Thursday, April 30, 2020

Yu Suzuki Interview: Reflecting on Shenmue III and Future Plans [IGN Japan] | Translation

IGN Japan has published a fantastic new interview with Yu Suzuki, in which he reflects on Shenmue III and goes on to talk about his ideas and thoughts for a potential Shenmue IV. The interview was held by Esra Krabbe in mid-March at the YS Net offices.

The text below is a full (unofficial) translation into English of the original article on IGN Japan.

Good to See Yu Again

In mid-March, I met with Yu Suzuki for the first time in a while. Four months on from Shenmue III’s release, despite there having being no new announcement, I had wriggled my way into an interview.

On entering the YS Net offices, Yu-san greeted me with a friendly smile.

“It’s been a while.”

Of course, what I really wanted to do was to obtain even a small scrap of information about Shenmue IV. But just seeing Yu-san’s smile somehow made me feel happy.

Shenmue has been a great influence on my life, and the realization of Shenmue III after 18 years was an immeasurably significant event. As a game journalist, I followed its progress through to release, traveling to countries such as Monaco, the U.S. and Germany and interviewing Yu-san numerous times. But after the release, such opportunities had dried up.

Yu-san was just the same as ever. He answered my persistent questioning about Shenmue with an unwavering smile, and his comparisons involving racing cars (which are lost on me as I don’t even hold a driving license) reminded me of old times.

Most of all, however, I somehow felt a sense of relief to see him just as full of passion as ever. It turned out that his heart is set on continuing on with Shenmue to take the series towards completion, and there are also many other games he wants to make.

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Thursday, April 23, 2020

Ryuji Iuchi's Music Commentary: Shenmue Play Through | Translation

Composer Ryuji Iuchi, who wrote over 100 pieces of music for Shenmue I and II, has recently started streaming a live playthrough of Shenmue on YouTube, from the Shenmue I & II remake.

In this post we'll pick out some of the comments and memories that Ryuji shares regarding his time developing music and sound for the game during the first part of his playthrough.

The stream starts with relaxing music welcoming viewers: Ryuji's beautiful "Village and Waterside in the Forest" which is full of Shenmue vibes and features the haunting sound of the erhu (played by Hiroko Suzuki).

Ryuji comments that although he purchased the Shenmue I & II software last July, he hasn't played it properly until now. He has even given the series the humorous subtitle of "Pretty much my first try at playing, despite being with the development team".

The whole playthrough is fun to watch though, and the way Ryuji takes the time to turn off the lights before leaving a room to save electricity, or knocks several times on the door of a house to hear Ryo's different responses, will be something many Shenmue fans can relate to!

Notes and translations follow the video.

The opening scene plays out with its dramatic musical accompaniment serving to build the tension as Ryo spies the black car and broken sign outside the Hazuki residence, with Ine-san collapsed in the garden. Ryuji notes that this music was composed by (Tadahiro) Nitta on the sound team.
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Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Submit a Message for SEGA's 60th Anniversary

On June 3rd, SEGA will be celebrating their 60th anniversary, and they are inviting fans to take part in the celebrations by submitting a celebratory message (with an optional image).

Messages may be in Japanese or English and will be displayed on the official SEGA site from June 3rd, but submissions will be accepted up to June 30th. It is planned to display all submissions, if feasible.

A draw will also be held among those who submitted a message to win one of 60 limited-edition commemorative satchels, inscribed with a 60th Anniversary logo. Winners will be contacted for delivery information by email.

How to Submit a Message

The steps are simple, and the entry form has both Japanese and English.
  1. Access the SEGA site at and scroll to the bottom. Press the white button at the bottom of the page to go to the entry form.
  2. Select an icon from the 60 available options, which will be displayed with your message  Both Shenmue and the Dreamcast console are available, as well as a number of Yu Suzuki's classic arcade games.
  3. Enter a nickname to be displayed with your message.
  4. Enter your message text (up to 280 characters).
  5. [Optional] Attach an image.
  6. Supply your email address.
  7. Check the "Agree" checkbox regarding personal information.
  8. Click the Preview button.
  9. Click the Submit button.
  10. Done!
This is a great chance to show some support for SEGA and the Shenmue franchise, and perhaps be one of the lucky 60 winners of the commemorative satchel!

Remember, submissions will be displayed from June 3rd, with final cut-off on June 30th.

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Saturday, April 18, 2020

[Part 2] Exploring Kowloon's "Magic Rooms" | Guest Post

Following on from Part One of this series (Furniture, Sinks & Benches), we continue with Jcgamer's exploration of the various objects to be found in the maze of "magic rooms" to be found within Kowloon's skyscrapers in Shenmue 2.

Today's post covers several more categories including Wall Hangings, Clothing and Dolls.

Category: Calligraphy

Some of the residents of Kowloon Walled City have tried to bring a little elegance to the general filth and grubbiness by displaying framed calligraphy on the walls of their rooms.

Below are four pieces of calligraphy artwork found.

These are written with traditional Chinese characters.

yuc02 has kindly provided some possible interpretations of the characters and their meanings below:
Calligraphy #1:
The overall meaning is not clear, but the first two characters 典君 ("Dian Jun") may refer to the name of an extremely powerful bodyguard of Cao Cao, one of the 3 kingdom leaders in the Chinese historical novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms. The bodyguard's name was Dian Wei. In olden times people addressed each other by adding 君 ("Jun") as an honorific.

Calligraphy #2:
The characters resemble 圣贤书 which is the name for a collection of textbooks by Kongzi (Confucious) and Mengzi (Mencius).

Calligraphy #3:
These characters appear to be 高阁才人 which literally have the meaning of a female official of a traditional dynasty, in a high-rise building.

Calligraphy #4
Written in traditional Chinese characters, this means "shielding against wind and rain".
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Sunday, April 12, 2020

[Part 6] Yu Suzuki's 1994 China Research Trip: Shaolin Temple | Translation

A continuation of our series on Yu Suzuki's 1994 Research Trip to China. This topic was selected by the Phantom River Stone blog patrons via our monthly poll on Patreon and was available for early access.

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 of blog posts:
  • In Part One, we translated blog entries about the trip by Kazunari Uchida, the person who accompanied Yu Suzuki.
  • Part Two is a magazine article in which Yu Suzuki gives own comments about his trip, and how his findings would be useful for the development of the Virtua Fighter series.
  • In Part Three, Yu's traveling companion, Kazunari Uchida, talks about how he first met Yu Suzuki and his curiosity to learn about the genius behind the man during the upcoming trip.
  • Part Four is Kazunari Uchida's journal entry for the start of the trip itself: Day One - Beijing.
  • Part Five is Days Two and Three of the trip in which Yu travels to Luoyang, Xi'an and Dengfeng, and arrives at Shaolin Temple.
We now pick up from last time, with Yu having arrived at Shaolin Temple in Dengfeng county.

Yu Suzuki: China Research Trip Journal: Shaolin Temple

Shaolin Temple is where Zen Buddhism was introduced by Bodhidharma, who traveled there from India. It is said that he developed Shaolin Kung Fu to protect himself while training from the wild animals inhabiting the area, as well as to ease the stiffness of his joints from Zen.

The main temple was set in a cool forest, and had a quiet atmosphere. Being a Zen temple, compared to the gaudier primary colors of other temples in China it appeared much calmer and unembellished.

What really brought home to me that we were actually in Shaolin Temple, was when we entered the Hall. The floor of the Hall where the monks practice Kung Fu was laid with paving stones, and all over it were deep grooves. We were told that these were formed from the repeated action of feet striking the ground. When we tried placing a foot onto a groove, indeed it was an exact fit. The floor was like a monument symbolizing the unlimited power of humans.
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Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Ryuji Iuchi: Equipment Used to Compose Music for Shenmue I & II

Composer Ryuji Iuchi was one of the core musical contributors for Shenmue I and II, creating over one hundred pieces himself including the iconic Shenhua's theme song, and he is also credited for his contributions in the credits of Shenmue III.

Ryuji Iuchi (screenshot from the video in the Shenmue III Kickstarter Update #21)
In his latest website post, Ryuji answers one of the many questions he has received from Shenmue fans: what equipment he used when creating the pieces for Shenmue.

Our translation of Ruji Iuchi's post starts from here (images were not included originally, and have been added for illustration).

I get a lot of questions about my past work through DMs or my blog's contact page, but it hasn't been possible to answer each one individually.

However, since my blog isn't updated very often (lol), I expect many people are probably wondering about some of the most frequently-asked questions and to that end, I decided to answer them in this blog.

I had been thinking of starting something on YouTube, maybe something like a chat-style vlog, but the environment isn't set up yet, so I'll stick to written words this time...

The question I'll answer this time is: "What equipment did you use when you made music for Shenmue?"

It was quite a while ago, so my memory is a little faint in places, but I'll answer as far as I can remember.

There were several composers in my team, so this is purely the equipment that I personally used myself.

Since the topic is about the equipment I used, this may not turn out to be a very long answer! I'll also include notes about how each was mainly used.

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Monday, April 6, 2020

Poll Result: Patrons' Choice Topic for April 2020

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 score was a tie! Switch stepped in with a tie-break vote and so the winning topic for April is...

"Unused textures in Shenmue: new drink can flavors"

Whenever Ryo is feeling thirsty, he never has to go far to find one of the many vending machine dotted around his neighborhood or over at the harbor. We have seen differences in the drink selection between the Japanese version of Shenmue I (which uses authentic Coca Cola branding) and the versions elsewhere in the world (which includes Jet Soda and Bell Wood coffee).

The new 'What is Shenmue?' video teaches us about jiu-jitsu and ...
"Ah, good".
There are also some additional drink labels that were not used in the final game, which can be found hidden within the game files.

We will take a look at these in an upcoming blog post.

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Saturday, April 4, 2020

Shenmue Blue Pamphlet (Shenmue One Version) & Digitaliland Exhibition

One of the items received by Shenmue fans attending one the Premiere events held in Japan back in late 1998 / early 1999 (around a year prior to the game's release) was a large, tri-fold pamphlet with an eye-catching blue cover containing a wealth of screenshots and other art for the game, along with short explanations about its features.

One interesting fact about this pamphlet is that two different versions were created. In this blog we have previously talked about the Shenmue II themed version.

The other version, which is much less commonly seen, is a Shenmue I version and this what we will be looking at in this post. The images of the items in this post are courtesy of James Brown.

Before jumping into the pamphlet however, let's first pause to admire the special envelope it came in, which features concept art of Ryo on the front.

Envelope detail: the YS logo and SEGA's address in Tokyo.
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