Monday, November 20, 2017

The Road to Amihama | Shenmue Realism

The Road to Amihama | Shenmue Realism

Amihama is the fictional name of the area in Shenmue where the harbor is located; it is where Ryo finds Warehouse #8, Mad Angels and learns how to operate a forklift, among other things.

The last post delved into the bus service in the game that takes Ryo to the harbor, such as where the bus-stop is located in real life and the similarities in signage with the actual bus system in Yokosuka.

Related post:

Later in the game, Ryo borrows a motorcycle and rides to the same destination, this time under player control in a high-speed dash to the harbor. Unlike with the bus ride, which does not show any scenery, with the motorcycle ride we get to see the entire stretch of road.

In this post we'll compare the appearance of the roads and urban landscape Ryo passes through, to actual roads in the Yokosuka area. Consistent with the Shenmue approach, Yu Suzuki and team have incorporated many recognizable features that are representative of the area.

Speed Limit Indication

As Ryo speeds through the deserted streets, several times he passes over the large number "40" painted in yellow on the road surface, indicating a 40 km/h zone, which is the typical limit for urban areas in Japan.

The main road passing Dobuita in real life also has similar markings; it is also equally common for the limit to be shown on signs at the side of the road.

Speed limit indication
Left: Ryo blatantly ignores the speed limit. Right: a similar road marking on the Yokosuka Highway.

Road Corners

In the game, most road corners are protected by white guardrails and marked with red arrow signs and round yellow reflectors. These are more prevalent in the game than in real life, no doubt a design choice to enhance the motorbike racing sequence, but the photo below shows a similar-looking corner. (In general, black arrows on a yellow background are somewhat more common).

A road corner in the game (left) and real life (right) with guard rail, arrows and reflectors.
A road corner in the game (left) and real life (right) with guard rail, arrows and reflectors.


Towards the end of his ride, Ryo races through a long, winding tunnel. In fact there are several road tunnels in the Yokosuka area, making it a natural decision to include one the game.

The comparison below shows the tunnel in the game, and a similar tunnel that is located next to Yokosuka train station - it can be seen from the station platform.

Tunnel entrance in the game vs real life.
The entrance to the tunnel in the game (left) and a tunnel located near Yokosuka train station (right).
Inside a tunnel: game vs real life.
Inside a tunnel: in-game (left) and present-day Yokosuka (right - I couldn't resist a little Photoshopping).
Note: compared to the one Ryo rides through in the game, the tunnels in the Yokosuka area are somewhat shorter and straighter; road tunnels of the length of the one in the game can be found in a large metropolis such as Tokyo.

Highway Sections

The route Ryo races has distinctive sections where the road slopes upwards, and the sides of the road are enclosed by semi-transparent walls. These are a close representation of the on-ramp section of the Honcho-Yamanaka Toll Road that starts along the road from the real-life Dobuita Street - minus, of course, the toll gates at which Ryo would otherwise have to pay!

In Japan toll roads and highways usually have such walls, whose purpose is for soundproofing on behalf of the surrounding neighborhoods.

The stripes that can be seen on the road surface (yellow in the game screenshot and a reddish color in the photo) act as a warning to reduce speed: they are textured and cause a vehicle to vibrate when passing over.

The sloping section of road in the game (left) and the entrance to the Honcho-Yamanaka Toll Road (right) near Dobuita.

Pedestrian Bridges & Route Information Signs

The many pedestrian bridges that Ryo rides under are a common features of larger Japanese urban roads.

Some of the larger ones are equipped with elevators and ramps for pushing bicycles, and they can also serve as a frame for supporting signage and traffic lights.

Signs with route information have white writing, usually in both Japanese and English, on a dark blue background. Their appearance, too, has been faithfully reproduced in the game (we'll be examining  their content in a separate post).

The comparison below shows how remarkably closely the game has been modeled.

Pedestrian bridge & signage: game vs real life
Pedestrian bridge & directional sign (left: game, right: on Yokosuka Highway).


Although the road to Amihama as seen in the game does not match exactly any particular road in real life, it has an authentic atmosphere due to the way it incorporates features of the roads in the Yokosuka area (and of Japanese roads in general).

If you discovered anything of interest from the comparisons, feel free to share your impressions in the comments below.

Next Post: Marking Amihama on a Map

In our next post, I take a stab at answering the question of where Amihama might be located on a real-life map.

Amihama is a location that was created purely for the game - but even so, it is possible to piece together clues from the game to arrive at a potential location that fits the bill. The conclusion may come of something of a surprise!

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