Sunday, September 2, 2018

Shenmue III Trailer "The Prophecy" Dissection [Part One]

Shenmue III Trailer "The Prophecy" Dissection [Part One]

Among the opening presentations at the recent Gamescom 2018 event in Cologne was an announcement trailer for the release date for Shenmue III: August 27th, 2019. This brand new trailer reveals new locations and characters - as well as some familiar faces from Shenmue II revealed again for the first time in this third game.

The trailer is approximately 1.5 minutes in length, and in this post, we'll be walking through and dissecting each of the scenes to catch those small details that are easy to miss when watching the video in a single sitting - and also simply to appreciate the the presentation of the scenes.

The trailer video can be viewed below if you would like to refresh your memory before we dive in:

And now let's get started!

"The Prophecy"

The name of the trailer is "The Prophecy", as per the description on the official YouTube video, and once it starts the naming makes sense: throughout the video the voice of Shenhua can be heard reciting the prophetic poem that describes her predestined meeting with Ryo.

The words of the poem are the same as the one she recites before the start of Shenmue II (the Shenmue I version of the poem is a shorter version). The words retain their impressiveness as they foretell not only of her preordained encounter with Ryo but with a fantastical description of the two mythical beasts that decorate the mirrors: the Dragon and the Pheonix:
From a distant land in the East, from across the sea,
he shall appear.
He does not know of the strength hidden within him.
The strength that would destroy him.
The strength that would fulfill his wishes.
When he is ready, he shall seek me out.
And we shall brave together the rocky path.
I shall wait...
This encounter has been my destiny since ancient times.
A Dragon shall emerge from the earth and dark clouds
shall obscure the heavens.
A Phoenix shall descend from above,
Its wings will create a purple wind.
In the midst of the pitch-black night
a morning star shall glisten... alone...
This is the first time we get to hear the new Japanese voice of Shenhua, with the voice actress from the first two games, Hazuki Ishigaki, having since retired from the business. Shenhua's new voice is performed by Haruka Terui as announced in Kickstarter Update #82, and she has really managed to capture a similar feel.
While the poem is heard mainly as voice-over, the first few seconds show Shenhua actually speaking the words, with convincing lip synchronization.

Players who have finished Shenmue II will recognize her location from the carved pedestal behind her - it is located inside the caverns of the Stone Pit, and this is where Ryo fits the Phoenix mirror at the end of Shenmue II, although in the trailer the mirror does not appear to be present. (Also, no reverb effect has been applied to Shenhua's narration, perhaps wisely for the sake of clarity.)

Shenhua recites the words of the prophecy.
Shenhua recites the words of the prophecy.
Regarding Shenhua's appearance, we note that her costume and appearance, with the addition of long-drop earrings, differs from that in Shenmue II, something we have commented on in previous posts. There could be a number of explanations for this. She may returned with Ryo to the caverns on a later day; or this may be only the case for the trailer and will be adjusted at a later date. In any case, the game is still in development, so it may not be fruitful to speculate too deeply.

At first glance it might appear that Shenhua is holding a wooden staff of some kind, but later in the video this turns out to be part of her flaming torch.

The Music

An epic orchestral track plays during the trailer, and while it sounds as thought it could have been written especially for the game (or an unused track from one of the past games), in fact this piece of music is by a company called Immediate Music, who create cinematic music for licensed use in movie & video game trailers, DVD menus and so on. 

This particular track has the whimsical name of "Panda Heaven" and is part of an album called "Wolf Moon Powwow" which can be purchased on on iTunes and Amazon. The track is also available on YouTube.

Thanks to David De ville for sharing this information!

River Scene: Cormorant Fishing

Then, a crossfade to a scene of a river at night: a full moon in a sky dotted with a myriad of brilliant stars (I watched closely for any falling stars but didn't spy any). In the background, along the river's edge, is the distinctive roofline of the port town of Choubu that we have seen featured in previous update screenshots, with its decorated red lanterns hanging from the eaves. The tall mountains of Guilin can be glimpsed in the distance, and flowing past gently in the foreground are the dark waters of the Li River.

The Li River at night
The Li River at night
From the river rises a massive rock column, its angle suggesting it may be part of an archway. Bright flaming braziers mounted on a number of bamboo rafts illuminate the river surface.

Looking more closely, we see the dark outline of fishermen standing on the rafts and large birds bobbing and dipping their beaks into the water. One bird can be seen perched on a boat, stretching its wings.

What we are seeing is in fact boats carrying out a traditional type of fishing known as cormorant fishing, a method that still exists in both Japan and China; and in the case of China, it turns out that it Li River is one of the places particularly known for it.

Real-life cormorant fishing on the Li River
Real-life cormorant fishing on the Li River
Cormorant birds are trained to dive into the water to catch fish at night. Each boat has a lantern or large fire that hangs from its bow to provide light for the boatmen to steer and the birds to fish by. The birds are controlled with long cords and a "snare" is fastened around their necks which prevents larger fish from being swallowed. Once they return to the boat, the fisherman retrieves the fish from the bird's neck pouch (the bird may be allowed to keep a fish every so often as a reward) and stores it in the basket.

I actually have observed cormorant fishing myself when I visited Yamaguchi prefecture in Japan. The sparks flying from the burning fires at the front of the boats as the birds dove underwater made for a memorable experience. (These days this method of fishing is mainly carried out for tourism).

River Scene: Ferry

The camera jumps now to a section of the river that looks to be just a little further down, where a passenger ferry is rounding a bend. Numerous small boats, this time propelled by engines judging from the wakes they leave, can be seen moving about nearby.

Standing on the ferry can be spotted at least 23 figures of adults and children, and the scale of the ferry is much larger than the one Ryo took when first arriving in Guilin in Shenmue II.  My immediate reaction was to see if Ryo was again standing on the upper deck but this doesn't appear to be the case.
Close-up of the ferry, marked with a label "a" in the main image.
Flashback: Ryo arriving at Langhuishan by ferry in Shenmue II
Flashback: Ryo arriving at Langhuishan by ferry in Shenmue II
On the right side are a number of buildings and sheds. One shape stands out in particular, marked "b" in the main image, which appears to be a fight ring, built out over the river.
Close-up of a possible fight ring, marked "b" in the main image.
There is another cut and we now see the ferry about to dock at the wharf.

The cluster of buildings on the right also appeared in the previous image (labelled "c" in each), confirming that this shot is a near-continuation of the last. Area "d" corresponds to where the section of the town that contains the shopping street seen previously in the Shenmue teaser video - a decorated entrance gateway of some kind can be seen which may be one of the entrances.

The bamboo fishing rafts (in the area labelled "e") are of the type used above for the cormorant fishing, and their empty baskets and hanging lanterns can be seen.

Close-up of the area marked "e" showing cormorant fishing rafts, with a low wooden jetty visible on the right.
Close-up of the area marked "e" showing cormorant fishing rafts, with a low wooden jetty visible on the right.
One of these fishing rafts is where Ryo was featured undergoing some training with an unknown old man in the Shenmue: First Teaser video from last year's Gamescom (screen capture below). Note the matching features such as the lantern, bamboo raft and the wooden jetty behind the characters.

Screen grab from the Shenmue: First Teaser video (Gamescom 2017) showing Ryo on a raft in the same area.
Screen grab from the Shenmue: First Teaser video (Gamescom 2017) showing Ryo on a raft in the same area.
You may also recall an image from the MAGIC 2018 press conference at the start of the year that showed the Choubu waterfront area which shows the same area during the daytime.
Image from MAGIC 2018 showing the Choubu wharf area by day.
Image from MAGIC 2018 showing the Choubu wharf area by day.
Finally, over on the far left side (labelled "f") is what looks to be the shape of a set of wide steps leading up the hillside, with buildings set around it. Perhaps Ryo will be able this area during his adventures. Here's a close-up view of that part of the image - what do you think?
Close-up of region "f": a set of steps on the hillside?
We'll wrap up the post here for Part One - next part to follow!

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