Thursday, September 29, 2016

Kickstarter Update #60: Dinner in Japan Report

This month's Kickstarter update is upon us (slightly earlier than usual, with a day still to go before the end of the month!).

The update consists of photos from the day the $10,000 Kickstarter backers and their guests spent with Yu Suzuki on September 16 for their Dinner in Japan reward, which we had a glimpse of earlier in the month.

Here is a small selection of photos from the full set, and a few comments.

Photo 1: In Kamakura, where they wandered along Komachi-dori, a bustling shopping alley near Kamakura station. It is a popular destination for both Japanese and overseas visitors, with shops of all kinds selling souvenirs and snacks. There are even shops that specialize in cooking fresh rice crackers while you wait, dipping them in soy sauce and handing them over wrapped in a piece of paper. Delicious!

Komachi dori
Inspecting individually-wrapped rice crackers on Komachi-dori.
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Tuesday, September 27, 2016

QTE Sound Collection

Ryo is tested at the barbershop
Ryo tries to calm his mind and ignore the insistent beeps

The distinctive sounds that are used in Shenmue whenever a Quick Timer Event (QTE) occurs are not easily forgotten. The rapid beeps signaling the need for an instant decision; the bright chirp that is played if your response has been successful - or the brash sound of the buzzer if not.

It doesn't take many games for the sound of the QTE beeps to cause your pulse to quicken, even outside of the game.

The QTE short beep and the "success" sound were also used elsewhere, most obviously when entering and navigating the main menu screen before play begins.

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Saturday, September 24, 2016

Yu Suzuki Interview Translation (Retro Games Expo / 2016)

Today's post is a translation / transcription of a new Yu Suzuki video interview in Japanese that was filmed on 29 August 2016 in conjunction with the Retro Games Expo that is being held currently in Saitama prefecture, Japan.

The interview asks Suzuki about his life as a young boy, why he chose to work at Sega, and how some of his famous arcade games came into being. Suzuki also talks about the aspects of arcade game creation that are most important, and gives some advice on the essential attributes of a game developer.

Although parts of these stories may been heard before in previous interviews, with each interview there are always new and interesting details that have not come out before.

And now, on with the interview!

Yu Suzuki: "I want people to go all-out for what they want to do."

Yu Suzuki, Game Director & Producer

  • Born: Kamaishi city, Iwate prefecture, 1958
  • Joined Sega in 1983.
  • Creator of numerous game hits for Sega including Hang-On, Space Harrier, Out Run, Virtua Fighter & Shenmue.
  • Left Sega in 2008 to become Director at YS NET.

Q: What were you like as a child?

Yu Suzuki: I was born in 1958 in a city called Kamaishi. Later we moved to Sanriku village - it’s called Sanriku town now.

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Wednesday, September 21, 2016

The Cryptic Notes in Fukuhara-san's Room

It is clear upon entering Fuku-san's room that he is a video games fan, from the two game posters he has stuck up on his wall.

Virtua Fighter posters in Fuku-san's room
Left: In Fuku-san's room, a promotional poster for the original Virtua Fighter
Right: Fuku-san is apparently a fan of Pai Chan
The first poster shows a promotional image for Virtua Fighter, which looks to be the Sega Saturn version - Akira's hands are rendered in a chunky block style (as compared to the arcade version where he has individual moving fingers).

Akira (Sega console version)
Left: The arcade Akira has individual fingers...
Right: but not so for Akira in the Saturn version, who has blocky hands.
Image credit: gamemaster14neo
The poster next to that on the wall is a CG image of Pai Chan, one of the characters that appears in the game.
Pai Chan
Pai Chan
Image credit: crazyasianfan4
Turning our attention to the far wall, a couple of smaller notes or notices on the wall can be seen above his desk.

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Monday, September 19, 2016

New "Shenmue AM2" Podcast Series

A new podcast series called the Shenmue AM2 Podcast has recently started, with two episodes released so far. The podcast hosts are Andrew Letson and Matt Humphrey (their initials forming the A and M of "AM2"), two Shenmue fans and Kickstarter backers from Canada, who share their memories, opinions and humorous anecdotes about the Shenmue series.

Episodes 1 and 2 in Soundcloud
Episodes 01 and 02 are out now.

In Episode 01, a shorter episode of 25 mins, the guys introduce themselves and talk about the time they first played Shenmue and what it was that drew them to the game. Behind the commentary, selected tunes such as the Bob's Pizza theme play in the background for added atmosphere. I found myself keeping an ear out hopefully for the Tomato Mart song - I wasn't disappointed as it turned up later in the podcast.

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Saturday, September 17, 2016

Shenmue 3 Kickstarter Dinner Party in Japan

Earlier this year, in February 2016, the first of the three Shenmue III Kickstarter reward dinners with Yu Suzuki was held in Monaco (actually, in the nearby town of Eze - there is a fantastic article write-up of that weekend by one of the participants, Amir Moosavi, that you can read here).

Japan Dinner Reward

Yesterday was the day for another select group of noble Kickstarter donors who backed Shenmue III at the top-most level, together with their guests, to join Yu Suzuki for the dinner reward in Japan.

The photos from Twitter so far give a hint of this enviable experience!

Day Trip to Kamakura

Prior to the dinner, Yu took the group on a trip to Kamakura, a small coastal city to the south of Tokyo in Kanagawa prefecture - not too far from Yokosuka, in fact. It is a place that is popular with tourists for its intimate and historic atmosphere and its many shrines and temples.

The group photo was taken at the site of the distinctive bronze statue of the Great Buddha which is located outdoors at Kotuku-in temple. Sitting (literally) at around 13.4m high, it is an icon of the city - and of Japan itself.

Yu Suzuki and backers in Kamakura
YSNET tweet: "We've come to the Great Buddha in Kamakura.
The rain stopped with perfect timing."

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Friday, September 16, 2016

Recent sightings of Yu Suzuki

With the 2016 Tokyo Game Show in full swing, Yu Suzuki has also been out and about recently!

Visiting Tokyo Game Show, First Business Day

Suzuki's message: "Here to check out TGS. Snapped with Torishima-san :-)"

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Thursday, September 15, 2016

Yu Suzuki Arcade Games at Retro Games Exhibition in Saitama, Japan

A retro games exhibition is currently being held at the "SKIP City" complex in Saitama which features arcade and home console (specifically, the Nintendo Entertainment System) games from the 1980s.

Note: a new video interview with Yu Suzuki has been released for the occasion! In it, Suzuki speaks about some of his arcade games at Sega like Hang On & Afterburner as well as game creation in general. This interview is in Japanese only, so I am planning to translate it into English. I will post it up as soon as it is completed.

Update: I have finished adding translated captions to the video. View it here.

The exhibition runs through to March next year.

Overview of the Exhibition

The following information is translated from the event home page.

Last year, "Stage One" of the exhibition was held, with multiple areas covering a diverse range of games representative of the era from the birth of digital games through to 1982. With the core of the exhibition displaying game cabinets that could actually be played, a great many visitors attended and had fun while learning about things such as the graphics technology and how the machines worked.

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Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Cédric Biscay: No "big update" on Shenmue III for the near future

An eager fan has tweeted Cédric Biscay to ask whether any new Shenmue III pictures are on their way.

From Cédric's reply, there are no major updates currently planned for the next few months by way of new pictures or videos:
Cedric's at MAGIC Monaco
in 2015
My first reaction to the question is that while it's true that the last "polished" Shenmue III presentation may have been quite a while ago being back in February, let's not forget the development progress and even some glimpses of in-progress scenes that have been shared with us each month in the Kickstarter updates and videos. I'm quite happy with these without a new trailer being released.

So I hope that the team takes such questions in the way that I'm sure they are intended i.e. enthusiastic anticipation - rather than as dissatisfaction towards a lack of a new update. Although this is the first Kickstarter I've backed myself, I would say that they are doing a great job of keeping backers fed with new tidbits of information, without giving too much away before the right time.

But should Cédric's mention of "December" in his reply raise hopes at the possibility of new material to be shared around that timeframe? Possibly!
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Sunday, September 11, 2016

Dorimaga Awards Part 2: Best Script (Dorimaga / March 2000)

This is the 2nd part in a series of translations of an article that was published in the March 2000 edition of the Japanese Dreamcast Magazine ("Dorimaga") in which the results of the first "Dreamcast Magazine Grand Prix" were announced in which all released Dreamcast software titles competed against each other across several award categories.

Part 1, the award for Best Title which also features an interview with Yu Suzuki, can be found here.

Further translations / interviews to come for the remaining award categories in which Shenmue ranked.

Dreamcast Magazine article

Dreamcast Magazine article

This time Shenmue claims first place in the category for Best Script. Read on for an interview with Yu Suzuki and Keiji Okayasu. 

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Friday, September 9, 2016

Sega TGS 2016 Merchandise: the Ryo Marshmallow

Sega's page for their 2016 Tokyo Game Show merchandise is now live! The big question is whether there is any more Shenmue-related merchandise to be revealed there.

Sega merchandise home page button
The merchandise button has now been activated
on the Sega page!
Let's take a look.
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Thursday, September 8, 2016

TGS 2016 & Shenmue Merchandise

The 2016 Tokyo Game Show is coming up next week at the "Makuhari Messe" convention center in Chiba prefecture. Thursday and Friday are "Business Days" for those working in the games industry, with the public days being Saturday and Sunday (September 17th-18th).

Tokyo Game Show 2016
TGS 2016. (Is that a VR headset you're wearing?)
Entry tickets are a reasonably-priced 1200 yen each on the day, and 200 yen cheaper if you buy them online beforehand. (Official ticket page).

So can we expect anything Shenmue-related this year at the event?

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Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Shenmue Realism: Washing Machines

One of the aspects of the Shenmue games that I love, and one of the things that made the game stand out when it was first released, is the attention to details of real life that are portrayed.

A Reflection of Real Life

For me the accuracy of this depiction is particularly apparent when playing the first game in the series, with its setting of Japan.

From time to time I'd like to highlight some of the subtle details that may not have any effect on the story but combine to give a genuine feeling of the life and culture of Japan back in the 1980s - and which in many cases are still a close picture of the society today.

Washing Machines in Shenmue I

As you direct Ryo around his local neighborhood of Sakuragaoka, you may notice that a couple of the residences have washing machines sitting outside them.

Washing machine outside apartment block
At an apartment building in Sakuragaoka.
Washing machine outside a house
Oops, someone left the lid up.

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Monday, September 5, 2016

Shenmue Wins Best Dreamcast Title (Dorimaga article / March 2000)

Let's take a trip back to early in the year 2000, soon after the release of Shenmue.

In the March 2000 edition of the Japanese Dreamcast Magazine ("Dorimaga"), the results of the first "Dreamcast Magazine Grand Prix" were announced in which all released Dreamcast software titles competed against each other across several award categories.

Here is a translation of the first part for the award of Best Title, in which Shenmue left the other titles dead in the water. Check out those youthful faces!

Shenmue also ranked in several of the other categories, with corresponding interviews which I will translate in future posts.

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Friday, September 2, 2016

"This..." Unnatural Utterances at the Tomato Convenience Store

In the main, the English character lines in Shenmue sound reasonably natural - often with a deliberate touch of humor depending on the character. But it is interesting to spot the odd case that comes across as a bit awkward (or even puzzling). More often than not, this is due to having been translated a little too directly from the original Japanese.

To show what I mean, let's consider a couple of English lines from Shenmue that sound slightly "off", and compare them with the original Japanese that these translations come from to find out how they compare.

In this post we'll look at a first, simple example.

Ryo at the Tomato Convenience Store

Ryo outside Tomato Convenience Store
I will avenge my father's death... but I'm getting kind of hungry.

OK, here's the scene: the brightly-lit Tomato Convenience Store on the main street of Dobuita as dusk starts to settle in. Ryo Hazuki, pausing before the automatic door, realizes that he has not eaten anything in a long while. He resolves to briefly put aside the quest to avenge his father's death in order to buy a snack. He steps up to the store's doors which slide open and the chirpy Tomato Mart theme greets him as he strolls inside.

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Thursday, September 1, 2016

Slacker Backer: update on the PC version reward

While we have not yet seen the appearance of the PC version as a reward option in the Slacker Backer campaign for Shenmue III (official site) since it was launched in September of last year, the FAQ page has always indicated that it is in the works.

This has been confirmed again today by Cedric Biscay.
Cedric is always happy to respond to questions from fans -
a great spokesperson for Shenmue III.

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