Friday, September 29, 2023

Yu Suzuki Confirms Desire to Make Shenmue IV (TGS 2023)

Yu Suzuki's Livestream with IGN Japan 

Yu Suzuki attended the Tokyo Game Show last week to promote the upcoming release of the YS Net arcade game Air Twister for the PC and consoles, having been originally released last year for Apple devices.

On the third day of the event, Suzuki appeared as a guest on a livestream with Esra Krabbe of IGN Japan.

While the talk was centered around Air Twister, Suzuki made comments about future ideas, touched on a new unspecified project YS Net has underway and even spoke briefly on Shenmue. This post picks up conversation snippets of particular interest.

Yu Suzuki Classics Re-imagined

With Air Twister having its roots in Yu Suzuki's classic arcade game Space Harrier, Suzuki was asked if he has any plans to develop further games similarly inspired by his other past hit games such as Out Run, Power Drift, Hang On, After Burner and so on.
Yu Suzuki: I'd like to make a kind of set of around six games... that's if discussions happen about something like that. It would be nice to have them collected together, don't you think? Like a series.


Air Twister Special Edition: Yu Suzuki Interview Booklet

It was highlighted that the Special Edition of Air Twister will come with a booklet containing an extended written interview with Yu Suzuki.

Esra Krabbe:
I was the one who conducted the interview with you, and it lasted for about three hours if I recall correctly. While the booklet is for Air Twister, I have a feeling it also touches on Shenmue quite a lot - my bad! It has a lot about your upbringing and contains stories that we haven't heard before, doesn't it.
Yu Suzuki: Yes, it has quite a few in-depth stories.

Esra Krabbe:  I think we spoke for around three hours. I think that your fans can look forward to both the actual game as well as the interview.

New Project In Progress


Esra Krabbe: Recently you've announced Air Twister, but are there still various other games you're planning to create going forwards?

Yu Suzuki: I can't talk about it yet, but we're working on something.

Esra Krabbe: Oh, really? That's big news just to mention casually! I hope it was okay for you to say it.

Yu Suzuki: [laughs] I can't say any more than that.

Esra Krabbe: Well, hearing that there's something else to for fans to look forward to is really good news.

Yu Suzuki: It's still in development right now, so...

Esra Krabbe: I'm looking forward to it!

Shenmue's Influence

Esra Krabbe: I myself of course love Shenmue, and at the session just a little while ago there was a Japanese game set in the 1980's, so I asked them whether it had been influenced by Shenmue. And that turned out to be the case! They said that they started development when they had been playing Shenmue I and wanted to incorporate the atmosphere of Japan in the 1980s. Recently do you also come across a lot of people who admire or have been influenced by Shenmue?

Yu Suzuki: Being at the game show today, I've been meeting a lot of different people who have said things like their life was changed by Shenmue, or that they started creating games thanks to Shenmue. I'm extremely happy to receive comments like that.


Yu Suzuki On Shenmue IV

Esra Krabbe: There are a lot of people who have been influenced by Shenmue in this way. We'll soon be coming up to 4 years since Shenmue III [was released]. Are you still wanting to continue on with Shenmue? 

Yu Suzuki: Yes, of course. Because it's still partway through.

Esra Krabbe: So it sounds like you have a lot of possibilities and things you'd like to do, such as Shenmue, arcade-style games, as well as a lot of other ideas?

Yu Suzuki: Yes, there's a lot I'd like to do... it's a matter of having the opportunity. If I meet the right people, or can find the right partner.

Esra Krabbe: Publishers, if you are listening...! I'm looking forward to what you will surprise all the fans with next.


IGN Japan Video

IGN Japan's full Air Twister segment with Yu Suzuki, from which the above interactions were extracted, is embedded below. Auto-translate captions are available.

Air Twister for PC & Consoles

Air Twister will become available in both physical and digital formats for Nintendo Switch and PlayStation 4 & 5 and digitally for Xbox and PC on November 10, 2023. There will also be a Special Edition that comes with extras.

The Air Twister Special Edition, at right, includes soundtrack, interview booklet & art

Become a Patron!

Monday, September 11, 2023

Japanese Idol Group Plays Shenmue on TV Tokyo

TV Tokyo is showing a new video game-related variety show series called Game Majime-san which roughly translates to "Serious Gamers". It bills itself as a series in which "top idols of the Reiwa era [i.e. those of the modern day] play famous games seriously" and features the reactions of members of popular female idol groups playing classic video games for the first time.

The first two episodes covered Metal Gear Solid 3, and the latest episode was Shenmue! It features  comments from Esra Krabbe of IGN Japan as well as Susumu Aketagawa (the original voice recording director of the first two games).

While the title of the show is clearly somewhat tongue-in-cheek - you'll find several references emphasizing how "serious" the players are with respect to their respective missions - it should help to introduce Shenmue to a younger generation of game players who may not know about it, and the background information it shares about the game is accurate. It even contains short interviews with journalists and a former project team member (not Yu Suzuki!).

As the broadcast was in the Japanese language, we present is a full transcription of the show in English, below.

Narrator: Good evening, everyone. This show delves into classic games in an academic way. Idol heartthrobs of the Reiwa era make a serious effort to clear the games. This is a "Super-hard Educational Game Variety" show!

TV Tokyo's new series, "Game Majime-san"

The classic game we'll be talking about this time is...

Esra Krabbe (IGN Japan)

Esra Krabbe (IGN Japan): I don't think I'd be sitting here right now if this game didn't exist.

Narrator: Released in 1999, it's the first entry in the legendary Shenmue game series. Developed on a massive scale as a flagship title for the dream game machine, the Dreamcast, its attention to detail is so impressive that it was even praised by Steven Spielberg.

So, how did Shenmue influence the gaming industry at the time?

Become a Patron!

Wednesday, September 6, 2023

Poll Result: Patrons' Choice Topic for September 2023

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:

"Concept Art from the Shenmue The Animation Promotional Event in Dobuita (2022)"

In April to June 2022, Yokosuka City ran a promotional event in celebration of the Shenmue's adaption anime form, which was run in collaboration with IGN Japan.
There were various activities arranged including give-aways of Shenmue The Animation themed postcards at participating stores and an online gacha-gacha game.

In addition, there were physical exhibits of concept art and sketches from both the early days of the game's development as well as during the anime's creation, to be found on display inside a number of stores around the Dobuita Street area.

In this post, we will aim to bring together and present as many pieces as possible of the fascinating art that was displayed during this event.

Coming soon to the blog!

Become a Patron!

Monday, September 4, 2023

"Bailu Cave" in Kamakura, Japan | Real-life Location

Engaku-ji is the name of a peaceful temple compound in Kamakura, Japan that houses over twenty temples and halls, and is considered to be one of the most important Zen Buddhist complexes in Japan.

At Engaku-ji

On visiting the temple, a small cave entrance can be discovered at one side, just off the main path, with a stone post next to it engraved with the kanji characters of its name.

A mysterious cave

The first two characters of the name look strongly familiar: 白鹿洞 = White Deer Cave! You may recall that these are the same written characters of the name of Shenhua's village of Bailu in Guilin - she explains to Ryo the white deer is the guardian of her village.

How did this cave come to have this name? A sign nearby gives some additional background. 

White Deer Cave

According to this sign, legend has it that on Engaku-ji's opening day, a herd of white deer emerged from this cave to listen to the sermon of Zen master Mugaku Sogen, the temple's founder, along with a great many people. Hence, the cave was named "White Deer Cave". (Note: in Japanese, the pronunciation is "Biyaku Dou", however, with no similarity to "Bailu").

Kamakura is a place we know Yu Suzuki has visited in the past - a recent example being with the Kickstarter super backers on the day of their Kickstarter Backer Dinner. Perhaps Yu Suzuki and team were inspired in the naming of Bailu Village through this very legend.

Become a Patron!

Friday, September 1, 2023

Sacred Spot Guide Map (Shenmue The Animation Version)

In Dobuita, June 2022 witnessed the emergence of an electrifying two-month spectacle known as the "Shenmue x Yokosuka: Anime Commemoration Project," coinciding with the highly-awaited broadcast debut of Shenmue the Animation. Amidst this festivity, a renewed rendition of the much-beloved Sacred Spot Guide Map was introduced by Yokosuka City. The map can be collected on location for those visiting the area.

For preservation purposes, we've scanned all pages of the map for download at the link below. Note that this version of the map was released only in Japanese.
Become a Patron!

Sunday, August 27, 2023

What Has Changed? Sacred Spot Guide Map (Shenmue The Animation Version)

Since its debut in December 2017, a result of a collaboration between Yokosuka City and SEGA, the Shenmue Sacred Spot Guide Map has become an essential companion for Shenmue enthusiasts exploring the nostalgic charm of real-life Dobuita Street and the surrounding area. This sought-after map holds the key to exploring many of the real-life locations that inspired the immersive world of the first game. From the serene Suwadai Shrine to Kurita's military surplus store, visitors can uncover the connections between reality and the virtual realm, stepping into the footprints of Ryo Hazuki in his hometown.

The following year, during the 2018 Tokyo Game Show (TGS), the map received a rejuvenating update. With a brand-new cover and subtle tweaks, it paid homage to the momentous release of Shenmue I & II.
Covers: original (left) and Tokyo Game Show 2018 (right)

In June 2022, an exciting two-month-long event called the "Shenmue x Yokosuka: Anime Commemoration Project" unfolded in Dobuita, marking the much-anticipated release of Shenmue the Animation. As part of this grand celebration, a fresh iteration of the Sacred Spot Guide Map was unveiled, igniting a wave of enthusiasm among fans, (although unfortunately Japan had closed its borders to overseas visitors at this time due to the Covid pandemic).

Cover: Shenmue The Animation version

Shenmue The Animation version: inner pages

In this post, our focus will be on exploring the changes and distinctions found within this version of the map compared to its predecessors. Specifically, we will be delving into the Japanese-language editions, as although the original release and the Shenmue I & II versions were available in both English and Japanese, the anime edition is exclusively offered in Japanese.
Become a Patron!

Tuesday, August 8, 2023

Poll Result: Patrons' Choice Topic for August 2023

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:

"Translation of an early 'Muecas Dan' edition"

What Was Muecas Dan?

The "Muecas Dan" (ムーキャス団, meaning Muecas Club) page was a regularly-published online section of Japanese-language Shenmue content which ran from early 2001 to 2004.

It was introduced in the March 2001 (Vol. 62) edition of the Weekly AM2 online magazine, inside a section called 'Shenmue Cast Fan' - with 'Shenmue' of course referring to the game, and 'Cast' referring to the voice and motion actors/actresses. The name "Muecas" (ムーキャス) was formed from an abbreviation of  the words "Shenmue" and "Cast".

Logo for the "Shenmue Cast FAN" series which ran for only a few weeks before being replaced.

Muecas Dan was presented as a shadowy, elite organization with members known only by a code number or alias.

Two members gave their own tongue-in-cheek introductions:

"T.C." (which stood for "Top Cat")
T.C: "I'm T.C, Code Number 001 of the Muecas Club. I've got the vigor of a Wednesday morning and no one can beat my hourly voice dubbing output! My special skill is imitating Ryo's voice!"
Giwara: "Hic. I can't drink anymore... Oh, it's my turn? I'm a sabotage specialist, Code Number 00... hic, 002. I'm also known as 'Giwara.' I can destroy everything from a chicken coop to a satellite - except for twelve things."
Although never stated outright, the more perceptive readers may have realized from the humorous hints that these two members were, in fact, the genuine Masaya Matsukaze (the Japanese voice/actor for Ryo Hazuki) and Takumi Hagiwara (the Japanese voice/actor for Wuying Ren) themselves. Together with other members of the Shenmue project team, they would go on to write humorous responses to fan submissions each week.

Before long, the new Muecas Dan page would grow in size and become the main place for Shenmue-related content, replacing the earlier Shenmue Cast FAN page and branding, and finding a new home on the official website.

Muecas Dan logo and slogan ("We are the Muecas Club!! ~I Love Shenmue Deeply~")

Post Topic

In the near future we will be translating into English one of the first editions of Muecas from 2001. Watch for it to come!

Become a Patron!

Sunday, August 6, 2023

Weekly AM2 Volume 8 - Results of the 1st Network Rankings Competition | 1st 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. News and information about the Shenmue series could be found regularly within these pages from the end of 1999 through to 2001 with the release of Shenmue II.

Vol. 8 reveals the winners of the First Network Rankings Competition, and announces a second tournament.



Vol.8: 2000.2.1

Hello, I'm Takuan, and I spend all my time in Shenmue working as a forklift operator.

This week we will be announcing the results of the Network Rankings Competition. Is your name included? Check now!

This week's contents:
  • Results of the 1st Network Rankings Competition
  • Announcement of the 2nd Network Rankings Competition
  • News: Creation of a "Shenmue Spoilers BBS"
  • What is 18 Wheeler? [omitted from translation]

Become a Patron!