Sunday, January 17, 2021

Yu Suzuki's Early Days in Manga Form! Part 2/3 | Scanlation by Daniel Mann

Part Two of Daniel Mann's scanlation of a manga that was originally published in 2019 by DenFamiNicoGamer, about the early days of the legendary games creator Yu Suzuki.

Go here to start from the first part:

Thanks to Daniel for making this fun manga about Yu Suzuki's life accessible to English-speaking fans!

In this part of the interview, Yu Suzuki talks about the first supervisor he had at Sega, the first game he wrote (Champion Boxing), the realism of his hit game Hang-On and more.

Note: the manga panels read right to left.


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Thursday, January 14, 2021

Q&A With Composer Ryuji Iuchi: Fan Questions (Part 2/2)

This is the second half of a Q&A held by composer Ryuji Iuchi on his special end-of-year Shenmue-themed livestream, a fun two-hour session that was filled with live music performances and chat. Ryuji has kindly given his permission to translate the Q&A into English and share them here on the blog.

Ryuji Iuchi's Q&A translation continues from here.

Q: Over the 20 years that have passed since Shenmue, what changes have there been in the way music is written?

RI: One thing that has certainly changed is going from chip sounds to streaming.

At the time I was working on Shenmue, being freelance I was also working at the same time on game music for the PlayStation, and the music I wrote for it was chip-based. There were some cases where the music would be recorded and played back on the PlayStation as a CDDA [CD digital audio] file, but in general it was chip music. I think the PlayStation supported about 24 or 26 simultaneous sounds or thereabouts, and the music was written using internal sounds.

It was a similar situation with Shenmue. I'd make a song on a synthesizer, and if it got the green light, it would be moved to the Dreamcast - only the MIDI data could be kept, while the instruments all had to be remade. The sound of each individual instrument used by a song had to be sampled one at a time in order to recreate the instrument inside the Dreamcast, which made more efficient use of memory. For example, you might record a single drum loop and import that into the Dreamcast to save memory. 

However later on, it became possible for music composed on a synthesizer to be recorded and played back exactly as it had been written. Shenmue may have been right on that boundary of the change from chip music to streaming.

So I think that the move to streaming is probably the biggest change that has affected the way game music is created since Shenmue. Since anything is possible with streaming, I have a feeling it won't change much further now.

Even earlier on, writing game music required a certain amount of programming knowledge, whether for arcade games or home consoles. It wasn't a case of simply playing music on a keyboard and having it play back inside a game. Back then, notes were entered as individual numbers: for example, those amazing FM-synthesized music pieces that Yuzo Koshiro wrote for the Super Famicom [SNES]. There were even times when you might have to create your own sound driver.

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Sunday, January 10, 2021

Yu Suzuki's Early Days in Manga Form! Part 1/3 | Scanlation by Daniel Mann

We welcome back guest contributor Daniel Mann, who has produced a fantastic scanlation of a manga that was originally published in 2019 by DenFamiNicoGamer, about the early days of the father of Shenmue and numerous revolutionary games: Yu Suzuki.

Many thanks to Daniel for making this fun manga about Yu Suzuki's life accessible to English-speaking fans!

This is the first installation of a three-part series. (Note: the manga panels read right to left).


In “Waka-Ge no Itari: Game Creator no Seishun” (The Youth of Game Creators), Keiichi Tanaka takes us on a journey through the passionate, youthful and excessive memories of the game creators who struggled mightily during the youthful years of the gaming industry (1980-1990). 

For our 20th edition, this week we welcome an icon in the gaming industry: the one and only Yu Suzuki. He created a number of iconic titles in the 1980s before going on to pioneer the 3D fighting game with Virtua Fighter in 1993. He is also the general director of Shenmue III, the long awaited third installment in the popular video game series, which is set for release this November (2019). He is without question a legend in the video game industry.

In this interview, Yu Suzuki reminisces with us about his childhood and his love for handicrafts, his days in college, his early years at SEGA and much, much more. 

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Friday, January 8, 2021

Q&A With Composer Ryuji Iuchi: Fan Questions (Part 1/2)

Recently composer Ryuji Iuchi held a special end-of-year Shenmue-themed livestream for everyone on his YouTube channel, a fun two-hour session that was filled with live music performances and chat. Throughout the stream, Ryuji also answered questions from fans, with many having been submitted from overseas fans, via the Shenmue Dojo.

As there were people who were unable to join the livestream, Ryuji has kindly given his permission to translate the Q&A into English and share them here on the blog.

The translation begins from here.

Q: For musical pieces with lyrics, like Shenhua's Theme and Wish, were the lyrics written first, or added afterwards? If I recall correctly, in the case of Wish, Yu Suzuki requested a song that would be like First Love*...

* First Love was a best-selling song (and album of the same name) by Japanese-American singer-songwriter Hikaru Utada released in early 1999.

Ryuji Iuchi (RI): For both of these songs, I wrote the music first, and the lyrics were added in afterwards. For Wish, I remember that Yu Suzuki did ask for a song like First Love. The thought was that it would be great if it was something that could rank on Oricon [the Japanese music industry-standard singles popularity chart].

Q: Recently you've been creating a lot of music for TV programs. Are you credited in these, and if so, what kind of programs are they? Are they still being shown on TV?

RI: I'm credited in some of the programs, and not in others. I think the ones in which I'm credited have all finished showing now as far as I'm aware, but if you live in Japan, then you'll definitely be familiar with the programs in which my music has played. Many people may perhaps have heard it without realizing. Some of it is background music, but there is also theme music - however, in most cases uncredited. As well as TV, my music can also be heard elsewhere such as on the radio, or at soccer events and so on.

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Thursday, January 7, 2021

Poll Result: Patrons' Choice Topic for January 2021

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 the start of 2021 is...

Shenhua's house in Shenmue II vs Shenmue III.

At the end of Shenmue II, after a long journey through the Guilin mountains, Ryo and Shenhua eventually arrive at Shenhua's house, on the outskirts of Bailu village. It is a humble abode in a rural setting, without modern conveniences or even electricity. The player is able to spend some time exploring the house, examining various objects and wall hangings to become quite familiar with its contents and layout.

Shenhua's house features again in Shenmue III, and while it unmistakably represents the same house as the previous game, it is not identical and a number of changes can be noted (what has become of the Luoyang tapestry?).

In this post we'll be comparing and cataloguing as many of the differences as we can.

Watch for it on the blog in the near future!
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Monday, January 4, 2021

"Masaya Matsukaze's Voice Work Started with Shenmue" | Susumu Aketagawa Interview

This is a translation of another interview part from a series published by Japanese website Anime Hack in 2019, in which sound director Susumu Aketagawa talks about his time spent at SEGA during the creation of the original Shenmue games.

About Susumu Aketagawa

Susumu Aketagawa is the president of the company Magic Capsule and a director of the Japan Audio Producers' Association. He has been involved in the field of sound since the dawn of Japanese animation, and his works as a sound director include Princess Knight, AKIRA, Legend of the Galactic Heroes, Mistin (Kasumin) and many others.

Masaya Matsukaze's Voice Work Started with Shenmue

The reason I was able to continue working on Shenmue over three years was largely thanks to meeting and working with Masaya Matsukaze, who played the main role.

This time, I'll talk about the casting process.

The movements of the characters in Shenmue were mainly created by motion capture, and when we were casting the characters, we asked if we could have the motion actors do their voices as well. Matsukaze was in charge of the movements of the main character, Ryo Hazuki. At the time, he was working as a live-action actor and played the role of Blue in a Sentai series [Denji Sentai Megaranger, as Mega Blue].

At the time of recording Shenmue, Masaya Matsukaze was also a motion actor for Mega Blue in Denji Sentai Megaranger

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Sunday, December 27, 2020

Yu Suzuki's Plans for 2021: "Shooting / RPG" plus a Sequel Tease []

"110 Game Creators' New Year's Resolutions" (the jumping cow represents the 2021 animal sign of the Chinese Zodiac: the Ox)

As in previous years, Japanese website has released their annual survey of members of the games industry, interviewing a total of 110 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.

The survey responses may be new, but Famitsu's recycled photo of Yu Suzuki is not! (It's from their 2016 interview, in fact).

Here are Yu Suzuki's responses for this year's survey:

Q: Your Keyword for 2021?

YS: Shooting / RPG.
Q: Your New Year's Resolution?

1) Look back on competitive fighting games.
2) The sequel to...

Q: Status update?

YS: On November 19th, 2020, Shenmue III was released on Steam and GOG. I hope that the New Year of 2021 will be a time for people to unwind at home and heal their body and soul with a relaxing game like Shenmue. 
Q: What will you be keeping an eye on in 2021?

YS: I sincerely hope that the coronavirus will be contained and that the Tokyo Olympics will be held safely and smoothly.
In Yu Suzuki's response to the first question about his keyword for next year he mentions two seemingly-distinct game styles. This may be an indication of that his studio will have multiple projects in progress including a shooter / shoot-em-up game and an RPG (presumably excluding the FREE-based Shenmue).

Yu Suzuki hinted in Famitsu's previous survey, which came soon after the successful release of Shenmue III, that he had been planning to start "a new project" in the upcoming year. In IGN Japan's April interview, he also expressed interest in creating new games across various genres (racing, fighting, fantasy, science fiction, story-based games, titles suitable for esports). We have not heard any concrete news from YS Net since then - could it be that that projects revolving around one or both of these ideas are already underway?

In the second response, one of Yu Suzuki's New Year's Resolutions is to "look back" on competitive fighting games. It would be an exciting development if the father of the Virtua Fighter franchise were to develop a new twist on combat games.

The other part to the New Year's Resolution response was left deliberately open-ended: "The sequel to..." - surely a tease especially for Shenmue fans! Yu Suzuki spoke earlier in the year, in the above-mentioned IGN Japan interview, of his desire to continue on to a Shenmue IV if the demand is there, and I'd like to think that this response is a reaffirmation of that, or even better an indication that there may be some movement behind the scenes for the sequel.

We feel hopeful that there will be some interesting project news announced by Yu Suzuki and YS Net in 2021.
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Friday, December 25, 2020

Merry Xmas from Phantom River Stone

Thank you to everyone for supporting the blog, and a special shout-out to our amazing patrons!

Have a safe and happy Christmas everyone! メリークリスマス!

This image is from a Christmas Card that was distributed to attendees of the Shenmue Premiere in 1999.

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