Saturday, August 8, 2020

Poll Result: Patrons' Choice Topic for August 2020

Every month Phantom River Stone holds a poll among our patrons to choose a topic for the blog in the coming month. After tallying the votes (including accumulated votes from previous months), the the winning topic for August is...

"Ryo's Bicycle Riding Ability: What Had Been Planned"

SEGA head teased Ryo's ability to ride a bicycle before the release of Shenmue, and a clip of Ryo riding through Dobuita had even been included in promotional footage in the months leading up to the game. So it came as a surprise to players to find that this feature was not present in the final game.

We will gather together the clues that remain to piece together what had originally been planned.

Watch for an article on this topic in an upcoming blog post!

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Saturday, August 1, 2020

Shenmue Forest Demo (1999 Digitaliland Event Promotion)

Shenmue Digitaliland Event Demo Software (1999)
Digitaliland event flyer, with screenshots from the software demo.
Image credit: James Brown

In an earlier post we covered the extravagant Shenmue promotional exhibition, which was named "Shenmue Forest",  at an event called Digitaliland at the start of May in 1999.

Related Post:
The Digitaliland event came just a month and a half after the 1999 Spring Tokyo Game Show (at which Shenmue was also promoted), but a lot of forethought and planning was put into making this this exhibition something that would dazzle attendees. Yu Suzuki and team even went as far as to build a special software demo that allowed the public to virtually experience what the upcoming exhibition would be like. Full-color flyers announcing the event were distributed using screenshots from the demo (see the title image)

In today's post we will look more closely at this special "Shenmue Forest" demo.

About the Shenmue Forest Software Demo

The Shenmue Forest hands-on demo appeared at the SEGA booth at the Tokyo Game Show in March '99. as a way to fan excitement for the upcoming exhibition, and ran on Dreamcast hardware.

The concept of the demo was simple: it allowed the player to navigate (as Ryo Hazuki) around a three-dimensional virtual model of the yet-to-be Shenmue Forest exhibition.
"The virtual space of 'Shenmue Forest' was able to be played on screen at this game show (TGS '99). Amazing!"
"A virtual recreation of 'Shenmue Forest' was able to be played on screen at this game show (TGS '99). Amazing!"

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Sunday, July 19, 2020

Special Items in Kowloon's "Magic Rooms" | Exploration Series Final Part | Jcgamer

Special Items in Kowloon's "Magic Rooms" | Exploration Series Final Part | Jcgamer

In this Kowloon Exploration series, we have been examining the variety of furniture and other objects that fills the rooms of Kowloon's skyscrapers in Shenmue 2. All screenshots were taken by Jcgamer who carried out a thorough investigation of each room, capturing and cataloging everything found.

Links to the previous parts:
This post is the final part of the series, and we've saved some special items for last!

As well as rounding off our survey of more common items that can be found in multiple locations (Bags, Containers, Vases and Miscellaneous) we'll also present some rarer ones that can be found in only a few rooms - including revealing the location of the legendary revolver!

Category: Bags & Cases

Among the items In this first category, Bags & Cases, are a business-style case, hard-shell travel suitcases, a ladies' handbag and even a dubious-looking bag that looks perfect for holding bundles of cash.

Bags & Cases

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Thursday, July 16, 2020

Bailu Village Secrets Part 3 - Kong Mei: A Life | Guest Post by Dave Matthews (SalsaShark)

Bailu Village Secrets Part 3: Kong Mei

Hello again everyone! Welcome back for Part III of Bailu Village Secrets!  If you missed them, Parts I & II can be found here:
Throughout the last two posts I've been dropping what I hope were enticing hints about one of my absolute favorite characters in Shenmue III, Kong Mei. Now the time has finally arrived for a deep dive into a life that's taken many fascinating (and easily missable) turns!

A Kindly Shop Owner (or A Prickly Granny)

A view of Panda Market at night
A view of Panda Market at night
Panda Market becomes accessible fairly early in the story when Ryo is tasked with tracking down the stone mason, Ke Junhao, and it's about the closest thing to a bustling downtown as you'll find in Bailu. Depending on the time of day, Ryo can encounter different villagers going to and fro as they shop at the fruit stand, take in the savory aroma of steamed buns, and line up in front of the Bai Jiu Stand (seriously, Su Hong must be doing gangbusters).

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Saturday, July 11, 2020

Shenmue Selected by IGN Japan as All-Time Best SEGA Game

Shenmue Selected As IGN Japan's All-Time Best SEGA Game

To celebrate the year of SEGA's 60th anniversary, IGN Japan counted down their all-time top 10 SEGA games.

And ranking in at first place is Shenmue - specifically, the first game in the series!

IGN Japan's Esra Krabbe commented on the magic of Shenmue as follows (translation):
"Shenmue undeniably had a tremendous influence on the games that followed it, although now of course there are many games that - on the surface, at least - far surpass it. However, this is not a title that can be simply dismissed as "old". Its design, which focuses on density over area size and reality over entertainment, creates a real, believable world that amazes even now. Shenmue follows real-world rules to an extent that some might find tedious, and with some of its highlights being details that can easily go unnoticed, it can be hard to understand what makes it so special. The premise of a young Japanese man traveling to China creates a unique setting. The story, which deals with concepts such as cultural values and communication across cultures and depicts a journey of finding one’s roots, forms something so powerful it can be life-changing, especially if you play it in your formative years".

IGN Japan's All-Time Top 10 SEGA Games 

  1. Shenmue
  2. Yakuza 0
  3. Virtua Fighter 4
  4. Nights into Dreams
  5. Sonic Adventure
  6. Valkyria Chronicles
  7. Jet Set Radio
  8. Sakura Wars 4
  9. Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA
  10. Out Run
Notes on the selection:
  • Eligibility: any game ever developed or published by SEGA, regardless of platform.
  • Factors considered included historical impact, innovation and quality.
  • In the case of a game series, only one title from the series could be selected.
  • Titles by Atlus, a subsidiary of SEGA, were excluded.
Source: IGN Japan article (Japanese)
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Sunday, July 5, 2020

Poll Result: Patrons' Choice Topic for July 2020

Every month Phantom River Stone holds a poll among our patrons to choose a topic for the blog in the coming month. After tallying the votes (including accumulated votes from previous months), the the winning topic for July is...

"Memories about working on Shenmue I & II by various Japanese voice actors & project members".

In November 2018, when Shenmue I & II was released in Japan, gathered comments from several of the original members of the Japanese cast and development team, and asked them to share their memories of creating the games. Included were Masaya Matsukaze (voice & motion actor for Ryo), Ikue Ōtani (voice of Megumi), Tow Ubukata (scenario writing) and Takenobu Mitsuyoshi (music).

We will be translating their comments into English in an upcoming blog post.

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Saturday, July 4, 2020

Exploring Shenmue Forest at the "Network Jungle II: Digitaliland" Event (1999)

Exploring Shenmue Forest at the "Network Jungle II: Digitaliland" Event (1999)

Coming into 1999, the excitement around the upcoming release of Shenmue was growing ever stronger. The game had been gathering widespread interest, with Shenmue Premiere events being held in multiple cities across Japan from the end of the previous year, and the public had their first hands-on taste of Shenmue at the March 1999 Tokyo Game Show (TGS). Following this, the next major event at which Shenmue was shown was a multimedia event called "Network Jungle II: Digitaliland" in early May 1999. SEGA pulled out all the stops in promoting the game, with video footage, stage events, merchandise, demonstrations, hands-on play and even a special "virtual exhibition" demo which ran on Dreamcast hardware. Magazine reports quoted Yu Suzuki as saying people could look forward to seeing significant improvements since the Shenmue demos shown at TGS.

In this post we'll recap everything SEGA lined up for Shenmue at the Digitaliland event.

Image credits: special thanks to PRS patron James Brown, our friends at Shenmue Master and to Kohji for their images & photos of the event.

Network Jungle

If you are wondering about the meaning behind the event's name...

"Network Jungle" is the name of an experimental project that was started by NHK Enterprises (one of the group companies owned by Japan's national broadcaster NHK) in 1997, to investigate how digital content and communications would shape Japan's society in the near future. Government ministries were also involved as sponsors.

Part I took the form of a special broadcast program on channel BS2 in 1997 that was called "Network Jungle: How Electronic Networks Will Change the World".

For Part II, a three-day exhibition event was organized to allow the public to experience the potential of multimedia and digital communications for themselves. A digest of this event was subsequently broadcast as a documentary with the even wordier name of "Network Jungle II: The Future is Coming to Your Home! Explore Digitaliland!" 

A few months later, in July of that year, NHK would broadcast a third documentary in the Network Jungle series, "Network Jungle III: a Vision of the Future! A New Digital Era", which documented the making of Shenmue.

Today's post is about the Shenmue promotion at the event produced for the second part of the Network Jungle series.

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Friday, June 26, 2020

The Official Shenmue Jigsaw Puzzle | Timelapse Video by James Brown

The Official Shenmue Jigsaw Puzzle | Timelapse Video by James Brown

The Shenmue jigsaw puzzle is one of the lesser-known pieces of officially-licensed Shenmue merchandise, released in 1999 ahead of the launch of the first game in the series, and there is very little to be found online in the way of information or even images.

But it's now possible to see the jigsaw up close, thanks to avid Shenmue collector and PRS patron James Brown, who has created a superb timelapse video showcasing the jigsaw and showing the start-to-finish process of solving and framing the jigsaw. The many hours of effort it took to finish can be enjoyed in minutes!

About the Shenmue Jigsaw

The jigsaw was released as a licensed product of SEGA Enterprises in 1999.
  • Size: 750 x 500 mm
  • Pieces: 1000
  • Manufacturer: Yutaka, with "PUZZLE COMPANY" branding
  • Box contents: bag of jigsaw pieces, general information sheet, glue & sponge.
  • Serial number: N3100-001
  • Country of manufacture: Japan
  • Year of release: 1999
The jigsaw image is a composite of characters from the Shenmue series: Ryo Hauzki, Shenhua, Xiuying, Lan Di, Iwao Hazuki, Niao Sun, Chai and Ren. At the bottom right is the Shenmue logo, and a smaller YS logo.
Box cover
Box cover

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