Friday, November 29, 2019

[Part 1] Shenmue Discussion with Yu Suzuki & Developers | IGN Japan

To commemorate the release of Shenmue 3 earlier this month, IGN Japan's Esra Krabbe spoke with key members of the development team, who were all also on the project team for the first two games: creator and game director Yu Suzuki, animation producer Hiroaki Takeuchi and second director Keiji Okayasu.

In this post we share some of the highlights of the discussion. Due to length, we will split this over a number of parts. A link to the video can be found at the end of this post.

Early Concept Art

Displayed on the table are folders containing some colored concept sketches. Yu Suzuki comments that these were created during development of the original Shenmue games, with some being from the start of the project which began "4 to 5 years" prior to the release of the first game in 1999. The figure wearing Chinese-style martial arts clothing is Akira from Virtua Fighter, as the idea at that time was to make him the main character in a story centered around Chinese martial arts - indeed, Yu Suzuki wrote a set of scripts that encapsulated the story, called "The Legend of Akira".

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Saturday, November 23, 2019

IGN Japan's Video Review of Shenmue 3 (ENG captions)

IGN Japan has published their review of Shenmue 3 and awarded the game a rating of 9/10 (Amazing), stating that Shenmue 3 is overall a "magnificent" game.

This review was carried out by IGN Japan's foremost Shenmue expert, Esra Krabbe, who dedicated over 100 hours playing the game thoroughly to the end to form a fully-rounded opinion.

The video is narrated in Japanese, but we're pleased to  have worked with IGN Japan to provide English captions so now the wider community can enjoy this well-balanced review.

⚠️ Potential Spoilers

The review does not give away any story spoilers, but that it does contain clips of game locations and gameplay from both early and later areas of the game.

As noted at the start of the video, if you wish to avoid exposure to any new information or clips taken from the game then you may wish to hold off on watching the review until after you have played Shenmue 3.

Otherwise, view the video below (remember to turn on captions if they are not already enabled):

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Wednesday, November 20, 2019

We Took Shenmue III on a Dobuita Tour. Plus Sacred Spot Map Give-away Celebration!

November 19th, 2019: what a special day this has been, marking the successful release of Shenmue III and is true testament to years of hopes, dreams and coordinated efforts to bring about something that was widely dismissed as something that would never happen. It is amazing to see social media such as Twitter exploding with the reactions of delighted fans.

And this all came about because of you, the community who believed in and supported the vision of a continuation of the saga that first started 20 years ago. So a hearty congratulations to everyone, from those who run social fan sites, forums, YouTube channels and podcasts, to those who have tirelessly organized ongoing campaigns to promote the franchise, and to each individual fan who kept the dream alive.

To commemorate the occasion, enjoy a small photo gallery showing Shenmue III on location in Ryo Hazuki's hometown of Yokosuka, where his journey began so long ago. The images were taken at various locations on Dobuita Street and the surrounding area.

But first, an announcement: we will be giving away a Shenmue map set to one lucky person. Here are the instructions on how to enter.

Phantom River Stone's Shenmue "Sacred Spot Guide Map" Set Give-away!

On Dobuita Street we picked up a pair of Shenmue maps from the friendly Kakita military surplus store, as a lucky give-away prize.

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Monday, November 18, 2019

Farewell, Kawasaki Warehouse Arcade | A Slice of Kowloon Walled City

Today's post, written by Patrick Fuller, is a tribute to the arcade building in Kawasaki that closed down yesterday. It realistically recreated a magical slice of the once-existing Kowloon Walled City that Ryo explores in Shenmue II, and that magic can be seen in his photographs and walk-through video.

About the author: Patrick (Paddy) Fuller
I’ve been a Shenmue fan since back in 2002 and have not been able to get this series out of my head since. The world has so much depth and presents something new with every playthrough. Just when you think you’ve seen all the game has to offer, comes along with another brilliant article exploring some of the in-depth cultural references and minutiae that would otherwise go overlooked. Thanks to Switch for allowing me to contribute.

I’m @patrickjfuller on Instagram and @paddyjfuller on Twitter if you want to follow me for pictures of Japan. I travel at least once a year and will be in Hong Kong over Christmas.
On 17th November 2019, just two days before a new chapter in Shenmue history opens, a popular spot on the Shenmue pilgrimage tour closed. The Kawasaki branch of the Anata No Warehouse ('Your Warehouse') chain was a five-story amusement arcade that was renowned for its recreation of the gritty, urban atmosphere of Kowloon’s infamous Walled City, but has now shut its doors for the final time.

There’s no turning back for Ryo now.

Anyone who has embarked on a Shenmue pilgrimage will testify that there is a distinct feeling of déjà vu when walking down Dobuita Street for the first time. The fact that a place you’ve never visited can feel so familiar is a testament to Shenmue’s ability to capture the atmosphere of a place in the real world.

Kowloon’s ‘Walled City’, perhaps the most atmospheric place in the Shenmue series, was one that fans of the game would never get to experience in real life: due to the city’s demolition in 1993.

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Sunday, November 17, 2019

Yu Suzuki Presented With Lifetime Achievement Award (Golden Joystick Awards)

Yu Suzuki was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award at the recent Golden Joystick Awards held recently in London.

Peter Moore, former president and COO of Sega America, gave some words of introduction:
"We marveled at the 3D graphics of the F1 cars in Virtua Racing, and in Akira in Virtua Fighter. From Out Run to F-355 Challenge, he put us in the cockpit of the cars of our dreams. But it was as Ryo Hazuki, out to avenge the death of his father, that he introduced us to the wonders of true open-world exploration in the ground-breaking tour-de-force that was Shenmue. It wasn't cheap, but my goodness, its unique gameplay and non-linear journey became the goal stand for so many games that followed in its ground-breaking footsteps."
After Yu received the award, he added with a smile: "Furthermore, Shenmue 3 will be released next week!" to which the audience responded with cheers and applause.

Watch the video of Yu receiving his reward:

Our congratulations to Yu Suzuki on this well-deserved award!

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Saturday, November 16, 2019

Shenmue Documentary: New Trailer at the Golden Joystick Awards

A fantastic new trailer for the Shenmue documentary "A Gamer's Journey: The Definitive History of Shenmue" has been released at the recent Golden Joystick Awards.

Interview clips in this trailer from representative figures who have been involved with the game in various ways including Peter Moore (former president at Sega of America), video game producer / director Ryan Payton, former and current Shenmue developers, YouTube personalities and of course Yu Suzuki himself.

Interleaved with the interview slips is footage of real-life locations, arcade game cabinets created by Yu Suzuki, game events with special significance, and even a visit to the YS Net development studio.
View the latest trailer:

Regarding the release date, documentary creator Adam Sipione commented as follows on the Shenmue 500K Facebook that a fixed release date has not yet been set:
"Right now we are fine tuning the edit, plus we have to shoot some more b roll segments, create the motion graphics, titles, audio mix, etc. Still some work to be done but as you can tell we have come a long way and the end is in sight."
It sounds like great progress has been made, and we will post further updates regarding the documentary as they are made available.

Link to the official Kickstarter Update
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Thursday, November 14, 2019

Shenmue 3 Launch Trailer & Screenshot Comparisons

The official Shenmue 3 launch trailer is out! It is around two and a half minutes in length, with both English-voiced and Japanese-voiced versions. It is focused on character interactions, and gives a great overview of some of the various characters Ryo will meet or interact with in the game.

The trailer starts with a sequence in black-and-white showing Ryo and Shenhua exploring the cave where we left them 18 years ago, before color infuses the video together with the words: "A moment in motion, a story renewed."

The trailer includes footage of the character of the shrine maiden ("You've got the wrong guy!" exclaims Ryo as she launches herself toward him, armed with a broom), a brief interaction with Ren, Niao Sun laughing in a villain-like way, and a fight with Mr Muscles high above Niaowu.

Sprinkled throughout the trailer are scenes of dialog between Ryo and Shenhua, hinting at the depth of their conversations and the way their relationship will build during the game, and the trailer also ends with Shenhua addressing Ryo.

Watch the English-voiced trailer:

Watch the Japanese-voiced trailer:


Certain scenes and situations can be recognized from earlier trailers and screenshots, often much earlier in the development cycle. Just for fun, here are a few selected visual comparisons.

Ryo and Shenhua Running Toward Each Other

From "The First Teaser" at Gamescom 2017:
Launch trailer:
It seems Ryo has gained some height over Shenhua! Shenmue tree petals can be seen falling in both, but they are much more subtle in the final version.
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Monday, November 11, 2019

MAGIC Kyoto 2019 Travel Report

Held on November 6th, the MAGIC Kyoto event that took place in the Kansai region of Japan is one of the last major events to feature Shenmue 3 prior to its release on the 19th. I traveled down to Kyoto to attend the Shenmue 3 conference live (would there perhaps be a new trailer?) and meet with a number of other Shenmue fans both from within Japan and overseas.

In this post I'll share some photos of the trip and event (a mix of those taken by myself and by others).

The venue was located a short bus ride from Kyoto station.

Kyoto tower: the first thing to greet you on exiting the train station.

The MAGIC Kyoto venue location: the Rohm Theater.
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Sunday, November 10, 2019

Mini-Interview with Yu Suzuki at MAGIC Kyoto 2019

We are now just over a week until the release of Shenmue III on November 19th, and to keep the hype building we have something special to share in this post - a brand new interview with Yu Suzuki.

In recent weeks, it was announced that Yu Suzuki would be present at the MAGIC Kyoto event, appearing on stage to talk about the game as well as meeting fans at an autograph signing session. I thought that this could be the last opportunity to speak to the legendary creator prior to its release.

Although no media interviews were officially planned, thanks to the kind arrangements and permission from Shibuya Productions, Koch Media and YS Net I was able to snatch some of Yu Suzuki's precious time at the event.

The interview transcript begins below, translated into English.

Yu's Feeling with the Approaching Release

Phantom River Stone: Thank you for your time today. Please tell us how you feel now that you have finished making Shenmue 3?

Yu Suzuki: I can't wait to release it. There are about two weeks to go now, aren't there. I'm a little nervous thinking about how it will go. However, there's no use feeling nervous. I just want it to be released already! [laughs] I'd like it to be in everyone's hands as soon as possible.

PRS: People's reactions to the Shenmue 3 backer demo have been really positive.

YS: I'm glad to hear that.

PRS: What are you most looking forward to after Shenmue 3's release?

YS: The thing I'm most looking forward to after the release is hearing everyone's impressions, and watching videos uploaded to the web where players comment as they play through.
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Friday, November 8, 2019

Yu Suzuki Introduces Shenmue 3: Extra Features | Video & Summary

A fourth promotional video has been released, in which Yu Suzuki introduces another aspect of Shenmue III. This time the theme is the activities and mini-games in Shenmue III. The release date of Shenmue 3 is coming up fast on 19th November!

The previous three Shenmue III promo videos in this interview series can be found here:
Here is the new video. It has official English subs, so remember to turn these on!

Text Summary

Below is a summary of the points Yu talks about in the video (based on the Japanese).
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Monday, November 4, 2019

Poll Result: Patrons' Choice Topic for November 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 for November was...

"Dobuita's motorcycle shop Knocking in real life - where is it now?"

With its under-repair motorcycles scattered about outside, motorcycle shop "Knocking" is an easy-to-find landmark in Shenmue's Dobuita.

Knocking Motorcycle Shop in Shenmue
The Knocking motorcycle shop in Shenmue was based on an actual shop that existed in Dobuita at the time, and it had a very similar name: "Knock"!

Although no such motorcycle shop can be found on real-life Dobuita Street today, online research suggests that the shop may still actually be in business elsewhere in Yokosuka.

We have made it our mission to try to track down its new location and bring back photographic evidence if it is still operating.

Watch for this article on the blog in the near future.

Get early access to this and other articles by becoming a Patreon supporter!

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Sunday, November 3, 2019

Nagoshi's Involvement with Shenmue's Release | Anecdote from Sega Management [4Gamer]

This topic was selected by the Phantom River Stone blog patrons via our monthly poll. Check out our page on Patreon!

At the end of 2018, Sega's current Chief Creative Officer Toshihiro Nagoshi talked to GamesRadar about his involvement in getting the first Shenmue game ready for release, in particular how he was enlisted by upper management to get the project wrapped up, which he stated he was able to do within a 6-month timeframe.

Not a lot has been reported on this topic in general, so here we share another angle, this time from the point of view of Sega management at the time.

An article published by 4Gamer earlier this year describes a 2012 interview with Hisashi Suzuki who was a senior director at Sega at the time and had formerly been managing Yu Suzuki prior to the Shenmue project. Hisashi Suzuki is the director whose anecdote about Virtua Racing we also translated recently:
The translated excerpt begins below.

According to the testimony of Sega managing director Hisashi Suzuki, the photo below led to the start of a certain big project.

It was taken when top members of the development teams surround a special guest from the US. I'm sure some people will know immediately who it is, but the special guest is Steven Spielberg. Also there was (CEO) Nakayama, although he isn't in the photo, along with Hisashi Suzuki and Yu Suzuki.

Photo description: At the far left, watching the gameplay from over the partition, is Hisashi Suzuki, with Yu Suzuki beside him. Back right is Steven Spielberg, and on his left is Hisao Oguchi. Playing the game are Mie Kumagai and Spielberg's son. At the front right is Mark Cerny, who was formerly worked on Sonic the Hedgehog 2 and is also known for being the lead system architect for the PS4. Cerny was not working for Sega at this time, but is likely to have accompanied Spielberg here due to his involvement in one of Spielberg's projects.
Hisashi Suzuki relates:
 "Spielberg did a tour of Sega, I believe when he was in Japan to promote a movie. He himself owned a game company called GameWorks, you see. Nakayama led the way as they walked around the development offices.
"When he showed Virtua Fighter RPG to Spielberg, he was like, 'That's wonderful!' And that pleased Nakayama so much that he gave the direction to start development on it in earnest."
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Friday, November 1, 2019

Yu Suzuki Introduces Shenmue 3's Training | Video & Text Summary

A third new promotional video has been released, again featuring Yu Suzuki introducing aspects of Shenmue III. This time the theme is Shenmue III's martial arts training. The release date of Shenmue 3 is coming up fast on 19th November!

There previous two Shenmue III promo videos in this interview series can be found here:
Here is the new video (now with official English subs added):

Text Summary

Below is a summary of the points Yu talks about in the video.

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