Thursday, May 21, 2020

Four Unused Drink Can Textures in Shenmue

Unused Drink Can Textures in Shenmue

Japan is known for its numerous drink vending machines offering anything from a cool beverage to a hot soup. For anyone visiting the real Dobuita Street, for an even more authentic Shenmue experience keep an eye out for the machine that still sells cans of Coke at 1986 prices!

Shenmue (specifically, the first game in the series) recreates this aspect of Japan faithfully with a number of vending machines scattered around its world, from Dobuita Street to New Yokosuka Harbor.

Although players will be familiar with the sodas and coffee seen in the game, there is in fact some evidence that other drink flavors were considered while the game was in development in the form of an image file containing some unused can label designs is present in the game files.

We will take a look at the image in this post, but first let's take a moment to mention the difference in labels that can be found between released versions of Shenmue.

What's Shenmue Demo

The drinks in the vending machine found in the What's Shenmue demo (which was distributed in Japan ahead of the full release of the first game) had genuine Coca Cola branding. All drinks are marked as "chilled", with Sprite taking up the slots in the second row.
The can designs in the What's Shenmue demo: cold drinks only.
The can designs in the What's Shenmue demo: cold drinks only.

Shenmue (Japan Release on Dreamcast)

The original Dreamcast release in Japan also has genuine Coca Cola branding, but the label designs were changed, and hot Georgia coffee was included in the selection.
Shenmue (Japan release): the can labels were updated and hot Georgia coffee added.
Shenmue (Japan release): the can labels were updated and hot Georgia coffee added.

Shenmue (Non-Japan Releases)

For versions released outside Japan, on the other hand, a made-up brand "Bell Wood's" was used, presumably for licensing reasons. This is also the branding used in Shenmue I & II.
The original Dreamcast release used genuine Coca Cola branding in Japan (left) and "Bell Wood's" branding for other versions (right).
The original Dreamcast release used genuine Coca Cola branding in Japan (left) and "Bell Wood's" branding for other versions (right).
Trivia: Bell Wood was a nod to Yu Suzuki's surname, which is made up of two Japanese kanji characters meaning "bell" (鈴 suzu) and "wood/tree" (木 ki).

The drink line-up in the vending machines is as follows, with all drinks priced at 100 yen.
  • Coca-Cola brand:
    • Cold: Coca-Cola, Fanta Orange, Fanta Grape, Sprite
    • Hot: Georgia Signature Original Coffee
  • Bell Wood brand:
    • Cold: Jet Cola, Fruda Orange, Fruda Grape, Jet Soda
    • Hot: Bell Wood Coffee Original Blend
Drink label comparison: What's Shenmue (left), Shenmue Japan release (center), Shenmue outside Japan (right).
Drink label comparison: What's Shenmue (left), Shenmue Japan release (center), Shenmue outside Japan (right). 


The Unused Textures


Now we come to the labels that were created but never used. An image containing these unused drink labels was discovered in the Shenmue game files.

The find was made many years ago by LanDC who posted about his find on the Shenmue Dojo forums, and the image has been kindly provided for this blog post from the archives courtesy of the Dojo's Peter Campbell.

This is the image file, showing five drinks, four of which are unused in the game:
Texture image containing the unused labels.
Texture image containing the unused labels.

The drink names are:
  • Aquarius (a popular sports drink, launched in 1983)
  • Kochakoden Royal Milk Tea (Ceylon tea with milk, launched in 1992)
  • Georgia Signature Original Coffee (launched in 1975, and as present in the Japanese version of the game on the Dreamcast)
  • Soukenbi-cha (a blend of five teas, first launched in 1993)
  • Fan Oolong Tea
All of these drinks are sold in real life in Japan, and are manufactured by the Coca-Cola company. The teas can be sold both hot or cold. and either in cans or plastic bottles.

These drink flavors are still available today, and if you visit real-life Dobuita you can also find them among the many choices at the vending machines there, as can be seen in the photo below.
Vending machine in the real Dobuita
Vending machine in the real Dobuita: Coca Cola (still 100 yen!), Fanta Orange, Fanta Grape, Georgia coffee, Aquarius, Royal Milk Tea and Soukenbi-cha are all present.
Here's how the drinks look as cans:
The unused drink labels as cans
These flavors would have fitted quite naturally into the world of Shenmue, why weren't they kept?

One reason might be that some of these flavors didn't exist until the late nineties - but this didn't prevent the inclusion of other products like Ryo's Timex watch or the Sega Saturn.

Another reason for going with the sodas might have been their more universal appeal, being ones that players both within and outside Japan could relate to (even if "Bell Wood's" versions of them had been created to avoid licensing complications outside of Japan). They also fit in with the vibe of the first game showing how Ryo embraces the mix of US and Japanese culture in Yokosuka.

Either way, it is fun to find traces of the game's development history and get a glimpse of alternatives that were being thought about at the time.

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