Sunday, October 1, 2017

Shenmue 2 Concept Sketch: "Wharf Near Langhuishan" | Comparison with Released Game

In an interview last year, Yu Suzuki brought along with him copies of several design documents and concept sketches that had been created for Shenmue I and II. Images of these documents were included with the article text but weren't mentioned in the interview itself.

The document we'll be looking at in this post is concept art showing Langhuishan in Guilin, where Ryo heads after leaving Hong Kong towards the end of Shenmue II.


Ryo arrives at Langhuishan.
Ryo arrives at Langhuishan (Shenmue II cutscene).

The small settlement at Langhuishan will be immediately familiar to players who have completed Shenmue II. Located on the bank of the Li River that flows through Guilin, it consists of not much more than a wharf and a handful of small shops and buildings. It is surrounded by steep mountains, with river travel being the easiest method of transportation to reach it.

The map below shows how compact the area is (this graphic was discussed in this earlier post):
Map of Langhuishan
Map of Langhuishan.
The Chinese characters making up the name "Langhuishan" (狼回山) mean "mountain where wolves roam".

This meaning is explained in the game by Shenhua, who tells Ryo about it in the following conversation, as they shelter overnight in a cave:
Ryo: What was that?
Shenhua: Wolves.
Ryo: Wolves... Are they nearby?
Shenhua: Yes, there are many wolves. The name Langhuishan means, Wolves Mountain.
Ryo: I heard that wolves are nocturnal.
Shenhua: Yes, sometimes groups of them attack people at night.
Ryo: People... Aren't you scared?
Shenhua: We'll be fine if we have the fire burning. They would never come near a fire.
(Sidenote: interestingly, the English subtitles have "Langhui Mountain", although in the audio Shenhua says "Langhuishan" - both can be considered correct.)

Concept Sketch: "Wharf Near Langhuishan"

This is the sketch of Langhuishan that Yu Suzuki shared, with the labels translated:
Concept sketch: "Wharf Near Langhuishan"
Concept sketch: "Wharf Near Langhuishan"
With the help of a small hack to allow Ryo to move past the game's normal boundaries, here is a composite panorama view (below) of the same area in the game. [Click to enlarge the image].
The Languishan area in Shenmue II.
The Languishan area in Shenmue II.
They share similar features, with a couple of interesting differences. We'll step through to compare them in more detail.

Comparison: Riverboat

The river boat: concept sketch vs actual game
The river boat: concept sketch vs actual game.
The riverboat can be seen in the foreground, moving along the Li River. Its form closely resembles the one used in the game. One noticeable difference is that the upper level of the boat is covered in the sketch, but is an open deck in the game - perhaps to better show Ryo standing there in the arrival cut scene.

Comparison: Landing Area

Landing area: concept sketch vs actual game
Landing area: concept sketch vs actual game
The wharf in the sketch is fairly simpler and sits low in the water. The area is not very developed and only a single building can be seen, which is marked "wharf management hut." In the game the wharf has been made more substantial and there is a mixture of shops and other structures present.

To the rear of this area, an arrow indicates the path that leads along the tributary, which is the path Ryo follows in the game to reach Bailu village.

Comparison: Yingshuihe (River of Fireflies)

The tributary that branches off from the Li river is named Yingshuihe (蛍水川). The characters in the name are "firefly water river".

The place where this branches off is not usually directly viewable in the game, but for interest here is a comparison of the view if Ryo moves out of bounds:
The Yingshuihe tributary
The Yingshuihe tributary (left: concept sketch; right: in-game screenshot)
In Shenmue II, Shenhua talks about the Yingshuihe river's name and meaning to Ryo:
Shenhua: It's a song about the landscape of Guilin. The mountains of Guilin glisten after the rain. Clear water flows into the spring which flows into the river of Yingshuihe.
Ryo: Yingshuihe...
Shenhua: It's the river where you saved me.
Ryo: Ah...
Shenhua: In the summer, there are fireflies by the riverside.
Ryo: So the name Yingshuihe means river of fireflies...
Shenhua: Yes.

Comparison: Langhuishan (Wolves Mountain)

The name Langhuishan in the game is used generally as the settlement's name, such as in the loading screen:
The loading screen shown when arriving at the wharf
The loading screen shown when arriving at the wharf.
However the precise location of the actual mountain that gives Langhuishan its name is pinpointed in the sketch.

It is the tall mountain (or mountain range) standing on the far side of the Yingshuihe tributary. In the game, there is a mountain in the equivalent position, although geographically the shape is not an exact match with that in the sketch:

The location of Wolves Mountain: across the tributary
The location of Langhuishan the mountain is across the tributary (left: concept sketch; right: Shenmue II)


The layout of the Langhuishan area in the released game closely reflects the concept drawing, with the main difference being that the landing area was expanded with a larger wharf, extra buildings - it would have made for a rather brief visit for Ryo if there had only been a single hut and NPC to talk to.

And thanks to the sketch we now know exactly which of the mountains is the true "Langhuishan".

Other Design Documents

If you found the details in this sketch interesting, you may also enjoy these other early Shenmue design documents that we have looked at previously in the blog:

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  1. Great work as always Switch! Love reading these at the end of my work week :)

    1. No better place to kick off a weekend than the world of Shenmue! :)