Monday, December 31, 2018

[Pinned] Announcement: Phantom River Stone is on Patreon!

It is hard to believe that over two years have passed since the Phantom River Stone blog launched. We've made more than 200 posts on our favorite subject: translations of community interviews, magazine articles and design documents, notes about everyday items and culture reflected in the game, photos of real locations around Yokosuka... just celebrating the awesomeness that is Shenmue.

In order to sustain this rate of output, and dedicate the time needed for the translations and posts, I wanted to offer a way for blog readers who wish to help contribute to do so.

And so, I am excited to announce our new Patreon page for Phantom River Stone!

If you're not familiar with Patreon, it’s an easy way to give those who find the blog of interest, a way to support it directly.

Plus, you will receive some great rewards in return, such as exclusive "behind the scenes" content, early access to blog posts before anyone else, and monthly voting on a future blog topic. We also have a Discord channel for chatting about Shenmue and blog posts & I look forward to chatting with you there.

There are several different reward tiers, which you can check out in detail on the new Patreon page.

Thank you for considering becoming a patron of the blog, and regardless of whether you are in a position to offer financial support, thank you for being a reader of the blog!

Click to open the Phantom River Stone page on Patreon!

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Sunday, December 30, 2018

2018 End-of-Year Interview with Yu Suzuki []

A couple of days ago, released a short end-of-year interview with Yu Suzuki as one of a number of figures interviewed across the games industry.

And now, Japanese website has put out a similar survey, and we have translated Yu Suzuki's responses below. He touches on the same theme as for the Famitsu interview, but with a slight variation in his wording which helps to clarify his earlier comment.
Q1: Among the games that were released in 2018, which title were you most interested in (or had the greatest impact on you)?
YS: I was so focused on the development of Shenmue, that I had absolutely no time to play other games.

Q2: Of the entertainment content that was released or announced during 2018, which one left the deepest impression?
YS: "Ready Player One," a movie which has VR as its theme. After being involved in HMD (head mounted display) type VR games in the arcades in 1991, with the passing of time VR is now booming again.
The way the future of VR is portrayed in this movie is done with just the right amount of humor, and is a touch I like.
Q3: Which figure personally caught (or is catching) your attention in 2018?
YS: Mr. Donald [Trump] and [Japanese prime minister] Mr. Abe.
They were the ones who concerned me most, in various ways.

Q4: What is your New Year's Resolution for 2019, and could you also give a message for 4Gamer readers?
YS: Shenmue III is scheduled for release in August.
I believe that the balance between the user cycle and the economy will be another new point of attraction for open worlds.
I want to deliver the leisurely-paced world of Shenmue to everyone soon.
As in the interview, Yu raises the same theme of "Balance" again, specifically in regards to balancing the user cycle (player interactions) with the economy that exists within the game world. Based on the context of his comment, it appears that this is an aspect that Yu has refined for Shenmue III.

With less than eight months to go until its release, there is not too much longer to wait before we will be able to experience it for ourselves.

Translation by Switch
Source (Japanese):
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Friday, December 28, 2018

Yu Suzuki's Keyword for 2019: "Balance" []

Japanese website has published their traditional annual survey of members of the games industry, this time interviewing a total of 119 game creators. They were asked for a single "keyword" to summarize their direction for 2019, and their New Year's Resolution.

Yu Suzuki again participated, and here are his replies:
Q: What is your keyword for 2019?
YS: "Balance". I'm looking forward to what's to come for open-world user cycles and games that are perfectly-balanced economically.
Q: What is your New Year's Resolution?
YS: Once Shenmue III is successfully released in August 2019, I hope players will spend a leisurely time inside the unique world of the new Shenmue.

Q: What will you be keeping an eye on in 2019?
YS: I can't think about anything other than Shenmue. (laughs)
Yu's comments about his chosen keyword, "balance", no doubt reflect themes of interest within the context of his development of Shenmue III.

The phrase "user cycle" can refer to the patterns of interaction over time that a player has with a game (such as how frequently and for how long they play) as well as their actions within the game.

Regarding the comment on the economic aspect, my initial speculation was that here Yu may have been referring to the challenge of attaining balance between development budget and game sales. However in a subsequent interview published by 4Gamer, Yu's comments indicate that he is talking about the balance between the user cycle and the economics within an open-world game itself.

Not surprisingly, it is clear that Yu is completely focused on Shenmue III, as he and team work towards its release date of 27th August 2019.

Related Links

These are Yu Suzuki's end-of-year interviews from the past two years:
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Thursday, December 27, 2018

Shenmue Fan Meeting in Yokosuka: Summary & Highlights

Earlier this week, on December 24th, a group of Shenmue fans packed into a venue in Yokosuka, Japan for a Shenmue fan meeting, organized by Yokosuka City and IGN Japan.

Interest shown during the pre-registration period was so high that the originally-planned 80 places was increased by 50% to a total of 120, with attendees being selected by a draw.

The MC of the event was Esra Krabbe from IGN Japan, with on-stage guests including Masaya Matsukaze (the voice and motion-capture actor for Ryo Hazuki in the Japanese versions) as well as guests Eigo Kasahara and Hiroshi Noguchi.

Various Shenmue themed stand-up cut-outs (Ryo, Nozomi, Kurita-san, and a forklift truck) were set up at the venue. They are also part of the Shenmue Sacred Spot campaign and on other days are stationed at shops around Dobuita.

The talk show was also live-streamed to IGN Japan's YouTube channel (link to video). The chat took place in Japanese - and happily, English captions are being prepared.

In this post, we will summarize the live-stream footage from the event, with some highlights.

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Monday, December 24, 2018

Snowy Dobuita: Shenmue vs Real Life | Video

Shenmue I conjures up images of icy streets and snow falling gently on Yokosuka. Earlier in the year I captured some footage of Dobuita and the surrounding areas after a light overnight fall of snow.


At several points along our stroll, we compare how closely the real locations compare to the way they are depicted in the game (using footage from the Dreamcast version), with the similarities being striking even today. As a bonus, the end of the video contains a collage of still photos.

End of Year Message

Thank you to everyone following the Phantom River Stone blog. I look forward to bringing you more analysis, articles and videos next year. And a special mention to all our patrons for your amazing support - you help to keep the blog going!

Happy Holidays!

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Saturday, December 22, 2018

Shenmue III: Yu Suzuki Talks On Stage in Xiamen [Video | ENG Subs]

On December 16th, Yu Suzuki took to the stage to talk about Shenmue III to an audience of gaming fans at the G-Fusion Tour event that was held in Xiamen, Fujian province in China (as announced at the end of November).

As with the recent Tokyo Game Show, animation producer Hiroaki Takeuchi also took part.

The following items were announced during the stage talk:
  • There will be a version of Shenmue III released with Simplified Chinese subtitles.
  • The distribution of Shenmue III in China is to be handled by Tencent (on the WeGame platform) and Oasis Games (for PS4).
Also during the talk, a slightly modified version of the "The Prophecy" trailer for Shenmue III was shown, with Chinese subtitles, to a warm reception from the audience.

We have added English translated captions to the video which can be viewed below. Or, if you prefer to read a written version, a full transcript of these follows.

Video (ENG subs): Yu Suzuki & Hiroaki Takeuchi on Shenmue III

Watch the video of the talk below: 


Yu Suzuki (YS): Everyone, I'm Yu Suzuki. I'm glad to be here today.

Hiroaki Takeuchi (HT): Nĭ hăo! My name is Hiroaki Takeuchi.

Q: We've heard that you've come to China several times. Is this your first time in Xiamen?

YS: I've been here once before, about 3 or 4 years ago. I came to research the circular tower-like structures of the Hakka people, which look sort of like missile bases.

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Friday, December 21, 2018

1998 Shenmue Premiere 20th Anniversary [Video | ENG Subs]

Today, 20th December 2018, marks the twentieth anniversary of the Shenmue Premiere, an extravagant event that was held in Yokohama in 1998 - as well as in five other cities around Japan thereafter - at which Yu Suzuki introduced his groundbreaking new game, Shenmue, to the public.

The free event lasted for two hours and included a live orchestra, videos and live gameplay. Every attendee also received a bag packed full of Shenmue items such as a T-shirt, CD single and Shenhua figurine to take home with them. For those who wanted more, many other items of Shenmue merchandise could be bought in the lobby.

Premiere Video (Digest)

In the following months, Sega released a ten-minute digest video of the Yokohama premiere.
A frame from the Magic Weather demonstration.
The digest video touches on the following:
  • A snippet of the live-orchestra performance of the Shenmue theme.
  • The characters in Shenmue
  • Magic Weather (using a test environment with multiple "Water Dragon" and other shops)
  • In-game conversations
Enjoy watching a young Yu Suzuki showing off the features of his game in the video below (with English captions that I created a few years ago for the Shenmue Dojo):

This video was included on the first volume in 1999 of Sega's Dreamcast Express series of demo discs, among with several other videos and demos.
The cover of the Dreamcast Express Vol.1 disc, on which the Shenmue Premiere digest video was included.
A full-length video of the premiere event was also made available but unfortunately the extreme compression used at that time rendered it almost unwatchable; we hope that perhaps someday the original recording may be unearthed from Sega's vaults.

One of the MCs at the event, actress Reiko Chiba, is still a good friend of Yu Suzuki to this day. A few years ago, she posted a photo of herself at dinner with Yu and animation producer Hiroaki Takeuchi on Twitter.
Yu Suzuki, Reiko Chiba and Hiraoki Takeuchi (link to tweet)

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Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Shenmue III English Voice Recording Now Underway

English voice recording for Shenmue III is now underway! Voice actor Corey Marshall, who is reprising his role as Ryo Hazuki for the game, recently revealed via Twitter that he has started recording, sharing a photo of himself in the recording studio together with Yu Suzuki. This follows the news earlier in the year in the June Kickstarter Update of the start of the Japanese voice recording.
Corey's tweet contained a warm message expressing his feeling of honor at Yu's visit:
Link to tweet
Thanks to the studio lights, Corey's stance in the photo was given a super-worldly glow, to which Corey jokingly remarked, "You’d think the other name for Shenmue 3 is ‘Ryo Hazuki: The Immortal Iron Fist’."

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Monday, December 10, 2018

Shenmue Documentary Filming in Yokosuka | Photo Report

Shenmue Documentary Filming in Yokosuka | Photo Report

The documentary project "A Gamer's Journey: The Definitive History of Shenmue" was successfully funded on Kickstarter in August, and its creators have spent the past week in Japan, carrying out numerous interviews and filming footage for the documentary.

Switch recently accompanied the project originator, Adam Sipione, and his crew on a filming trip down in Yokosuka. This post is a photo report of the day.

Travelling Down to Yokosuka

It was a cool early-December morning when I joined the documentary crew in boarding a southbound limited-express train down to Ryo Hazuki's hometown of Yokosuka. The purpose of the visit was to gather "b-roll" (supplemental) footage of the area, capturing on film snippets of Shenmue's vibe that can still be felt there today.

Just under an hour later we stepped out onto the platform at Yokosuka-chuo station and, passing through the ticket gates, made a bee-line for the tourist information center conveniently located in the building opposite. Pleasingly, there was a large Shenmue I & II poster* displayed prominently at the front of the information desk.
* Currently there is a Shenmue promotion running whereby a minimum purchase made at participating shops around Dobuita qualifies for one of several Shenmue-themed coasters. Details: Shenmue Coaster Collectibles & Dec 24th Fan Meeting in Yokosuka | Shenmue Sacred Spot Campaign
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Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Poll Result: Patrons' Choice Topic for December

Every month Phantom River Stone holds a poll among our patrons to choose a topic for the blog in the coming month. The results are in for December's topic, and the most highly-voted topic (including accumulated votes from previous months) was...

"In-game restaurant menus around Dobuita."

Although in Shenmue Ryo isn't able to eat at any of the restaurants around his home town, each of them is created in great detail, right down to the menu boards and lists of what food is available at each.

For this topic we'll investigate the various menu items and their prices at the restaurants around the Dobuita area, and see exactly what is on offer.

Watch for the article later this month.

If you're interested in reading it early, check us out on Patreon - the $2 tier will get you early access as soon as its ready, plus access to all early-access posts for the month. Or become a patron at a higher tier and participate in voting for your choice of monthly blog topic. Link to Phantom River Stone on Patreon.

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Saturday, December 1, 2018

Introductory Letter from Master Chen | Unused Textures in Shenmue

Unused Textures in Shenmue: Introductory Letter from Master Chen

Today's topic was selected by the Phantom River Stone blog patrons via our monthly poll. If you'd like to have a say in what subjects we cover next, consider supporting us on Patreon!

In this post we will examine some textures relating to envelopes and letters that were not used in the final release version of the game, but which were discovered hiding in the game files.

In particular we will focus on one particular letter that plays a key part of the story: the introduction letter from Master Chen that Ryo receives at the end of the first game, containing the name and address of a master in Hong Kong who will be able to assist him.

At the start of Shenmue II, Ryo starts holding the "letter" (really just a note):

Ryo checks Master Chen's note upon arrival in Hong Kong, at the start of Shenmue II.
Ryo checks Master Chen's note upon arrival in Hong Kong, at the start of Shenmue II.
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