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.

PRS: Have you watched people playing through the backer demo?

YS: Yes, I have. I've watched a lot of them!

PRS: Did you see any interesting reactions?

YS: All sorts... for example, there was one person who just did wood chopping, and another who spent the whole time on combat. And one who only picked herbs. Everyone has their own way of playing, and so I had fun watching.

Shenmue 3 Game Play

PRS: In a recent interview you described Ryo as a “blank slate”. By the end of Shenmue 3 how far will he have come to forming his own personality?

YS: Basically, I've taken the same approach as with Shenmue I and II. I'd like each player to envision for themselves and form their own "Ryo".

PRS: What play style would you recommend to players who are playing for the first time?

YS: I don't want them to rush. So I'd like them to play it slowly without hurrying, when they have the time. Find your own favorite activity - for example if you find Lucky Hit fun to play, then try all the different ones. Or if you enjoy the conversations, try remaining in one area. I want people to take lots of detours! If you just play through the story, you'll only experience about 20% of what Shenmue has to offer.

PRS: I'd like to ask about the character of Niao Sun. A description of her has recently been posted on the official [Japanese] website, but are you able to tell us more about what sort of person she is?

: That's something I'd like you to find out by playing the game. [smiles]

PRS: At the time of the Shenmue Premiere back around 1999, the promotional material introduced Niao Sun as being cruel and someone who "eliminates people like bugs." 

YS: Yes, that still fits her profile.

PRS: In Shenmue III there are a large number of NPCs. How were their names chosen?

YS: This time, many of the names are Chinese. We carried out research, for example on names that are common in China: which written Chinese characters are frequently-used for males: which are frequently-used for females; which names elderly women often have; and which names are common for young people.

Name trends differ according to the era, so to a certain extent we made use of statistics to come up with ideal names. And it was even better if they were easy to pronounce in Japanese.

PRS: Did you choose the names all at once, or gradually over a longer period of time?

YS: Relatively quickly, like “Okay, we’re going to decide them!”

PRS: In the first two games, if you take too much time, Shenhua will warn Ryo in a dream. Will we also be warned in some way in Shenmue 3?

YS: Yes, there's a time limit this time, too.

PRS: Presumably the warning won't be Shenhua appearing in Ryo's dream this time? [laughs]

YS: It's a secret.

But Shenhua won't need to appear in Ryo's dream. [laughs]

PRS: When waiting for an appointment at a certain time in Shenmue II, there was a time skip function available. Is there a similar feature in Shenmue III?

YS: Yes, there is.

Shenmue 3's Music

PRS: Regarding the music, how did you go about selecting the music tracks in the game? For example, based on time progression, Ryo's feelings, location and so on. What was your approach this time?

YS: In general, I selected a song to fit each scene or location. For example, battle music for a battle scene. However, there are a lot of songs, so they're divided into types: Battle music, Exploration music, Flashback music, Sorrowful music, Calm music and so on. Then I would basically choose a song from within one of those categories.

And for something like exploration, it's something that takes time. Depending on the player, you might spend an hour or two hours exploring, meaning you'll be listening to the same song the whole time. So if it's an intense song, or one that stands out, you'll get sick of it. For exploration music, I choose songs that are mild and non-intense, which are suitable for listening to repeatedly. Songs that can be heard for a long period of time without growing tired of them.

For battles, it has to suit the rush of adrenaline as you charge forward, so battles use songs that are a bit stronger, with a faster tempo.

So that's the way I've selected the music.

PRS: Around how many songs are there in Shenmue III?

YS: I haven't taken a proper count of them but... there are a lot of new songs in there.

PRS: New, meaning newly-composed?

YS: Well, there are songs that weren't used from the time of Shenmue I and II. I think there are probably even more than everyone may be expecting.

PRS: That sounds great, we're looking forward to hearing them.

At MAGIC Monaco in 2016, Yu played some samples of the many music pieces in the Shenmue collection that remained unused prior to Shenmue 3. The categories shown on the slide are Main Theme, Battles, Guilin and Other.

Message to the Fans

PRS: Finally, as Shenmue 3's release date is almost upon us, could you give a message to the Shenmue fans?

YS: It has been a long wait, but at last we're able to release it. I can't wait to get it out to you, to see people playing it and hearing your thoughts. Release date is very close now, so please wait just a little longer.

PRS: Thank you very much.

Although time was very limited, I hope you enjoyed hearing from Yu, and join us in wishing him and the team all the best for the November 19th release.

And why not try streaming or recording your own playthrough of Shenmue III - you might be lucky enough to have Yu Suzuki himself as one of your viewers.

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  1. Thanks for the interview! Good job! :)

    1. Thanks David! Actually the music topic reminds me of when you hosted the MAGIC Monaco 2016 presentation, where Yu played some samples from the Shenmue music collection.