for; a great and personal story full of twists, characters and vloume.

However, I know some of you actually enjoy the classic RPG games of old (me included) and can play one without being such a Judgemental Jimmy. if you are one of those people, then I strongly urge you to pick this title up. Its fairly difficult to find, but look around in Original Xbox bargain bins in local game shops and you may find Shenmue 2, a re-release of the Dreamcast classic that may not give you the start to the story, but it will give you the last bit that was ever developed. If that fails, have a look online. The Original Xbox disc plays perfectly in all Xbox 360's (assuming you have internet connection for backwards compatiabilty updates).

Conclusion
Shenmue was a major failure comercially, completely ruining Sega's chances of revitalising the series for a modern day return (but you can find many online petitions and things to support this), and arguably helping in the downfall of the company. But the game managed to gather a nice cult following, helping spread the word to modern gamers who missed this absolute classic. Its a game full of wonderful people, wonderful places and tons of things to do. Its an amazing story and one every serious gamer could get right into. Shenmue is the pure definition of a modern classic and one of the greatest game's I have ever experinced - becuase its not enough to just play this game, you have to experince it.

My Score: 9/10

*Please excuse my copious spelling errors.
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PostSubject: Re: Shenmue Review (Dreamcast)   Tue Oct 19, 2010 8:23 am

Awesome review John! Might have to put a "Throwback reviews" section on the main site. Either way nice work and exactly what this section is for. I loved my Dreamcast, still probably my favorite console of all time. The games were just pure fun! Daytona, Sega Rally, Crazy Taxi, the original and the best Virtua Tennis, the original NBA2K! Ah, the memories! Can't say I liked Shenmue though, just not my type of game.


Last edited by GO BAYS on Tue Oct 19, 2010 9:33 am; edited 1 time in total
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PostSubject: Re: Shenmue Review (Dreamcast)   Tue Oct 19, 2010 8:25 am

how about video reviews i did before AAG? ;];]
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PostSubject: Re: Shenmue Review (Dreamcast)   Tue Oct 19, 2010 8:28 am

Yeah sounds good Victor.
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