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, June 17, 2018

A Visit to The Forbidden City | A Look Back in Time to Predict the Future!

A Visit to the Forbidden City | A Look Back in Time to Predict the Future!

In this post we welcome back James Brown to the blog to share a finding arising from his recent trip to The Forbidden City in Beijing.

Minor possible spoiler warning: this post contains general speculation on future Shenmue story content. (Please treat this lightly as Yu Suzuki may well have changed and/or rearranged the original story now, so events may no longer happen as illustrated).

And now, over to James!

Hello, it's James Brown here once again and I want to personally say thanks for having me back on for my second guest blog post!

Today I wanted to share with the Shenmue community, something that may not have been noticed widely thus far in Shenmue history.

Back in 2014, Yu Suzuki excited fans as he took to the stage for the Shenmue Classic Game Postmortem at GDC 2014. Fans at this point were not aware of any behind-the-scenes talks about a Shenmue 3 project, and were anxious to see if it would turn out to be more than just a look back at the games now long history. As great as the presentation was, fans were disappointed that no new future Shenmue information was announced or talked about - although it's now been revealed that Yu Suzuki had a meeting at this event in a secret back room with Sony representatives Adam Boyes and Gio Corsi.

As part of the presentation, Yu Suzuki revealed an old timeline, consisting of movie poster style tiles, displaying how he originally planned the series to go through each of its installments. At this time, the game was still being referred to as Virtua Fighter RPG, and so Akira was the main character that can be seen in the images, instead of Ryo.

The 11 illustrated tiles presented by Yu Suzuki at GDC 2014
The illustrated tiles presented by Yu Suzuki at GDC 2014

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Saturday, June 16, 2018

[Part 1/2] "15 Secrets of Shenmue" 1999 interview with Yu Suzuki | Translation

Today's post is a translation of an interview Yu Suzuki held with the media on 18th January 1999, soon after the successful Shenmue premiere events. Shenmue was still somewhat shrouded in mystery, so the "15 Secrets" this article refers to - while not representing special in-game secrets or the like - are an interesting reflection of what the expectations were for the game as well as Yu Suzuki's mindset almost a year before its actual release.

This topic was selected by Phantom River Stone patrons in the monthly poll for April.

Source article: February 12th, 1999 edition of Dreamcast Magazine.

The interview was held on 18th January 1999 at the final press conference of the nationwide Shenmue premiere events that were held in Japan's 5 largest cities (Yokohama, Osaka, Fukuoka, Sapporo and Nagoya) as well as Sendai.

SECRET ① Looking back on the nationwide premiere...

"We haven't all met like this since the premiere in Yokohama, have we!"

These are the words with which Yu Suzuki greets us as he appears in front of us prior to the start of the interview.

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Friday, June 15, 2018

"Soft Launch" of Backer Survey Emails | Kickstarter Update #83

A brief Kickstarter update has been posted regarding Shenmue 3 survey emails, stating that these are almost ready to be sent out.

They will cover both physical & in-game content rewards and will be sent by email to all backers to their registered email address on Kickstarter or Slacker Backer.

The update notes that a few randomly-selected backers will receive their survey email in advance as a "soft launch" to help verify the process.

Edit: Some key information from fan feedback on the Shenmue Dojo forums:

  • You will be asked to provide information applicable to your rewards (e.g. shipping address, T-shirt size, 140-character message for the Choubu Inn guestbook, photograph of yourself for the Harbor Lounge waiting area etc). You can alter your answers later.
  •  Add-ons are available: you can choose to upgrade your existing pledge/tier to one that is higher
  • Preliminary minimum specs for the PC version are given: 4 GB RAM, 100 GB drive space, quad-core i5 (3.4 GHz) processor

Read the full update on Kickstarter.

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Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Brief New Shenmue I & II footage from E3 2018

SEGA released this short clip of new Shenmue I & II footage, as part of their PC Gaming Show reel at E3 2018.

It's looking great, and all in 16:9!

Regarding confirmation of the release date, the SEGA Europe Twitter account tweeted "We'll have news on that soon, stay tuned and thanks for being patient as always!"

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Monday, June 11, 2018

Patron's Choice Blog Topic for June

Patron's Choice Blog Topic for June

Every month we run a poll and ask the blog's patrons to help decide a Shenmue-related topic they would like to see covered on the blog the following month. Topics can be anything from translations of early Japanese magazine articles, to explaining cultural customs seen during the game, or even "hacks" of the game that reveal hidden animations or locations.

The topic voted for May was a translation of a Japanese Dreamcast magazine article from early 1999 entitled "15 Secrets of Shenmue", based on a press interview with Yu Suzuki. (Early-access patrons of the blog can read Part One here).

And for this month of June, the topic that has been selected by the patrons is a translation of the floorplans of a Choubu inn in Shenmue III.

You may recall that Yu Suzuki shared several images on his Twitter feed back in 2015, including the plans for a two-storied inn / hostel. The images have labels and notes in Japanese sprinkled throughout them. At the time I made translations available to the Shenmue community (this was before Phantom River Stone existed), but it will make for an interesting exercise to revisit and analyze the plans three years on.

Watch out for our post on this topic in the near future!

Thank you as always to our blog patrons for their input on the blog content, and if you would like to take part in future polls & support the blog, check out our page on Patreon by clicking on the button below.

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Saturday, June 9, 2018

Japanese Lesson #1 (Video) | Learn Japanese Through Shenmue

Back in March, our blog patrons voted in a poll to start a Learn Japanese series on the blog, and so we present Lesson One! (Blog patrons have a month's early access to lessons).

Shenmue and Language Learning

The idea to start a Japanese learning series around Shenmue has been in the back of mind for a long time. The Shenmue games, with their detailed depiction of places and cultural customs and dialogue-rich gameplay, are a natural fit for supporting language learning.

This is something that Yu Suzuki has referred to in past interviews, with stories about players of Shenmue picking up Japanese words and phrases through playing the game. The potential for language learning was realized from the time Shenmue was first released: a special "US Shenmue" release was marketed to people in Japan with all dialogue fully-voiced in English and offering the ability to switch between English and Japanese subtitles. This was an innovative idea for the time, and I would like to think it genuinely helped some learners get to grips with natural-sounding English (apart from occasional lines like "Let's get sweaty" and a few other dubious phrases).
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Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Shenmue Premiere Bag (1998) | Shenmue Merchandise

Today we take a look at the remarkable Shenmue premiere bag that was handed out to attendees at the premiere event in 1998/1999.

The Shenmue Premiere event was held in Japan and the end of December 1998 in Yokohama, with additional events through the New Year in cities through-out Japan. The expectation and excitement was huge, as it would be the first time the general public would get a decent look at Yu Suzuki's new game, one that had been the source of much speculation in the preceding months.

SEGA did not hold back on budget for these events: each lasted two hours, and were free of charge to attendees; and all attendees received an incredible amount of Shenmue merchandise:
  • A boxed figurine of Shenhua 
  • A CD single with an illustration of Shenhua on the cover, containing the Shenmue main theme and Shenhua's theme
  • notebook with an illustration of Shenhua on the cover
  • A black Shenmue T-shirt with a mirror design on the back
  • A sheet of Shenmue-themed tattoo stickers
  • A blue fold-out leaflet containing art from the games
  • A Christmas card with an illustration of Shenhua and falling snow
  • A phone strap (Yukawa-san or Shenhua)
  • A promotional leaflet illustrating various additional Shenmue-related merchandise for sale such as posters, mugs, pens and calendars.
  • questionnaire form about the event. Those who submitted this feedback form to Sega received a Dreamcast magnet!
We will be covering each of these items in more detail in future posts, but this time we'll examine the Shenmue premiere bag that the items came in.

The bag oozes quality and attention to detail. It is black in color with illustrations of mirrors in green in the background wrapping around on all sides (including the narrow sides). There is a large mirror motif in yellow/orange in the center, overlaid with the Shenmue logo. One side has the logo in the Japanese katakana alphabet and the Phoenix mirror design, and the other has the kanji version of the logo over the Dragon mirror.

It is the size of large shopping bag and is made of sturdy card material with a waterproof protective coating, and has strong black plastic handles.
Written discreetly in white at the bottom of one of the sides are the words "© SEGA ENTERPRISES, 1988".

You can almost feel the excitement and anticipation that attendees at the premiere events must have felt from the moment they stepped through the doors into the event hall and were presented with this bag, full of Shenmue goodies, before moving down the aisle to find their way to their seats.

While some of the items that were given away at the premiere event are seen more frequently, the bag itself is not often seen for sale nowdays.

Shenmue Collectors!

Our friends at Retro Import Gamer (who provided the photos for this article) have managed to obtain one of these original Shenmue premiere event bags, offering the chance to own a fantastic piece of early Shenmue history for your collection.

It is up on their Ebay store now, and ships from the UK.

Link to the Shenmue Premiere bag on Ebay.

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