Saturday, July 13, 2024

Unused Shenmue Map #2: Island Town

In this second part of our maps feature, we will be looking at another map from the 36-page art book that was available at the Shenmue Premiere events around Japan in late 1998 / early 1999. 

Cover of the Shenmue Premiere Art Booklet

In Part One, we looked at a map that could be identified as Suzhou.

This time, we turn our attention to a second unknown map that appears further down on the same page of the Shenmue art booklet. This one is displayed in black ink and depicts a town situated on - or, more accurately, around - an island.

Inspecting Unused Map #2: Island Town

This map is distinctive and appears to show an island location surrounded by a tightly-packed city of buildings built out upon water. Tall mountain peaks rise up from the island:

Page detail: island town map

As with the first map, certain buildings and features have been labelled with Japanese text and there are small black star indicators dotted around the water's edge.
Become a Patron!

Thursday, July 4, 2024

Poll Result: Patrons' Choice Topic for July 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:

"Interview with Shenhua actress Hazuki Ishigaki in Dobuita"

In this post, we will be translating a feature about Hazuki Ishigaki, the voice actress for Shenhua in the Japanese version of the first two Shenmue games, from a magazine at the time.

Ishigaki was 21 years old at the time, and whose acting and voicing career started a couple of years earlier, with appearances on Japanese TV and radio prior to her work for the Shenmue games. Online information suggests that she retired from acting around March 2004.

The magazine feature was published in the Japanese Dreamcast Magazine of October 1999, and contains a series of Q&A as well as Shenhua cosplay photos taken on location around Dobuita St, Yokosuka. 

Although this was still a few months before the release of the first Shenmue game at the end of that year - and well before Shenhua would be properly seen in-game in the second game - the character of Shenhua would already have been a familiar sight to gaming enthusiasts from promotional material and magazine articles.

The introduction states:

"Thank you for waiting, Hazuki-chan fans. Shenhua couldn't wait any longer for her turn to come, so she has come to the streets of Yokosuka! What discoveries await her in this foreign land?"

Coming soon to the blog!

Become a Patron!

Tuesday, July 2, 2024

Unused Shenmue Map #1: Suzhou City

During the 1998/1999 Shenmue Premiere showings in various cities across Japan, ahead of the game's original release on the Dreamcast, a 36-page art book was available as merchandise. It featured concept art, photographs, design diagrams, and other materials related to the game's development.

Cover of the Shenmue Premiere Art Booklet

In past posts on this blog we have analyzed some of the fascinating snippets of early design documents that can be glimpsed in this booklet, such as:
This booklet makes creative use of charts and drawings as decorative images to accompany the pages describing the making of the game.

Unseen Maps in the Art Booklet

On one page of the booklet, two maps can be found that don't match any of the places Ryo has visited so far in his journey. One map sits at the top left in blue ink, and the other, which lies to the right further down the page, is in black. (The maps are partially obscured by an image of an early map of Aberdeen/Wan Chai, and a photo of a computer monitor displaying a map of Dobuita).

The page containing the mysterious maps

In this post, the first in a two-part series, we will start to examine the maps and labels in detail to uncover hints about Ryo's initially-planned or potential future travels.

Image credits: thanks to James Brown for providing the booklet page images
Become a Patron!

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
Become a Patron!

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.

Become a Patron!

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.
Become a Patron!

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!

Become a Patron!

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

Become a Patron!