Monday, April 12, 2021

Shenmue Theory: Sakuragaoka's Best-Kept Secret | Guest Post by James Brown

Back in 2019, I discovered in Shenmue something truly special and mind-blowing to myself that again proved that Shenmue is more than just a game. Admiring its breath-taking detail led me to discover a seasonal change that only a handful of people would ever realistically discover. In Japan, at the turn of spring cherry blossom season springs into life, bringing picturesque cherry trees into bloom with their sakura blossoms that are certainly a showstopper. And this is also the case in the game, with the Hazuki Residence’s Cherry Tree going through a gradual transformation over a number of weeks, as blossoms begin to bloom, eventually leading to a spectacular display.

The petals then start to fall, leaving them scattered on the ground, another fantastic detail.

This whole process can be considered a bit of a metaphor it seems, as Ryo is warned of time running out on his quest just before the blossoms start to dwindle - “When the cherry blossoms fall, the dragon shall descend on you” - and when the tree’s life cycle is finished, so is Ryo’s as Lan Di returns to the Dojo with the knowledge of the second mirror; in the process dealing Ryo the devastating blow he performed on Ryo’s father at the start of the game and taking the Phoenix Mirror. This scene makes a point of showing the Cherry Tree at the end of its life cycle.

This date in the game is around the middle of April, a time which only an extremely… extremely… extremely slow player would reach - or someone deliberately taking advantage of the day skip (even doing this, the player would need to halt the day skips and continue to waste a day at a time as the tree reaches its full bloom).

The above information may not be new to you diehard Shenmue fans out there today - but over the last week, whilst working on the next release of the Suka Pass app with Switch, I had a bit of an epiphany that I’m looking forward to sharing with you today. I would love to hear your opinions!

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Friday, April 9, 2021

Eric Kelso Returns to Voice Ren in Shenmue III | Shenmue Dojo Mod

 

Following the release of Shenmue III in 2019, fans in the Shenmue community have released a range of mods for the PC version of the game to tweak all sorts of aspects, including graphical and audio adjustments.

Back in 2019, a Shenmue III mod was organized by Patrick Fuller that allowed players to hear Ryo's telephone conversations with Guizhang and Fuku-san voiced by the original voice actor from the first game of the series, Eric Kelso, who specially recorded all the lines for fans to enjoy.

And now a brand new, and much more substantial, Eric Kelso mod has been released by the Shenmue Dojo. Produced once again by Patrick, this mod amazingly swaps in the voice of Wuying Ren as heard in Shenmue II, for Ren's entire part in the game! The recordings have been masterfully and seamlessly integrated back into the game, and hearing Ren's restored voice will bring a smile to the face of fans for whom this is the true voice of Ren.

This mod is the culmination of efforts from the project team, and is credited to the following core team: Patrick Fuller* (producer / director), Lemon Haze (coding), James Brown* (testing / footage), Jibby* (graphic design) and Peter Campbell (audio assistance).

* Also supporters of Phantom River Stone through Patreon!

There is even an added bonus in that Lan Di's lines, although not many in Shenmue III, have been revoiced by voice actor Paul Lucas. They bring back that snarling sense of menace all players will remember from Ryo's encounter at the start of the first game.

Both voice actors are well loved in the community for their ongoing support and participation of the franchise ever since the release of the original games, and have contributed their recordings free of charge. Thanks to their generosity, and the hard work of the Shenmue Dojo project crew, fans playing the PC version now have the option of hearing the original Ren and Lan Di.

This superb mod has already caught the attention of global media (including PCGamer). And hopefully this incredible effort will also come to the attention of producers of the upcoming Shenmue Anime. I'd love to see Eric and Paul back to provide the English voices.

How to Install the PC Mod


Installing the mod is simple. Just follow these steps:
  1. Download Forklift zip from the Shenmue Dojo server
  2. Unzip the zip contents into your Shenmue3\Binaries\Win64 folder.
  3. Download the mod zip. This is the complete version which has the new Ren mod as well as the previous Eric Kelso voices for Ryo's telephone calls with Guizhang and Fuku-san.
  4. Create the folder Shenmue3/Content/Paks/~mods if it does not already exist, and unzip the zip contents into it.
  5. Start the game.

Watch the Scenes


If you don't have a PC, you can watch all the Ren scenes (together with Lan Di at the end!) on the Shenmue Dojo channel:


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Saturday, March 27, 2021

[Part One] Shenhua's House: Shenmue 2 vs Shenmue 3 | Pictorial Comparison

Near the end of Shenmue II, Ryo and Shenhua take the path from the riverside port of Langhuishan and cross the mountains to eventually reach her father's house, located on a rocky plateau high above the Yingshuihe river.

This familiar location was recreated in Shenmue III, being the place Ryo returns to each evening during his investigations at Bailu village, with a number of minor differences in appearance. In this post we will take a complete tour of this outdoor area, to compare the landscape around the house as it is portrayed in Shenmue II vs Shenmue III (with the house's interior to be covered in a future post).

Tools used: our out-of-bounds cheat tool for Shenmue II and LemonHaze's miscellaneous mods tool for Shenmue III.

Aerial View


To start with, let's look down on Shenhua's house from above. The path from Langhuishan / Bailu village can be seen entering from the left side, and continuing past the house in the direction of the Stone Pit. The topography in Shenmue III matches the previous game closely, with one noticeable difference being that the plateau on which the house sits is now wider and less enclosed. The craggy rocks and cliffs are have a somewhat different appearance to the more sheer and flatter shapes seen in Shenmue II.

Bird's eye view of landscape around Shenhua's house (top: S2, below: S3)
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Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Ryo's Band-Aids Found at Tomato Mart: Shenmue Cut Content | Dragon & Phoenix Project Discoveries

Another new discovery by LemonHaze reveals that a special item of merchandise had once been planned for inclusion among the stock at the Tomato Convenience Store, one that is a key component of Ryo's visual identity: a packet of band-aids.

Ryo stops in at the Tomato Convenience Store to buy a quick item on his way home. (Mock-up)

Let's look at exactly where this extraordinary finding was made.

Tomato Convenience Store: Poo Magazine & More

The Tomato Convenience Store is packed with a range of useful everyday items, from snacks such as Shenmue-branded chocolate through to the gripping content of Poo magazine.

Poo magazine. (The origin of the magazine's title is unknown. It has been suggested that it might refer to the Japanese expression "Pooh-Taro", describing someone who lazes around all day long).

An importance difference between the type of merchandise that can be found is that some items can be picked up and purchased by Ryo, such as the snacks, while others like magazines are purely scenery and stay fixed in place at at all times.

It turns out that there is a special text file that the game uses to help define all the objects in the store that can move, and this is where the new discovery is contained.
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Sunday, March 14, 2021

Poll Result: Patrons' Choice Topic for March 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 March 2021 is...

"What Dobuita Was Really Like in 1986"

A few years back, an article that was published on the IGN Japan website about real-life Dobuita - both then, and now.


The introduction to the article reads: "Yokosuka is a place where America and Japan are woven together like a mosaic. Dobuita Street is a perfect example. Mixed in alongside tattoo stores and burger stores are soba noodle shops and long-established eel restaurants. It's usual to see an elderly Japanese couple slowly walking past a group of hefty American soldiers talking".

Various shopkeepers and residents talk about what Dobuita was like in the past around the time in which Shenmue is set, and changes the area has undergone since then.

Watch for it on the blog in the near future!
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Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Shenmue Doujinshi "Mankan Zenseki": Extra Sample Pages | English Scanlations by Daniel Mann


You may recall our interview last month with mappy, one of the team of artists who created the delightful Shenmue doujinshi "Mankan Zenseki." (Read the interview here if you haven't yet seen it).

If you enjoyed the manga samples in English that accompanied the post, these scanlations were the skillful handiwork of Daniel Mann who both produced the text translations and seamlessly transplanted them into the original comic pages.

In the previous interview post we hinted at a further set of scanlations by Daniel of Mankan Zenseki sample pages, and we're delighted to present them in today's post.

(The comic panels read from right to left.)


Shenmue I Themed Sample Scanlations

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Friday, March 5, 2021

Ryo & Ren Reunited! Eric Kelso and Corey Marshall Twitch Livestream Announced

Voice talent Eric Kelso (English voice of Fuku-san, Guizhang, Ren as well as additional minor characters in Shenmue I and II) will be joining Corey Marshall on his Twitch stream as he plays Shenmue II!

Eric and Corey worked together in Japan recording their lines for SEGA for the original Shenmue - and following that, again for Shenmue II - more than twenty years ago. (You can read about this in our earlier interview with Eric Kelso on the blog).

And now they will be back together to chat and interact with fans on this special stream. Get your questions ready!

In Corey's announcement tweet, he says: "Eric and I will reminisce about our (mis)adventures working together and will take questions from Shenmue fans.  Don't miss this very special livestream!"

  • Time: Friday, March 5th at 8pm Los Angeles time [= Saturday 1pm JST]

At the Sega studio, during the recording of Shenmue II: Eric Kelso, Lisle Wilkerson [voice of Joy / Xiuying / Yuan] & Corey Marshall



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Thursday, March 4, 2021

Cut Lucky Hit Boards Resurrected in Shenmue 2 After 20 Years | Dragon & Phoenix Project Discoveries

 

Shenmue 2 was the first game in the series to introduce the game of Lucky Hit. A number of stands can be found throughout Hong Kong where Ryo may play to increase his savings, or take on a part-time job and pit his skills against passers-by.

Lucky Hit boards are scattered throughout Aberdeen, Wan Chai and Kowloon, and they offer plenty of variation: each game has its own board size, backing illustration, nail lay-out, payout ratio, rules and rewards. Many of these are easy to miss on a first play-through, being placed in little-used alleyways or sprinkled through the dilapidated buildings of Kowloon.

All these years after the game's release, renowned Shenmue modder and lead of the Dragon and Phoenix project LemonHaze has discovered the existence of a "master settings file" that defines the set-up of all the Lucky Hit boards in Shenmue 2.

Inside this file are several never-before-seen dormant Lucky Hit boards that were disabled before the game's release. LemonHaze has successfully brought these disabled Lucky Hit boards back to life, and they can even be played!

Not only that, but the discovery opens the way to allowing customization of all the Lucky Hit boards in the game.

Let's jump right in to gaze upon a slice of history in the form of the newly-uncovered Lucky Hit boards that were cut before release. For some video footage of the amazing discoveries described here, see the end of the post.


Cut Content Unearthed: New Lucky Hit Boards at the Thunder House

Our location of interest is the "Thunder House" in the Dim Sum Quarter of Kowloon and is the shell of a derelict building that has partially collapsed and is now used as an entertainment area by the locals. It is accessed down a steep set of steps (near the circular arrangement of boards known as the "Lucky Hit Museum").

Entrance to the grandly-named "Thunder House" in Kowloon
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