Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Ryuji Iuchi: Equipment Used to Compose Music for Shenmue I & II

Composer Ryuji Iuchi was one of the core musical contributors for Shenmue I and II, creating over one hundred pieces himself including the iconic Shenhua's theme song, and he is also credited for his contributions in the credits of Shenmue III.

Ryuji Iuchi (screenshot from the video in the Shenmue III Kickstarter Update #21)
In his latest website post, Ryuji answers one of the many questions he has received from Shenmue fans: what equipment he used when creating the pieces for Shenmue.

Our translation of Ruji Iuchi's post starts from here (images were not included originally, and have been added for illustration).

I get a lot of questions about my past work through DMs or my blog's contact page, but it hasn't been possible to answer each one individually.

However, since my blog isn't updated very often (lol), I expect many people are probably wondering about some of the most frequently-asked questions and to that end, I decided to answer them in this blog.

I had been thinking of starting something on YouTube, maybe something like a chat-style vlog, but the environment isn't set up yet, so I'll stick to written words this time...

The question I'll answer this time is: "What equipment did you use when you made music for Shenmue?"

It was quite a while ago, so my memory is a little faint in places, but I'll answer as far as I can remember.

There were several composers in my team, so this is purely the equipment that I personally used myself.

Since the topic is about the equipment I used, this may not turn out to be a very long answer! I'll also include notes about how each was mainly used.

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Monday, April 6, 2020

Poll Result: Patrons' Choice Topic for April 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 score was a tie! Switch stepped in with a tie-break vote and so the winning topic for March is...

"Unused textures in Shenmue: new drink can flavors"

Whenever Ryo is feeling thirsty, he never has to go far to find one of the many vending machine dotted around his neighborhood or over at the harbor. We have seen differences in the drink selection between the Japanese version of Shenmue I (which uses authentic Coca Cola branding) and the versions elsewhere in the world (which includes Jet Soda and Bell Wood coffee).

The new 'What is Shenmue?' video teaches us about jiu-jitsu and ...
"Ah, good".
There are also some additional drink labels that were not used in the final game, which can be found hidden within the game files.

We will take a look at these in an upcoming blog post.

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Saturday, April 4, 2020

Shenmue Blue Pamphlet (Shenmue One Version) & Digitaliland Exhibition

One of the items received by Shenmue fans attending one the Premiere events held in Japan back in late 1998 / early 1999 (around a year prior to the game's release) was a large, tri-fold pamphlet with an eye-catching blue cover containing a wealth of screenshots and other art for the game, along with short explanations about its features.

One interesting fact about this pamphlet is that two different versions were created. In this blog we have previously talked about the Shenmue II themed version.

The other version, which is much less commonly seen, is a Shenmue I version and this what we will be looking at in this post. The images of the items in this post are courtesy of James Brown.

Before jumping into the pamphlet however, let's first pause to admire the special envelope it came in, which features concept art of Ryo on the front.

Envelope detail: the YS logo and SEGA's address in Tokyo.
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Monday, March 23, 2020

Exploring Kowloon's "Magic Rooms" Part 1 | Guest Post

The depiction of Kowloon in Shenmue II is memorable for its sheer scale and size, with a number of high rise buildings soaring up to the sky. Even more remarkably, especially for the time the game was made, is that a great portion of the rabbit-warren of rooms inside the buildings are actually accessible to the player, even if visiting them is not required to advance the game's story.

With Yu Suzuki's typical attention to detail, these extra "filler" rooms were not simply left empty, but were filled with all kinds of dilapidated furniture and various small items that evoke a lived-in feeling.

Long-time Phantom River Stone patron Jcgamer has undertaken a room exploration marathon to screenshot and catalog the wide variety of objects to be found in these Kowloon rooms, and in today's post we present Part One of his findings, which will continue across a number of posts.

Browsing these is sure to give an appreciation for the effort the development team put into crafting realistic-looking rooms that many players may pass by perhaps without even realizing the possibility of glancing inside.
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Monday, March 9, 2020

Submarine at New Yokosuka Harbor | Shenmue One Cut Content

The presence of sailors in the first Shenmue game is an accurate reflection of the influence of the US Navy Base that is located at the harbor in real-life Yokosuka. The warship docked at the far side of the harbor was also modeled on an actual ship that served in Yokosuka, and makes for a memorable sight as Ryo goes about his forklift job.
There was in fact originally going to be another large navy vessel in the game that might have increased this impact, namely: a submarine, which was to have been stationed along the warship.

Its inclusion would have been true to life, as submarines can often be seen around the real Yokosuka harbor.
A submarine at Yokosuka harbor.
The decision to remove it was likely made quite close to the game's final release, as it appeared in promotional footage as late as the release year.
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Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Poll Result: Patrons' Choice Topic for March 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 winning topic for March is...

"Ryo Hazuki's jacket: do the patches have any meaning?"

For any player of Shenmue, the patches on Ryo's leather jacket are a familiar sight, especially the Tiger design that constantly faces the player during normal gameplay. In this post we'll look at each of them more closely and investigate whether the designs and symbols are merely for decorative purposes, or whether they may have a deeper meaning.

Coming soon in a future blog post.

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Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Shenmue Passport - Feature Article | 2000 Dreamcast Magazine Translation

We translate an article that was published in the Japanese Dreamcast Magazine back in February 2000, about the Shenmue Passport that came on disc 4 of the set of Shenmue discs. While some of its content (such as music and video clips) could be accessed offline, it also contained many features that took advantage of an internet connection such as global leaderboards and more. This article focused on explaining these network-specific features for the reader.

Note: some images are of reduced quality as they have been extracted from the scanned article. 

-- Start of article ---

Shenmue Passport

Shenmue's world is vast. However, even vaster than that is the world of the Internet. Shenmue Passport is a bridge that connects your Shenmue world to the world of the net. Don't miss the information published on the official site either!

The Internet Makes Shenmue Twice As Fun!

To all Shenmue players who are not connected to the Internet: unfortunately you're missing out! Why? Because 30% of the fun of Shenmue lies within this Passport.

For example, even if you get stuck in the game at night, you can get a hint right away. Or, learn more about the profile of characters that take your interest while playing. Or even see how your mini-game scores compare with users around the country... If you connect to the Internet, all of these things become possible.

Left: By reading in save game data, optimal support can be provided per user.
Right: Data is sent through the Internet so the content is always fresh!
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Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Submit Your Questions for Shenmue 3 Developers

Call For Interview Question Suggestions

Would you like to hear what members of the Shenmue III development team have to say about their work on the game?

Stemming from a proposal in a recent Shenmue Dojo forum thread, I reached out to Deep Silver to see if they could help assist with approval to interview some of the developers that worked on Shenmue III, and to my delight, approval has been received from YS Net.

The developers in question are from Tokyo-based Implausible Industries, of which they are also co-founders, and have a great deal of experience in the game industry. From the company website:
"Before starting Implausible Industries, our members worked on many games of well-known franchises such as Driver, Fatal Frame, FIFA, Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon, No More Heroes and Final Fantasy. Our strong experience with Unreal Engine allows us to quickly prototype and efficiently develop top quality games in what we believe to be the best games development toolset."
For Shenmue III specifically, the end credits of the game list their respective roles in the project as follows:
  • Christopher Willacy: Level Designer
  • Daniel Markiewicz: Level Designer
  • Cornelis E. (Kees) Gajentaan: Shader Artist
In view of them being in an extremely busy period, the plan is for the interview to be carried out by email.

This is an open call to the Shenmue fan community for interview question suggestions! Any topic will be considered, but obviously most focus will be given to their work on Shenmue III..

Leave your questions for consideration below, by February 26th.

What would you like to ask them about?

Question submissions are now closed. Thanks to everyone who submitted!

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