Saturday, August 22, 2020

Ryo's Bicycle Riding Ability - Part One | Cut Content

Ryo's Bicycle Riding Ability- Part One | Cut Content

Ryo makes use of various modes of transport to move around the world of Shenmue, including buses, motorcycles, ships and ferries - not to mention forklifts. However, one ability which had been widely anticipated but turned out not to be present in the final release is the ability to ride a bicycle.

Anticipation had been fueled prior to the release of the first two games with teases in game magazines and even promotional video footage that Ryo riding a bicycle around his neighborhood. But in the end this feature did not eventuate in either of the games despite development having seemingly been well-advanced.

We've gathered together as much information as we can find and over the course of two parts we will build up a picture of what may have been planned for this feature. 

Ryo's Bicycle Riding: "What's Shenmue" VHS Promotional Footage

In June 1999, a 30-minute promotional video tape named "What's Shenmue" (not to be confused with the game demo which was confusingly given the same name) was distributed in Japan ahead of the game's release, introducing some of the game's main gameplay features.
What's Shenmue VHS tape
What's Shenmue VHS tape

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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!

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Saturday, August 8, 2020

Poll Result: Patrons' Choice Topic for August 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 the winning topic for August is...

"Ryo's Bicycle Riding Ability: What Had Been Planned"

SEGA head teased Ryo's ability to ride a bicycle before the release of Shenmue, and a clip of Ryo riding through Dobuita had even been included in promotional footage in the months leading up to the game. So it came as a surprise to players to find that this feature was not present in the final game.

We will gather together the clues that remain to piece together what had originally been planned.

Watch for an article on this topic in an upcoming blog post!

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Saturday, August 1, 2020

Shenmue Forest Demo (1999 Digitaliland Event Promotion)

Shenmue Digitaliland Event Demo Software (1999)
Digitaliland event flyer, with screenshots from the software demo.
Image credit: James Brown

In an earlier post we covered the extravagant Shenmue promotional exhibition, which was named "Shenmue Forest",  at an event called Digitaliland at the start of May in 1999.

Related Post:
The Digitaliland event came just a month and a half after the 1999 Spring Tokyo Game Show (at which Shenmue was also promoted), but a lot of forethought and planning was put into making this this exhibition something that would dazzle attendees. Yu Suzuki and team even went as far as to build a special software demo that allowed the public to virtually experience what the upcoming exhibition would be like. Full-color flyers announcing the event were distributed using screenshots from the demo (see the title image)

In today's post we will look more closely at this special "Shenmue Forest" demo.

About the Shenmue Forest Software Demo

The Shenmue Forest hands-on demo appeared at the SEGA booth at the Tokyo Game Show in March '99. as a way to fan excitement for the upcoming exhibition, and ran on Dreamcast hardware.

The concept of the demo was simple: it allowed the player to navigate (as Ryo Hazuki) around a three-dimensional virtual model of the yet-to-be Shenmue Forest exhibition.
"The virtual space of 'Shenmue Forest' was able to be played on screen at this game show (TGS '99). Amazing!"
"A virtual recreation of 'Shenmue Forest' was able to be played on screen at this game show (TGS '99). Amazing!"

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