Thursday, October 31, 2019

Shenmue III Video Advertisement - An Epic Adventure

Yesterday fans reported that a new official Shenmue III video advertisement has been appearing while watching YouTube videos on mobile devices, although it had been proving elusive to capture.

Thankfully a high-quality copy of it has now been posted on the official Shenmue III Facebook page, with a title of "Shenmue III - An Epic Adventure".

Minor spoiler warning: the video is 30 seconds long, and while no new characters are shown it does contain some content that we have not seen before.

View the video:

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Wednesday, October 30, 2019

An Interview with Yu Suzuki by Nagai Industries | Gamescom 2019

We're very pleased to share a new interview that was held with Yu Suzuki at Gamescom 2019 by a passionate Shenmue fan known in the community as Nagai Industries, who in doing so brought a long-held goal of interviewing Yu to reality.

About the author:
Nagai Industries can be found on Twitter and is an indie game developer inspired by the Yu Suzuki's teachings and a freelance journalist.
A Russian-language version of this interview article has also been published on and can be viewed here.

This interview would not have happened without the enormous support of the Shenmue community, of which I became an active part in 2014, when a friend of mine and I started developing a small Shenmue-inspired game — Lucky Hit Challenge.

At that time, the sequels of forgotten game series were popping up on Kickstarter, one by one. We dreamed that, sooner or later, one of these such sequels would be Shenmue III. In the fall of that year, we released the Lucky Hit Challenge in which the player could win money playing Lucky Hit and spend it on the in-game Shenmue III Kickstarter. This project was warmly received by the audience, and two years later I started developing a new project: the social application #ChawanSign that would generate Shenmue memes in augmented reality. It is this project that soon led me to an interview-meeting with Suzuki.

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Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Yu Suzuki & Shenmue III at MAGIC Kyoto 2019: Details

As previously announced by Cédric Biscay, Yu Suzuki will be participating in the upcoming MAGIC Kyoto event, and an update today gives further details about what to expect.
  • MAGIC Kyoto will take place on November 6th at the ROHM Theater, Kyoto. 
  • Yu Suzuki will be on stage to talk about Shenmue III from 8:15 pm to 9 pm. 
  • Joining him will be co-producer Cédric Biscay, Esra Krabbe (IGN Japan) and Shenmue fan Satsuki, to "play Shenmue III, talk all things Shenmue."
  • An autograph signing will be held. Update: the autograph session will be for 30 minutes within the period of 5.10 pm to 6.10pm.
Note that entry to the event is free, but pre-registration is required.

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Monday, October 28, 2019

Virtua Fighter's Connection to Virtua Racing's Pit Crew | Anecdote

Shenmue has its early roots in Yu Suzuki's 3D fighting game, Virtua Fighter, where the character of Akira Yuki was the basis for Ryo Hazuki and its fighting engine was incorporated into the first two games in the series.

In this short anecdote, a former managing director at Sega when Yu Suzuki was working there, named Hisashi Suzuki - no relation!, recalls how Yu Suzuki took up the challenge of creating this revolutionary fighting game to ensure Sega remained competitive.

The interview was held by 4Gamer, in 2012, although the article was published only earlier this year.

Hisashi Suzuki

Virtua Fighter: Born from Pursuing Reality

Yu Suzuki approached the executive office of Hisashi Suzuki and handed him a single video tape, saying, 'This is something I made for fun...'
Hisashi Suzuki: "When I played the tape, it showed the pit crew from Virtua Racing, but their movements were original and not from the game. It was a demo of animating the joints of human models. A prototype of Virtua Fighter. I think he may fitted mathematical processing to it, and at the time I'd say Sega would have been the only ones with the ability to do something like that.
The Virtua Racing pit crew in action
"I also recall that Yu and his team had been actively researching how to build models using as few polygons as possible."
According to [developer] Seiichi Ishii, who I also interviewed, the Virtua Fighter prototype that he himself made wasn't the one that used the Virtua Racing pit crew. It may well be that later, in order to show Hisashi Suzuki in the management offices, a more impactful video was created.

In any case, on seeing the video, Hisashi Suzuki was convinced that they could build a 3D fighting game.
"In an era when animating humans using 3D graphics was considered impossible, and those who thought it possible would be laughed at, Yu told me he wanted to do it. That's what's amazing about him.

"The proposals that Yu would bring me, Yu Suzuki's games - were all about 'reality', I think.

"Thanks to Yu's commitment to reality, the 3D fighting game of Virtua Fighter was able to be made. The characters in it also all look as though they could actually exist, right?

"On seeing the finished game, everyone was at a loss for words at how great it was."
Virtua Fighter

Source: 4Gamer (March 2019, Japanese)

Virtua Fighter was released in the arcades at the end of 1993, claiming its influential place in history as what many would recognize as the first-ever 3D fighting game.

It's pleasing to see from this anecdote that Yu Suzuki's talent for creating highly-convincing worlds is something that was appreciated by SEGA management. Yu would soon go on to start creation of  his "Virtua Fighter RPG", Shenmue's original form.

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Friday, October 25, 2019

Yu Suzuki Introduces Shenmue 3's World | Video & Screenshots

A second new promotional video has been released, again featuring Yu Suzuki introducing aspects of Shenmue III. This time the theme is Shenmue's world and atmosphere, with several new delightful clips from the game, mainly in the town of Niaowu. The release date of Shenmue 3 is coming up fast on 19th November!
Official English subtitles are confirmed to be coming (update: now added to the video), but to ease the wait we have translated Yu's comments below, as well as the Japanese subtitles seen on a few of the in-game video clips.

Along the way, Yu mentions the little bird mascot in Niaowu and the larger-than-life proprietress at Ryo's accommodation. And he reveals a shop with a hilarious theme that you won't want to miss when visiting Niaowu.

Minor Spoilers Ahead: although there are no major story-related spoilers, there are new images taken from the game and comments from Yu about the world of Shenmue 3.

First, the new video (Japanese with English subs).

Read on for our English translation of Yu Suzuki's interview and comments.

The Kind of World Shenmue Aims To Create

Yu Suzuki: "From a story perspective, it's about seeking revenge: Ryo hears that his father killed someone and can't believe it. He decides to go to confirm it for himself. However from the gameplay side, I'm hoping to recreate that feeling you have after completing a solo journey, of the experiences that stay with you as memories. That's the kind of game it is - like a travel experience."

Children rush off the ferry ahead of Ryo & Shenhua on arrival.

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Sunday, October 20, 2019

Niao Sun, Shrine Maiden & Other Character Profiles on the New Shenmue 3 Site

A new official Japanese-language website has just been unveiled for Shenmue 3!

While much of the content will be familiar to Shenmue fans, it also contains information not seen to date in other promotional material. We are introduced to the character of Niao Sun and learn more about the identity of the "shrine maiden" seen in previous Kickstarter updates.

In this post we present the character images on the website and translate the summary text for each.

Character Profile: Niao Sun (鳥隼)

Niao Sun is a character who was scheduled to be in Shenmue III since the start of the Kickstarter project, but her existence has long been known to fans since the time of the first game's release, when her image adorned merchandise such as posters, mugs and telephone cards. And during the development of Shenmue III, she was even glimpsed in the background of a teaser video.

Here are images of Niao Sun's character & her description from the new Shenmue III website:
Niao Sun
"One of the leaders of the shadowy Chi You Men criminal organization. Belying her captivating beauty, she is an expert martial arts practitioner. However, her greatest talent is said to lie in the area of plotting and strategy, and she makes use of her cunning wits to play dirty tricks. 'Niao Sun' is merely her nickname inside the organization, a reference to one of the Four Heavenly Beasts - the Vermilion Bird*. However regarding such details as her real name, background, and why she joined the Chi You Men, nothing at all is known".
*This is due to the meaning of the Chinese characters that make up her name: Niao (鳥) = bird, Sun (隼) = a falcon.

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Saturday, October 19, 2019

Poll Result: Patrons' Choice Topic for October 2019

Every month Phantom River Stone holds a poll among our patrons to choose a topic for the blog in the coming month. After tallying the votes (including accumulated votes from previous months), the winning topic was...

"Yu Suzuki's Research Trip to China: Part Four"

In 1994 Yu Suzuki spent two weeks in China gathering material for his upcoming Virtua Fighter II game, and his findings also greatly influenced his creation of Shenmue.
  • In Part One, we translated blog posts about the trip by Kazunari Uchida, the person who accompanied Yu Suzuki.
  • In Part Two, we translated Yu Suzuki's own comments about his trip, and how his findings would be useful for the development of the Virtua Fighter series.
  • Part Three was the first of a number of "diary" style articles documenting the China trip, again written by Kazunari Uchida, which were published in 1994 as a series in the Japanese Beep! MegaDrive Magazine.
Part Four will continue with the journal entry for Day One (Beijing). Watch for it on the blog in the near future.

For early access to this and other articles published on the blog, support us on Patreon!

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Friday, October 18, 2019

Yu Suzuki Introduces Shenmue III: the Story | Video with Text Summary

A new official video has been released featuring Yu Suzuki talking about the story of Shenmue so far. It is the first of a series of videos to promote the release of Shenmue 3 on 19th November and to attract newcomers. And for those of us who are already fans, it also includes some brand new clips from the game!

Here is the video:

As the video is in Japanese only at the moment (official English captions are to be added soon now added - Oct 25), this post contains a summary of the points Yu talks about, along with some new images captured from the video.
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New Shenmue III Official T-Shirt (Ryo & Shenhua)

Hot on the heels of the white-on-black forklift-design T-shirt that was revealed at the Tokyo Game Show in September is a new official Shenmue III T-shirt from SEGA, also with a black base but this time featuring the promotional full-color image of Ryo and Shenhua in front of the carved mirrors in the cave. It has an image of Yu Suzuki's signature in white at the bottom, and the YS Net logo can be seen on the sleeve.

The list price for the T-shirt is 3,700 yen (a jump in price compared to the 3,000-yen TGS T-shirt, but which includes free shipping within Japan), and comes in these sizes:
  • M: length 70 cm, width 52 cm, sleeve 20 cm
  • L: length 74 cm, width 55 cm, sleeve 22 cm
  • XL: length 78 cm, width 58 cm, sleeve 24 cm


Currently the T-shirt can be pre-ordered on the Japanese Rakuten Books site, either by itself for 3,700 yen or together with the PS4 Day One Edition of Shenmue III for 9,999 yen.

It will become available on November 19th which coincides with the game's release.

Unfortunately, the Rakuten Books site does not accept PayPal or non-Japanese credit cards which may prevent many living outside Japan from ordering the T-shirt from the site without the help of a friend living in the country.

It seems likely that the T-shirt will become available for purchase elsewhere, such as at SEGA's online shop.

Update: Rakuten Books has confirmed in a tweet that this T-shirt is exclusive to their store.

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Sunday, October 13, 2019

Yu Suzuki's Research Trip to China Part 3: An Invitation from Yu | Translation

This topic was selected by Phantom River Stone patrons in our monthly poll for a topic choice.

In the early 1990s, Yu Suzuki made a seminal trip to China. His objective was to research and gather material for his upcoming Virtua Fighter 2, and this research also influenced his concept for a "Virtua Fighter RPG" which eventually came to be known as Shenmue.

Previous posts in this series:
  • In Part One, we translated blog posts about the trip by Kazunari Uchida, the person who accompanied Yu Suzuki.
  • In Part Two, we translated Yu Suzuki's own comments about his trip, and how his findings would be useful for the development of the Virtua Fighter series.
This post is a translation of the first of a set of articles documenting the China trip, again written by Kazunari Uchida. They were published in 1994 as a series in the Japanese Beep! MegaDrive Magazine.

The translation begins here.

Yu Suzuki: China Research Trip Journal by Kazunari Uchida

The Genius That is Yu Suzuki

When talking about Yu Suzuki, he is often described as a "programming genius". But wherein does his genius lie?

Is he called a genius due to his creation of hit title after hit title in the 10 years since distinguishing himself with Hang On? Or because the ideas themselves are remarkable? Or is it due to his thorough pursuit of reality that characterize his games, together with the programming methods used in its implementation?

On the other hand, someone who has been called a genius gets unconditionally placed upon a pedestal, and others may have the impression that they are not very approachable. But, in that sense, I feel uncomfortable in labeling the Yu Suzuki I know as a "genius".

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Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Analysis: Examining the Physical Rewards (Part Three) | Shenmue 3

Back in July, the Shenmue 3 team sent out an update that contained in-game screenshots of various backer rewards, which we covered in earlier posts (Part One and Part Two).

In today's post we'll complete the overview (at last!) by examining photos of the physical rewards. As usual, we'll point out any details that can be extracted from the images along the way.

Shenmue Illustration Signed by Yu Suzuki

This signed illustration was part of the $300 "Signed Kickstarter Collector's Edition" reward tier (there was also an unsigned version at the $250 "Kickstarter Collector's Edition" tier).

According to the Kickstarter update, more than 5,000 have been hand-signed by Yu Suzuki himself.

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Sunday, October 6, 2019

Shenmue 3 Trial First Impressions from Yuc02 [Part 2/2]

This is the second part of an article by Shenmue Dojo member and frequent guest poster yuc02 describing his experience and thoughts on the Shenmue 3 Trial.

Part One can be found here.

  • Aurally the demo was also excellent, with new BGM tracks introduced along with old/unreleased ones from Shenmue Online. 
  • Transitioning between areas causes different music tracks to fade in/out, giving the same impression as Shenmue I and II without the loading screens.  There were however some moments of silence if Ryo stops in the middle of the transition area.
  • Sound effects also help to accurately depict the rural environment, which varies depending on time of day (cicadas sounds at night for example) and greatly enhances the atmosphere.

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Friday, October 4, 2019

Shenmue 3 Trial First Impressions from Yuc02 [Part 1/2]

Shenmue Dojo member and frequent guest poster yuc02 has contributed a new article describing his experience and thoughts on the Shenmue 3 Trial. There are two parts in total, with this being Part One. Enjoy!

Shenmue 3 Trial First Impressions (Part One)

Wow, what a month September has been. After the fantastic new trailer from TGS, the trial version of the game has finally been released to Kickstarters and Slacker Backers who have donated at the $100 tier or above. I was fortunate enough to be one of them, and here are my first impressions of the gameplay and environments, as well as opinions on the Epic Games launcher itself.

After the KS announcements 115 and 116, Fangamer promptly sent me the download code via email on the morning of September 27th.
The download code and play guides on the Fangamer site
Following the instructions in update 115, I easily installed and downloaded the trial to my laptop, despite the wait being slightly unbearable (although thankfully not as long as the 18 year wait for S3!).

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