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.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Yu Suzuki Interview for the Release of "SEGA 3D Fukkoku Archives 3" | Famitsu [20 Jan 2017 article]

Yu Suzuki Interview: SEGA 3D Fukkoku Archives 3

To commemorate the release of a new games collection by Sega, Famitsu.com published an interview with Yu Suzuki earlier in the year. Suzuki tells how he feels towards his earliest arcade title, Champion Boxing, and reveals how the Dreamcast is playing a part in Shenmue III development.


Background:


At the end of last year in 2016, Sega Games released their third entry in a series of 3D game collections for the Nintendo 3DS, having the somewhat long-winded name of Sega 3D Fukkoku Archives 3: FINAL STAGE. (The word fukkoku in Japanese means a reprint, or re-issue). The series as a whole is named the Sega 3D Fukkoku Project.


Sega 3D Fukkoku Archives 3: FINAL STAGE
Sega 3D Fukkoku Archives 3: FINAL STAGE, for the Nintendo 3DS
The first and third collections were released only in Japan, while the second is available outside of Japan also, as the Sega 3D Classics Collection.

As with the previous entries, this third and latest collection contains games tied to Yu Suzuki, namely 3D After Burner II, 3D Super Hang On and Turbo Outrun. It also has a special unlockable feature that allows you to play his earliest title, Champion Boxing, for players who have purchased Collection 1.


Interview:


The interview starts below.

Friday, March 31, 2017

The Bamboo Fountain in the Hazuki's Garden | Shenmue Realism

The Bamboo Fountain in the Hazuki's Garden

The ornamental pond in the corner of the garden at the Hazuki residence is an oasis of tranquility. Flowering water lilies bob gently on the surface, rising and falling as Japanese carp glide lazily by underneath. Birds twitter in the trees and the water trickles continuously into a bamboo water fountain.

The scenic garden pond
Time stands still at the scenic garden pond.
Every so often, the bamboo spout of the fountain pivots over, spilling its collected water into the pond, and makes a distinctive "clonk" as it returns to its original position. The sound can be heard from other parts of the garden as Ryo walks around.

Let's look at how the fountain works, what its name is in Japanese and finally some in-game footage of the fountain in motion.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Anecdotes About Yu Suzuki From Yuji Naka | DenFamiNicoGamer [14 Feb, 2017]

Yuji Naka Anecdotes

In February, SEGA legend Yuji Naka was a special guest on an informal talk show streamed live online by the Japanese site DenFamiNicoGamer.

Some of the inside stories he shared about his early days at SEGA also mentioned Yu Suzuki, who was working there at the time. In particular, one previously-unheard episode ended up with the two not speaking for a couple of years!

I have translated excerpts of the stories involving Yu Suzuki into English below.


Friday, March 24, 2017

Shenmue Documentary Update Video | Chasing Shenmue: EP03

Chasing Shenmue Episode 3

The third episode has been released of "Chasing Shenmue", a podcast series keeping the community up to date with the in-progress Shenmue documentary "A Gamer's Journey: the Definitive History of Shenmue". The episodes are fronted by Adam Sipione, the project originator and hardcore Shenmue fan, and executive producer Randall Lobb from Fauxpop Media, the company working with Adam to make the documentary.

This post is a brief overview of what Episode 3 brings, with the full video at the end of the post. This episode also includes a short bonus teaser of new video material!

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Guide to SEGA Japan's Twitter Questionnaire [Closes March 26, 2017]

SEGA Japan has put up a new online questionnaire to gather feedback on the topic of "Twitter". The submission period runs for the next few days and closes at the end of day on March 26th Japan time.

Questionnaire link: https://enq.sega.jp/orca/SB38501634 [now closed]


Sonic wants you to fill out the SEGA Online Questionnaire
Submission is not limited only to people within Japan, however the questions are in Japanese. As the questionnaire is run by SEGA Japan, there is a certain focus on SEGA Japan's Twitter account. 

As Google Translate often leads to some puzzling output, in this post I'll provide a translation of the questionnaire's questions.

Of particular interest are questions that give the opportunity to highlight a certain special campaign or game / franchise that is close to your heart.

The whole questionnaire contains 24 questions in total, and should only take around 6-10 minutes to complete.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

The Naming of Phantom River Stone | Translation Analysis

The mysterious mirrors that lie at the heart of the Shenmue story were crafted from a substance with an equally mysterious-sounding name: "Phantom River stone". (Which is, of course, from where the name of this blog was taken).

Now, although its name is Phantom River stone in the English Shenmue games, in fact this differs slightly from its Japanese name in the games.

"Phantom River Stone" on Japanese Shenmue.

In this post we'll look at what it is called in the Japanese version of Shenmue.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Thoughts on Kickstarter Update #65 [Dev Room Progress Report Vol. 2]

A new Kickstarter update - number 65 - has just been released, and it is full of enticing snippets of footage! It is the second Development Room Progress Report update, sub-headed "The Game Designers", following the first one that was seen back in Update #59 in August.

Thoughts & Observations on Kickstarter Update #65


Now it has been a while since the the last official update (at Christmas, or the New Year counting the New Year's Greeting posted only on the Shenmue.link site), but it has been pleasing to see that we fans generally coped patiently with the wait, understanding that the dev team has been knuckling down and pouring their efforts into the game development.

The dates on the "Loading" screens range from February 22nd through to February 27th, so based on these dates we are being shown very recent footage. And we are treated to some tantalizing glimpses of those efforts in this latest Development Room Progress Report video update.

I was able to translate a few of the words on the screen in the Dialogue Meeting (section 3), which might be considered minor spoilers so I have hidden them behind a Spoiler button for those who don't wish to learn too much! 

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Interview with Cédric Biscay at MAGIC 2017 | Famitsu.com [Mar 9, 2017]

Co-producer of Shenmue III, Cédric Biscay, was recently interviewed by Japanese magazine Famitsu at the MAGIC 2017 event.


Famitsu article interviewing Cédric Biscay


The interview covers Cédric's background and reasons for starting his company Shibuya Productions, and he talks about some of the guests and goals of the MAGIC event.

And of particular interest for Shenmue fans, at the end of the interview Cédric is asked about Shenmue III and he replies positively regarding the current development progress.

I have translated the article from the original Japanese, starting below.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

New Song "Winter Sunset" by Shenmue Composer Ryuji Iuchi

Shenmue composer Ryuji Iuchi recently announced via Twitter that he has composed a new track in memory of a fan of Shenmue, the late Rodger Swan.


His tweet reads as follows (my translation):
"When I was looking up this and that late at night, I learned that a fan of the game passed away from illness several years ago. I felt compelled to do something, and worked through to morning on a composition. I hope this melody may be to his liking. R.I.P."
The new song, and others that he has created over the past year, are embedded later in this post.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

"You should have come yesterday" | Translation Analysis

It's time to look at another phrase plucked from the English version of Shenmue and see what lies behind its translation.

Translation Analysis: "You Should Have Come Yesterday"

The location is at the Abe Store down the road from Ryo's house, which has been serving toys and snacks to the children in Sakuragaoka for years.

The friendly store owner, Setsu Abe, often teases Ryo with various nicknames (which we'll devote a post to in the future), which he doesn't really like but it's a handy place to try for some rare prizes with the Shenmue Raffle.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Rotary Phones & Milk Delivery | Shenmue Realism

In previous posts we looked at some of the details in Shenmue that reflected life in 1980s Japan, such as the washing machines sitting outside the apartments and the heating arrangements during winter.

Today we check out some more typical items from Japan during the '80s, that Ryo encounters as he wanders through the suburbs near his home... starting with telephones.

Realism in Shenmue: Rotary Phones & Milk Delivery

Phones of Many Colors


There are a few different styles of phones that Ryo can interact with in Shenmue, all of which would have been commonly seen in Japan during the time in which Shenmue was set.

The first telephone the player encounters is the domestic-use one at Ryo's home. In addition there are a couple of different types of public phone in Ryo's neighborhood.

Public phones in Japan generally have an easily-distinguishable color, which helps identify the features a phone offers (as technology advanced models were released that offered international calling, push-button "dialing", accepted phone cards as well as coins and so on). Of course, with the ubiquity of mobile phones, public phones are harder to find in Japan these days.

Let's see how their in-game appearance stacks up compared to images of the real thing.

Friday, February 10, 2017

How to View the Passenger Plane and Fighter Jet Cutscenes | Shenmue II

Those who have played Shenmue II will recall the brief cutscene that occurs as Ryo strolls through Wan Chai, where he looks up at the sky to see a passenger airplane pass above him.

But were you aware of how to trigger the similar, but not-so-common, scene that has a formation of fighter jets flying overhead instead? If not, then read on.

In this post we'll cover how to view both of these cutscenes in the game.

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

Passenger Plane Flyover Cutscene


The view of the passenger jet is quite impressive due to the plane's proximity as it soars overhead with a roar, its landing gear extended, flaps down and landing lights twinkling.

Passenger plane flying over Wan Chai
The scene has even more impact at night.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Iwao Hazuki's China Visit | Diagram of Relationships & Timeline

During Ryo's travels in Shenmue and Shenmue II, he gradually pieces together clues and information about the mysterious Dragon & Phoenix mirrors and how his father came to possess them.

With Shenmue III in the works, now is the perfect time to consider afresh the circumstances surrounding his father's visit to China by reviewing some of the clues Ryo has comes across.

At the end of the post, we'll attempt to consolidate this information onto a diagram showing the inter-relationships and timelines.

A snippet of the final diagram.
Let's start with a name that is introduced at the very start of Shenmue, in the opening cinematic: Sunming Zhao.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Yu Suzuki & Katsuhiro Harada Interview | Part 3 | DenFamiNicoGamer [26 Dec, 2016]

Interview with Yu Suzuki & Katsuhiro Harada, Part 3

Interview with Yu Suzuki & Katsuhiro Harada, Part 1
Here is Part Three of our multi-part translation of an interview with Yu Suzuki and Katsushiro Harada from Japanese gaming site DenFamiNicoGamer.jp.

I hope you have enjoyed the interview so far.

You can find the previous parts to date here:

Part One: click here.
Part Two: click here.
Interview with Yu Suzuki & Katsuhiro Harada, Part 2

Part Three


Part Three covers the following discussion topics:
  • AI and interactivity in games.
  • The timing for choosing to start developing Shenmue III.
  • Advice from Yu Suzuki to the younger generation.
The interview translation starts below.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

"Gachinko Fishing" & "Washing Place" | Shenmue Document Translations

Following our look at the Tile Breaking job design document that was revealed by Yu Suzuki in a recent interview, we now turn our attention to two more of the documents he brought along with him, annotated in English: "Ganchinko" Fishing and Washing Place.

Let's take a look at each in turn.

Document 1: "Gachinko" Fishing

Fishing design document detail
Fishing document detail.
Fishing is an activity that Yu Suzuki has confirmed will be part of the upcoming Shenmue III. An obvious hint to this also lay in the in-game fishing rod and bait that were part of one of the Kickstarter reward tiers.

At the 2016 MAGIC Monaco conference. Yu talked about the ability to fish in various places such as Bailu village, He also stated that fishing was something that the development team had wanted to include in Shenmue II, but it had to be left out as there was no room to fit it.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Ryo & Ren Comedy Video with English Captions (2001)

The Japanese voice/mocap actors that played as Ryo and Ren, Masaya Matsukaze and Takumi Hagiwara, created a slapstick video of themselves filming in the city of Shanghai - dressed as their characters - for the promotion of the upcoming Shenmue II.

Although this video has been around on the net for several years, being in Japanese it has not been been very accessible to non-Japanese fans. So now I have added English captions to allow it to be appreciated by a wider audience.

(The captioned video can be viewed directly a little further down in this post.)

Background


The concept of the 15-minute video is ostensibly the filming of a new TV commercial for Shenmue II, which in reality is just a pretext for humorous interaction between the pair. The video was originally screened at the 2001 AM2 Summer Festival event (which you can read about in the previous post), and it was also later included as bonus content on the Japanese DVD of "Shenmue: The Movie".

A youthful Matsukaze takes on the role of director and drags Hagiwara around various parts of Shanghai in his quest for a suitable filming location. They have a great rapport and they are clearly enjoying themselves.

Hagiwara and Matuskaze in Shanghai
Hagiwara (Ren) is chided by Director Matsukaze (Ryo) for his unsatisfactory acting performance.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Yu Suzuki at the AM2 Summer Festival (2001) | Article Translation

Back in 2001 an event called the "AM2 Summer Festival" that was held in Tokyo in early September of that year. The event was attended by Yu Suzuki and helped to promote the soon-to-be-released Shenmue II.

Today's post is a translation of a GameWatch news article that conveys the atmosphere of the event, with photos of Yu and some of the Japanese voice & motion actors who worked on Shenmue.


AM2 Summer Festival


The article translation starts below.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Tile-breaking Job | Early Shenmue Document Translation

A few weeks ago in a joint interview with Katushiro Harada, Yu Suzuki shared an early Shenmue project document that had not previously been shown in public.

Tile Breaking
Ryo... ahem, Akira takes a practice swipe.
The document describes the concept for a Tile Breaking part-time job, with notes in Japanese text. I've translated these notes into English in the version below (click on the image to view in full size).

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Shenmue Comic: Training in Guilin

Today we take a look at a Shenmue-themed comic strip that was published on the official Shenmue.com website around the time of the release of the Shenmue games, to which I've added an English translation.

Comic strip in Japanese
The comic strip in Japanese only. (Read on for the translated version.)
First, a few background notes that tie in to the comic.

Muecas and Shenmue.com


This comic strip was part of a section of Shenmue.com called "Muecas" (a word that was formed from "Shenmue and Dreamcast" Cast Fans" - thanks to Kiyuu for the clarification! Trust me, it sounds less weird in Japanese). Contributors to those section were called the "Muecas team", and consisted of a group of actual Sega staff who had been working on Shenmue, as well as a number of fans from the general public.

Muecas team logo
The logo of the Muecas Team.
"We love Shenmue deeply"

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Kowloon Cut-scene Music: 65 Tracks | Shenmue II

To help fully appreciate the wealth of tunes contained in the Shenmue games, long-time contributor and administrator of the Shenmue Dojo Ziming has been working on a long-term project over a number of years (with input from other members of the community): to create several high-quality compilation videos for the in-game and cut-scene music.

Image credit: Riken Productions
This latest offering, which he has just released, represents the last entry in a project covering Shenmue II music and is a compilation of all the cut-scene music from the Kowloon area. In this single area alone, there are a staggering 65 cut-scene tunes representing almost three hours of music.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Shenmue 3 Reward Dinner in San Francisco with Yu Suzuki

Shenmue III Kickstarter Reward Dinner in San Francisco

Last month in December, the U.S. Kickstarter reward dinner quietly took place in San Francisco, with an exclusive group of super-backers and their selected guests getting to spend the day with Yu Suzuki. The date had originally been tentatively scheduled for June 2016, but was later rescheduled to December.

This was the third and final reward dinner, following on from the previous reward dinners held earlier in the year in the village of Eze near Monaco in February, and Japan in September.

Here is a selection of photos taken at the event. The majority of images are courtesy of attendee Chris Van Graas (thank you Chris!), except where specified.

Visit to Musée Mécanique


Prior to the dinner, Yu took the group along for a visit to the Musée Mécanique located at Fisherman's Wharf, San Francisco.

Entrance to the Musée Mécanique
Entrance to the Musée Mécanique

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Shenmue III Reward Upgrades Coming in Summer

A member of the Shenmue500K Facebook group has shared news regarding a planned opportunity for backers to "upgrade" their contribution to a higher reward tier for the Shenmue 3 Kickstarter project.

In an email reply from the team, they confirm that we can look forward to support for reward upgrades in the summer of this year, to be put in place with the reward surveys.

Email received from the Shenmue III team
(Kickstarter surveys are a feature managed online that allow project creators to collect any information they need from backers in order to deliver their rewards, such as shipping address and reward-specific preferences. When a survey is issued, backers will be notified by email.)

This means that backers will have the opportunity to increase their contribution to a higher corresponding reward tier if they wish.

Thanks to Shenmue500K member Neil for sharing this with the community.

If you have been wanting for the chance to move up to a higher reward tier, leave a comment below!

Friday, January 6, 2017

Yu Suzuki & Katsuhiro Harada Interview | Part 2 | DenFamiNicoGamer [26 Dec, 2016]

Suzuki & Harada Interview Part 2



This is the second part of our multi-part translation of the Yu Suzuki and Katsuhiro Harada interview published by Japanese gaming site DenFamiNicoGamer.jp.

Click here to read the previous Part One. Further parts will follow.

Part Two


Part Two covers the following discussion:
  • Yu Suzuki's decision to move to development for the home console
  • Katsuhiro Harada:
    • Early career
    • The challenges of VR compared to previous games
    • Achieving something that feels "normal"

Note: this interview will be posted up in several parts due to length.

Part Two of the interview translation continues below.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

"Shenmue Gaiden: Christmas Event" | New Fanmade Visual Novel

A new Christmas-themed Shenmue visual novel has been released as a fantastic New Year's gift to the community, from developer ShenSun.

Shenmue Gaiden: Christmas Event
The game exudes a Christmas atmosphere from its opening screen
The game's plot is woven around the locations and characters of Shenmue, and lets the player experience a lighthearted adventure that takes place in Dobuita and the surrounding areas on a snowy Christmas day. The story unfolds largely through conversations displayed in text on-screen, with the player being prompted to make a decision every so often.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

New Year's Illustration & Cultural Notes

2017 New Year's Greeting from Yu Suzuki & Team


A short New Year's message from Yu Suzuki & the Shenmue III team has appeared on the official website.

[Update: the official message is now available in English on the site, which I have inserted below in place of my translation.]
New Year’s Greetings Everyone!

We hope you are having a holiday season. The development of Shenmue III has stepped into its second year, and our team is in high spirits.

Without your support, we would not have been able to make it this far. We thank you again for all you have done to make Shenmue III a reality.

We look forward to continuing our journey with you in 2017, and wish you a wonderful year ahead.

From Yu Suzuki and the Shenmue III Team
The message is accompanied by a cute New Year's animated "post-card" illustration featuring Shenmue characters!

Shenmue III New Year Illustration
The kanji at the bottom read 迎春, a New Year's greeting literally meaning "Arrival of Spring".
Regarding New Year's postcards, in Japan it is much more common to send these than Christmas cards. People send them not only to friends and family but also coworkers, business partners and customers. If you post them by a certain date in December, the Post Office makes a huge effort every year to ensure that they will be delivered on exactly January 1st. Also, if you receive such a post-card from someone it is polite to send one back in return, if you have not already sent one to them.

Illustration Details


In any case, let's see what interesting details are hiding in the illustration.