Thursday, September 3, 2020

Ryo's Bicycle Riding Part Two: Shenmue 2 Cut Content

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 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.

Screenshot 1

The first screenshot shows Ryo running along a road past a shop, with a small child standing outside.

Beta screenshot 1

Magazine caption

Caption translation: "Hm, this is a part of South Carmain Quarter. But I have a feeling this was a dead-end in the release version... Here there's a road ahead?!"

Screenshot 2

The second screenshot shows a man looking out from the shop at Ryo who is sitting on a bicycle, with the girl on the back.

Beta screenshot 2

Magazine caption

Caption translation: "Apparently this kind of scene had been going to take place here. It seems that it was cut and wasn't included in the release version though..."
The girl, the shop exterior and the surroundings may look familiar to those who have played Shenmue II, as these elements all appear in the final game in some form.

AM2 Screenshots vs Release Version: Shop

The shop is the Sunny Capital Pharmacy, in the South Carmain Quarter of Wan Chai. However in the release version, the shop is not in exactly the same location as in the screenshot.
Sunny Capital Pharmacy (release version).
Sunny Capital Pharmacy (release version).

The shop does retain all the same features such as the window, the poster on the wall, and the diagonal bar holding up the canopy. Comparing the shop's appearance from the same angle:
Shop comparison from a similar angle
Shop comparison from a similar angle, with structure features highlighted
(top: AM2 screenshot, bottom: release version)

Using the on-screen map in the screenshot as reference, we can also pinpoint the location where the shop was originally placed: at the foot of some steps on a nearby road, across from an empty lot of land. In place of the shop in the release version there is now an old apartment building, but the rest of the scenery matches closely.
The shop's original location
The shop's original location: AM2 screenshot (top) vs the release version (bottom). The shop has been replaced by an apartment building.

The view across the road has not changed
The view across the road has not changed (above: AM2 screenshot, below: release version)

The Characters

The young girl outside the shop is Xiaoqin Liu, and her grandfather Fushou Liu runs the Sunny Capital Pharmacy.

Xiaoqin Liu
Xiaoqin Liu's grandfather, Fushou Liu

Concept art for the character of Xiaoquin was introduced in the March 1999 edition of Dreamcast Magazine.
Character art for Xiaoquin
Character art for Xiaoquin

The magazine describes her as "a girl who likes attention and is full of energy. She lives in the neighborhood of Xiuying Hong, and is extremely attached to her."

While we now know her as Xiaoquin, written 小琴, she was introduced here under a different name: 健福 (pronounced in Japanese as "Kenpuku"). Interestingly, the second Chinese character of this previous name is also found in her grandfather's name, Fushou 福寿.

While the character model for Xiaoquin in the final game matches the screenshots, the grandfather's character model has been changed.
Grandfather character model
Grandfather character model: the AM2 screenshot version (top) differs from the one in the release (bottom).

Update April 2022:

On further investigation, the original character model for Xiaoquin's grandfather in the screenshot (although we only have a view from behind him) matches up with the character of Shi Yi Ming, who operates Wise Men's Chemist in the released game!

AM2 Screenshots vs Release Version: the Road

As we saw earlier, the caption that was posted up on together with the AM2 screenshot commented that "This was a dead-end in the release version... Here there's a road ahead!". Strictly speaking, in both cases the road does continue on to the left, but in the release version it eventually comes to a dead-end, after a second corner:

Dead-end road (release version)
Release version: the road eventually comes to this dead end after a couple of corners.

And the map on the AM2 screenshot appears to confirm the road would have continued on (although the resolution is poor).

Map comparison

Let's see if there are any objects or textures of interest left behind in the game using a hacking tool to let Ryo "fly" above the dead-end. Nothing conclusive can be seen, but there is certainly a suspicious open space behind one of the fences in the direction that the road would have originally continued, although various buildings now stand all around this area.

Looking down on the dead-end
Looking down on the dead-end: is this where the road once continued?

The Bicycle Errand Event

When the "cut content" screenshots were released, there was very little information about what had been planned. However, almost 20 years on, one of the developers on the original Shenmue project, who goes by the handle Morio Ashizuka (@ashizuka16bit) on Twitter, has shone some light on them:

Morio Ashizuka: "The ability to ride a bicycle wasn't kept in Shenmue II in the end, was it? There was going to be an event where you put the girl at the pharmacy on your bike and run an errand, and for some reason Yu-san really liked that scene. He was so pleased he told us 'It's like a movie by [acclaimed Japanese film director] Yasujirō Ozu!'  
Dou Niu was over-sized and hard to animate, while conversely the girl at the pharmacy was too small which gave us a lot of trouble." 
A bicycle scene from Late Spring, a 1946 Japanese drama film directed by Yasujirō Ozu
A bicycle scene from Late Spring, a 1946 Japanese drama film directed by Yasujirō Ozu. Yu Suzuki apparently likened the planned event scene to his movies.

When asked about the nature of the planned event: 
"I don't remember it very well, but it was along the lines of the pharmacy owner having a bad leg, so Ryo goes for him by bicycle with the girl showing him the way. Ryo wasn't able to ride around freely though - it was a movie scene of him riding"
So it turns out there was going to be an event where Ryo goes by bicycle on an errand on behalf of the pharmacy owner, who has a bad leg. He takes Xiaoqin with him on the bicycle as a guide. It is interesting that the bicycle riding was only going to be shown as a cut scene, which would have removed a lot of complications to do with navigation.

Speculating on the Errand Destination

The exact nature of the errand was not revealed, but we can speculate as to where Ryo might have been going based on the clues we have. Based on the direction the road originally went, it seems likely that his ride may have taken him to the neighboring Quarter, the Wise Men's Quarter.

On the map below is marked the location of the Sunny Capital Pharmacy as it was originally located (in green) and a dotted line leading from the pharmacy in the direction Ryo might have ridden, if the road had continued further.
Would the bicycle route have led across to the Wise Men's Quarter?
Would the bicycle route have led across to the Wise Men's Quarter?

We do not know the exact nature of the errand for Xiaoqin's grandfather, but one possibility is to make a delivery to another medicine shop, or fetch a parcel. Two such shops exist in Wise Men's Qr.: Wise Men's Chemist and Man Mo Herb Medicine (marked on the map above). So the road may have turned northwards and joined the road near Man Mo Herb Medicine.

Alternatively, the road may have connected through to Man Mo Park, at the southernmost end of the Wise Men's Quarter.

The geography presents complications, as the roads and buildings in the Wise Men's Quarter sit considerably higher than the pharmacy's location in the South Carmain Quarter (there are several sets of steps and sloping roads joining the two Quarters). If Ryo had ridden a bicycle there, he may have left the bicycle at the foot of a set of steps upon reaching Wise Men's Quarter.

The question also arises as to whether a bicycle would have been needed at all - as can be seen from the map, the distance to a location in the next Quarter is not great and walking there using the usual roads would also have been an easy option.

20 December update: I had the chance to ask another developer from the original Shenmue project about the road's destination, and received an intriguing reply:
Mazin__ (まぢん): "No, it didn't extend towards Wise Men's Quarter, but rather it went straight down. You would borrow the bicycle to travel along a road through a grassy plain."

We will cover this aspect further in a future post! 

With regards to the reason the bicycle was dropped from the first Shenmue games, developer Morio Ashizuka commented:
Morio Ashizuka: "Hmm, I wonder why. :) I think there were a number of reasons. If you could ride around freely, you would run into the townsfolk, and then there's the problem of what to do for rain and snow. It may also no longer have been needed from a story perspective. You can ride a motorbike instead [in Shenmue 1] so please forgive us. :) "


Here is some video footage comparing the screenshots with actual locations in the released game. Special thanks to SkillJim for providing the footage of Ryo's boundary-breaking exploration around - and above - Wan Chai!

Check out SkillJim's YouTube channel for superb Shenmue content!

Final Comment

There are only a few tantalizing clues available on what the bicycle errand might have been about. If it had been kept in the final game, what sort of side quest or event would you have liked it to be? Leave a comment with your thoughts!


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  1. Fantastic article! Really appreciate the details. Amazing that we are still finding things out two decades on. Roll on Shenmue 4!

    1. Yes there's always plenty for fans to discuss while we wait for the next installment!

  2. "Morio Ashizuka: "No, it didn't extend towards Wise Men's Quarter, but rather it went straight down. " -- This tweet was made by まぢんsan, according to your reference (Tweet 4). He's not the same person as Ashizuka-san, is it? Sorry for a late nitpicking...

    1. Thanks for noticing that Kiyuu! I've fixed up the reference.