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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Friday, August 17, 2018

[Early-Access Post] "Don't you know that blackmail is waaaay uncool?" | Translation Analysis

"Don't you know that blackmail is waaaay uncool?" | Translation Analysis

"Don't you know that blackmail is waaaay uncool?" One of the most recognized lines from the English version of Shenmue, you may have wondered whether the line sounds more convincing, or have any difference in meaning in its original Japanese version. Phantom River Stone attempts to answer that question.

The Scenario

A bus pulls up at the bus stop, and the back doors open. Ryo Hazuki steps out and looks around him at the barbed-wire fencing and commercial buildings of Amihama. After getting his bearings, he locates the main entrance of the harbor area, and walks through.

As Ryo enters the harbor compound, his attention is caught by the sound of thuggery...
As Ryo enters the harbor compound, his attention is caught by the sound of thuggery...
As he does so, the snarling voice of a thug reaches him:

"Hey you! I said, hand over all your money!"

Continue reading via the early access link:
If you're not a patron, get early-access and support Phantom River Stone for just $2/month. This grants you advance access to all premium posts published during the month, along with our weekly Shenmue news recaps & more!
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Sunday, August 12, 2018

New Series: Yu Suzuki's 1993 Research Trip to China Part 1 | Kazunari Uchida's Blog Post Translation

In 1993 Yu Suzuki spent two weeks in China gathering material for his upcoming Virtua Fighter II game, and his findings also greatly influenced his creation of Shenmue. In this first part of a new series, Phantom River Stone has translated blog posts by the person who accompanied Yu on this journey.
Today's post topic was selected by Phantom River Stone patrons in our monthly poll for a topic suggestion for the month of July. 

In the year 1993, Yu Suzuki made a trip to China to research and gather material that had a direct impact on his creation of the Virtua Fighter games, and also on his later concept for "Virtua Fighter RPG" which eventually came to be known as Shenmue.

To date there has not been a lot of information available about this trip. Yu has made mention of this trip during presentations, notably his talk on Shenmue at the 2014 Game Developers Conference in San Francisco at which he shared photos of some of the places visited. Then during my investigation for this article, I came across some posts on a personal blog that were written by the person that Yu made the trip together with - and who later worked with him on the actual Shenmue project: a man by the name of Kazunari Uchida.

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Saturday, August 11, 2018

"What is Shenmue" SEGA Video Series | Parts 1 & 2: Storyline and Characters

SEGA Europe has released two videos narrated by Corey Marshall, the voice of Ryo Hazuki in the English version of Shenmue. The first part details the storyline of Shenmue and what makes it so compelling. The second part delves deeper into the characters encountered during the journey.

The videos showcase footage from the soon-to-be released Shemue I & II (its release date is August 21st for most regions outside of Japan).

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Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Poll Result: Patrons' Choice Topic for August

Every month Phantom River Stone holds a poll among our patrons to choose a topic for the blog in the coming month. The results are in for August, and the most highly-voted topic (including accumulated votes from previous months) was...

...a look at that iconic line from Ryo Hazuki: "Don't you know that blackmail is waaaay uncool!"

If you've ever wondered what the original Japanese line said (does it sound just as cheesy as the English line?) then this article should satisfy your curiosity!

Ryo admonishes Goro at their first encounter.
Ryo admonishes Goro at their first encounter.
We'll be releasing it on the blog later this month. If you're interested in reading it early, check us out on Patreon - the $2 tier will get you early access as soon as its ready, plus access to all early-access posts for the month.
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Masaya Matsukaze Looks Forward to Meeting Shenmue Fans | Photo

Masaya Matsukaze, the Japanese voice of Ryo Hazuki in the Shenmue games, recently tweeted that he will be attending the Otakon event in Washington this week.

His tweet is accompanied by a photo of himself signing one of the First 4 Ryo Hazuki figurines, and he seems to be looking forward to meeting Shenmue fans at the event, writing (our translation):
"Shenmue 3 is in development; Shenmue I & II has been announced for a November release in Japan, and sooner for overseas. I wonder if I'll meet Shenmue fans again in America? (^o^)/"
Masaya Matsukaze signing a Ryo Hazuki figurine
Masaya Matsukaze signing a Ryo Hazuki figurine
  • Otakon is an annual event which describes itself as "a celebration of Asian pop culture and its fandom," covering anime, manga, music, movies, video games and more.
Source: Twitter

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Friday, August 3, 2018

Shenmue I & II Japan-Exclusive Limited Edition: Details & How To Order

The official website for Shenmue I & II in Japan
The Shenmue I & II release date in Japan has been announced - together with a special edition! Phantom River Stone summarizes the key information.
What a fitting announcement for Shenmue Day (on the 3rd of every month) - SEGA knows Shenmue fans will be paying close attention.

The release date for Shenmue I & II in Japan for the PS4 has been announced today on SEGA Japan's Shenmue I & II website as Thursday 22nd November, and together with this they have announced a special Limited Edition! Read on for details.

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Shenmue Documentary Pitch Video "Making Of"

A Gamers Journey: The Definitive History of Shenmue, which is currently running a Kickstarter campaign (see our recent introductory post) has made tremendous progress, now passing 500 backers.

As a thanks they have released a behind-the-scenes video on the making of the "antique shop" scene at the start of their campaign pitch trailer, which is a recreation of Ryo Hazuki's visit to the antique shop in Dobuita to retrieve an item left to him by his father.

Read the update on the project Kickstarter.

If you are interested in supporting the documentary on Kickstarter, click here to visit the main campaign page..
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Friday, July 27, 2018

Ryo Hazuki Interviews Attendees at E3 | Video

Some interviewees were flustered, some had witty replies... but Ryo Hazuki's cool demeanor never changes.
In June, YouTuber Adam Koralik managed to get together with two Shenmue voice actors, Corey Marshall (the voice of Ryo Hazuki in the first two games, and confirmed for Shenmue III) and Lisle Wilkerson (who voiced Yuan, Joy and Xiuying in Shenmue II) at the E3 event in Los Angeles.

They recorded a hilarious video of Corey interviewing various attendees in character as Ryo. He does a magnificent job of keeping a straight face the entire time. Lisle also reacts as Joy when the three chat at the end.

Watch the video below, hosted on Adam's channel.

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Examining the Warehouse Battle Scene | Kickstarter Update #85

Examining the Warehouse Battle Scene

A Brief Recap of Kickstarter Update #85

Accompanying Kickstarter Update #85 was a brand new battle scene image, and in this post we will be polishing up our spectacles to see what details it contains.

But just before we dive into it, here's a quick recap of some of the main points the recent Kickstarter Update brought us:
  • A $450 Toy Capsule Box Set reward is now available as an upgrade or add-on via the Shenmue 3 page on the Fangamer site. With this reward, you get all four capsule toys that will actually appear in the game: Ryo, Shenhua, Chai and Forklift. The $250 reward is included.

    (July 28th update: Fangamer has indicated to a backer that the illustration in this $450 upgrade / add-in will be signed by Yu Suzuki, as was the case with the Kickstarter campaign reward. See this post on the Shenmue Dojo forums).
  • Regarding the content of the PC & PS4 physical disc versions of the game, the following information was given: "Development is moving forward to have all necessary data to play the game contained on the disc. Please rest assured that the disc will not be just a prompt for an internet download." It was noted that an internet connection will be needed for game updates and reward activation.
  • Over $7 million in pledges have now been received. The total pledged amount through Kickstarter and Slacker Backer combined is now $7,063,329 (as of July 20th). This means that the stretch goal of "AI Battling" has officially been reached. To read more about what this goal entails, see our post The AI Battling Stretch Goal.
For the full text of Kickstarter Update #85, visit the official page.
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Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Shenmue Documentary Kickstarter Launched!

Shenmue Documentary Kickstarter Launched
"A Gamer's Journey: The Definitive History of Shenmue has launched a Kickstarter campaign, and support is pouring in from fans after only the first day! Phantom River Stone gives an overview of the project and campaign.
A definitive documentary on the history of the Shenmue franchise is in the making! And now with the launch of its Kickstarter campaign, as fans we have the opportunity to make sure it can achieve everything it set out to do.


A Gamer's Journey: The Definitive History of Shenmue was first conceived back in 2014, and over the course of the next several months the project originator and Shenmue fan, Adam Sipione, spent his own time and money planning, networking with people, and travelling to far-away cities to capture interviews with fans and community members. At that time, there was no official indication that Shenmue III was soon to be born...

Then things changed dramatically in 2015 with the stunning announcement of Shenmue III, immediately influencing the documentary's scope and direction. As a result, rework and refilming of interviews to date was needed, as the project could now include the celebratory story of the franchise's continuation thanks to the passion and heartfelt persistence of the fans.

Adam teamed up with Fauxpop Media and Definitive Films, who are experienced at making definitive documentaries for other franchises. Past film creations have included "Turtle Power: The Definitive History of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" and "Power of Greyskull: The Definitive History of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe".

Furthermore, Adam and team also received whole-hearted support and approval for the project from Yu Suzuki and YS Net.

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Monday, July 23, 2018

SEGA's "Return to Dobuita Street" Video (feat. Adam Koralik & Imran Yusuf)

Shenmue I & II: Return to Dobuita Street
Phantom River Stone checks out the recent video released by SEGA which features Adam Koralik and Imran Yusuf in real-life Dobuita, and adds a few comments about some of the locations visited.
Earlier in the year, SEGA brought two Shenmue fans, YouTuber Adam Koralik (link to Adam's YouTube channel) and comedian Imran Yusuf (official website), over to Japan and filmed a video in Ryo's hometown of real-life Yokosuka on Dobuita Street and the surrounding area.

The day of filming, 13th April 2018, was the day before they attended the SEGA Fes 2018 event held in Tokyo at which the Shenmue I & II collection was announced for modern platforms. (The collection is scheduled for release on August 21st for most countries; in Japan an official date has not yet been announced as of this post).
The video oozes professional quality (which comes as no surprise) and contains a mixture of real-life footage, on-location commentary from the two and some in-game footage from the upcoming collection. Watch the video below, hosted on Adam's channel:
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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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Sunday, July 1, 2018

Shenmue I & II Rated by the ESRB

Shenmue I & II has now received a rating by the ESRB (Entertainment Software Rating Board), a sign of progress for the preparation for its release, the date of which is pending announcement. Console manufacturers require games that are published on their systems in the U.S. and Canada to be rated by ESRB, hence it is a key step prior to release.

The rating that has been given is "Teen", which corresponds to ages 13 and up.

The Rating Summary is worth a read for its rather detailed description. Spot the "shout-out" to Joy!

Link: ESRB Rating for Shenmue I & II
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Saturday, June 30, 2018

Choubu Inn Floor Plans | Translation & Commentary

Choubu Inn Floor Plans | Translation & Commentary
In this post, Phantom River Stone examines Shenmue III design documents for an inn in Choubu.
Going back three years to the very start of the official Shenmue III project, soon after its successful funding on Kickstarter, Yu Suzuki tweeted out several images of concept art and design documents. Among these were floor plans of a building in the town of Choubu.

Building floor plans tweeted by Yu Suzuki in 2015 (tweet #1, tweet #2)
There were clues scattered through-out the plans in the form of labels (in Japanese), but Yu did take the precaution of releasing the images in low resolution making the text extremely blurry and difficult to distinguish. In this post we will scrutinize every inch of the image and attempt to translate as much as possible into English.

This topic was selected from the blog's candidate topics via a poll of Phantom River Stone's patrons for June 2018.

The Town of Choubu

As we have learned from Kickstarter update videos, Choubu is a town on the Li River that Ryo will be travelling to during his adventure.
Choubu is the second main area Ryo will visit in Shenmue III
Choubu is the second main area Ryo will visit in Shenmue III

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Friday, June 29, 2018

Shenmue III Backer Survey Information: Distilled

Shenmue III Backer Survey Information: Distilled

There was a lot of information packed into the recent update about Shenmue III Backer Surveys, so we have put together a "distilled" summary of the key information.


YS Net has posted a new Kickstarter update and refreshed their official Shenmue 3 site with the news that surveys have now started for all Shenmue III backers, for people who pledged through both Kickstarter and the Slacker Backer page.

The purpose of these surveys is to collect the necessary information from backers to prepare and send their rewards, for example a shipping address, choice of platform for receiving the game software and so on.

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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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