Saturday, October 24, 2020

Shenmue III Soundtracks Announced | Summary of Editions


Just as Shenmue fans are recovering from the excitement of the announcement of a Shenmue Anime comes news of an upcoming release of... the Shenmue III soundtrack!

Recent Shenmue soundtrack releases have been for the first two Shenmue games, such as the vinyl releases by Data Discs, and the Shenmue I & II Sound Collection that originally accompanied the Japanese Limited Edition release and has more recently been made available digitally.

While those releases comprised a limited selection of the soundtrack music, the Shenmue III soundtrack release will make available a huge 195 music compositions - some original to the game, and some that were also present in the two earlier games. This collaboration between YS Net, Brave Wave Productions and Limited Run Games will allow fans to fully enjoy the music that permeates the game, and each track has been remastered for maximum audio quality.

A number of options have been prepared to suit different budgets and formats, with the vinyl sets in particular offering a diverse selection:
  • Formats: Digital, CD and Vinyl
  • Vinyl editions include a Complete Collection, a curated 33-track "Music Selection" set, a "Bailu village" set and a "Niaowu" set.
The physical editions include a booklet of liner notes (in both English and Japanese) by Yu Suzuki and "other members of the Shenmue community", as well as archival artwork. In the case of the vinyl editions, these also come with a digital download key.

Of particular interest to collectors will be the special limited-edition Complete Collection vinyl set (500 units only) which includes an exclusive A4 poster signed by Yu Suzuki. These are likely to be snapped up when pre-orders commence for them on November 20.

Here's a handy summary table we put together to help compare the various options at a glance, based on the current details on the Brave Wave site.

Which to choose...? [Tap to enlarge]
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Friday, October 16, 2020

Yu Fractures a Rib: Yu Suzuki's 1994 China Research Trip, Part 7 | Translation


A continuation of our series on Yu Suzuki's 1994 Research Trip to China. This topic was selected by the Phantom River Stone blog patrons via our monthly poll on Patreon and was available for early access.


In the early 1990s, Yu Suzuki made a seminal trip to China. His objective was to research and gather material for his upcoming Virtua Fighter 2, and this research also influenced his concept for a "Virtua Fighter RPG" which eventually came to be known as Shenmue.

Previous posts in this series of blog posts:

  • In Part One, we translated blog entries about the trip by Kazunari Uchida, the person who accompanied Yu Suzuki.
  • Part Two is a magazine article in which Yu Suzuki gives own comments about his trip, and how his findings would be useful for the development of the Virtua Fighter series.
  • In Part Three, Yu's traveling companion, Kazunari Uchida, talks about how he first met Yu Suzuki and his curiosity to learn about the genius behind the man during the upcoming trip.
  • Part Four is Kazunari Uchida's journal entry for the start of the trip itself: Day One - Beijing.
  • Part Five is Days Two and Three of the trip in which Yu travels to Luoyang, Xi'an and Dengfeng, and arrives at Shaolin Temple.
  • In Part Six (Days Four through Six) Yu observes fighting demonstrations at Shaolin Temple in Dengfeng county.
Now we continue from last time, when Master De Li at Shaolin temple has just offered to teach Yu Suzuki the "essence of Shaolin Kung Fu" if he stayed for two months at the temple...

The route Yu follows this time, from Luoyang to Cangzhou.

Yu, who was deeply impressed at his martial arts demonstration, took his words seriously and even muttered "After I'm back home I'll adjust my schedule right away...". After the ever-busy Master De Li left, his students demonstrated variants of Shaolin Kung Fu styles, one after the other: Xing Yi Quan, Piguazhang, Seven Star Fist, Bodhidharma Style and Eagle Style Boxing. Every one of them was a style Yu was contemplating implementing in new characters.

Yu was particularly taken with the Eagle and Seven Star styles and, asking the student that had demonstrated these to teach him how to counter-attack, he once again launched a strike.

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Friday, October 9, 2020

The Legend of Akira Scripts: Two Pages Translated


Last year in 2019, shortly before the release of Shenmue III, Game Informer made a trip to Japan where they visited YS Net and spent time with Yu Suzuki. One of the highlights was a viewing of the early set of 1996 scripts named "The Legend of Akira", which make up the initial chapters of the "Virtual RPG" that was to go on to become Shenmue.

During the relevant section of the video, the camera pans briefly across a couple of pages of text, and so for the first time ever we have the opportunity to translate these pages for fans to enjoy!

The pages displayed are actually from a document printed on white paper that Yu-san hands to the interviewers to flip through. I believe that these white pages hold an exact copy of the text contained in the blue books - but with the name of Akira updated to Ryo throughout (with one exception found, which we will get to later).

The two pages are from near the start of the story:

The first page is an introductory flashback showing Ryo as a boy (age uncertain) being lectured by his father in the dojo. It starts with cinematic views of Yokosuka and the Hazuki residence, ending in the dojo interior. Elements of this scene can be felt strongly in the dojo flashback from the release version.

The second page can be recognized as being part of the cut scene that starts the release version of the game, where Iwao is killed by Lan Di (who is called Cang Long in the script). There are some interesting points of difference compared to the release version, not least of which is that the dojo becomes engulfed in flames (perhaps set deliberately by Lan Di's men), with Ryo barely managing to escape. This may have posed a problem had it been kept in the final game, as it would have rendered the dojo unusable!

There is also a dream sequence in which Ryo relives the fight with Lan Di.

Right, let's get into the translations! I have added some small additional notes in places.

The translations start below.


First Page Translation

Chapter 01: "Yokosuka"

● Flashback:

Looking down from a hill with a view of a bay whose surface glistens in the distance, and the town of Yokosuka below. Standing here is a dojo, once an old temple that has been turned into a place of training for martial arts.

The majestic gate is a remnant from the time it was a temple. Above it is a sign bearing the words "Hazuki Dojo" in ink, written with powerful brush strokes. Through the gate is what was originally the main temple building, now the Hazuki residence. Moving to the right around the house, a cherry tree stands imposingly, like a god protecting the grounds. The raucous singing of cicadas pours down from its lush green foliage, along with piercing midsummer rays of sunlight. Going further along the side, there is a dojo. The camera moves inside its wide-open entrance-way. 

Footage from the Saturn (unreleased) version of Shenmue reflects the description in the script, with the cherry tree being shown in full foliage on a sunny summer day. The tree is located nearer the house rather than being at the far end of the garden as in the release version.

Inside the dojo. In complete contrast to the heat outside, cool air drifts over the floorboards, which are polished to the point of reflecting one's face.

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Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Switch on FriendmueCast Episode 5 hosted by Segalicious

I had the pleasure of being invited to join an episode (#5) of FriendmueCast, the Shenmue podcast series hosted by Segalicious. We spent an hour or so chatting about various Shenmue-related topics, including how I got started with this blog, Shenmue's roots in Virtua Fighter, some theory talk from Segalicious, thoughts on Shenmue 3 & 4 and a "name the character" mini pop quiz.

The episode is embedded below.


The Shenmue Passport fan-made app, Suka Pass, that we talk about can be downloaded for Anrdoid & iOS from the app's website.

The FriendmueCast podcast series features various guests from the Shenmue community (including even voice actor Corey Marshall) and I highly recommended them - they can be found on the Shenmue Fans channel. Segalicious has also produced some great theory and analysis videos on Shenmue as well as Virtua Fighter, which you can find on his Virtua Bros channel on YouTube.

Segalicious holds a number of intriguing Shenmue theories that I'd love to hear more about. I hope to be able to twist his arm for a guest post on the blog about one of these in the near future.

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Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Poll Result: Patrons' Choice Topic for October 2020

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 October is...

"Where did the road past Sumiya-san's house in Sakuragaoka originally lead?"

Sumiya-san is the housewife who can often be found sweeping the road in front of her house in Sakuragaoka in the first game of the Shenmue series, with a key role in providing Ryo with information as to what happened on the day of "the incident"...

Sumiya-san's house is situated on a dead-end road, with a solid rock wall at that point. But the way the road ends so abruptly with a wall built across it does feel a little peculiar, almost as if it is hiding a secret...


In fact there is evidence to be found that there originally were other plans for this part of the game map. 

Watch for the article coming to the blog in the coming weeks!

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Friday, September 25, 2020

Shenmue Clothing Through the Years | Guest Post by James Brown


A vast amount of merchandise has been produced for the Shenmue series since its release on the Dreamcast in Japan back in 1998. As an avid Shenmue collector, it used to surprise me, but now I have more of a shocked feeling that SEGA and various other companies have released such an incredible amount of items for a game series that is seemingly considered "niche".

People are often quick to attack the total cost of the original games as setting world records for the most expensive games every created. However, if you take into account all the merchandise that came with the marketing that Shenmue had, from small video game shop events to huge-scale events such as E3 and TGS (not to mention its own special events) and with batches of new items being added quite often to this day, some of those original "losses" must have been recouped by now!

In this post I'd like to take a more specific look at all of the clothing items that have been released and sold since 1998.

After reading this post, the next time you see a tweet from SEGA asking fans what Shenmue merchandise they would like to see next, and someone inevitably chimes in thinking they have an original idea for a "Ryo Hazuki jacket"... you'll be able to let them know that there have already been 6 (and technically more)!

I'm going to go through everything that I am aware of (and for the most part, own myself), in chronological time order. 



Let's begin with the aforementioned Ryo Hazuki jackets!

JACKETS


[2001] SEGA Promotional Jackets

For the sake of completeness, let's start by mentioning the jackets that were created by SEGA for their promotion of Shenmue 2 in 2001. This is the technicality mentioned above about the number of jackets made to date.

Japanese voice actor Masaya Matsukaze wore one at events such as the AM2 Summer Festival, and in a mock "television commercial" promo video for Shenmue II.
Masaya Matsukaze wearing Ryo's jacket at the AM2 Summer Festival event in 2001
Masaya Matsukaze wearing Ryo's jacket at the AM2 Summer Festival event in 2001
The jacket also made an appearance in a mock "television commercial" for Shenmue II
The jacket also made an appearance in a mock "television commercial" for Shenmue II
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Saturday, September 19, 2020

Niaowu Confidential Part 1 - Ma Jialing | Guest Post by Dave Matthews (SalsaShark)


Hello and welcome to Part I of Niaowu Confidential! Thanks again to Switch for the opportunity to post at Phantom River Stone!

If you missed my earlier series, 'Bailu Village Secrets', Part I is here.

Today I'd like to delve into a character that pretty much every player will be familiar with, but who makes her presence felt around town in some intriguing and non-obvious ways, Ma Jialing!

Jialing in her element

Yu Suzuki, in a production interview for Shenmue III, has stated that Jialing is one of his favorite NPCs in the game. At one point he mentions her as one of the 'Three Beauties of Niaowu' - a group of three women who each have a secret customer phone card somewhere in town!

Jialing's secret phone card

See here for Switch's excellent post translating the interview: 

The first thing new players are likely to notice upon entering Hotel Niaowu for the first time are the hair curlers. Jialing has a perpetual rainbow of large curlers twisting her dark hair; how that doesn't hurt like crazy after a few minutes I have no idea. Otherwise, Jialing dresses for comfort in slippers, a loose floral skirt, and a bright red cardigan. It's a very motherly vibe all in all, and that sense only increases when first confronted with her blunt, no-nonsense demeanor. Jialing feels like an homage to the popular 'badass landlady' character trope seen in old kung-fu movies (think 'Kung-Fu Hustle).

Source: IMDB
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Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Shenmue Undub: Definitive Edition | Video & Download

Case mock-up art by Shenmue Forever

In this post, we present an improved version of the Kogami Shenmue Undub, brought to you Shenmue Master and Phantom River Stone.


Background


A few years ago we talked about a "100% translation" project that was underway by Shenmue Master and Phantom River Stone to produce an improved "Shenmue Undub" (Japanese audio + English subtitles) for the Dreamcast.

Previous fan builds of an Shenmue Undub had paved the way and already represented great achievements, and the Kogami version in particular was recognized as the most comprehensive version to date. There were however a few known issues still to overcome, such as a small percentage of subtitle lines that remained in Japanese for NPCs and a couple of minor glitches. Also, due to size requirements, the use of (notoriously-unreliable) 99-minute discs was necessary for playing on Dreamcast hardware.

The goal then for this project was to build on optimized version of Kogami's Shenmue Undub that would bring together a complete set of Japanese audio with a fully-translated set of English subtitles, and if possible fit these onto standard-capacity CD-R discs without compromising audio quality or loss of content.

Shenmue Master initiated the project, and reached out to Phantom River Stone to work together to achieve the goal. Work took place over a span of several months and a working version was achieved. However the project was subsequently put into hibernation, due to various factors.

The project team is now pleased to announce the result of the project effort: an updated Shenmue Undub which has been named the Definitive Edition.


Features & General Information


What is the Shenmue Undub (Definitive Edition) all about? Here is a brief list of features:

  • Based on the Kogami Undub: this version builds upon the most complete fan-made Undub version, which was created by Kogami and runs on the Dreamcast.
  • Full English subtitles: the official translated lines are used where available. A small number of the Japanese spoken lines (around 3%) which did not have English equivalent translations available have been translated by hand. A few small corrections were also made to fix specific lines that had incorrect grammar or meaning.
  • Full Japanese audio with no down-sampling.
  • PAL-compatible save files: saves can be carried over to the PAL version of Shenmue II.
  • CDDA audio tracks included: recorded audio tracks play as expected during the game (e.g. the music that plays when Ryo rides home from the harbor with Nozomi on the back of his motorcycle).
  • Coca Cola branding: the branding for the vending machines and soda cans in the game shows the Coca Cola branding, as seen in the Japanese version of Shenmue..
  • Fixes for small glitches identified in the previous Undub version (e.g. conversations when Ryo knocked on house doors did not play out properly).
  • Fits on standard CD-R discs: the images have been stream-lined to allow them to be played on a Dreamcast console using standard CD-R discs, with no missing or cut content.


Notes for Play

  • Enable subtitles before starting play: at the main Shenmue menu screen first go to Options -> Dialog & Text -> and choose "Game Mode". This ensures that subtitles will be shown during all cut scenes and game play. Unless this mode is selected, no subs will be displayed!


Download Shenmue Undub: Definitive Edition for the Dreamcast


Disclaimer: to legally use this you must own an original copy of Shenmue for the Dreamcast.

Update: GDI images are now also available below. Many thanks to Guillaume Nunes for preparing these!








Mentions


We're delighted to have had the Shenmue Undub: Definitive Edition covered by The Dreamcast Junkyard with a fantastic website post as well as discussion on the DreamPod podcast: Episode 82: Another Dreamcast News Round-Up. Many thanks to Tom and team for their support of this fan project!

Credits


The Definitive Edition is an extension of the Shenmue Undub version created by Kogami.

This project was led by the team at Shenmue Master who optimized the disc images. Translations for lines not officially available were provided by Phantom River Stone. (Special personal thanks to David from Shenmue Master for all his guidance and technical assistance in merging the additional translations and building test versions).

QA testing was carried out by GameHacKeR.

The Dreamcast case mock-up image was created by Shenmue Forever.

Disc images hosted by Shenmue Dojo.
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