Monday, December 31, 2018

[Pinned] Announcement: Phantom River Stone is on Patreon!

It is hard to believe that over one-and-a-half years have passed since the Phantom River Stone blog launched. We've made more than 200 posts on our favorite subject: translations of community interviews, magazine articles and design documents, notes about everyday items and culture reflected in the game, photos of real locations around Yokosuka... just celebrating the awesomeness that is Shenmue.

In order to sustain this rate of output, and dedicate the time needed for the translations and posts, I wanted to offer a way for blog readers who wish to help contribute to do so.

And so, I am excited to announce our new Patreon page for Phantom River Stone!

If you're not familiar with Patreon, it’s an easy way to give those who find the blog of interest, a way to support it directly.

Plus, you will receive some great rewards in return, such as exclusive "behind the scenes" content, early access to blog posts before anyone else, and monthly voting on a future blog topic. We also have a Discord channel for chatting about Shenmue and blog posts & I look forward to chatting with you there.

There are several different reward tiers, which you can check out in detail on the new Patreon page.

Thank you for considering becoming a patron of the blog, and regardless of whether you are in a position to offer financial support, thank you for being a reader of the blog!

Click to open the Phantom River Stone page on Patreon!

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Sunday, July 22, 2018

The Changing Face of the Abe Store: Beta vs Release

The front of the Abe Store used to look somewhat different from the way it does in the final release. In fact, at one time it was not even called the Abe Store! In this post, Phantom River Stone examines the changes.
Any piece of software undergoes many iterations of changes during its development, and Shenmue 1 was no exception. We can sometimes get a glimpse into some of these differences through material such as design documents or concept art - or by viewing footage of an earlier build of the game prior to its release.

Fortunately for us Shenmue fans, a beta version of the first game is available within the community and in today's post we'll be looking at the way in which the facade of Ryo's local candy store, the Abe Store in Sakuragaoka, has undergone some changes compared with the final release version.
  • As will be be familiar to most people, beta software refers to software that has finished in-house ("alpha") testing, and is created for a group of external testers to play under real conditions. Often design changes are made as a result of feedback from this testing.
Here is a comparison of two screenshots showing the front of the Abe Store: the one on the left should look familiar as it is from the release version, while the one on the right shows the pre-release beta version. (Beta version still from a video by James Reiner).

The Abe Store: final release (left) vs beta (right).
The Abe Store: final release (left) vs beta (right).
A few differences are immediately noticeable. Let's run through them in turn.

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Friday, July 20, 2018

Yu Suzuki Selected as CEDEC 2018 Special Award Winner for Contributions to Game Development

News flash from Phantom River Stone!
In recognition of his pioneering and revolutionary contributions to the game industry, Yu Suzuki has been selected as the winner of the prestigious Special Award of the CEDEC Awards 2018. CEDEC, the Computer Entertainment Development Conference, is an annual event based in Japan for game developers, and this year it is to be held next month across 3 days in the city of Yokohama.

The Special Award, decided by members of the CEDEC steering committee, is given for "overall contributions to game development". The reason for the award to Yu Suzuki from the official site reads as follows (our translation):
"Yu Suzuki, as a creator, has produced a multitude of big hits from revolutionary ideas, from the development of ride-on arcade games such as Hang On, After Burner etc through to the 3D CG hardware fighting game Virtua Fighter. In addition, in the home console arena he took on the creation of what could be called the forerunner of open world games, Shenmue, and has had a massive influence on technological innovation in game development. The achievements throughout his career as a pioneer have opened up new possibilities, and are highly regarded throughout the world."
Our warm congratulations to Yu Suzuki on his achievement!

Source: CEDEC website [Japanese]

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Sunday, July 15, 2018

Clouds, Smoke & Street Lights: an Examination of the Kickstarter Update #84 Video

The recent Shenmue III video, with its message for backers from the little girl at Bailu village, was full of animation and small details. Phantom River Stone goes through the video with a fine-toothed comb.
A new video clip set in Bailu village was included with the recent Kickstarter Update on the Backer surveys. It features the little girl we have seen in a few previous updates, most recently talking with Ryo in the THQ Nordic presentation - but now we are able to hear her voice for the first time, and there is even an Easter egg in the background! In this post we comb through the clip to examine the small details it contains.

Related posts:

The New Video Clip

First, here is the clip, which has a play time of around 40 seconds.

A Peaceful Scene at Bailu Village

The opening shot shows fluffy white clouds set against a brilliant blue sky. In the foreground we see the wooden pole of a street light with heavy electric cables running from it, and metal foot-holds running up it for repair workmen. The apex of a tiled house roof is visible, and at the bottom left, the tip of a rocky Guilin mountain in the far distance.

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Saturday, July 14, 2018

Cédric Biscay Visits Yu Suzuki in Tokyo | Photos

Earlier this week, Shenmue III co-producer Cédric Biscay of Shibuya Productions shared a few photos taken at Yu Suzuki's development studio YS Net, during his visit to Tokyo for the Shenmue III project.

"We are working hard with Yu san ! #shenmue3 #tokyo #Japan"
Yu Suzuki with Cédric Biscay. On the wall behind is the Guiness World Record certificate for "the most money pledged for a Kickstarter videogame" achieved by the Shenmue III Kickstarter in 2015.
The tweet text is as follows:
"We are working hard with Yu san ! #shenmue3 #tokyo #Japan" (link to tweet)
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Wednesday, July 11, 2018

The "AI Battling" Stretch Goal | Shenmue III

The "AI Battling" Stretch Goal | Shenmue III
Phantom River Stone gives a brief recap of what we know about the "AI Battling" stretch goal and clarifies some information given in the English version of the recent Kickstarter Update, based on the Japanese text.
Pledges for Shenmue III, combining the Kickstarter and the Slacker Backer campaign pledges, have grown to an impressive total of $6,901,625 as of the last official update on June 22, 2018 (source:

Total amount pledged to Shenmue 3 as of June 22, 2018
Total amount pledged to Shenmue 3 as of June 22, 2018 (Kickstarter & Slacker Backer pledges combined)
Significantly, a further $100,000 of pledges would take this total to the next stretch goal from the Kickstarter campaign: "Battle System Expanded: AI Battling" at $7 million.
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Saturday, July 7, 2018

Leaving the Cave? | Analysis of a New Shenmue III Image

Leaving the Cave? | Analysis of a New Shenmue III Image
Phantom River Stone analyzes an image from Shenmue III that was displayed on a monitor in a photo posted recently by Haruka Terui to her personal blog.
An intriguing image from Shenmue III was displayed on a monitor in a photo posted recently by Haruka Terui to her personal blog. Haruka will be voicing Shenhua in Shenmue III, as announced earlier this month in a Kickstarter Update:
The image in question appears on the monitor screen in the photo below, which shows Haruka together with Masaya Matsukaze, who continues in his role as Ryo Hazuki in the third game. (Based on a comparison with the photos contained in the earlier Kickstarter Update, this photo was taken at the same recording session).

Masaya Matuskaze (left) and Haruka Terui (right), the voices for Ryo Hazuki and Shenhua Ling in Shenmue III.
Masaya Matuskaze (left) and Haruka Terui (right), the voices for Ryo Hazuki and Shenhua Ling in Shenmue III.
Let's take a closer look at what's shown on the monitor, and some of the main points of interest that can be identified:
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Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Shenmue I & II Release Date + Latest Details

Shenmue I & II Release Date + Latest Details
Phantom River Stone summarizes the latest details announced about #Shenmue I & II ahead of its August 21 release, together with a new trailer & screenshots.
Coinciding with the July 3rd Shenmue tweetathon (organized each month by Team Yu), SEGA has officially announced the release date for the Shenmue I & II rerelease as August 21st 2018 (available for Xbox One, PS4 and PC) and has also supplied more details about the games.

Build-up to the Announcement 

The launch date announcement had been somewhat anticipated by fans, with several factors in the days building up to it, such as the ESRB (Entertainment Software Rating Board) publishing their rating of "Teen" (for 13 years and above), and hints in social media from SEGA Europe such as their tease to fans regarding the July 3rd tweetathon: "This one will be extra special!"

SEGA also tweeted the short video clip below of Shenmue's chase scene with Jimmy, in 16:9 format and notably containing an updated QTE prompt:
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