Sunday, February 16, 2020

Ryo's Footwear Habits Revisited | Shenmue 3

One of the many small details in the first game in the Shenmue series is the way that Ryo always makes sure to slip off his shoes when entering his home or the Dojo (with the prologue scene being the one notable and deliberately-made exception), adding a layer of authenticity to the world.
Shenmue I: Ryo removes his footwear when inside the Hazuki residence.
In Shenmue II, however, unlike in the first game Ryo does not remove his footwear at any time, even on occasions where it would have seemingly been natural for him to do so.
One explanation for the absence of footwear removal in Shenmue II may have been due to budget constraints, as it would have required extra cut scenes, modeling and animations. With the release of Shenmue III, we have the opportunity to observe how similar occasions are handled in the latest sequel.

Ryo's Footwear Habits in Shenmue III

We'll look at how two locations that involve situations where Ryo might be expected to remove his shoes, both being in Bailu village with its traditional customs and way of life: Shenhua's house and the house of Elder Yeh.

Shenhua's House: Ryo's Bed

When Ryo goes to sleep in the evening at Shenhua's house, a cut scene shows him lying down on top of the blankets, and another plays in the morning when he awakes to his watch alarm.

Both of these standard scenes use camera angles that do not show his feet.
Ryo asleep up at Shenhua's house in Shenmue III
However, if sufficient time has been spent in the game conversing with Shenhua, she will become friendlier and start to enter Ryo's room each morning to wake him up.

This cut scene version has a wider angle, and now we can see that Ryo keeps his shoes on.
During the cut scene of Shenhua waking Ryo, his secret is revealed.
It would seem that in Shenmue III, Ryo is continuing his habits from the second game, not taking off his shoes before lying down.

Shenhua's House: Around the Fireplace

So how about the raised matted area of Shenhua's house, with the round fireplace set into it?

You may recall that in Shenmue II, Ryo walks around on it and kneels on the floor cushion wearing shoes - as indeed does Shenhua, something which has always made me wonder whether the true intention was for them to have removed their shoes, had the development budget allowed for it.
Ryo at Shenhua's house in Shenmue II
With Shenmue III, that question has been answered in a sense. When the player navigates Ryo up to the raised area, a short cut scene plays showing him removing his shoes before stepping up. This is a nice touch that is reminiscent of the way he enters the Hazuki residence in the first game.
Ryo steps up onto the matted area.
Similarly, when Shenhua is seated, we see that she is barefooted.
Shenhua sitting bare-footed at the fireplace.
When Ryo steps back down from the mats, again a cut scene plays as he fits his shoes on again.

I have scanned the area around the step to see if Ryo and Shenhua's removed shoes can actually be seen placed neatly nearby, but they don't seem to be anywhere to be found. Still, it was pleasing to see this touch being included in the game despite its budget constraints.
An animation plays out when Ryo removes or puts on his shoes, just like in the first game (left), although the shoes aren't shown on the floor after they are removed (right).

Elder Yeh's House: Around the Fireplace

Now let's look at another house that Ryo visits in the village, where he and Shenhua are invited inside to sit on the matted area: the house of Elder Yeh.

During the cut scene here, we can confirm that Ryo has removed his shoes, and is wearing only socks on his feet.
At the house of Elder Yeh in Shenmue III: Ryo has removed his shoes here too.

Final Comment

With the first two Shenmue games, Ryo went from thoughtfully removing his shoes when entering his home and Dojo, to an "always worn" footwear policy in Shenmue II.

From the evidence found above, Shenmue III aims for somewhere between the two extremes: characters in the game do not wear footwear on the matted living area of houses, but Ryo still sleeps wearing his shoes - that must be too much of a habit now to break!

Although a small detail, it helps make the scenes feel more natural and adds to the Shenmue experience. It was a somewhat unexpected and welcome sight to see this custom of removing shoes be reflected again in Shenmue III.

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