Sunday, December 29, 2019

You Know You're in Dobuita When... | Dobuita in Real Life

You know you're in Dobuita when you spot a sign like this:

If Ryo had found such helpful guidance in Shenmue, it might have saved him a lot time in his investigations!

Become a Patron!

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Shenmue 3 Guizhang Call Dubbed by Eric Kelso

If you enjoyed the recent revoicing of Ryo's telephone call with Fuku-san in Shenmue 3 by the original voice actor, Eric Kelso, then don't miss this second treat in the form of a telephone call with Guizhang that has also been revoiced by Eric.

The arrangement of the recording work by Eric and the redubbing of the video was carried out by James Reiner, who comments in the video description: "The BGM and subtitles are done in post edit. I also changed the script a little so it is not canon."

As James alludes to, he has made some changes to the wording compared to the Shenmue 3 lines: the phrasings of the spoken password sequence accurately reflect those from in Shenmue 1, and Guizhang has regained his usual gruff tone and attitude towards Ryo from the first game. Plus - he now makes mention of the accident that befell him at the end of the first game!

It has been amazing to see what has been achieved by fans together with Eric generously giving his time freely to carry out these recordings so we can hear these characters chatting with Ryo just as they sounded in the first game.

Become a Patron!

Saturday, December 21, 2019

Eric Kelso Voices Fuku-san! Shenmue 3 Telephone Conversations | Guest Post

We welcome guest contributor Patrick Fuller back to the blog with something special that's sure to bring a smile to the face of players of Shenmue III who have fond memories playing the English dub of the first game.

As a fan, one of my most anticipated features of Shenmue III in the build-up to release was the ability to contact characters from the previous two games with an international phonecard.

However, anyone who has reached the Hotel Niaowu will have noticed that the payphone in the lobby has some technical issues. Long distance calls are fine, but often the people on the other end of the line will sound slightly different than expected.

Rather than wait for Ma Jailing at the front desk to have this fixed, I’ve decided to take matters into my own hands.

I met Eric Kelso earlier this year in Japan, and whilst I was too drunk to remember any of it, luckily, he remembers me and has been kind enough to record the script for Ryo’s phone calls with Fuku-san.

For anyone who wants to hear what Ryo’s conversations would sound like with the original voice actor, get ready to bathe in some nostalgia and enjoy the 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.

I’m @patrickjfuller on Instagram and @paddyjfuller on Twitter if you want to follow me for pictures of Japan.
Become a Patron!

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

[Part 3] Shenmue Discussion with Yu Suzuki & Developers | IGN Japan

This is the third and final part of our summary of a video interview with three key members of the development team for Shenmue III who were also core project members in the earlier titles: creator and game director Yu Suzuki, animation producer Hiroaki Takeuchi and second director Keiji Okayasu. The interview was held by IGN Japan's Esra Krabbe.

If you haven't yet read the first two parts, you can find them here:

Shenmue I & II's Drink Machines

Okayasu recounts that the thing that surprised him the most when he was working on the first two Shenmue games was when Suzuki wanted to put in drink machines. "They didn't have any meaning with respect to the gameplay, you see. You put your money in, the can drops down, you drink it... and that's all."

However, he saw the sense in Suzuki's thinking that drink machines are a common sight for a town, and buying a drink from one is something you might do if you had some pocket change.

"There needs to be consumption in order to create a cycle," explains Suzuki, making a circular motion in the air. "My intention when I created them was to form a cycle by connecting several such small elements together, although in practice I wasn't quite able to reach that point".

Were the winning cans a part of this?

"To some extent, yes, as motivation for players to continue buying cans," Yu nods.

Become a Patron!

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

"Kiss Off Twit!"- Insults in Shenmue | Translation Analysis

This topic was selected by the Phantom River Stone blog patrons via our monthly poll on Patreon and was available for early access.

One of the things the Shenmue games are particularly known for is the believable world they portray, with no detail too small to escape attention. It is also a world populated by hardened gang members and even delinquent schoolgirls who waste no time in cutting Ryo down to size if he attempts to interact with them, with a number of offensive retorts to Ryo's polite queries.

A smile will have sprung to the lips of many a player after seeing a tattooed biker grimace menacingly at Ryo before snarling: "Kiss off twit!" There is at times an apparent disjoint between the character's appearance and their choice of language. Is this something that was present even in the Japanese version of the lines?

To answer this, we will compare a selection of lines and examine their original Japanese translation.

Insults & Tough Talk: Japanese vs English

It is interesting to note that the Japanese language has a somewhat different approach compared to English when looking to insult someone or talk tough.

While in English there are certain words and phrases that distinguish polite from causal speech, the Japanese language has a much more regimented system to define humble, polite and respectful speech. Hence, simply not using polite language to address a stranger can represent insulting behavior in itself. (In the examples below, the characters use a very rough and slang-filled form of speech when replying to Ryo's mild enquiries).

Another pattern in Japanese slangy spoken speech is that adjectives ending in an "ai" or "oi" sound often change to "ee" (also written "e~"). This is also something that can be seen in the examples. For example, in Example 1, the biker pronounces the word "shitsukoi" (meaning persistent) as "shitsukee", emphasizing his tough-guy image.

Dobuita Bikers (Koji Yabe and Shingo Mochizuki)

These two biker gang members don't have much time for Ryo's questioning, and are quick to cut him down and send him on his way with a selection of choice phrases.

Let's see how some of their English lines compare the Japanese, translating the Japanese fairly directly.

Example 1

English: Kiss off twit!
Japanese: Shitsuke~n da yo. = You're bugging me!

In Japanese, Koji speaks in a rough / masculine manner, telling Ryo that he's being annoying with all his questioning. The English doesn't translate this directly, but instead tries to capture the intent. However, the family-friendly phrasing does somewhat take the edge off his words.
Become a Patron!

Sunday, December 8, 2019

[Part 2] Shenmue Discussion with Yu Suzuki & Developers | IGN Japan

This is the second part of a 3-part summary of a video interview with three key members of the development team for Shenmue 3 who were also core project members in the earlier titles: creator and game director Yu Suzuki, animation producer Hiroaki Takeuchi and second director Keiji Okayasu. The interview was held by IGN Japan's Esra Krabbe.

The Boat Chapter

When asked about the legendary chapter that takes place on the boat from Yokosuka to Hong Kong, Yu Suzuki is slightly wary. "I don't want to say too much, since I may make some use of it later," he says with a smile. "During the journey various incidents and encounters take place on board.".
Official Shenmue Side Story "Chai & Ryo"
Takeuchi adds: "The scenario has been written as a base, but that won't simply be used as it is. We would then add things to it like fun gameplay elements and so on, while thinking of the overall balance".

Become a Patron!

Friday, December 6, 2019

Poll Result: Patrons' Choice Topic for December 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), there was a draw between two topics. Switch stepped in with a deciding vote, making the winning topic for December...

"Shenmue Passport Online Features (Dreamcast Magazine 2000)"

Soon after Shenmue's original release at the end of 1999, Japan's Dreamcast Magazine published a section to introduce the Shenmue Passport, a little-known but impressive feature of Shenmue that was completely contained on the 4th disc and even made use of an online connection to Sega's servers if your Dreamcast had network capability.

Shenmue Passport Feature from Dreamcast Magazine
Topics in the section include:

  • Enjoy Shenmue more online!
  • Are you set up for online connection?
  • Nozomi's Messages, Troubleshooting, Character Profiles
  • Shenmue Triathalon

We will be translating this article on the blog in the near future.

(Also don't forget you can download a modern fan remake of the Shenmue Passport for mobile devices at the Suka Pass project site. It is updated regularly with new features.)

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

Become a Patron!

Shenmue III Review by Daniel Mann

Guest contributor Daniel Mann gives his thoughts and verdict on Shenmue III.

⚠Potential Spoilers!⚠

This review has been carefully written to avoid any major story spoilers, but be aware that there are brief references to some of the characters, locations and activities in the game.

If you had told me twelve years ago that I would finally be playing Shenmue III in 2019, I would have looked at you sadly and said “stop yanking my chain already.” But incredibly, here we are in 2019 and not only have I played it, but I have also completed it. Days removed from witnessing the final cut scene of Shenmue III and here I sit processing the journey I’ve just taken. After 45 hours with the game, I confess that I’m left with far more questions than answers but the one thing that holds true in my heart is this: even after 18 years of waiting, Shenmue III still retains the same charm and ambition that made me fall in love with the first two games way back when.

After 18 years dormant, Shenmue returns to prominence thanks to the help of Kickstarter and over $6 million dollars raised by an eager fanbase who wouldn’t let it die. Despite the long 18 years of waiting, the story literally picks up mere moments after the end of Shenmue II.

Become a Patron!

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Announcement: Shenmue Guide Map Give-away Result

It's the 3rd of the month - Happy Shenmue Day!

It's time to announce the winner of our give-away for two Shenmue Sacred Spot Guide Maps that were picked up from Yokosuka on Shenmue 3 release day month.

A lucky winner has been chosen, and congratulations go to... Alvin T. Chan. We will be in touch with you by DM to get some details so we can get the maps sent off to you.

Thank you for all your entries. For those who missed out this time, a digital version of the map is available for download here.

Become a Patron!

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".

Become a Patron!

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):

Become a Patron!

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.

Become a Patron!

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.

Become a Patron!

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!

Become a Patron!

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
Become a Patron!

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.
Become a Patron!

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.
Become a Patron!

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.
Become a Patron!

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).
Become a Patron!

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!

Become a Patron!

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."
Become a Patron!

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.

Become a Patron!

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:

Become a Patron!

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.

Become a Patron!

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.

Become a Patron!

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.

Become a Patron!

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.

Become a Patron!

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.

Become a Patron!

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!

Become a Patron!

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.
Become a Patron!

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.

Become a Patron!

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".

Become a Patron!

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.

Become a Patron!

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.

Become a Patron!

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!).

Become a Patron!

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Shenmue 3 Backer Trial: Picture Gallery

What an exciting day it has been for many Shenmue fans, with the release of the Shenmue III trial for backers (those who pledged $100 or above to the Kickstarter or Slacker Backer campaigns).

I had some additional unwanted "excitement" as my PC chose this exact day for the screen to start freezing and showing nothing but black after a couple of minutes, each time I started a new game. In the end, opening up my PC and reseating the graphics card firmly did the trick and I was able to relax and enjoy the gameplay.

The content appears to be the same as I experienced playing at the recent Tokyo Game Show, although this time I chose to try it out with English voices rather than Japanese. I'm happy to say that I did beat the bookie and complete the trial on my second attempt, after some training at the dojo on the mountainside.

Have you played the trial yet, and if so what did you think? Leave any comments beneath this post.

Enjoy below a selection of screenshots from the trial, with captioned notes.

The trial comes with an English version of The Prophecy trailer, with a new clip at the end showing the newly-envisaged Shenmue tree which looks spectacular.
Become a Patron!