Saturday, June 30, 2018

Choubu Inn Floor Plans | Translation & Commentary

Choubu Inn Floor Plans | Translation & Commentary
In this post, Phantom River Stone examines Shenmue III design documents for an inn in Choubu.
Going back three years to the very start of the official Shenmue III project, soon after its successful funding on Kickstarter, Yu Suzuki tweeted out several images of concept art and design documents. Among these were floor plans of a building in the town of Choubu.

Building floor plans tweeted by Yu Suzuki in 2015 (tweet #1, tweet #2)
There were clues scattered through-out the plans in the form of labels (in Japanese), but Yu did take the precaution of releasing the images in low resolution making the text extremely blurry and difficult to distinguish. In this post we will scrutinize every inch of the image and attempt to translate as much as possible into English.

This topic was selected from the blog's candidate topics via a poll of Phantom River Stone's patrons for June 2018.

The Town of Choubu

As described in the Kickstarter Stretch Goal introductory video, Choubu is a town on the Li River that Ryo will be travelling to during his adventure.
Choubu is the second main area Ryo will visit in Shenmue III
Choubu is the second main area Ryo will visit in Shenmue III

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Friday, June 29, 2018

Shenmue III Backer Survey Information: Distilled

Shenmue III Backer Survey Information: Distilled

There was a lot of information packed into the recent update about Shenmue III Backer Surveys, so we have put together a "distilled" summary of the key information.


YS Net has posted a new Kickstarter update and refreshed their official Shenmue 3 site with the news that surveys have now started for all Shenmue III backers, for people who pledged through both Kickstarter and the Slacker Backer page.

The purpose of these surveys is to collect the necessary information from backers to prepare and send their rewards, for example a shipping address, choice of platform for receiving the game software and so on.

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Saturday, June 23, 2018

[Part 2/2] "15 Secrets of Shenmue" 1999 interview with Yu Suzuki | Translation

We continue with the second half of our translation of an interview Yu Suzuki held with the media on 18th January 1999. almost a year before Shenmue's Japan release. Several of the themes that Yu talks about today with respect to development on Shenmue III show through in this interview. He also reveals something that I personally had never known - namely that he worked on SEGA's early Laserdisc games when he first joined the company.

 "15 Secrets of Shenmue" 1999 interview with Yu Suzuki

Source article: 12th February 1999 edition of Dreamcast Magazine. This blog topic was voted by Phantom River Stone patrons in the monthly poll for April.

SECRET ⑨ The mystery of the title "Shenmue"

Then a question was sprung that got to the very heart of things: "What is the origin of the title, Shenmue?" However, it would seem that this conceals a secret relating to the theme of the game, and is still a secret.
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Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Shenmue Premiere Blue Tri-fold Pamphlet (1998) | Shenmue Merchandise

In our on-going series on Shenmue merchandise, today we will be looking at the large blue-covered tri-fold pamphlet that was part of the merchandise handed to attendees of the 1998/1999 Shenmue premiere.

The cover of the pamphlet has the game's title in the Japanese katakana alphabet, with kanji (Chinese characters) beneath it, overlaid on a dragon motif with a pinkish tinge on a blue background.

The front cover of the Blue Tri-fold Pamphlet (Shenmue II version)
The front cover of the Blue Tri-fold Pamphlet (Shenmue II version)
In fact, there exist two versions of this blue pamphlet, as we touched on briefly in our earlier post about the Shenmue Art Book: the one we will look at today contains artwork for Shenmue II while the other introduces Shenmue I (this version has the words "Chapter One: Yokosuka" on the cover).

Being tri-fold, the pamphlet opens out to six sides, and inside can be found a mixture of images from the game as well as introductory descriptions about its features.

The inside pages of the pamphlet.
The inside pages of the pamphlet.

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Sunday, June 17, 2018

A Visit to The Forbidden City | A Look Back in Time to Predict the Future!

A Visit to the Forbidden City | A Look Back in Time to Predict the Future!

In this post we welcome back James Brown to the blog to share a finding arising from his recent trip to The Forbidden City in Beijing.

Minor possible spoiler warning: this post contains general speculation on future Shenmue story content. (Please treat this lightly as Yu Suzuki may well have changed and/or rearranged the original story now, so events may no longer happen as illustrated).

And now, over to James!

Hello, it's James Brown here once again and I want to personally say thanks for having me back on for my second guest blog post!

Today I wanted to share with the Shenmue community, something that may not have been noticed widely thus far in Shenmue history.

Back in 2014, Yu Suzuki excited fans as he took to the stage for the Shenmue Classic Game Postmortem at GDC 2014. Fans at this point were not aware of any behind-the-scenes talks about a Shenmue 3 project, and were anxious to see if it would turn out to be more than just a look back at the games now long history. As great as the presentation was, fans were disappointed that no new future Shenmue information was announced or talked about - although it's now been revealed that Yu Suzuki had a meeting at this event in a secret back room with Sony representatives Adam Boyes and Gio Corsi.

As part of the presentation, Yu Suzuki revealed an old timeline, consisting of movie poster style tiles, displaying how he originally planned the series to go through each of its installments. At this time, the game was still being referred to as Virtua Fighter RPG, and so Akira was the main character that can be seen in the images, instead of Ryo.

The 11 illustrated tiles presented by Yu Suzuki at GDC 2014
The illustrated tiles presented by Yu Suzuki at GDC 2014

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Saturday, June 16, 2018

[Part 1/2] "15 Secrets of Shenmue" 1999 interview with Yu Suzuki | Translation

Today's post is a translation of an interview Yu Suzuki held with the media on 18th January 1999, soon after the successful Shenmue premiere events. Shenmue was still somewhat shrouded in mystery, so the "15 Secrets" this article refers to - while not representing special in-game secrets or the like - are an interesting reflection of what the expectations were for the game as well as Yu Suzuki's mindset almost a year before its actual release.

This topic was selected by Phantom River Stone patrons in the monthly poll for April.

Source article: February 12th, 1999 edition of Dreamcast Magazine.

The interview was held on 18th January 1999 at the final press conference of the nationwide Shenmue premiere events that were held in Japan's 5 largest cities (Yokohama, Osaka, Fukuoka, Sapporo and Nagoya) as well as Sendai.

SECRET ① Looking back on the nationwide premiere...

"We haven't all met like this since the premiere in Yokohama, have we!"

These are the words with which Yu Suzuki greets us as he appears in front of us prior to the start of the interview.

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Friday, June 15, 2018

"Soft Launch" of Backer Survey Emails | Kickstarter Update #83

A brief Kickstarter update has been posted regarding Shenmue 3 survey emails, stating that these are almost ready to be sent out.

They will cover both physical & in-game content rewards and will be sent by email to all backers to their registered email address on Kickstarter or Slacker Backer.

The update notes that a few randomly-selected backers will receive their survey email in advance as a "soft launch" to help verify the process.

Edit: Some key information from fan feedback on the Shenmue Dojo forums:

  • You will be asked to provide information applicable to your rewards (e.g. shipping address, T-shirt size, 140-character message for the Choubu Inn guestbook, photograph of yourself for the Harbor Lounge waiting area etc). You can alter your answers later.
  •  Add-ons are available: you can choose to upgrade your existing pledge/tier to one that is higher
  • Preliminary minimum specs for the PC version are given: 4 GB RAM, 100 GB drive space, quad-core i5 (3.4 GHz) processor

Read the full update on Kickstarter.

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Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Brief New Shenmue I & II footage from E3 2018

SEGA released this short clip of new Shenmue I & II footage, as part of their PC Gaming Show reel at E3 2018.

It's looking great, and all in 16:9!

Regarding confirmation of the release date, the SEGA Europe Twitter account tweeted "We'll have news on that soon, stay tuned and thanks for being patient as always!"

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Monday, June 11, 2018

Patron's Choice Blog Topic for June

Patron's Choice Blog Topic for June

Every month we run a poll and ask the blog's patrons to help decide a Shenmue-related topic they would like to see covered on the blog the following month. Topics can be anything from translations of early Japanese magazine articles, to explaining cultural customs seen during the game, or even "hacks" of the game that reveal hidden animations or locations.

The topic voted for May was a translation of a Japanese Dreamcast magazine article from early 1999 entitled "15 Secrets of Shenmue", based on a press interview with Yu Suzuki. (Early-access patrons of the blog can read Part One here).

And for this month of June, the topic that has been selected by the patrons is a translation of the floorplans of a Choubu inn in Shenmue III.

You may recall that Yu Suzuki shared several images on his Twitter feed back in 2015, including the plans for a two-storied inn / hostel. The images have labels and notes in Japanese sprinkled throughout them. At the time I made translations available to the Shenmue community (this was before Phantom River Stone existed), but it will make for an interesting exercise to revisit and analyze the plans three years on.

Watch out for our post on this topic in the near future!

Thank you as always to our blog patrons for their input on the blog content, and if you would like to take part in future polls & support the blog, check out our page on Patreon by clicking on the button below.

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Saturday, June 9, 2018

Japanese Lesson #1 (Video) | Learn Japanese Through Shenmue

Back in March, our blog patrons voted in a poll to start a Learn Japanese series on the blog, and so we present Lesson One! (Blog patrons have a month's early access to lessons).

Shenmue and Language Learning

The idea to start a Japanese learning series around Shenmue has been in the back of mind for a long time. The Shenmue games, with their detailed depiction of places and cultural customs and dialogue-rich gameplay, are a natural fit for supporting language learning.

This is something that Yu Suzuki has referred to in past interviews, with stories about players of Shenmue picking up Japanese words and phrases through playing the game. The potential for language learning was realized from the time Shenmue was first released: a special "US Shenmue" release was marketed to people in Japan with all dialogue fully-voiced in English and offering the ability to switch between English and Japanese subtitles. This was an innovative idea for the time, and I would like to think it genuinely helped some learners get to grips with natural-sounding English (apart from occasional lines like "Let's get sweaty" and a few other dubious phrases).
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Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Shenmue Premiere Bag (1998) | Shenmue Merchandise

Today we take a look at the remarkable Shenmue premiere bag that was handed out to attendees at the premiere event in 1998/1999.

The Shenmue Premiere event was held in Japan and the end of December 1998 in Yokohama, with additional events through the New Year in cities through-out Japan. The expectation and excitement was huge, as it would be the first time the general public would get a decent look at Yu Suzuki's new game, one that had been the source of much speculation in the preceding months.

SEGA did not hold back on budget for these events: each lasted two hours, and were free of charge to attendees; and all attendees received an incredible amount of Shenmue merchandise:
  • A boxed figurine of Shenhua 
  • A CD single with an illustration of Shenhua on the cover, containing the Shenmue main theme and Shenhua's theme
  • notebook with an illustration of Shenhua on the cover
  • A black Shenmue T-shirt with a mirror design on the back
  • A sheet of Shenmue-themed tattoo stickers
  • A blue fold-out leaflet containing art from the games
  • A Christmas card with an illustration of Shenhua and falling snow
  • A phone strap (Yukawa-san or Shenhua)
  • A promotional leaflet illustrating various additional Shenmue-related merchandise for sale such as posters, mugs, pens and calendars.
  • questionnaire form about the event. Those who submitted this feedback form to Sega received a Dreamcast magnet!
We will be covering each of these items in more detail in future posts, but this time we'll examine the Shenmue premiere bag that the items came in.

The bag oozes quality and attention to detail. It is black in color with illustrations of mirrors in green in the background wrapping around on all sides (including the narrow sides). There is a large mirror motif in yellow/orange in the center, overlaid with the Shenmue logo. One side has the logo in the Japanese katakana alphabet and the Phoenix mirror design, and the other has the kanji version of the logo over the Dragon mirror.

It is the size of large shopping bag and is made of sturdy card material with a waterproof protective coating, and has strong black plastic handles.
Written discreetly in white at the bottom of one of the sides are the words "© SEGA ENTERPRISES, 1988".

You can almost feel the excitement and anticipation that attendees at the premiere events must have felt from the moment they stepped through the doors into the event hall and were presented with this bag, full of Shenmue goodies, before moving down the aisle to find their way to their seats.

While some of the items that were given away at the premiere event are seen more frequently, the bag itself is not often seen for sale nowdays.

Shenmue Collectors!

Our friends at Retro Import Gamer (who provided the photos for this article) have managed to obtain one of these original Shenmue premiere event bags, offering the chance to own a fantastic piece of early Shenmue history for your collection.

It is up on their Ebay store now, and ships from the UK.

Link to the Shenmue Premiere bag on Ebay.

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Sunday, June 3, 2018

Image of a Day's Worth of Shenmue 3 Script

Voice actor for Ryo Hazuki in the Shenmue games, Masaya Matsukaze, tweeted this image of a stack of voice script papers. They represent just a single day's worth of recording.

This certainly bodes well for plentiful and rich conversations within the game.

It's also great to see Matsukaze-san taking the time to share a behind-the-scene image and thoughts with fans while the game is being made.
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Friday, June 1, 2018

Commentary: Shenhua's new voice actress | Kickstarter Update #82

In this post we comment on the announcement of the Japanese voice of Shenhua for Shenmue III as Haruka Terui and analyze the photos that accompanied the update.
Haruka Terui announced as Shenhua's voice in Shenmue 3

This post was available 7 days early to patrons. Support Phantom River Stone on Patreon to receive early access to posts and other rewards and help us keep making content like this!

Haruka Terui's Selection as Shenhua

Kickstarter Update #82 announces that the voice actress to play Shenhua for Shenmue III will be Haruka Terui, and gives some comments from Haruka herself, in which she indicates that she will strive to remain faithful to the character as portrayed in the first two games:
"Shenmue has been beloved by so many for so long and fans have been waiting her. As I look Shenhua in the eyes and become her voice, I will remember everyone has their own precious memories and I will do everything I can to keep those memories like they were."
About Haruka Terui:

Haruka Terui is 31 years of age and born in Iwate prefecture - the same prefecture as Shenmue III creator Yu Suzuki. She has around 10 years of experience in the voice industry, with an extensive catalog that includes documentary narration, character songs, television anime series and video game roles (including unspecified voicing for Persona 4 Golden)

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