Friday, June 21, 2024

TBS Interview with Yu Suzuki: Arcade Game Development at SEGA (Feb 2022)

This post contains the contents of a TV interview held with Yu Suzuki and other guests on the Japanese TBS channel in February 2022. The interview was originally shown on TBS as an episode in a series called X年後の関係者達 ("X Years Later: Those Who Were Involved") where key figures reflect and comment on past accomplishments.

This time the episode featured Yu Suzuki, joined by three others from the game industry at the time, with the MC being Kazlaser, a Japanese comedian who is known for his love of Sega, who participated through a video link. Suzuki talks about the development of some of his hit arcade games at Sega in the 1980s through to the 1990s. (Shenmue also gets a mention!)

--- Start of transcript ---


Let's go back 37 years, to 1985.

In the world of arcade games, where tabletop cabinets once dominated, two revolutionary games emerged in succession. The world's first motion-sensing game, Hang On. And UFO Catcher, which still boasts immense popularity today. The name of the company reshaping the landscape of game centers with its ideas and development power was: SEGA.

What enabled Sega to consistently produce groundbreaking games one after another?

X years later, former members of Sega's arcade division gather for a reunion.

Yu Suzuki with the episode's participants
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Thursday, June 6, 2024

Poll Result: Patrons' Choice Topic for June 2024

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 that has been voted this time is:

"Weekly AM2: Translation of Next Issue (Vol. 12)"

The topic selected this time is a continuation of our translations of the official online magazine published by Sega's AM2 team back in the day, the Weekly AM2. This magazine published content about the Shenmue series from December 1999 through to around the release of Shenmue II in 2001, and a link to issues of the Weekly AM2 thereafter became a regular feature of the website.

This time we will be translating a further edition of the Weekly AM2: Volume 12, published online on 29th February 2000 (yes, it was a leap year!).

The highlight of Issue 12 is a detailed background about the character of Guizhang Chen from the first Shenmue game, as told by the AM2 developers themselves.

Questions the developers answer about Guizhang include:
  • How did the character of Guizhang Chen come to be created?
  • What do you think is the reason he is so popular?
  • Tell us about his upbringing.
  • What are Guizhang's favorite foods and hobbies?
  • What aspects would you like to draw players' attention to, when observing his character in the game?
  • What did you have in mind in the design of his facial features and his distinctive appearance dressed in a suit?
This edition will be translated in a future post on the blog.

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Friday, May 31, 2024

Top 10 Shenmue Story Revelations | Shenmue Dojo & Phantom River Stone Interview with Yu Suzuki

Earlier this month saw the release of a brand-new, extensive interview with Yu Suzuki that was held in person by James Brown of the Shenmue Dojo and myself (Switch) for Phantom River Stone at the YS NET office in Japan. 

The full interview can be found at the Shenmue Dojo's website, who have also recorded an in-depth discussion stream but in this post we will focus in on summarizing some of the most surprising story details revealed during the interview, ending with new information regarding the leaders of the Chi You Men!

The Day of the Interview

On the fine Spring morning of the interview, we gathered at a local coffee shop in the vicinity of the YS Net office for a quick run-through of the topics we would be covering, and making sure reference images were at hand and ready. Having been granted such a precious opportunity to spend time with the legendary game creator, we wanted to be sure not a single minute in his company would go to waste due to lack of preparation.
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Friday, May 3, 2024

Poll Result: Patrons' Choice Topic for May 2024

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 that has been voted for this time is:

"Examining Shenmue Storyboards from the Shenmue The Animation Event in Yokosuka"

In the Spring of 2022, a promotional event was held on location in Yokosuka in celebration of the anime adaption of Shenmue, Shenmue The Animation, which was organized by Yokosuka City in collaboration with SEGA and IGN Japan. Various pieces of concept artwork were exhibited at a number of shops in the area, some being from the anime while others were sketches and illustrations from the time of development of the first two games.

Among the artwork were reproductions of certain storyboards from the game, detailing the camera shots and spoken lines to guide creation of cut scenes in the game. 

The three storyboards exhibited at the event which will be covered are:

  • "Encounter with Joy"
  • "Xiuying's Tears"
  • "Encounter with Shenhua"

In this upcoming post, we will be looking at these in more detail and translating any written notes and characters' lines, noting differences of interest between the storyboards and the final implementation of the cut scenes in the game.

Coming soon!

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Friday, April 12, 2024

Weekly AM2 Volume 11 [22nd Feb 2000] - Shenmue Wins the Dreamcast Magazine Best Game Award

In this series we translate Shenmue content from Weekly AM2, the official online magazine published by Sega's AM2 development team back in the day. These pages regularly featured news and information about the Shenmue series from the end of 1999 through to 2001 with the release of Shenmue II.

Vol. 11 celebrates various awards won by Shenmue in Dreamcast Magazine, including Best Game and Best Scenario. The Shenmue Original Sound Track double CD goes on sale, and a third "wallpaper" image is made available for download.



Vol. 11: 22nd Feb. 2000

Hello, I'm Takuan.

I apologize for taking last week off. My tonsils were swollen, and I couldn't even drink water.
Please be careful not to catch a cold, everyone.

I'll keep up the momentum this week too, in my first week back!

Right, let's get started!

This week's contents:
  • Shenmue receives the Dreamcast Magazine Best Game Award!
  • Announcement of a live performance by Mr. Mitsuyoshi!
  • Shenmue Chapter 1: Yokosuka Original Sound Track set for release!
  • [omitted] Exclusive stories about Out Trigger!
  • Shenmue Wallpaper Download Service: Wallpaper #3
  • Shenmue illustrations wanted

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Friday, April 5, 2024

Poll Result: Patrons' Choice Topic for April 2024

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 that has been voted for this time is:

"Shenmue Anecdotes from Shenmue Music Composer Osamu Murata"

Osamu Murata (profile photo from Twitter / X)

The musical talents of Osamu Murata left an indelible mark on the Shenmue series, captivating players around the world with his unforgettable compositions.

Fresh out of university, Murata joined AM2 Sound Section at SEGA and quickly immersed himself in a number of arcade projects, over 10 titles during his time there, including classics like F355 Challenge and Virtua Cop 3.

Murata's exceptional talent as a composer saw him produce a staggering estimated 800-1000 songs during the project, pouring his heart and soul into crafting the atmospheric pieces that enrich the Shenmue experience. Murata's dedication to his craft was such that he pushed himself to the brink, even blacking out at the piano during an arduous composing session (as related in his interview with Shenmue World magazine, Issue 2).

When Murata first joined the Shenmue project, he was also responsible for recording the spoken lines of a great number of voice actors, and is officially credited as Voice Recording Chief for US Shenmue.

Among his many compositions are such standouts as Nozomi's Theme, Xiuying's Theme, and Yokosuka Blues (Goro's Theme) which became instant classics, each adding depth and emotion to the Shenmue universe. Also, a number of his compositions from among the vast pool of music that ended up unused during the original project were selected for inclusion in the latest chapter, Shenmue 3.

Xiuying's Theme, composed by Osamu Murata, which accompanies her instruction on the Swallow Flip move

In our upcoming post, we'll share a selection of Murata's tweets from recent years, where he recounts anecdotes and memories from his time working on the Shenmue project as one of the music composers. These tweets offer an insightful look into the creative process behind one of gaming's most beloved series, directly from the perspective of one of the individuals who contributed to its music. Get ready to dive into Murata's firsthand experiences and reflections!

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Thursday, April 4, 2024

Sega's Precautions with Phone Numbers in Shenmue

On its initial release in Japan in December 1999, Shenmue impressed players with its realistic settings and attention to detail.

One such detail was the accuracy with which phone calls were reproduced in order to check the weather forecast, speak with Nozomi or gain access to Warehouse No. 8. Local phone numbers even had the correct area code for Yokosuka city (0468). 

This proved to be a slight headache for Sega, as some of the eager players tried actually calling the numbers. While the numbers used in the game were said to have been reserved beforehand by Sega to prevent nuisance calls, nonetheless a warning was issued in the February 2000 edition of the Weekly AM2 online magazine (which we recently translated) asking players to refrain from trying to call the numbers.

"Attention: Regarding the phone numbers used in Shenmue

The phone numbers used in the game Shenmue Chapter 1: Yokosuka are intentionally designed not to allow actual calls. Recently, there has been an increase in attempted calls, leading to nuisances such as wrong numbers.

We kindly request your cooperation to refrain from making actual calls. Thank you for your understanding".

More on this topic was revealed in an interview with Shenmue game director Eigo Kasahara in Adam Sipione's Shenmue Documentary, "A Gamers Journey: The Definitive History of Shenmue" 

Eigo Kasahara: Yu-san wanted to display the proper area codes in the game. The problem we raised was that players would try to call them. And we couldn't just make something up. In which case, Yu-san proposed we get hold of those phone numbers. We wondered how many we should get. We ended up getting about five.

When he gave us that instruction, the first thing we did was to check whether there was anyone at Sega who lived in Yokosuka and in fact there was one person who did. So we approached that person and explained that we wanted to obtain five phone lines, with any costs of course being covered by Sega. His house already had a telephone connection, although it didn't have an actual telephone. So we were able to obtain four, I think it was, real phone numbers.

At that time, there was someone who actually tried calling the number for Master Chen. Apparently, when he heard a proper ringing tone, he got spooked and hung up! However, the phone numbers were all ones where definitely nobody would answer.

In truth, I had been thinking of having them connect in the future to something like "Shenmue Fun Facts", although that part didn't get implemented.

Those numbers were actually held for several years afterwards. Then the Sega employee who had let us obtain the numbers informed us that he would be retiring, and asked us to do something about those phone lines. So we actually went along and arranged the infrastructure work needed to deregister the phone numbers.

Eigo Kasahara was also in charge of the Shenmue I & II re-releases, and he explained that he took the opportunity to avoid potential problems by shortening the phone numbers used in the game by omitting the last digit:

Eigo Kasahara: These days, we don't know where they connect to, and registering phone numbers was out of the question at this late stage, so for the remake we abandoned that idea and dropped a digit instead. 

Wishing everyone a Happy Shenmue Day!

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Thursday, March 28, 2024

Weekly AM2 Volume 10 - Results of the 3rd Network Rankings Tournament | 15 Feb 2000

In this series we translate Shenmue content from Weekly AM2, the official online magazine published by Sega's AM2 development team back in the day. These pages regularly featured news and information about the Shenmue series from the end of 1999 through to 2001 with the release of Shenmue II.

Vol. 10 gives the winners of the Third Network Rankings Tournament, which was for Forklift Racing. The next competition is announced, which will be for Space Harrier.



Vol. 10: 15th Feb. 2000

Hello, nice to meet you.

I'm Saito, stepping in for Takuan today as he is unwell and unable to make it. I hope you'll stick with me through to the end of the issue.

This week's contents:
  • Announcement of the results of the 3rd Network Rankings Tournament
  • Notice of the 4th Network Rankings Tournament
  • Messages from winners of the 2nd Network Rankings Tournament (70-player Battle)
  • Strategy guide for Shenmue Chapter 1: Yokosuka confirmed for release!
  • Messages from top performers in the F355 Challenge Network Rankings [omitted]
  • Shenmue Spoiler BBS (Bulletin Board System) opens today!
  • AM2 Supporters Homepage launched
  • Shenmue Chapter 1: Yokosuka Director Okayasu to feature on the "Super Mobile Anime & Game Master" radio show
  • i-mode gallery image #3

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