Sunday, May 21, 2017

Shoes On... Shoes Off | Shenmue Realism

Shoes On... Shoes Off: Japanese footware customs in Shenmue

In the West, it is often a decision made by each household as to whether shoes are to be removed before entering the home. In Japan however there are customs that are followed almost universally when it comes to where and when footwear is worn.

If you ever visit Japan, this is something you will come across wherever you go: at your accommodation, out sight-seeing or visiting friends.

The first Shenmue game does a great job in reflecting these customs naturally as part of the story, and it is also interesting to examine Shenmue II in the same light.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Gio Corsi Visiting Yu in Tokyo [May 17, 2017]

Hot off the press! Sony's Gio Corsi has tweeted out this photo taken with Yu Suzuki - accompanied by a copy of the limited edition of Shenmue.

The text reads, "Hanging with old friends talking about games!", and was copied to the official Shenmue 3 twitter account.

Gio Corsi (Sony) with Yu Suzuki (YS Net)
Gio Corsi holds the title of Director of Third Party Productions & Developer Relations
for PlayStation at Sony Interactive Entertainment America. (As well as being a lover of great ramen.)
The photo is taken in front of what looks like office cabinet doors, reflecting fluorescent strip lighting - it would seem a reasonable assumption that Gio was paying a visit to the YS Net development studio.

Gio arrived in Tokyo last week and will be in Japan through to the end of this week, for a total of two weeks.

With the E3 (Electronic Entertainment Expo) event now less than a month away in Los Angeles, the timing of this visit is unlikely to be coincidental and will fuel the hopes of fans that plans are being formed for Shenmue III to make an appearance in some form at the show - especially as the PSX event last year passed by without mention.

Our fingers are firmly crossed!

Link to tweet: @giocorsi

Sunday, May 14, 2017

The Meaning & Origin of "Dobuita" | Placenames

The Meaning & Origin of "Dobuita"

Dobuita - the shopping street area in Ryo's hometown we know and love. By the end of the first disk of Shenmue, it is as familiar to the player as the back of their hand, as Ryo's investigations take you to burger stands, apartment buildings, seedy bars, antique shops and game arcades.

Dobuita in Shenmue was based closely its real-life Yokosuka counterpart, although the real location is known as "Dobuita Street" (Dobuita Doori in Japanese) rather than just Dobuita. As in the game, it is located next to a US Navy base and runs around 500m in length.

Dobuita Street at night
Dobuita Street at night. (Photo credit: SnoopBob)
So does the name "Dobuita" itself have any particular meaning?

I decided to research into how the street got this name, and it turns out the answer ties back to the early history of the area.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Comments on Kickstarter Update #66 [Yu-san on Story Building]

Comments on Kickstarter Update #66: Yu-san on Story-Building

True to their word in the last update, the Shenmue team have delivered another Kickstarter Update for the month of April (technically, at the very start of May) in the form of a video interview with Yu Suzuki about story building. The "loading screen" title pages in the video date the interview as April 15th.

Official update and video:

The video does not have a lot in the way of scribbled Japanese notes for the usual frame-by-frame analysis - the diagram on the whiteboard next to Yu has the most potential for clues but it is so cryptic that it could well be a red herring to throw fans off the scent!

In any case, this post will recap Yu's interview answers, with some expanded comments where his words in Japanese carry additional meaning that the English subtitles may not easily convey.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Guide to Famitsu Poll: Best Action-Adventure Game [closes 8th May, 2017]

Here is another chance to help boost your favorite games into the spotlight in Japan! Famitsu in Japan is currently running a poll to vote for your top game or games in the Action-Adventure Game genre, closing at the end of day 8th May (Japan time).

Update: the poll is now closed. Results to be announced in June.

Poll link (Japanese text; see later in the post for a guide). 

The poll is very short and should only take a minute to fill out. You can vote for up to 3 games. Results will be announced in the June 15th edition of the Weekly Famitsu magazine which will be on sale from June 1st.

While Famitsu are running a series of these polls across different genres, I think the Shenmue series fits best into this category.

If you wish to vote for Shenmue, here is the title in Japanese:


A reason for your choice is also requested, I imagine a brief word or two in English would be acceptable.

Below is a translation I've made of the introduction to the poll from the Famitsu website, followed by a quick-glance guide to the question form.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Retro Games Exhibition: Sega Taikan Games | Photo Report

Retro Games Exhibition Photos

A little while ago I headed along with my friend Robert (Snoopbob) to check out the Retro Games Exhibition in the city of Saitama, Japan. It has now just finished after running for the past several months and featured displays on games for a range of Japanese home console and arcade cabinets from the 1980s.

Knowing how busy these events can get in the weekend, we chose a weekday to go and it turns out we practically had the place to ourselves, playing classic games like Super Mario Brothers, Punch Out, Gauntlet, Xevious, Out Run and Space Harrier.

This post has a selection of photos showing how the Sega display room was set up. It featured a number of their Taikan games (those that introduced the ride-on style of cabinets) which of course are synonymous with Yu Suzuki.

An attraction of this exhibition was that, in addition to being able to view items such as signed posters and handwritten documentation produced when designing the games, the displays were hands-on and visitors were encouraged to try out the games which were set up for free play on the original hardware.

The exhibition was well put together and I was glad to see that Yu Suzuki's arcade games, and even a video interview with him, were proudly on display.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Ryo and the Tiger-skin Pants | Shenmue II

Ryo and the Tigr-skin Pants

I've been meaning to tackle this topic for a while, and I was reminded of it again the other day when Andrew & Matt brought it up on their latest AM2 Podcast (great series, guys!). So anyway, let's get started.

In Shenmue II, when Ryo arrives at the tiny riverside village of Langhuishan in Guilin, you may remember this optional conversation that he has with one of the three village boys on the wharf.

On being asked why he is seeking Bailu village, one of the choices is for Ryo to tell him that he is going there to fight the evil ogres there:

Defeat Ogres conversation option
Ryo decides to liven the mood with a light-hearted reply.

However the little boy does not seem altogether convinced by Ryo's explanation, and even less so by his details about what the ogres look like:

Ryo describes the ogres
You know, just your typical Japanese ogre look.
This is not unsurprising, as Ryo is basing his story on Japanese folklore that, while instantly recognizable to Japanese children, would not have been familiar to a little boy in China.

This is something that I've seen come up every now and again in Shenmue fan forums, so for any players who may still be scratching their heads about this interaction, let's look at the cultural background in this post.

Acknowledgement: Thank you to Kiyuu of the Shenmue Dojo for her old forum post which served as the inspiration for this post.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Fuku-san's Incredible Money Counting Skills | Video

Shenmue shows its sense of humor in scenes like this one where Fukuhara-san counts the money from his piggy bank to give to Ryo. Literally only a few seconds after he begins counting the coins that have spilled out of the smashed piggy bank onto the table, the camera pans down to reveal neat piles of coins and he announces the total amount.

The sheer speed at which Fuku-san completes the task suggests he has hidden talents far removed from the world of martial arts - his calling may well be in finance.

Fuku-san sorts the money
How on earth did you sort all those coins so quickly, Fuku-san?
And furthermore, Ryo expresses no surprise at this incredible feat (as usual, in keeping with his character).

For fun, I tweaked this scene slightly, to provide a proper reaction from Ryo in the video below...

Are you a fan of the character of Fukuhara-san? He rarely gets things right, but he's so well-meaning it's hard to dislike him.