Saturday, January 8, 2022

Ryo Hazuki's White Timex Watch | Unused Asset

Ryo's trusty Timex watch is a familiar sight to players of the the original Dreamcast and Xbox versions of the first two Shenmue games (although in the Shenmue I & II re-releases, the Timex branding on the dial was replaced with the Sega logo for licensing reasons).

The design was closely based on an actual Timex Expedition T43371, which was released in 1999 just before Shenmue's publication. Hence it did not actually exist at the time of the game's setting of 1986 - something that is not unheard of in Shenmue, with the Sega Saturn at the Hazuki household being one example!

The Timex Expedition (left) served as a model for Ryo's watch in the game (center, right).

The real-life watch is an unusual combination of analogue and digital: the alarm is set by rotating the bezel and triggered by physical contact of wires as the hands move, which triggers an electronic alarm sound.

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Friday, January 7, 2022

Poll Result: Patrons' Choice Topic for January 2022

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 in to help kick off 2022 is:

"Interview with Shenhua's Theme song vocalist IOLI" (translation)

In early 1999, to mark the upcoming release of Shenhua's Theme as a CD single, Japan's Dreamcast Magazine featured a short interview with IOLI, the singer who performed the moving vocals on the track.

There is not a great deal of information to be found about this singer online, even on Japanese-language sites, so this short snippet of history will make a welcome addition.

We will also look at what can be found about the path her career took following her involvement with Shenmue.

Coming soon to the blog!

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Tuesday, January 4, 2022

Ys Net Animated Ryo & Shenhua Greeting Illustration 2021/22

Ys Net has continued their tradition of Shenmue-themed greetings this season with a new animated illustration, this time featuring Ryo and Shenhua. The image was shared on Twitter by Gameblog's senior editor Romain Mahut, who received the greeting card from Ys Net last month.

Shenhua is wearing a Santa hat in addition to her scarf and mittens, and her earring glistens in the snowy air. Ryo also has on gloves, and stands with his familiar bag-over-shoulder pose - but this time he appears to be taking on the role of Santa's helper by carrying a large sack, presumably packed with presents.

The Shenmue III logo is also present - hopefully the day will not be far away when we see a Shenmue IV logo in its place on new illustrations!

Here are other Shenmue seasonal greeting illustrations from past years that we have covered on the blog :

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Friday, December 31, 2021

Yu Suzuki's Responses: 2021 End-of-Year Survey []

Recently Famitsu published their annual survey of members of the game industry, with Yu Suzuki commenting on his outlook for 2022.
As usual, Japanese website has also carried out their own similar 4-question survey to ask the thoughts of industry figures on looking back on 2021 and what they are looking forward to in the new year.

Here are Yu Suzuki's responses translated below (with images added):
Q1: Of all the games released in 2021, which title impressed (or shocked) you the most?
YS: Little Nightmares II. I was impressed by its atmosphere, and could really feel the creators' passion. The animation in particular is excellent.

Little Nightmares II: a puzzle-platformer horror adventure game published by Bandai Namco Entertainment.

Q2: Of the entertainment content that was released or announced during 2021, which one left the deepest impression?
YS: "Finch".

Finch: an American post-apocalyptic science fiction drama film starring Tom Hanks, released on Apple TV+.

Q3: Which figure personally caught (or is catching) your attention in 2021?
YS: [Japanese female professional billiards player] Samia Konishi. I like her decisive, aggressive play.
Samia Konishi
Q4: What are your aspirations for 2022, and what is your message to 4Gamer readers?
YS: To the readers of 4Gamer: next year's zodiac sign is the Tiger, which is also Ryo's trademark in Shenmue and can be seen on the back of his jacket. Please look forward to "Shenmue The Animation," which is scheduled to be released in 2022, as we are working to make the world of Shenmue easy to grasp and enjoyable to all.
Shenmue The Animation

This year, Suzuki did not explicitly link his comments to the keyword that he gave recently in the Famitsu survey ("mix") but did provide some insight into his recent game playing with his praise for the atmospheric adventure game Little Nightmares II. Finally, it is clear that Shenmue will play an important role in 2022, notably with the upcoming anime release - whether we may have any other Shenmue-related project announcements is still up for speculation.

Survey (Japanese):

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Wednesday, December 29, 2021

Yu Suzuki's New Year's Resolution for 2022 & Announcement Hint []

"127 Game Creators' New Year's Resolutions" (the waving tiger represents the 2022 animal sign of the Chinese Zodiac: the Tiger)

As in previous years, Japanese website has released their annual survey of members of the games industry, this time interviewing a total of 127 game creators. The survey asks each to choose a word or phrase that sums up their direction for the coming year, as well as a New Year's Resolution and goal.

As per tradition Famitsu has recycled their favorite photo of Yu Suzuki from their archives (their 2016 interview).

This year, Yu Suzuki wraps up the survey as the very last entry in the article. Here are his responses, translated from the original Japanese:

Q: Your Keyword for 2022?

YS: "Mix" [Suzuki uses the word borrowed from English, and also adds the English spelling of the word].
Q: Your New Year's Resolution?

To work with people from different industries, such as movies and musicians.
I want to bring a different style to game making.
I hope to have something to announce in 2022.

Q: Status update?

YS: Unusually for me, I've been playing games... I can't really have discussions with people around me unless I know at least the trends. I've been delighted to see so many interesting and unique games.
Q: What will you be keeping an eye on in 2022?

YS: Of course, Shenmue the Animation, scheduled for release in 2022! It will allow the world of Shenmue to be enjoyed much more conveniently than the games. Everyone will be able to enjoy it, so please look forward to it.

For the first question, Yu Suzuki replies with the word "mix", most likely using the word from English for convenience. It seems likely this ties in to his New Year's Resolution in his second response where he talks of working with people across different industries, with movies and music being given as examples. This harkens back to the novel approach he took with development for the original Shenmue project, as he described in a 2019 interview with IGN Japan:

"The industry didn't have directors, or people experienced at motion capture - it was a new concept. Games didn't have things like voiced lines or acting. So to implement it, I gathered people from various different industries: a movie person, a scriptwriter, a novelist and so on".

Excitingly, a game-related announcement within the coming year is hinted at. Whether or not this may be Shenmue related is left open, but fans will be waiting with great interest for any news of a new game project from YS Net.

While Yu Suzuki has famously professed to rarely playing games himself during his career, last year, in a separate interview with IGN Japan, he spoke of the need to be aware of the expectations of gamers other than existing fans for development of the next Shenmue game. His next response in the survey confirms that he has been putting words into action with hands-on play to stay abreast of game releases and trends.

Finally, Yu Suzuki highlights the release of the upcoming Shenmue Anime, of which he is executive producer, in 2022. It is looking to be a significant year for Shenmue!
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Sunday, December 26, 2021

Shenmue Anime X Real Life Location

The Shenmue Anime is promising to be a highlight of the coming year and we can't wait!

Here is a scene reproduced from the trailer, set in the real location in Dobuita.

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Saturday, December 25, 2021

The Mystery of the Hazuki Handguard and the Sword | Unused Game Assets

The Mystery of the Hazuki Handguard and the Sword

The sword (katana) and handguard, that latter being a Hazuki family heirloom, play an important role in progressing through the story of the first game. The relationship between these two objects is an enigma, as during the game we learn that, despite their apparent connection, the handguard is not able to be fitted onto the sword blade.

In this post, we will consider the question of whether the handguard was ever meant to have fitted onto the blade, and dig through a number of clues and evidence that were left behind in the game files that indicate that in fact this had been the case - at least during an earlier part of the game's development.

Story spoiler warning: this post discusses how the sword and handguard are used in the game.

Special thanks to SkillJim for his helpful discussions & to LemonHaze for examining the game code for model usage.

The Hazuki handguard (left) and sword blade (right)

Hazuki Family Crest

First, let's look at some of the clues that are already present during the game.
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Friday, December 17, 2021

Yu Suzuki Pre-launch Interview on Shenmue Town (Shenmue City) | 4Gamer 2010

Shenmue Gai (シェンムー街) was a Shenmue spin-off social game developed by YS Net and published by Sunsoft for Japan's largest mobile-based social game network, Yahoo! Mobage. It launched in Japan at the end of 2010, but the service was brought to a halt only a year later.

In November 2010, just before the game's official launch, Japanese gaming site 4Gamer spoke with Yu Suzuki, about the development of Shenmue Town and his aspirations going forward.

Note: leading up to launch, in English-language media the game was frequently translated as "Shenmue City", but in an interview with Gamasutra following the game's launch, Yu Suzuki expressed that the English word "city" felt too large for the game, and that the environment felt much more like a town. In keeping with Yu-san's guidance, we've used "Shenmue Town" for this article.

The translation begins below.

As reported in our recent article, the social game Shenmue Town was launched at the Akihabara UDX Theater in Tokyo on November 15th.

After the event, I had a chance to have a brief joint interview with Yu Suzuki, president of YS Net, who is in charge of the development of this game. In this interview, I asked him about the background to the release of Shenmue as a social game, as well as many other interesting points.
"For this destiny predetermined since ancient times"

"And thus the saga... begins"

4Gamer: Thank you for time today. First of all, can you tell us what inspired you to develop Shenmue Town?

Suzuki: I don't know if this will answer your question directly, but Shenmue is something with an immense and deep background, isn't it.

I do have the desire to create Shenmue III, giving it the same amount of content as the previous games, but getting started again on such a massive undertaking requires an appropriate amount of preparation. And of course, I also get requests from players, including those overseas, who want me to make it. For a long time now, I've wanted to take responsibility for the [future of the] series if I can, in some form or other.
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