Monday, February 19, 2018

Interview with Shenmue 2 Designer: Norikazu Hirai | Translation

Earlier in the week, SEGA Interactive published an online interview in Japanese with Norikazu Hirai, whose worked as a designer on Shenmue II early in his career.

We have translated into English some background introductory information, followed by the Shenmue-related part of the interview for Shenmue fans to enjoy. Of particular interest is hearing about Hirai's hand in the design of the famed Sword of Seven Stars that features at the end of Shenmue II.

Norikazu Hirai

Section Manager & Producer,
AM2 Multi-device Business Development Section

Producer of Soul Calibur Zero*
(also known as Soul Calibur: The Lost Story in Europe, or Soul Calibur: Resurrection in USA)

Norikazu Hirai
Norikazu Hirai

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Ryo Hazuki Cameo Confirmed for SEGA's New Mobile Game

A spectacular result for Shenmue fans!

Last week we reported about a tiered SEGA promotion for their new mobile game Kotodaman, whereby the character of Ryo Hazuki would be given a cameo in the game upon if a sufficient number of registrations of interest was received.

Shenmue fans across the world responded to the call with enthusiasm, and thanks to everyone's efforts SEGA has just confirmed on the game's website (Japanese) that Ryo Hazuki's cameo has been achieved.

Concept art for Ryo Hazuki as he will appear in the game
Concept art for Ryo Hazuki as he will appear in the game
Although the mobile game is for Japan only, this will provide additional exposure for the Shenmue franchise, and shows SEGA once again the passion of the fans for Shenmue.

Furthermore, the next "reward" tier is for another character that will be close to the hearts of Shenmue fans: the human hero from Space Harrier (whose name is apparently just "Harrier"). This character will be included if a level of 60,000 registrations is reached, an additional 5,000.

Next reward level cameo: "Harrier"
Next reward level cameo: "Harrier"
If you have not yet registered interest for the game, and wish to help Harrier make a cameo too, just follow the instructions in our previous post.

Kotodaman is scheduled to be released in spring of 2018. We will post up footage on the blog of Ryo in action after release!

Monday, February 12, 2018

"Shenmue Gaiden: A Christmas Story" | Fanmade Visual Novel

Talented developer ShenSun is back with the release of a new visual novel creation named "Shenmue Gaiden: A Christmas Story", for all Shenmue fans to enjoy. (The original intention to release in December didn't work out due to real life commitments, but thankfully there's no need to wait until the end of this year to play!)


ShenSun's previous Shenmue visual novel released a year ago, "Shenmue Gaiden; Christmas Event", masterfully mixed audio-visual elements together to produce a memorable and moving story that was sprinkled with plenty of humor throughout, and this year's release provides an equally-immersive experience to satisfy those Shenmue cravings.

Our post on the previous game can be found here:
Storywise, "A Christmas Story" starts out with a similar premise to the previous version: you the player have been invited along to an upcoming Christmas party with Ryo and friends.

Friday, February 9, 2018

The Old Red TV | Chinese Restaurants in Shenmue

Following our recent post translating an early Shenmue design document for Hong Kong diners, I decided to collect together shots of the familiar old red TV that can often be found sitting up in the corner of such restaurants in the game, part of the game's careful design.

The Old Red TV in Shenmue 1 and 2.
The old red TV in Shenmue 1 and 2.
Do you know of any other locations?

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Help Ryo Hazuki Appear in SEGA's Mobile Game "Kotodaman"

SEGA are running a promotion that offers the opportunity to help include Ryo Hazuki as a character in their upcoming mobile game called Kotodaman that is scheduled for release in spring 2018 (the official Japanese site is here).

This is a great chance to increase awareness of the Shenmue series among a broader audience.

For those who want to skip information about the game and jump right into registering, please follow the "How to Pre-Register" instructions in blue at the end of the post.

Overview of the Game


Kotodaman is a word-puzzle RPG game in which up to 4 players band together, selecting elements of the Japanese alphabet to form words and defeat enemies (the damage attributed depends on the number and length of the words formed). Being based around Japanese words, it seems likely that the game will be a Japan-only release.

Game screenshot
Game screenshot: the player drags an element from the bottom to the middle area to build words and defeat their foe at the top of the screen.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Hong Kong Diner | Translated Shenmue II Design Document

Shenmue II Early Design Document: Hong Kong Diner

A little over a year ago, Yu Suzuki was jointly interviewed with Katsuhiro Harada (of Tekken fame) and during this briefly spoke about a handful of original design documents for the Shenmue games he had brought along with him.

This photo, which accompanied an interview with Yu Suzuki & Katsuhiro Harada, shows Yu with various Shenmue design documents as he points at what appears to be a sketch of a Chinese tulou.
This photo accompanied an interview with Yu Suzuki & Katsuhiro Harada. Yu shows various Shenmue design documents, pointing here at what appears to be a sketch of a Chinese tulou.
We have analyzed some of these design documents in earlier posts on this blog.

Relevant posts:

Hong Kong Diner Interior


Today, the design document we will be examining is a concept sketch of the interior of a typical Hong Kong casual diner.

The document is headed "VF RPG", indicating that it was produced in the early design period of Shenmue, when the game was still known by its early working name of Virtua Fighter RPG.

It contains a single large illustration with hand-written annotations surrounding it, which I have translated.

Here is the translated design document [click to enlarge]:

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Shenmue Guide Map Giveaway on Twitter | Closes Feb 19th (JST)

Phantom River Stone is giving away a set of the Shenmue Sacred Spot Guide Maps on our Twitter account @phantom_river!

How to Enter:

  • Follow our Twitter account @phantom_river,
  • Retweet the giveaway announcement tweet (below), and
  • Reply to the tweet with a comment. 

Terms of Entry:

The closing date for entries is at noon on 19 February, 2018 (JST). The winner will be drawn from all valid entries on 22 February. One entry per person; entries made using multiple accounts are ineligible.

Good luck!


Monday, January 29, 2018

A Visit to Yokosuka After Snow | Photo Gallery

A Visit to Yokosuka After Snow | Image Gallery of Shenmue Locations

One of the many memorable aspects of the first Shenmue game is its depiction of winter. The moment snowflakes begin to lightly drift down from the cloudy sky is a memorizing moment, bringing with it the anticipation that Ryo's hometown will soon be transformed by a cover of snow and ice.

Last week a chance came up to capture some snowy footage as a blizzard passed across Japan. The forecast for the region where Yokosuka is located is underlined in red:
Snow forecast! (Yokosuka is located in Kanagawa prefecture).
Snow is on it's way. (Yokosuka is located in Kanagawa prefecture).
A few days later, snow did indeed fall heavily throughout the region, starting from the later afternoon. The next morning dawned warm and sunny, so I jumped on a train bound for Yokosuka as soon as I could, before the evidence could melt away to nothing.

Note: I have juggled the real-life ordering of the photos a little to match with the kind of scenery Ryo sees as he strolls from his house in Yamanose down to Dobuita Street.

The Hazuki Residence


Actual location: the grounds of Suwadai Shrine.
Actual location: the grounds of Suwadai Shrine.