Saturday, July 4, 2020

Exploring Shenmue Forest at the "Network Jungle II: Digitaliland" Event (1999)

Exploring Shenmue Forest at the "Network Jungle II: Digitaliland" Event (1999)

Coming into 1999, the excitement around the upcoming release of Shenmue was growing ever stronger. The game had been gathering widespread interest, with Shenmue Premiere events being held in multiple cities across Japan from the end of the previous year, and the public had their first hands-on taste of Shenmue at the March 1999 Tokyo Game Show (TGS). Following this, the next major event at which Shenmue was shown was a multimedia event called "Network Jungle II: Digitaliland" in early May 1999. SEGA pulled out all the stops in promoting the game, with video footage, stage events, merchandise, demonstrations, hands-on play and even a special "virtual exhibition" demo which ran on Dreamcast hardware. Magazine reports quoted Yu Suzuki as saying people could look forward to seeing significant improvements since the Shenmue demos shown at TGS.

In this post we'll recap everything SEGA lined up for Shenmue at the Digitaliland event.

Image credits: special thanks to PRS patron James Brown, our friends at Shenmue Master and to Kohji for their images & photos of the event.

Network Jungle


If you are wondering about the meaning behind the event's name...

"Network Jungle" is the name of an experimental project that was started by NHK Enterprises (one of the group companies owned by Japan's national broadcaster NHK) in 1997, to investigate how digital content and communications would shape Japan's society in the near future. Government ministries were also involved as sponsors.


Part I took the form of a special broadcast program on channel BS2 in 1997 that was called "Network Jungle: How Electronic Networks Will Change the World".

For Part II, a three-day exhibition event was organized to allow the public to experience the potential of multimedia and digital communications for themselves. A digest of this event was subsequently broadcast as a documentary with the even wordier name of "Network Jungle II: The Future is Coming to Your Home! Explore Digitaliland!" 

A few months later, in July of that year, NHK would broadcast a third documentary in the Network Jungle series, "Network Jungle III: a Vision of the Future! A New Digital Era", which documented the making of Shenmue.

Today's post is about the Shenmue promotion at the event produced for the second part of the Network Jungle series.

Event Schedule


  • Date: 1st - 3rd May, 1999 (10 am ~ 9 pm)
  • Venue: Tokyo Big Sight
  • Entry fee (adult): 1500 yen / 1300 yen in advance
  • Sponsors: Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications, Ministry of International Trade and Industry, NHK
  • Participating companies: NTT Mobile, Sakura Bank, SEGA Enterprises, Benesse Corporation, Matsushita Electric, Yamaha, Roland.
Digitaliland ticket.
Digitaliland ticket.
Image credit: James Brown
The event space was divided up into a number of  "forests" which represented themed areas. The entire space was called the Electronic Forest, made up of: the Games Forest, the Forest of Images, the Communications Forest, the Education Forest and the Forest of Tomorrow. The Games Forest was dedicated to SEGA's exhibition of Shenmue, which itself  (in keeping with the theme!) was named "Shenmue Forest".

SEGA produced a flyer advertising Shenmue's upcoming appearance at Digitaliland, and this was distributed to participants of earlier events such as the Shenmue Premiere and the Tokyo Game Show. The images on the flyer were in fact screenshots from a software demo that closely modeled how the event space would look - we will cover this demo in more detail in a follow-up post, while today's post will focus on the actual exhibition itself.
Flyer advertising the upcoming "Shenmue Forest" exhibit at Digitaliland.
Image credit: James Brown
The reverse side of the flyer offers free admission to the Digitaliland event on its presentation. In addition, showing the flyer at the Shenmue exhibit would grant the bearer a free entry ticket for Sega's amusement park, Joypolis.

Reverse side of the flyer.
Image credit: James Brown

Venturing into the Shenmue Forest


The Shenmue exhibition announced itself with the game's logo lit up on the face of a large "stone" wall. Set into one end were set a matrix of 24 monitors showing off Shenmue's impressive graphics. The content included the character information sections of the Shenmue Passport, and the prologue video of Shenhua reciting the prophecy.

The front of the Shenmue Forest exhibition space
The front of the Shenmue Forest exhibition space

An array of monitors filled one part of the front wall
An array of monitors filled one part of the front wall
Reception area (left) and entrance (right)
Reception area (left) and entrance (right)
Further along was a reception desk, and visitors would enter the exhibition itself through a "crevice" entrance at the other end.

The Shenmue Girls (promotional models) at the entrance to the Shenmue Forest
The Shenmue Girls (promotional models) at the entrance to the Shenmue Forest 

Upon entering the Shenmue Forest, the first thing a visitor would notice is various game-related objects on display, set among real trees and foliage to create a forest-like atmosphere. Aromatic scents were also used to draw visitors into the world of Shenmue.

Positioned at the entrance was a three-dimensional bust of Shenhua, used during the development of the game. Elsewhere, a display case held a number of small figures (Ryo, Shenhua, Ren, Chai and Niao Sun).

Left: inside the entrance. Right: display of figures.
Left: inside the entrance. Right: display of figures.
Bust of Shenhua
Bust of Shenhua
A number of huge framed posters of characters from the game were displayed on vertical panels, with spot lighting just like you would see in an art gallery.
Poster display
Poster display
Opposite these in a separate display case was a large-scale figure of Shenhua:
A large-scale figure Shenhua in a separate display case.
A large-scale figure Shenhua in a separate display case.


Also displayed unobtrusively around the exhibition was concept art of other characters.
Some of the other concept art on the walls
Some of the other concept art on the walls
The central figure was to be seen again many years later in the Shenmue III Kickstarter Stretch Goals video, where he was referred to as "a sage master of the Nanquan."

Still capture from the Shenmue III Kickstarter video: the "sage master of Nanquan"
Still capture from the Shenmue III Kickstarter video: the "sage master of the Nanquan"

Dreamcast Consoles


A total of 30 Dreamcast console stations were set up in the area for visitors to try out a range of hands-on Shenmue demos and activities.
Dreamcast consoles offered hands-on play
Dreamcast consoles offered hands-on play

Let's look at what was available on these Dreamcasts in more detail.

Shenmue Face Modeling

Visitors and journalists alike were wowed by the highly-detailed animated 3D face modeling of Shenmue characters such as Mark, Chai and Xiuying who introduced aspects of the game, and the way they could rotate the camera, zoom or position the lighting source in real time using the Dreamcast controller. (These will be recognizable as featuring on the What's Shenmue demo and Shenmue Passport disc).

Dreamcast consoles showing off the face modeling
Dreamcast consoles showing off the face modeling

Shenmue Goodies

"Shenmue Goodies" were animations of Shenmue characters that a visitor could load onto their own visual memory unit (VMU) if they had brought one along to the event. A total of 16 characters could be collected at this event. Some of these are shown below:
    6 of the 16 Shenmue Goodies characters that could be collected at the event
    6 of the 16 Shenmue Goodies characters that could be collected at the event: Tony, Smith, Miki Maeda, Yuriko Kikuchi, Pigeon and Lan Di.
    Screenshots showing the process of downloading the Shenmue Goodies onto a VMU from a Dreamcast console.
    Screenshots showing the process of downloading the Shenmue Goodies onto a VMU from a Dreamcast console.

    Shenmue Minigames

    A number of Shenmue mini-games could be played, namely: Excite QTE 2, Darts, and Slot Machine.
    Left: the Dreamcast console area at Digitaliland. Right: Darts minigame
    Left: the Dreamcast console area at Digitaliland. Right: Darts minigame

      Excite QTE 2 (demo version)
      Excite QTE 2 (demo version)

        Shenmue Free Battle Time Attack

        In the "Free Battle Time Attack" demo, the player was given a time limit with the goal being to defeat as many opponents as possible before the time ran out. The location in the demo is Yamanose near Ryo's house - an area which would not be used for free battle in the released game.
        "Free Battle Time Attack" demo in Yamanose
        "Free Battle Time Attack" demo in Yamanose
          Ryo gets the better of his opponents
          Ryo gets the better of his opponents

          Move Instruction

          Players were able to try an interactive scene from Shenmue where Ryo is taught a new move. The scene that was used for this demonstration is where Tom teaches Ryo the Tornado Kick at the harbor.

          As can be seen below from the magazine screenshots at the time, the scene used for the demo closely matches the released game, with the addition of a time limit of 1:30 for practicing (to ensure the people waiting could get a turn!) and some small graphical differences such as the illustration on the front of Tom's sweatshirt. The demo practice ends with Tom telling Ryo, "You can thank me by buying me a coffee next time, OK?".

          Learning a move from Tom: "Buy me a coffee next time, OK/"
          Learning a move from Tom: "Buy me a coffee next time, OK/"


          QTE Battle

          Players could try a QTE-based fight sequence. At the Tokyo Game Show, this demo was the section of Shenmue where Ryo fights with Smith, Tony and friends at a harbor warehouse.
          Ryo takes on Smith in the QTE Battle
          Ryo takes on Smith in the QTE Battle


            Drunkard QTE

            Another playable QTE event that can be recognized from the main game was where Ryo runs into a drunkard at night in the backstreet of Dobuita.
            "You wanna drink with me?"
            "You wanna drink with me?"


            "Chase Terry" Demo Play

            The "Chase Terry" demo was essentially a mini version of the What's Shenmue demo that was to be released later in the year. It had a time limit of just 3 minutes, and during that time the player had to locate Terry who was to be found somewhere in the streets of Dobuita.

            As with the What's Shenmue demo, the setting was the main street of Dobuita, and also similarly starts with Ryo discussing the situation with Tom at the hot-dog truck. 
            "Have you found Terry?"
            "Have you found Terry?"
            Terry is known to be wearing "a black pendant and a red shirt". Tom suggests they split up, and leaves Ryo to search another part of Dobuita.

            A security guard stands at the start of Dobuita Street, preventing Ryo from going any further. But he helpfully informs Ryo that he saw someone matching Terry's description heading up Dobuita Street. The first clue!
            Ryo gathers clues from the passers-by
            Left: "Ah, they guy you're after went that way".
            Right: "I saw him over there."
            Other passers-by point Ryo to the top of Dobuita Street (another security guard blocks his way along the back-alley near the greengrocer's) and he eventually ends up outside the Asia Travel Company. This triggers a cut scene, and who should be leaving the shop just at that moment, but Terry himself! A QTE chase starts through the back-street of Dobuita.
            Chasing Terry through Dobuita
            Chasing Terry through Dobuita
            The contents of the QTE sequence are the same as the chase scene in What's Shenmue demo and the main game, but this time with the character of Terry rather than Mr Yukawa or Jimmy.

            The demo ends if the player successfully chases Terry into the You arcade (or if the 3 minute time limit is reached).

            The Terry chase scene can be seen in a promotional video that was released the same year (also called "What's Shenmue", not to be confused with the game demo).
            Video: BlueMue

            Big or Small Gambling Challenge

            An interesting inclusion, given that most of the demo material was based on the first game, was the gambling game Big or Small.
            Big or Small gambling demo
            Big or Small gambling demo

            Shenmue Merchandise at Digitaliland


            A number of items of Shenmue merchandise were made available at the event, such as limited-edition telephone card sets and postcards:
            Telephone card sets and postcards
            5-card telephone card set (7000 yen) and 5-card postcard set (800 yen)

            There was also a range of T-shirts:

            Shenmue T-shirts
            Shenmue T-shirts (2000 yen ea)
            Another item of merchandise advertised on the official Shenmue website for the event was a back-lit stand. Phone cards could also be bought individually.
            "Backlight system" and individual phone card
            "Backlight system" (6800 yen) and individual phone card (1200 yen)
            In one area, visitors could also sample the Shenmue Orchestra CD.
            Shenmue Orchestra CD
            Shenmue Orchestra CD

            Stage Events


            A number of special stage events were held throughout the day, including:
            • A live music performance of the Shenhua theme, with erhu and piano.
            Live performance (erhu)
            Live performance (erhu)
            • Voice dubbing event with audience participation, whereby participants would voice one of the characters in a movie clip played on the giant screen.
            Voice dubbing event
            Japanese voice actors for Ren (Takumi Hagiwara), Shenhua (Hazuki Ishigaki) and Ryo (Masaya Matsukaze) on stage.for the voice dubbing event. Photo: Kohji on Twitter.
            • An "auction" of AM2 special Shenmue items. Winners were selected by several knock-out rounds of the rock-paper-scissors game.
            Special prizes could be won at the "auction" by winning the rock-paper-scissors game.
            • An on-stage discussion about Shenmue with Yu Suzuki, Hiroaki Takeuchi and Mr. Yukawa (who would later feature in the What's Shenmue demo).
            On-stage discussion
            On-stage discussion. From left: Hiroaki Takeuchi, Hidekazu Yukawa and Yu Suzuki.
            Photo: Kohji on Twitter.

            Final Comment


            The Digitaliland event was one of the last major Shenmue events before the game's release at the end of 1999, but to date there has not been a lot of English-language coverage to be found. Hopefully this post has helped to fill in some background on what exactly the show was all about. It must have been a memorable experience for the lucky people who attended.

            One other related topic which we have yet to cover is the "virtual Shenmue exhibition" demo which ran on Dreamcast hardware and was the source of the images in the Digitaliland flyer. Find out more about it in our upcoming post!

            Sources:
            • Dreamcast Magazine features (1999 Vol 16, 1999 Vol 16 Extra Edition)
            • Archived pages from Shenmue.com
            • Japanese online news sites
            This topic was selected by the Phantom River Stone blog patrons via our monthly poll on Patreon and was available for early access.
            Become a Patron!

            2 comments:

            1. Insane post! This is such an awesome event! I want a time machine 😋

              ReplyDelete
              Replies
              1. Cheers SkillJim! Would have loved some high-definition video at the least... but at least there were one or two magazine reports with photos about it so we can appreciate its awesomeness!

                Delete