Shenmue is one of the games whose legacy is apparent in modern video games. The series about the adventures of Ryo Hazuki was one of the first sandbox games with an immersive open world, deep battle system, and variety of minigames. It was also the first game with ultra budget production, which financially devastated Sega, so hard they don’t make game consoles anymore. Nevertheless, Shenmue is a timeless classic and a lot of people keep it in fond memory, lamenting the fact the story remained unfinished. That was until E3 2015 and the spectacular announcement of Shenmue III that left the gaming world exhilarated and almost killed Michael Hubert. After a successful Kickstarter campaign, Shenmue III is still in the works, with the estimated release date in 2019, despite several delays. As we’re waiting for the upcoming sequel, Sega decided to re-release the first two games for current gen and PC.
During the Sega Fes event in Japan, the publisher announced it is bringing both the first Shenmue and its sequel together in one package to PS4, Xbox One, and PC later this year. And while they will boast some improvements, these are not full-on HD remakes or remasters. This compilation comes with a number of modern features, among them “fully scalable screen resolution, choice of modern or classic control schemes, PC graphics options, an updated user interface, and the option to enjoy either the original Japanese or English voiceovers.”
Before Shenmue III announcement, gamer community had a general consensus that the first two Shenmue games aren’t going to be remastered ever, and that it will remain Sega Dreamcast exclusive, which meant it was to be played on the console or emulators only. But, thanks to the revamping of the franchise, we’ll be able to play it on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC. Microsoft Store was the first one to announce the release date, although it was unknowingly since the service put the price tag on the product together with the date, which was August 20. Soon after, Sega Europe confirmed that blunder with a public announcement, which moved the publish date a day after, on August 21st.
The main character of Shenmue games is Ryo Hazuki, young martial artist and the successor of Hazuki-Ryu school in Yokosuka. One day, he encounters a fight between his father Iwao Hazuki and a strange Chinese man Lan Di over the mysterious artifact known as Dragon Mirror. After Lan Di threatens to kill Ryo, Iwao tells him where the mirror is buried, just to get killed afterward as a revenge for Lan Di’s mentor, Zhao Sunming. Watching his father die, Ryo swears on revenge and begins to look for clues all over the city.
Shenmue was described by Sega, as the first game in a new genre called “full reactive eyes entertainment” or FREE, which was the name for the open world game bountiful with features and various gameplay mechanics. Later that kind of games became known as the sandbox.
The games feature a level of detail considered unprecedented for games at the time of their release. Shops open and close, buses run on timetables, and characters have their own routines, each in accordance with the game’s persistent clock. Ryo receives a daily allowance which can be spent on food, raffle tickets, audio cassettes and capsule toys. There were also several minigames. Ryo could throw darts or play complete versions of Sega arcade games. In Shenmue, he took a job as a forklift driver, and in Shenmue II he earned money by gambling, arm wrestling, street fighting, and running a pachinko stand. The Dreamcast version of Shenmue II also allowed the player to import their save data from Shenmue, carrying over money, inventory items, and martial arts moves.
The Shenmue remaster seemingly intends to keep all the gameplay elements from the original intact, without any change in terms of the gameplay and graphic design. There will be some new features, though, like updated control options (you can choose between classic and modern mapping), modern resolution support and full Japanese and English dub to choose between. And after the gamers remind themselves of how great the old Shenmue games were, they will get the continuation of the 18 years old story with the long-awaited Shenmue III.