Thursday, August 13, 2020

Project Team Memories of Working on Shenmue | Famitsu Article Translation

Project Team Memories of Working on Shenmue

This is a translation of an article published online by in November 2018 to commemorate the release of Shenmue I & II. Comments about working on the original Shenmue project were gathered from:
  • Masaya Matsukaze (Ryo Hazuki)
  • Takahiro Sakurai (Lan Di, Goro, Yuan)
  • Megumi Yasu (Nozomi)
  • Ikue Otani (Fangmei)
  • Rio Natsuki (Joy)
  • Tow Ubukata
  • Toshihiro Nagoshi
  • Takenobu Mitsuyoshi
  • Yasuhiro Takagi
  • Kenji Miyawaki
The translation begins below.

In commemoration of the release of Shenmue I & II for the PS4 on 22nd November 2018, we gathered comments from some of the staff members and performers who were involved with the creation of the original games. Enjoy hearing them speak about their remembrances and hardships of the time. (See our separate article to read comments from Fujioka Hiroshi).

Masaya Matsukaze

Role: Ryo Hazuki

Masaya Matsukaze

"Ryo Hazuki is my other self"
Back when amusement arcades were booming, arcade game hit-maker Yu Suzuki turned his talent to creating a home console game. There was a large-scale audition that attracted actors in the motion picture industry, and as I was a Mega Ranger at the time that is when I first met Yu-san.

The game started as "Virtua Fighter RPG", and its genre was the world's first of its kind, designated as "FREE" (an acronym for Full Reactive Eyes Entertainment") but these days called open-world. What Yu-san ideally wanted was "freedom in everything, where things you would expect to happen would naturally happen," and together with a staff of hundreds, he took on the challenge of creating a world that had never before been seen.

I was in charge of the motion capture and spoken lines for the protagonist, Ryo Hazuki. The actions ranged from basic movement like sitting and walking, through to those for QTE events where Ryo would punch or alternatively get punched. When he falls from a high place, that is me falling. Falling down from a height of 15 meters (!) would be fatal, so for this motion capture data for falling from a low height would be extended, along with motion capture for hanging in mid-air and dropping down, The spoken lines for striking up conversations with people had slight variations each time, so I recorded all the lines needed for talking to the same person multiple times, even if they would probably never be heard by the player. It was really a huge volume of recording.

Some of Yu Suzuki's works are on display in the Smithsonian Museum, and this legendary work set a new record in gaming history. Furthermore, this long journey continues on with Shenmue III. There is rarely such an opportunity to obtain a truly legendary work yourself at such an affordable price. I encourage everyone to pick up a copy!

Takahiro Sakurai

Roles: Lan Di, Goro, Yuan & others

Takahiro Sakurai

"I'm feeling a renewed excitement."
At the time, several voice actors had been cast for providing test voices to support the development. That's how I came to have a go at voicing the characters of Lan Di, Goro, Yuan and various others. Being a newbie, it was an valuable experience opportunity for me. SEGA's #3 studio is somewhere I'll never forget. After all this time, Shenmue is back again... it's like a miracle. I'm excited about this HD remaster.

Megumi Yasu

Role: Nozomi Harasaki

Megumi Yasu

"I could do a better job now!"

I voiced heroine Nozomi Harasaki in Shenmue Chapter One: Yokosuka. I was in my teens and it was my first try at voice acting, so I remember being gripped with nerves during the recording. I'm sure I could do a slightly better job now...! Please get in touch if there is ever the chance [laughs]. I will continue to support Shenmue!

Ikue Otani

Role: Fangmei

Ikue Otani

"Recording lines as a dialogue left a strong impression"

Shenmue II! I remember that, unusually for voice recording in a game, the microphones were placed so we could see each other's faces, and the lines were recorded as a dialogue. Of course, this was while watching a video of Fangmei with her super-realistic cute expressions. My memory is a bit hazy on the small details, but I remember that the graphics were beautiful, and I had the illusion that I was acting in a drama. It was a game that left a strong impression on me. However, I don't remember ever getting to see it inside the finished game... [smiles wryly].

Rio Natsuki

Role: Joy

Rio Natsuki

"It was a valuable experience"
I have heaps of memories about Shenmue II! There was a lot of script, so I traveled in to the studio a lot [laughs]. There was a waiting room where I became friends with other voice actors while waiting for my turn, and they shared all sorts of stories. The most memorable part about the role of Joy has to be the Chinese language. I was provided with a pronunciation tutor, but there were several different pronunciations of the sound "maa" alone...  I managed to get a thumbs up for my test readings, but once I put emotion into it he tilted his head to one side [laughs]. It was a game that truly gave me many memories.

Tow Ubukata

Novelist & scriptwriter (at the time, in charge of scenarios)

Tow Ubukata

"The Vietnam War of the Game Industry"

One word that holds many memories for me is "Dobuita". It makes me remember all over again the tens of people... or should I say hundreds of people if you include all those I didn't know by sight, who were involved with creating a tale that would have the protagonist setting off on a journey from that place. A software system that was ahead of its time, the ability to traverse the map with 360 degrees of freedom, and a goal that seemed unreachable with the technology of the time... A work environment that was so harsh it was called "the Vietnam War of the game industry", is now something that lies in the distant past. When I think that the evolution of technology has allowed this tale, which couldn't be completed back then, to move forward, I'm filled with emotion. I can't wait for Shenmue III!

Toshihiro Nagoshi

Director & CPO* (Chief Product Officer) at Sega Games

* as of November 2018
Toshihiro Nagoshi

It was a project that is packed with a lot of memories for me. Frankly speaking, it reminds me only of all the hard times. However, it was a project with the ambitious objective of "creating an RPG unlike any seen before" that took on that goal head-on, and was an unfinished masterpiece born at the end of a generation created around the Sega hardware business. In that sense, it was indeed a symbol of Sega's willingness to take on new challenges. It is a project from which I learned a lot personally, and even now I utilize that learning in various situations.

Takenobu Mitsuyoshi

Sound Section Chief Creator / Vocalist at Sega Interactive

Takenobu Mitsuyoshi

Inspiration from On-the-ground Research
I'm Takenobu Mitsuyoshi and I was the sound director for Shenmue Chapter One: Yokosuka. One unforgettable memory from the game's development would have to be going on a team research trip to China, following the actual route Ryo would take. Back then, I wasn't used to traveling overseas and fell sick from contaminated water. Despite suffering from my illness as we traveled, when I looked down at the view from the plane a tune formed in my head; and as I gazed at the Forbidden City from the Temple of Heaven tears filled my eyes. The music that was created from these kind of situations has a unique sound with emotions of all kinds mixed into it.

Yasuhiro Takagi

Section Manager of the Sound Section at Sega Interactive

Watch for the way music is assigned to the scenes!
I joined the development of Shenmue Chapter One: Yokosuka towards the end, and went on to be in charge of the sound direction for Shenmue II. I had already become familiar with the issues affecting sound development; we had built up a huge number of musical pieces; and I was able to put things in the hands of our superb sound team staff of around 10 people. Considering all this, despite it being considerably hard work, looking back on it now I feel that I was lucky to have worked in that environment. The pieces of music that were produced during development were without exception great pieces, so I was very particular about matching them to the scenes. I hope you enjoy aspects like this.

Kenji Miyawaki

Shenmue I & II Character Design

Kenji Miyawaki

Drawing Characters that are Unique
It is 20 years ago now, but I still clearly remember my time on the project, being in charge of character design. Yu Suzuki wanted memorable characters with distinctive personalities, so that is exactly what I worked on. These unique characters were then converted to models one after another, and before I knew it a world had been created that brimmed with distinctive characters to an extent that you would never find in other games. I think this uniqueness is one of the reasons Shenmue continues to be loved even today.

Source: (30 Nov, 2018)

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