Friday, September 25, 2020

Shenmue Clothing Through the Years | Guest Post by James Brown


A vast amount of merchandise has been produced for the Shenmue series since its release on the Dreamcast in Japan back in 1998. As an avid Shenmue collector, it used to surprise me, but now I have more of a shocked feeling that SEGA and various other companies have released such an incredible amount of items for a game series that is seemingly considered "niche".

People are often quick to attack the total cost of the original games as setting world records for the most expensive games every created. However, if you take into account all the merchandise that came with the marketing that Shenmue had, from small video game shop events to huge-scale events such as E3 and TGS (not to mention its own special events) and with batches of new items being added quite often to this day, some of those original "losses" must have been recouped by now!

In this post I'd like to take a more specific look at all of the clothing items that have been released and sold since 1998.

After reading this post, the next time you see a tweet from SEGA asking fans what Shenmue merchandise they would like to see next, and someone inevitably chimes in thinking they have an original idea for a "Ryo Hazuki jacket"... you'll be able to let them know that there have already been 6 (and technically more)!

I'm going to go through everything that I am aware of (and for the most part, own myself), in chronological time order. 



Let's begin with the aforementioned Ryo Hazuki jackets!

JACKETS


[2001] SEGA Promotional Jackets

For the sake of completeness, let's start by mentioning the jackets that were created by SEGA for their promotion of Shenmue 2 in 2001. This is the technicality mentioned above about the number of jackets made to date.

Japanese voice actor Masaya Matsukaze wore one at events such as the AM2 Summer Festival, and in a mock "television commercial" promo video for Shenmue II.
Masaya Matsukaze wearing Ryo's jacket at the AM2 Summer Festival event in 2001
Masaya Matsukaze wearing Ryo's jacket at the AM2 Summer Festival event in 2001
The jacket also made an appearance in a mock "television commercial" for Shenmue II
The jacket also made an appearance in a mock "television commercial" for Shenmue II
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Saturday, September 19, 2020

Niaowu Confidential Part 1 - Ma Jialing | Guest Post by Dave Matthews (SalsaShark)


Hello and welcome to Part I of Niaowu Confidential! Thanks again to Switch for the opportunity to post at Phantom River Stone!

If you missed my earlier series, 'Bailu Village Secrets', Part I is here.

Today I'd like to delve into a character that pretty much every player will be familiar with, but who makes her presence felt around town in some intriguing and non-obvious ways, Ma Jialing!

Jialing in her element

Yu Suzuki, in a production interview for Shenmue III, has stated that Jialing is one of his favorite NPCs in the game. At one point he mentions her as one of the 'Three Beauties of Niaowu' - a group of three women who each have a secret customer phone card somewhere in town!

Jialing's secret phone card

See here for Switch's excellent post translating the interview: 

The first thing new players are likely to notice upon entering Hotel Niaowu for the first time are the hair curlers. Jialing has a perpetual rainbow of large curlers twisting her dark hair; how that doesn't hurt like crazy after a few minutes I have no idea. Otherwise, Jialing dresses for comfort in slippers, a loose floral skirt, and a bright red cardigan. It's a very motherly vibe all in all, and that sense only increases when first confronted with her blunt, no-nonsense demeanor. Jialing feels like an homage to the popular 'badass landlady' character trope seen in old kung-fu movies (think 'Kung-Fu Hustle).

Source: IMDB
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Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Shenmue Undub: Definitive Edition | Video & Download

Case mock-up art by Shenmue Forever

In this post, we present an improved version of the Kogami Shenmue Undub, brought to you Shenmue Master and Phantom River Stone.


Background


A few years ago we talked about a "100% translation" project that was underway by Shenmue Master and Phantom River Stone to produce an improved "Shenmue Undub" (Japanese audio + English subtitles) for the Dreamcast.

Previous fan builds of an Shenmue Undub had paved the way and already represented great achievements, and the Kogami version in particular was recognized as the most comprehensive version to date. There were however a few known issues still to overcome, such as a small percentage of subtitle lines that remained in Japanese for NPCs and a couple of minor glitches. Also, due to size requirements, the use of (notoriously-unreliable) 99-minute discs was necessary for playing on Dreamcast hardware.

The goal then for this project was to build on optimized version of Kogami's Shenmue Undub that would bring together a complete set of Japanese audio with a fully-translated set of English subtitles, and if possible fit these onto standard-capacity CD-R discs without compromising audio quality or loss of content.

Shenmue Master initiated the project, and reached out to Phantom River Stone to work together to achieve the goal. Work took place over a span of several months and a working version was achieved. However the project was subsequently put into hibernation, due to various factors.

The project team is now pleased to announce the result of the project effort: an updated Shenmue Undub which has been named the Definitive Edition.


Features & General Information


What is the Shenmue Undub (Definitive Edition) all about? Here is a brief list of features:

  • Based on the Kogami Undub: this version builds upon the most complete fan-made Undub version, which was created by Kogami and runs on the Dreamcast.
  • Full English subtitles: the official translated lines are used where available. A small number of the Japanese spoken lines (around 3%) which did not have English equivalent translations available have been translated by hand. A few small corrections were also made to fix specific lines that had incorrect grammar or meaning.
  • Full Japanese audio with no down-sampling.
  • PAL-compatible save files: saves can be carried over to the PAL version of Shenmue II.
  • CDDA audio tracks included: recorded audio tracks play as expected during the game (e.g. the music that plays when Ryo rides home from the harbor with Nozomi on the back of his motorcycle).
  • Coca Cola branding: the branding for the vending machines and soda cans in the game shows the Coca Cola branding, as seen in the Japanese version of Shenmue..
  • Fixes for small glitches identified in the previous Undub version (e.g. conversations when Ryo knocked on house doors did not play out properly).
  • Fits on standard CD-R discs: the images have been stream-lined to allow them to be played on a Dreamcast console using standard CD-R discs, with no missing or cut content.


Notes for Play

  • Enable subtitles before starting play: at the main Shenmue menu screen first go to Options -> Dialog & Text -> and choose "Game Mode". This ensures that subtitles will be shown during all cut scenes and game play. Unless this mode is selected, no subs will be displayed!


Download Shenmue Undub: Definitive Edition for the Dreamcast


Disclaimer: to legally use this you must own an original copy of Shenmue for the Dreamcast.

Update: GDI images are now also available below. Many thanks to Guillaume Nunes for preparing these!








Mentions


We're delighted to have had the Shenmue Undub: Definitive Edition covered by The Dreamcast Junkyard with a fantastic website post as well as discussion on the DreamPod podcast: Episode 82: Another Dreamcast News Round-Up. Many thanks to Tom and team for their support of this fan project!

Credits


The Definitive Edition is an extension of the Shenmue Undub version created by Kogami.

This project was led by the team at Shenmue Master who optimized the disc images. Translations for lines not officially available were provided by Phantom River Stone. (Special personal thanks to David from Shenmue Master for all his guidance and technical assistance in merging the additional translations and building test versions).

QA testing was carried out by GameHacKeR.

The Dreamcast case mock-up image was created by Shenmue Forever.

Disc images hosted by Shenmue Dojo.
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Saturday, September 12, 2020

Ryo Goes to the Moon | Shenmue II Out of Bounds Hack

Ryo Goes to the Moon | Shenmue II Hack

One of the many small coding details of Shenmue that surprised even the fans is that the moon that can be seen in a number of iconic Shenmue II scenes is in fact a proper three-dimensional object, and not just a simple two-dimensional image.

This was something that software house d3t discovered when they worked on the Shenmue I & II re-release:

PC Gamer: Did you find anything interesting in the source code?

Noel Austin (d3t): The moon in Shenmue 2 is not a texture. It’s an actual 3D object in the distance correctly lit by the sun direction. This produces accurate phases. We were surprised by this level of detail!

With the help of a hack tool we took Ryo out of bounds on a solo flight to the moon, and he was able to see for himself that Noel's assertion was indeed the truth!

  • Scroll to the end of this post to watch the video footage.
The moon over Man Mo temple.

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Monday, September 7, 2020

Poll Result: Patrons' Choice Topic for September 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 clear winning topic for September is...

"Yu Suzuki's Research Trip to China 1994: Part Seven"

In 1994 Yu Suzuki spent two weeks in China gathering material for his upcoming Virtua Fighter II game, and his findings also greatly influenced his creation of Shenmue.

  • In Part One, we translated blog posts about the trip by Kazunari Uchida, the person who accompanied Yu Suzuki.
  • In Part Two, we translated Yu Suzuki's own comments about his trip, and how his findings would be useful for the development of the Virtua Fighter series.
  • Part Three was the first of a number of diary-style articles documenting the China trip, again written by Kazunari Uchida, which were published in 1994 as a series in the Japanese Beep! MegaDrive Magazine.
  • Part Four was Kazunari Uchida's journal entry for the start of the trip itself: Day One - Beijing.
  • Part Five was Days Two and Three of the trip in which Yu traveled to Luoyang, Xi'an and Dengfeng.
  • In Part Six, Yu arrived at Shaolin Temple in Dengfeng county and observed fighting demonstrations.
In Part Seven, Yu continues his four-day stay at Shaolin Temple and is left bruised and pained after his full-on sparring sessions. "I think I might have cracked a rib..."


Watch for the article translation coming to the blog in the coming weeks!

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Sunday, September 6, 2020

Video Q&A with Yu Suzuki and Chikara Sakurai | Shenmue Anime

A short video interview with executive producer for the newly-announced Shenmue Anime, Yu Suzuki, and the anime director, Chikara Sakurai, was released at the Crunchyroll Expo.

Watch the clip below, captured by Shenmue Dojo:

Video: Shenmue Dojo

Transcript


Yu Suzuki
Video Game Creator
Anime Series Executive Producer

Q: What key themes do you want to see in the animated Shenmue?

YS: Shenmue focuses on themes like love, courage, friendship, and family, which are understood around the world. My hope is that it will express the culture and spirit of Japan at the same time.

Q: How do you expect fans to feel about the animated Shenmue?

YS: Shenmue's oldest fans have followed the series for 15 or 20 years now. Part of being that kind of fan is accepting everything about Shenmue, so I think they'll accept the anime just as warmly.

Chikara Sakurai
Anime Director

Q: What were you excited about being the director for Shenmue?

CS: I mentioned that I was too poor to buy the game when it came out. But I wanted to learn as much about it as I could for free. Getting to finally play it now... It's hard to describe. It gave me this very strange feeling. It's like, I can finally do something I couldn't do then, so I need to make sure not to go out of control. I had to avoid this feeling of, "I couldn't do this back then, so now I should be able to do what I want with it." I needed to restrain myself and preserve the game's integrity. I don't know if that answers the question, but that was my approach.

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Saturday, September 5, 2020

Official Shenmue Anime Announced | News


An anime adaptation of the Shenmue game series, called Shenmue -the Animation-, was announced on the Crunchyroll website during the Virtual Crunchyroll Expo. A single preview image below was released:

While various rumors are swirling around the net, this is what has been officially revealed so far:

  • The series will consist of 13 episodes, with a plot that is based on the existing game trilogy (more specifically: "the story of the first game and most of the second").
  • Animation production is by Telecom Animation Film (a subsidiary of TMS Entertainment which is owned be Sega Sammy Holdings), and directed by Chikara Sakurai (animation director on Naruto the Movie and director of season 2 of the animation TV series One Punch Man).
  • The game's creator, Yu Suzuki, is named as Executive Producer for the project.
  • In the US, the series will be shown on the Cartoon Network's Adult Swim Saturday nights in the Toonami block. It will be available elsewhere (excluding Japan & China) on video streaming service Crunchyroll. 
  • Work on it has been going on for a while as the project was greenlit "right after the release of Shenmue 3".
  • Jason DeMarco, senior vice president and creative director on-air for Adult Swim, was the one who brought the anime project about, acknowledging in a tweet that "It was me that decided to make the show and took it to our partners."
DeMarco in a statement also said, "The world of Shenmue is fascinating and unique and we are so excited to partner with Yu Suzuki to bring his epic creation to anime - and make a kick-ass martial art epic!"

Further details are expected to be announced during the Expo's stage presentation (Sat, Sep 5, 2020 12:00 PM - 12:45 PM PT) .

The Toonami Facebook page has also announced an upcoming interview with Yu Suzuki:
"Check out an interview with Suzuki on crunchyrollexpo.com tomorrow, and get ready for the series coming to Toonami and Crunchyroll!"

Update: the interview is now available: 


Other Information


There has also been an interesting tweet from AestheticGamer, who teased the anime announcement in the days before the event. He shared the following information (note that this is not part of an official announcement, but included here for reference):
"The Animation will air on Adult Swim (as they're backing it) & Crunchyroll, the 13-episode season tackles the first game and part of the second game. Includes a lot of story ideas they never got to put into the game either due to budget, time, or mature rating reasons. It'll be an adult animated retelling of Shenmue 1 & 2 with lost story beats, series creator Yu Suzuki has been involved to help the adaption & to realize the previously scrapped story elements to realization."
Cedric Biscay, the CEO of Shibuya Productions and co-producer of Shenmue III, also revealed that his company has no direct involvement in the project. He also gave an assurance that the anime series will have "no impact" on a potential Shenmue IV:
"1) My company and myself are not involved , it can be considered as a « derivated product » like anime usually does with manga. 
2) There is no impact on a potential Shenmue IV game."

Sources:

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Thursday, September 3, 2020

Cut Content: Ryo's Bicycle Event in Shenmue 2 | VIdeo

Cut Content: Ryo's Bicycle Event in Shenmue 2

In a previous post, we covered the bicycle riding feature that had been shown in promotional footage for Shenmue I in the months leading up to the release but was not kept in the final version.
In fact, Ryo was also to have ridden a bicycle in Shenmue II. In this post, we'll look at clues to piece together what had been planned.

Ryo's Bicycle Riding: Originally Developed for Rural China?


The lead programmer for the first two Shenmue games, Tak Hirai, revealed in a RetroGamer interview that the bicycle riding feature was something he worked on early on in the project (before the later decision to dedicate a full initial chapter to Yokosuka) for Ryo to use in the countryside of China:
Tak Hirai: "Actually, I was the first guy who implemented the bike-riding feature,” he explains. “This was done at the early stage of the development. We originally intended to begin the game in China, so I made it as a showcase to see how it looked when you rode the bike in a meadow. Another programmer took over that part of the project and worked on the vehicle programming at the end of Shenmue."

Ryo Riding in Shenmue II: AM2 Cut Content Screenshots


While no video footage remains of Ryo riding in Shenmue II, there is a single screenshot that shows Ryo on a bicycle. This screenshot was one of several "cut content" screenshots shared publicly by the developers in 2002, after its release, in the Muecas section of the Shenmue.com website.

Apart from the bicycle screenshot, another similar screenshot showed Ryo running toward a shop outside which a young girl is standing. We'll look at them both together.
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