After finishing the first installment of Shenmue, I felt somewhat disappointed with the game, and spent weeks afterwards wondering why I felt this way about a game that was so hyped and praised months, even years before it was released. It was beautiful and I thoroughly enjoyed what was undoubtedly one of the games that made me and many others first purchase the Dreamcast.
After many a sleepless night contemplating about why I didn’t feel how I knew I should’ve felt, I eventually found the reason: I needed more. I needed to step into the shoes of Ryo Hazuki again to see where I would end up, who I would come to love, and who I would love to hate. A year later the geniuses behind Shenmue, finally released the game that would fuel my addiction. Will I feel the same disappointment that I felt the first time round? Will it leave me in the same state of detox, leaving me wanting Shenmue III more than food or sleep?
Chapter 1, which took place in Ryo’s hometown of Yokosuka, was the start of something that I never thought would be possible, a colossal game that would span most of Asia, leading you from one country to another, in search of Lan Di, the man responsible for the death of your father. Although the original game contained many long tedious sections, such as working at the docks as a forklift driver, you couldn’t help but love the game, for its addictive storyline and loveable characters. When Shenmue II arrived through the letterbox, I couldn’t help but act like a giddy 5-year-old girl, I had waited a year for this game, and it was finally within my grasp.
Now for those of you missed the first one (shame on you), here’s a quick re-cap of what happened. Your character Ryo, arrives home one day and finds his father duelling with a mysterious man in a silk robe. After a bit of a scrap, Lan Di, the mysterious man, leaves, with a rare artefact, the dragon mirror, and your father lying dead on the floor. After recovering, you swear to take revenge for the death of your father. Along the way you meet new friends, such as the lovely Nozomi, and the amusing Boro, as well as some rather unsavoury characters. You travel from area to area, gathering information, and getting into a lot of tricky situations. Eventually you will discover the other mirror, the phoenix mirror. It’s not until the second game that you encounter the mysterious woman of your dreams, Shenhua. After many hours of walking and working, you have the 70 man fight and take a boat to Hong Kong, and that’s where Shenmue finished. The original game was surprisingly short-lived, and I was already on my way to Hong Kong within 3 days of first placing it in the Dreamcast, but take into consideration that I was on it for about 14 hours a day. But if you want to digest a bit of the first game if you missed it, there’s an option on the fourth disc that shows you all highlights of Shenmue.
You start at the pier in Hong Kong in the beginning of the second game in the series, and as you look around taking in the scenery and character detail, you know your in for something special. There has been a great amount of detail that has been put into both the games, and I sincerely hope that they continue to put this amount in the instalments that are yet to come. As in the first game you can talk to every single person you see on your journey, open every single drawer, and examine each and every object. But unfortunately you can feel the slightly sluggish controls that plagued the first one. Problems such as having difficulties navigating small spaces or tight corners are quite frequent, but hardly damage the gaming experience. Each of the main characters has been given their own personality, you will respect the masters and fancy many of the lead females, especially the sweet Shenhua, but you will have to often remind yourself that its only a game, dam! I doubt that I’m alone when I say that I often feel that I wish to be Ryo, actually be in the adventure, but that’s why this game was made, to fulfill our fantasy, bringing us as close to having an adventure as possible, and how well it succeeds.
I would love to tell you how the whole story goes and a quick biography of every single character, but that would only ruin the experience for you all, just take my word for it, this is not a game to be missed. There has been a lot more options and actions introduced to these chapters of Shenmue II, such as various part time jobs, gambling, partaking in street fights, but, you still automatically go to bed at 11pm, and there’s no where to just chill and train like in the first one. It also has the option to upload your existing Shenmue data. The look of the game is stupendous to say the least. Facial expressions and scenery detail are top notch and all shops can be entered even though they play no role whatsoever in the progression of the storyline. From the city slums of Kowloon and Hong Kong, to the forests of rural China, the graphics will cease to amaze.
Each stage and shop has its own music, from the chirpy music of the TeaHouses, to the eerie sound of the Beverley Hills Wharf, each song perfectly fits the surrounding as well as the situation. All the characters within the game have been given voiceovers, all of them, but unfortunately there is no option to have the dialect in English, instead you have all persons speaking Japanese, with subtitles. But unfortunately you will find yourself having to read at a ridiculous pace to avoid missing out on some of the translations. The fights and Active Timer Events or ATE’s have their own signature tune, so you know whether to get ready for some much needed fast reactions, or to start stretching and warming up for a ruckus. And that’s another improvement upon the original is that this game is a lot more action orientated, fights and ATE’s pop up everywhere even in the most unlikely of situations. The ATE’s are a lot more complex than they were in the first one with faster reactions needed this time and less margin for error, but if you do fail you are automatically taken to the beginning of the event, to give you a chance to get it right. Another new introduction are the Freeze ATE’s, these are essentially the same as the standard ATE’s, but instead in the freeze ones, the screen pauses and you are shown a sequence of directions and buttons that you need to press in the exact same order to perform what is required.
The controls are pretty much exactly the same as the first one, but with a few modifications. With either the option of using the analogue or the d-pad to move Ryo around, the right trigger is run, and the left one is for first person mode. The x button is for using or examining, b button is cancel, a is for talking, and y is used for asking whoever about part time jobs, pawn shops or about areas to gamble. These are the controls for the roaming around section of the game. As for the battles, the configuration is much the same as many beat em ups out there, x is punch, a is kick, y is dodge or guard, and b is grab, with combinations of these leading to combos and special moves. Although the controls feel somewhat sluggish, I doubt there was another way to have them for such a game, and you’ll get to grips with them in no time at all.
Unfortunately, it is yet another short-lived game, big as it is, the storyline progresses in a fairly linear fashion. It’s a massive game, but not a long game, and yes, it has left me with a horrible thirst for more, and I desperately want the folks at AM2 to get a move on and gimme what I need, I don’t care what format it comes out on it will be mine!
For those of you out there who are reading this, this is an unmissable game, go out and buy it now, but try not to leave it too late or your gonna have a lot of catching up to do, if Yu Suzuki has his way and releases it as a 16 chapter game.