Sunday, December 31, 2017

Ancient Game of “Go” Spotted in Shenmue

Did you know that Ryo's father was fond of the game of Go? It is also one of the world's oldest boardgames still played today, and is renowned for its depth of strategy - it was only recently that AI has been able to beat a top human player at Go (a feat accomplished by Google's DeepMind AI).

Today's article was contributed by Shenmue fan and longtime reader of the blog, JCGamer (visit his Twitter channel). Also in the latter part of the post is a response from the Shenmue III team regarding the possibility of a playable version of Go being included in a future Shenmue game.

Message from the Author

"I played Shenmue when it was first released on the Dreamcast here in Canada back in 1999 and it is one of my most fondest Christmas gifts. All these years later after shedding tears of joy over the Shenmue III announcement I am learning Japanese and still playing Shenmue 1 & 2 which I consider to be one of the most unique gaming experiences out there. I consider it something that transcends both games and movies in terms of immersion."
- JCGamer

The Game of Go: Overview

In Shenmue 1 you can spot a 9x9 Goban (Japanese name for a Go board) at the right-hand side of Iwao’s desk.

Note: the game of Shogi (Japanese chess) is also played on a 9x9 grid, but for this article the discussion will be about the game of Go.
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Saturday, December 30, 2017

Yu Suzuki's Keyword for 2018: "Immersion" []

Japanese website has carried out their annual survey, interviewing 107 game creators to ask their resolution for the year ahead and personal direction for 2018. 
"Game Creators' New Year's Resolutions for 2018"
Yu Suzuki has taken part, and his responses are given below.
Yu Suzuki, CEO of YS NET.
Q: What is your keyword & New Year's Resolution for 2018?

YS: "Immersion": focusing all my energy on Shenmue III.

Q: Please give an update on the current status.

YS: Shenhua's face has finally reached a state I am happy with. A difference of just 1 mm can greatly affect one's impression.

Going forward, I'll be refining things like her expressions and hair.

Given the characteristics of physically-based rendering, my feeling has undergone a change: Shenhua should not be "made", but rather "fostered".

This last comment from Yu is an no doubt a reflection of his experience with Unreal Engine, compared to methods of creation of the past. It can also be appreciated that the fine-tuning of her character model is a gradual, on-going process in order to bring it into line with his vision.

Translation by Switch
Source (Japanese):
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Thursday, December 28, 2017

2017 Yu Suzuki's End-Of-Year Comments to 4Gamer | Romance in Shenmue 3

Each year, asks a number of prominent figures in the game industry a few questions about the past year as well as thoughts for the year to come.

This year, they interviewed the largest number to date, receiving replies from 182 people. And of course, Yu Suzuki was again among those.

Yu Suzuki Comments on the Past & Coming Year

The four questions, which follow the same format each year, are:
  • Out of the games released in 2017, which title(s) interested you most / had the most impact on you? 
  • Of all the entertainment content released or shown in 2017, which title(s) made the greatest impression on you? 
  • Which person/people caught your attention in 2017? 
  • What are your plans for 2018, and could you also give a message for our readers? 
Read on to find out how Yu answered these for 2017.

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Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Commentary on Kickstarter Update #78: "Then, Now and Tomorrow"

An animated greeting from the Shenmue III Development Team
An animated greeting from the Shenmue III Development Team

As a Christmas Day present to backers, a new Kickstarter update has been released. In addition to the animated greeting above (which features Shenhua, Ryo and Chai), the main part of the update takes the form of a video interview with Yu Suzuki reflecting on the past 2.5 years since the announcement as well as looking forward to the year ahead.

The interview was conducted by Hiroaki Takeuchi, Shenmue III's Animation Producer who also worked together with Yu as an animation advisor on the original Shenmue.

Related link:
In this post we will highlight some of the main topics Yu mentions, as well as pointing out one or two minor corrections for the English subtitles.

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Monday, December 25, 2017

Merry Christmas 2017 from

Merry Christmas Shenmue fans from the blog! Thank you for your support during the year. I'm really looking forward to what is sure to be an exciting 2018 for Shenmue.

Here is a slice of Christmas-time atmosphere on Dobuita Street to enjoy. ♫♪

Yes, they even pipe out festive music from speakers on the lampposts - it would be amazing if they mixed in some of the Shenmue tunes too...

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Sunday, December 24, 2017

Shenmue Master's Interview with Yu Suzuki | Gamescom 2017

A new interview with Yu Suzuki conducted by French fansite Shenmue Master at Gamescom 2017 in Germany has been released.

A special aspect of this interview is the thoughtfully-chosen questions on aspects we do not often hear Yu talk about, presented with illustrative footage and narration explaining the motivation behind each of the questions.

The interview reveals Yu's thoughts on an appropriate pacing for Shenmue III, how the increased budget may allow a certain character to appear more often than originally planned, and the symbolism behind the hawk / eagle in the game.

View the video below (note: ensure YouTube captions are turned on).

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Friday, December 22, 2017

Interview with Yokosuka City | The Story Behind the Shenmue Guide Map

Interview with Yokosuka City: the Story Behind the Shenmue Guide Map

The recent publication of an official Shenmue-themed tourist guide map for Yokosuka has caused a buzz of excitement within the Shenmue community. The result of a collaboration with SEGA, the two-sided 3-fold pamphlet oozes quality and the care that has been taken in putting it together is apparent at a glance.

Shenmue fans may also be wondering about how the map came to be created. Many questions come to mind, such as: was it something proposed by SEGA? How long did it take to create such a detailed document? What prompted the project at this particular time?

Armed with such pressing questions, I got in touch with the guide map's co-creator, Eriko Furusaki of the Tourism Planning Division within the Yokosuka City Economic Department, who very kindly agreed to give us some insight into how the map came to be.

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Tuesday, December 19, 2017

"Sacred Spot" Guide Map: Official English Version

The official English version of the Shenmue "Sacred Spot" Guide Map of Yokosuka has been released on the Yokosuka City website.

Download link

The map can be downloaded in pdf form here: (Wayback Machine link)

Shenmue "Sacred Spot" Guide Map (1/2)

Shenmue "Sacred Spot" Guide Map (2/2)

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Sunday, December 17, 2017

"Sacred Spot" Guide Map Translation: Road to Amihama

Guide Map Translation: Road to Amihama

The Shenmue-themed guide map of real-life Yokosuka that was released recently by the Yokosuka tourism board is full of information snippets and photos of real-day locations upon which the game was based. And being produced in collaboration with SEGA, the trivia contained is from the horse's mouth, so to speak.

The map is currently available in only in the Japanese-language, and while an English version is imminent, I decided to jump the gun and give blog readers a translated preview of a portion of the pamphlet. The portion we will look at is the real-life map of the route that Ryo takes from Dobuita to the New Yokosuka Harbor in Amihama, where he gets his forklift job.

We will be translating the areas of the guide map circled in red.
We will be translating the areas of the guide map circled in red.
At the same time, we will be able to see how close we got with our speculation and in-game observations covering several previous blog posts, to where the location of the harbor lies in real life.
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Thursday, December 14, 2017

Announcing: the Phantom River Stone Translation Service

If you would have something in Japanese you want translated into English - whether it is a few sentences, a whole article, or even a video, help is at hand!

I am pleased to announce the commencement of our Japanese-to-English Translation Service!

I decided to offer this service to combat the frustration situation of those who have a new magazine interview or a fascinating video in Japanese, and are dying to have an English version.

It's easy to arrange a translation - just drop me an email.


Translation will be carried out by yours truly (Switch), and will be treated with the same high level of care as for the items I translate for the Phantom River Stone blog.

My qualifications: I hold Level One (top level) of the Japanese Language Proficiency Test, and have been living in Japan for several years. Over the years I have worked on a great many translations for the blog and fan projects.

Here is a sample of different kinds of translations I have covered:

The content for translation can be about anything - it does not need to be Shenmue-related, or even about video gaming.

The level of translation is also flexible: you may like to initially commission a high-level outline to get the gist of the content, before deciding whether to continue with a thorough translation.

Translation fee: by mutual agreement beforehand.

Commission a Translation

To arrange for a translation, contact Switch via email now!

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Wednesday, December 13, 2017

"Temple Maiden" Model & Lakshya Digital | Kickstarter Update #77

Kickstarter Update #77

A mid-month Kickstarter Update has appeared out of the blue, bringing with it an exciting announcement regarding character model creation: namely, that the team at Lakshya Digital is now working on character production for Shenmue III. We are also treated to a new image that showcases one of their newly-created characters.

As we learned from interviews held with Yu Suzuki during Gamescom 2017, such as this 4Gamer interview, the original plans for the game have been scaled up: the number of non-player characters (NPCs) planned for the town of Choubu is likely to increase from 50~60 to as many as 200.

Clearly creating all characters in-house would burden the core development team immensely, so outsourcing to a quality outfit makes a lot of sense.

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Sunday, December 10, 2017

Where is Amihama in Real Life? (Part 2/2) | Route Information Signs

In Part One of this topic, we considered which part of Yokosuka is most likely to have served as the real-life inspiration for the harbor and warehouse area that Ryo visits in Shenmue. The placenames used in the game - New Yokosuka Harbor in Amihama - do not exist in real life.

Based on the clues gathered, the location that appeared to be the best fit was an area of the harbor that lies 15-20 minutes away from Dobuita, called Nagaura Port.

Related link:
In Part One, we identified this area as a candidate for Amihama in real life: Nagura Port
In Part One, we identified this area as a candidate for Amihama in real life: Nagura Port
But in fact, we have not yet exhausted all possible sources of clues.

In this second article, we will carry out an in-depth analysis of the road signboards that Ryo passes on his motorbike on the way to the harbor.

We will try plotting the placenames shown onto a real map (if they exist), to see if this helps to provide a confirmation of Amihama's location.
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Monday, December 4, 2017

Cédric Plays Shenmue III: "So Cool" | Photo

Shenmue III co-producer Cédric Biscay has met with Yu Suzuki at the development studio in Tokyo, and tried out the latest build of Shenmue III, with an upbeat verdict.

In his tweet he describes the game as "so cool" and has attached a photo of Yu Suzuki posing at his desk with a PS4 controller in his hands, smiling cheerfully.

The tweet message reads:
"We are playing The game and it is so cool ! #Shenmue3"
It is heart-warming to see Yu showing a relaxed and confident face, in what must be a hectic development period for the game.

Also posted was a group photo:

Group photo (from left: executive producer Harry Morishita, creator Yu Suzuki, co-producer Cédric Biscay).
Group photo (from left: executive producer Harry Morishita, creator Yu Suzuki, co-producer Cédric Biscay).
The tweet reads:
"What a pleasure to play the latest version of #Shenmue3 today.
Yes we will really have the game we are all waiting for ! @YSNET_Inc @yu_suzuki_jp  @ShibuyaProd"
Many thanks to Cédric on behalf of fans and backers for this brief, but uplifting, informal update.

Source: tweet #1, tweet #2
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Sunday, December 3, 2017

Download the Shenmue "Sacred Spot" Guide Map (Japanese)

The Shenmue "Sacred Spot" Guide Map that was recently announced as a collaboration between Yokosuka City and SEGA, is now available.

Related post:

This initial version is in Japanese, and according to the CocoYoko tourism page, an English version is in progress (no estimate of its completion is given). The length of the print run for the Shenmue map is not given.

The guide is in the form of a double-sided, folded pamphlet, densely packed with maps, illustrations, photos and shop information, all strongly tied to Shenmue.

Shenmue "Sacred Spot" Guide Map: first side

Shenmue "Sacred Spot" Guide Map: second side

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Friday, December 1, 2017

Shenmue "Sacred Spot" Guide Map Announced | Translation

Surprise - Sega is promoting Shenmue again!

The association for the promotion of tourism in Yokosuka (the Yokosuka Action Promotion Committee) has miraculously managed to gain SEGA's cooperation to produce a Shenmue-themed tourist booklet entitled Shenmue Chapter One: Yokosuka 'Sacred Spot' Guide Map.

It covers points of interest around the area in which Shenmue I was set, and will become available at 10:00 am on Sunday, December 3rd (JST), in both physical and online form.

The cover of the Shenmue Chapter One: Yokosuka 'Sacred Spot' Guide Map.
The cover of the Shenmue Chapter One: Yokosuka 'Sacred Spot' Guide Map.
A short description about the guide map has been published on the association's site that is currently in Japanese only, so below is a translation of the text into English. Enjoy!

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