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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Saturday, June 23, 2018

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

We continue with the second half of our translation of an interview Yu Suzuki held with the media on 18th January 1999. almost a year before Shenmue's Japan release. Several of the themes that Yu talks about today with respect to development on Shenmue III show through in this interview. He also reveals something that I personally had never known - namely that he worked on SEGA's early Laserdisc games when he first joined the company.

 "15 Secrets of Shenmue" 1999 interview with Yu Suzuki

Source article: 12th February 1999 edition of Dreamcast Magazine. This blog topic was voted by Phantom River Stone patrons in the monthly poll for April.

SECRET ⑨ The mystery of the title "Shenmue"

Then a question was sprung that got to the very heart of things: "What is the origin of the title, Shenmue?" However, it would seem that this conceals a secret relating to the theme of the game, and is still a secret.
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Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Shenmue Premiere Blue Tri-fold Pamphlet (1998) | Shenmue Merchandise

In our on-going series on Shenmue merchandise, today we will be looking at the large blue-covered tri-fold pamphlet that was part of the merchandise handed to attendees of the 1998/1999 Shenmue premiere.

The cover of the pamphlet has the game's title in the Japanese katakana alphabet, with kanji (Chinese characters) beneath it, overlaid on a dragon motif with a pinkish tinge on a blue background.

The front cover of the Blue Tri-fold Pamphlet (Shenmue II version)
The front cover of the Blue Tri-fold Pamphlet (Shenmue II version)
In fact, there exist two versions of this blue pamphlet, as we touched on briefly in our earlier post about the Shenmue Art Book: the one we will look at today contains artwork for Shenmue II while the other introduces Shenmue I (this version has the words "Chapter One: Yokosuka" on the cover).

Being tri-fold, the pamphlet opens out to six sides, and inside can be found a mixture of images from the game as well as introductory descriptions about its features.

The inside pages of the pamphlet.
The inside pages of the pamphlet.

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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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Sunday, June 3, 2018

Image of a Day's Worth of Shenmue 3 Script

Voice actor for Ryo Hazuki in the Shenmue games, Masaya Matsukaze, tweeted this image of a stack of voice script papers. They represent just a single day's worth of recording.

This certainly bodes well for plentiful and rich conversations within the game.

It's also great to see Matsukaze-san taking the time to share a behind-the-scene image and thoughts with fans while the game is being made.
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Friday, June 1, 2018

Commentary: Shenhua's new voice actress | Kickstarter Update #82

In this post we comment on the announcement of the Japanese voice of Shenhua for Shenmue III as Haruka Terui and analyze the photos that accompanied the update.
Haruka Terui announced as Shenhua's voice in Shenmue 3

This post was available 7 days early to patrons. Support Phantom River Stone on Patreon to receive early access to posts and other rewards and help us keep making content like this!

Haruka Terui's Selection as Shenhua

Kickstarter Update #82 announces that the voice actress to play Shenhua for Shenmue III will be Haruka Terui, and gives some comments from Haruka herself, in which she indicates that she will strive to remain faithful to the character as portrayed in the first two games:
"Shenmue has been beloved by so many for so long and fans have been waiting her. As I look Shenhua in the eyes and become her voice, I will remember everyone has their own precious memories and I will do everything I can to keep those memories like they were."
About Haruka Terui:

Haruka Terui is 31 years of age and born in Iwate prefecture - the same prefecture as Shenmue III creator Yu Suzuki. She has around 10 years of experience in the voice industry, with an extensive catalog that includes documentary narration, character songs, television anime series and video game roles (including unspecified voicing for Persona 4 Golden)

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Sunday, May 27, 2018

Examining the New Shenmue 3 Images in the THQ Nordic Presentation

This post was available for patrons 5 days ago. Support Phantom River Stone on Patreon to receive early access to posts and other rewards and help us keep making content like this!

Last week on May 16th, THQ Nordic, which recently acquired Koch Media and its subsidiary company (and publisher of Shenmue III) Deep Silver, held a presentation for shareholders, analysts and media representatives. While not directed at fans / backers, it did contain a section on Shenmue III that revealed some new images and information.

Watch the Shenmue III Presentation (3 minutes)

During their presentation, which was called "Capital Markets Day", several in-progress games were introduced, including a 3-minute portion on Shenmue III.

The Shenmue III section of the video can be viewed below. Footage from the game - some seen previously and some new - is shown from 2:14.

Video courtesy of Shenmue Dojo

While much of this footage has been seen before, we will highlight the glimpses seen of new material in the following sections of this post.

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Thursday, May 17, 2018

Kickstarter Update #81: Shenmue III Release Window Moved to 2019

Kickstarter Update #81: Shenmue III Release Window Moved to 2019

Today Deep Silver and YS Net jointly announced that the release window for Shenmue III has been moved to 2019 (the precise period has not been given), from the second half of 2018. You may recall that the previous date adjustment was due to Deep Silver's involvement partway through the project, bringing with it additional financial support that allowed for a greatly-increased scope.

The announcement notes that the extra time will be spent to improve and refine the game.

The text of the Kickstarter update is as follows:
"Hello Everyone,
Along with our publishers, Deep Silver, we have an announcement for the release date of Shenmue III. Our report follows with a comment from Mr. Suzuki.
Announcement by Deep Silver:
“ Deep Silver today announce that their upcoming release Shenmue III has been moved and will now release in 2019.
The extra time will be used to polish the quality of the game even further, to the high standards it deserves and release the product in the best possible timeframe. ”
Comment by Yu Suzuki:
To all of our backers, we are very sorry for the delay. After much discussion with our partners, Deep Silver, we have concluded that extending the release will allow us to deliver Shenmue III at its best. We promise to use this time to improve the quality of Shenmue III.
We cannot thank you enough for your enduring support."
Source: Kickstarter Update #81

This news may be seen as unfortunate for those who had been hoping to play Shenmue III as soon as possible, a delay that ensures the product is delivered at its best is something that will surely have the understanding of the majority of backers. From Yu Suzuki's comments at the Magic event in Monaco, we know that the team is working all-out - including throughout weekends - so if a reschedule is required to reach the level he is striving for, then this has my full support.

Shenmue Forever has gathered some initial reactions from the community.

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Sunday, May 13, 2018

Tour of Dobuita Street in Under One Minute | Hyperlapse Video

Tour of Dobuita Street in Under One Minute | Hyperlapse Video

Take a sub-minute virtual tour of the real Dobuita Street with this amazing hyperlapse footage created by Patrick Fuller (visit him on Twitter).

It captures several locations that feature on the official Shenmue Sacred Spot Guide Map that will be familiar to fans of the game. See if you can spot all of the following - the pause button may be of help!
  • Aida Florist (real-life: Flower Shop Hanamatsu)
  • Vending machine (100-yen Cokes!)
  • Kurita Military Surplus (real-life: Kakita)
  • Water Dragon Vol.2 (real-life: MIKASA Vol.2 & other jacket shops)
  • Tom's Hot Dog Truck (real-life: Pita Kebab truck)
  • Parking lot on Dobuita Street

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Wednesday, May 9, 2018

"Sukajan" Jackets on Dobuita Street | Tax-free for Shenmue Fans

As you walk down the real Dobuita St, one of the shops you will come across is MIKASA VOL.2, which was the inspiration for the Water Dragon Vol.2 Thrift Store in Shenmue. The shop is named after the battleship Mikasa that was decommissioned in 1922 and set up as a museum ship in Yokosuka (it can be visited at Mikasa Park, a short walk from Dobuita St).

As noted in the Sacred Spot Guide Map, MIKASA VOL.2 has been a part of Dobuita for many years, being established over 65 years ago.
A note about the shop "Mikasa vol.2" from the Shenmue Sacred Spot Guide Map
A note about the shop "MIKASA vol.2" from the Shenmue Sacred Spot Guide Map
Although the in-game counterpart is a jeans specialist store, the actual shop sells various types of clothing including a range of "Sukajan" jackets.
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Trailer: Learn Japanese through Shenmue

Trailer: Learn Japanese through Shenmue

We have put together a trailer for our new series of Shenmue-themed Japanese lessons, to give a little taste of what to expect.

If you've been interested in learning Japanese, this could be the perfect opportunity to get started while enjoying snippets of conversations and scenes from the Shenmue story.

Lesson #1 Available Now for Patrons

The first lesson will be released here on the blog later this month.

If you can't wait to get started, and would like to support Phantom River Stone at the same time, why not become a patron and get early access right now. You'll also get other patron-exclusive content and rewards!

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Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Phantom River Stone Gets Soupy

PRS got mentions this week on... :)

Phantom River Stone Blog on Dude Soup

To our surprise Phantom River Stone was showcased on the Funhaus show "Dude Soup Podcast" last week, a channel with over a million YouTube subscribers! It was featured in the Hard Nettin' segment, in which the blog's Survey of Red TVs in Shenmue guest post (produced with JCGamer) faced off against the previous week's champion, a forum-based game.

One of the podcast crew is Elyse Willems, who was present in the GameTrailers live stream for E3 2015 that gained instant fame thanks to Michael Huber's exuberant celebration at Shenmue III's announcement:
Michael Huber and team react to 2015's Shenmue announcement at E3.
Here's the podcast segment with their reactions to the post's somewhat... specialized topic! (The video starts where the blog post is brought up).

Happy Console Gamer & the Shenmue Guide Maps

Also recently, Johnny from Happy Console Gamer, who is a big fan and supporter of Shenmue, did a nice little showcase of the Shenmue Sacred Spot guide maps that I sent him earlier in the year. I hope he gets to make a trip over to Dobuita in the near future and experience in person visiting the locations on which the first game was based.

The Shenmue maps are the first item introduced in the episode.

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Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Mystery Posters on Dobuita Street | Shenmue I

Mystery Posters on Dobuita Street

In Shenmue 1, opposite the You Arcade on a side-wall running alongside the Maeda Barbershop on Dobuita Street, are a couple of slightly strange-looking posters. Have you ever wondered what they are about?

The location of the posters
The location of the posters on Dobuita Street
Examining the posters, each has a large written heading under which is a black-and-white image of a lady and a small child, and it looks as though a coloring effect has been applied to make it look like a film negative:

Two mysterious-looking posters
The two mysterious-looking posters
At the bottom is some indistinguishable text and a small map with a location indicated by a red dot.

So what exactly is the poster about?

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Saturday, April 28, 2018

Shenmue Premiere Poster (1998) | Shenmue Merchandise

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. 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 a bag packed with Shenmue merchandise.

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.

The large B2-sized poster below is one that was used to advertise the Shenmue premiere events. Most of the poster is occupied by a picture of Shenhua, with an informational panel further down with the words: "Whatever could it be, this emotion? The Shenmue Premiere." The name of the Director & Executive Producer is also shown: Yu Suzuki.

A poster for the Shenmue Premiere
A poster for the Shenmue Premiere (image courtesy of Retro Import Gamer)
Underneath this are details of the dates and times of the event, with a map at the right showing how to access the convention hall for the kick-off event in Yokohama.

The text reads:

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Friday, April 27, 2018

Shenmue I & II Announcement Video (with English Subtitles)

Shenmue I & II Announcement at SEGA FES: English Subtitles

The announcement of the planned 2018 release of Shenmue I & II for modern platforms was an awesome event for fans all over the globe.
With the live event being held in Japan, the primary language for the announcement was of course Japanese. Although "Shenhua" the official interpreter was present on stage for the main part of the announcement, not everything that Sega Sammy CEO Haruki Satomi said was translated - so we have added translated subtitles for those parts.

View the subtitled video below. A written transcript of the Japanese translations follows the video in this post.

Note: during the interaction Haruki Satomi makes one or two comments in Japanese that could be interpreted as being made at John Clark's expense. However I believe these were meant in a spirit of fun and were not intended to be disrespectful.

Transcript (Translations from Japanese only)

Haruki Satomi [HS]: SEGA FES 2018 starts from today. We held Sega Group's first one, as a trial, in November 2016. At that time, we ran a live show late at night over a period of 48 hours. Back then, "work-style reforms" and ""exploitative corporations" weren't really a thing, so the employees worked through for 48-hours.

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Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Toshihiro Nagoshi on Yu Suzuki | Sega Fes Livestream

Sega video game producer & designer Toshihiro Nagoshi was asked his opinion on Yu Suzuki in a Q&A livestream session earlier today.

Despite having some "huge arguments" in the past when they worked together, Nagoshi holds Suzuki in great respect.

Source: YouTube video (Japanese)
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Monday, April 23, 2018

Android: Guide to Downloading Kotodaman Outside Japan

Following yesterday's iPhone/iPad guide to downloading Sega's mobile game Kotodaman, here is one for Android users.

Kotodaman is based on the concept of forming Japanese words, with the UI also being completely in Japanese. However if you are interested in playing around with it anyway, why not give it a try!

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Saturday, April 21, 2018

iPhone/iPad: Guide to Downloading Kotodaman Outside Japan | Guest Post

Step-by-Step Guide: Download Kotodaman Outside Japan

Help is at hand for those not living in Japan who want to download Sega's new word-based RPG  mobile game Kotodaman (read more about it here), thanks to Phantom River Stone patron James Brown (visit him on Twitter or YouTube) who has written this guest post with step-by-step instructions on how to install the game on your Apple iPhone or iPad.

Kotodaman was released this week and, according to a recent tweet, generated 1 million downloads in just the first 3 days! The game is a free download - with optional in-game purchases - but unfortunately is only available on the Japan app stores. 

The game is based on the concept of forming Japanese words, with the UI also being completely in Japanese. However if you are interested in playing around with it anyway, we recommend giving it a try!

For Android users: we will be publishing a separate guide soon on a method for downloading Kotodaman outside Japan.

About the author

Hi guys, it's James Brown (SkillJim) here! You may not know me, but I've been a huge Shenmue fan and collector since its inception. Playing the Original Shenmue on Xmas day of 2000! I've been heavily involved with the community since then, and I'm currently part of the Shenmue Dojo team! Some of you may also recognise my name from the Sega Europe video where community manager at the time Dan Sheridan read out and answered my question concerning Shenmue 1 & 2 HD back in 2016! - I'm jealous of Switch for being able to see it announced live in person last weekend (considering I was in Japan only a week prior - doh! Look out for a future post from me all about my day exploring the Dobuita area with Switch!).

I don't contribute too much on Twitter, but if you would like to follow me, please do so :) -  @SkillJim - I also have a YouTube channel with Sega content, and hopefully really soon I'll be releasing a series of travel videos of my time visiting the great countries of China & Japan, and also the day I met Switch in Yokosuka, you can find my channel here - - Thanks guys! 

It's with great pleasure that I present to you a guest blog post here on!  A big thank you to Switch for letting me be featured! I hope that this post can be of some use to someone out there who may have heard about the Kotodaman game, yet didn't know how to go about downloading it from the Japan Apple AppStore.

As someone living outside Japan (in the UK), I was wondering how it would be possible for me to download this game onto my iPhone and potentially be able to play as Ryo Hazuki, which we unlocked in the campaign which Switch previously did a blog post about a while back!
So I did a little bit of research into creating a Japanese iTunes account and I want to help anyone interested in doing the same!

This is a lot easier to do if you have access to a computer or Mac with iTunes installed on it.

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Tuesday, April 17, 2018

The Announcement of Shenmue I & II | On-the-Ground Report

The Announcement of Shenmue I & II | On-the-Ground Report

Sega's announcement last weekend that Shenmue I & II would be coming to modern platforms set the Shenmue community on fire. Interestingly, they chose to make the announcement at their SEGA FES 2018 event in Japan. While some fans around the world watched it on live-stream, many caught the news the next morning when they awoke.

I was lucky enough to attend the presentation in Tokyo. I recount my experience below.

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Monday, April 16, 2018

Masaya Matsukaze Prepares to Reprise Role as Ryo Hazuki

Another hint has been received that voice recording for Shenmue III may bet set to commence in the near future.

This morning, the voice actor for the Japanese versions of Shenmue, Masaya Matsukaze, tweeted out an image of the Shenmue: The Movie DVD cover on a stand, accompanied by the message (my translation):
Time to prepare for my part (^_^)"
In the first two Shenmue games the Japanese voice actors themselves performed the actions for their own characters in the game, however at this point it has not been revealed to what extent this will be the case for the third game.

This morning's tweet follows the news from Corey Marshall, the English voice actor for Ryo, in response to a fan's query on Facebook in March that his recording was scheduled to start at the end of May (with the recording location to be in the U.S., as of the end of last year).

We will continue to keep our eyes peeled for further updates regarding voice recording.

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Sunday, April 15, 2018

It's Really Happening! Shenmue I & II Coming to Modern Platforms in 2018

It's Really Happening! Shenmue I & II Coming to Modern Platforms in 2018

A day later and it is still taking time to sink in for many of us fans!

Following some teasing tweets from both SEGA Europe and Koch Media on the evening before the SEGA FES 2018 event in Tokyo, Shenmue fans have at last been rewarded for their years of hope and patience with an official announcement from SEGA that Shenmue I & II will be coming to modern platforms in 2018.

Shenmue I & II covers for PS4 and XBox One

Here's a summary of information about the release (information gathered from GameInformerSteamAdam Koralik)
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Saturday, April 14, 2018

"HUGE announcement" to be made at SEGA FES

Shenmue fans have been sent into overdrive as the fires of speculation are stoked by some explosive tweets just hours away from the start of the SEGA FES 2018 event.

The first tweet, from SEGA Europe's account, promises a "HUGE announcement" that "you DO NOT want to miss", to be made on the event's first day:

Link to tweet

Now, a tweet from SEGA is something that of course is to be taken with a grain of salt by Shenmue fans.

However this tweet soon afterwards received a comment from none other than Koch Media, the worldwide publishers of Shenmue III, asking rhetorically whether anyone has any idea what it might be - and including a winking emoticon:

Link to tweet

A further comment from SEGA Europe was even more direct. A Twitter user suggested that "if it's anything other than Shenmue I & II HD it's not a huge announcement". This was met with the reply: "It's HUGE!".

Link to tweet
Shenmue of course has not been specifically mentioned, however Koch Media's participation here is highly suggestive. It is also worth noting that the voice actor for Ryo Hazuki in the Japanese version of Shenmue, Masaya Matsukaze, will also be on site at the venue tomorrow (although ostensibly for the promotion of a different game, called Readyyy!).

It is certainly worth keeping a close eye on the SEGA FES sessions tomorrow, all of which will be live-streamed. (I myself will be there in person with the hope of catching the announcement while I am there).
  • See our recent blog post for the English event schedule and information about the live-stream links.
Could this be the Shenmue HD announcement the fans have been waiting for all this time? As always, it may be something quite different so keeping a level head is advised to avoid disappointment - but we will have our answer very soon!
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Thursday, April 12, 2018

SEGA Fes 2018 English Schedule & Information | 14-15 April 2018

SEGA Fes 2018

SEGA will be holding a festival event, "SEGA Fes 2018", this weekend on April 14th and 15th at the Belle Salle Akihabara building in Tokyo.

This is SEGA's second such event, with the first one having been held in November 2016. This year's event also promises to be packed full of exciting presentations and entertainment. Furthermore, there will be live-streaming of all the events on YouTube and elsewhere.

The attractions include:
  • Stage events (B1 level): promising special guests, the latest information on recent games, "surprise announcements", gameplay competitions, and more!
  • Giant Attractions (1F level): there will be a huge UFO Catcher (crane game) using a person to grab the prize instead of a crane; a giant Mega Drive (Genesis) controller for playing retro games like Puyo Puyo; the classic Sega arcade games Virtua Fighter II and Daytona USA; and some of the latest arcade games including a darts machine DartsLive3, and a driving simulator called SLDS-3G.
  • Taking part in an AR Stamp Rally (use an Augmented Reality app to collect stamps at the venue and around Akihabara).
  • A merchandise area (1F level) for buying SEGA trinkets and toys.
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Saturday, April 7, 2018

Shenmue 1 Start of Game Flowchart | Early Design Document Translation

Shenmue 1 Start of Game Flowchart

Introduction & Related Posts

Several snippets of actual early design documents from the making of the first two games are contained in the 1998 Shenmue art book, in a section entitled "Making of Shenmue".

Previously on the blog we have investigated flowcharts covering the first part of play in Shenmue II, after Ryo arrives in Hong Kong:
Today we tackle another flowchart, which is from the opening gameplay of the first game. Some interesting differences can be noted compared to the release version of the game.

The Shenmue 1 Flowchart Snippet

In the Shenmue art book, portions of several different design diagrams have been overlaid on a single page for artistic effect, making deciphering them a challenge, although at least each is printed in a different color. The flowchart relating to Shenmue 1 is reproduced at an angle on the page in a magenta shade, in the area highlighted below.

The Shenmue 1 flowchart is the magenta-colored diagram inside the highlighted area on this page of the Shenmue art book.
The Shenmue 1 flowchart is the magenta-colored diagram inside the highlighted area on this page of the Shenmue art book.
Image credit: David De Ville.
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Tuesday, April 3, 2018

New Series: Learning Japanese through Shenmue

Last month our White Tiger patrons voted in our monthly poll to decide one of the post topics for this month, and the results are in!

The highest-voted topic was "Learning Japanese through Shenmue", which I plan to make the start of a new monthly series aimed at teaching basic conversational Japanese, with a Shenmue theme.

The level will be suitable for new learners, but with a few more advanced items thrown in here and there for people who may already know a little. Japanese voice-acted clips of various characters through-out Shenmue I & II will be used to illustrate words and phrases that are useful for everyday life in Japan (as well as one or two that may be of more interest to those intent on avenging their father's murder).

If you have any thoughts or suggestions regarding the lesson content, comments are welcome.
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Saturday, March 31, 2018

Diorama of the You Arcade: Interview with its Creator

Diorama of the You Arcade: Interview with its Creator

Earlier this year, a talented Shenmue fan and model hobbyist in Japan completed an amazingly-accurate scale model diorama recreation of the interior of Shenmue's You Arcade.

Diorama of the You Arcade: view from the front.
We got in touch by email with the fan who created the diorama, Hiroaki Suzuki - who coincidentally shares the same surname as the series' creator - to ask what prompted him to embark on such a project and find out exactly how it was made.

(All images and videos of the diorama were included with the creator's kind permission. Note that the responses have been translated from Japanese).

An image and video gallery follows the interview.
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Saturday, March 24, 2018

A Survey of Red TVs in Shenmue | Guest Post

A Survey of Red TVs in Shenmue

We have previously noted the presence in the Shenmue world of old red 14-inch TVs, which are often found sitting in the corner of Chinese Restaurants as outlined in this Shenmue design document. It turns out that there are many more of them in the games than one might casually imagine.

In this collaboration post, we present a definitive survey of all such red TVs throughout Shenmue 1 and 2, based on the results of a thorough investigation by regular reader JCGamer who has tracked down and logged every appearance!

Shenmue 1

Apart from being found in the Chinese restaurants in Dobuita, the red television also turns up in a few other locations in the first game. (It seems that Abe-san catches the daily soaps on a set behind the counter of the Abe Store).

Red TVs in Shenmue 1

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Thursday, March 22, 2018

Erhu Concert by Ryuji Iuchi & Hiroko Suzuki

This week Shenmue composer Ryuji Iuchi performed in a special evening concert featuring the erhu (a two-stringed instrument also known as a "Chinese violin"), an instrument whose sound is so memorable from the soundtrack of the first two Shenmue games.

Entitled "Spring Sky: Erhu Melodies Echoing Beneath a Starry Sky", the concert had Ryuji Iuchi on piano and synthesizer, accompanying erhu performer Hiroko Suzuki (with whom he has worked before - read on to find out when!)

The venue was the intimate interior of the Discovery Park planetarium, and with a capacity of 165 attendees the concert the event was of course sold out well in advance. The planetarium is located in Yaizu city, Shizuoka, which is Hiroko Suzuki's hometown.

The photos below from the planetarium's Twitter account, show the magical atmosphere of the event.

Ryuji Iuchi and Hiroko Suzuki perform beneath a canopy of stars
Ryuji Iuchi and Hiroko Suzuki perform beneath a canopy of stars

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Thursday, March 15, 2018

Yu Suzuki's MAGIC Conference in English | Transcript & Video

Yu Suzuki attended the MAGIC 2018 event held in Monaco on 24th February, and took the stage for a one-hour conference. Topics covered included Shenmue's early history, features of Shenmue III, and the revelation of four new images. Questions were asked in French, with an interpreter present to convey the questions to Yu, and translate the responses back from Japanese.

An official English translation was not provided at the conference, but through the joint efforts of the Shenmue community we are happy to present a subtitled video and transcript of the questions and Yu Suzuki's words at the conference.

Enjoy! Note that the conference proper starts at 4:17 in the video.

Video footage by Peter Campbell (hosted at the Shenmue Lounge YouTube channel)
Translation of questions by Shenmue Forever
Translation of Yu Suzuki's responses by Phantom River Stone.

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Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Yu Suzuki MAGIC Conference in English | Progress Update

Over the past weeks we have been working, together with others in the community, to put together a full English translation of Yu Suzuki's one-hour conference at MAGIC 2018. Thank you for your patience!

The translation work is now complete, and the final task of adding subtitles to the video footage is now in progress.

A subtitled conference video and a written transcript of the conference session will be posted up tomorrow (Thursday).

Yu Suzuki on stage at MAGIC 2018

P.S. We will also be making another exciting announcement tomorrow on a separate topic relating to the Phantom River Stone blog!

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