Sunday, December 27, 2020

Yu Suzuki's Plans for 2021: "Shooting / RPG" plus a Sequel Tease []

"110 Game Creators' New Year's Resolutions" (the jumping cow represents the 2021 animal sign of the Chinese Zodiac: the Ox)

As in previous years, Japanese website has released their annual survey of members of the games industry, interviewing a total of 110 game creators. The survey asks each to choose a word or phrase that sums up their direction for the coming year, as well as a New Year's Resolution and goal.

The survey responses may be new, but Famitsu's recycled photo of Yu Suzuki is not! (It's from their 2016 interview, in fact).

Here are Yu Suzuki's responses for this year's survey:

Q: Your Keyword for 2021?

YS: Shooting / RPG.
Q: Your New Year's Resolution?

1) Look back on competitive fighting games.
2) The sequel to...

Q: Status update?

YS: On November 19th, 2020, Shenmue III was released on Steam and GOG. I hope that the New Year of 2021 will be a time for people to unwind at home and heal their body and soul with a relaxing game like Shenmue. 
Q: What will you be keeping an eye on in 2021?

YS: I sincerely hope that the coronavirus will be contained and that the Tokyo Olympics will be held safely and smoothly.
In Yu Suzuki's response to the first question about his keyword for next year he mentions two seemingly-distinct game styles. This may be an indication of that his studio will have multiple projects in progress including a shooter / shoot-em-up game and an RPG (presumably excluding the FREE-based Shenmue).

Yu Suzuki hinted in Famitsu's previous survey, which came soon after the successful release of Shenmue III, that he had been planning to start "a new project" in the upcoming year. In IGN Japan's April interview, he also expressed interest in creating new games across various genres (racing, fighting, fantasy, science fiction, story-based games, titles suitable for esports). We have not heard any concrete news from YS Net since then - could it be that that projects revolving around one or both of these ideas are already underway?

In the second response, one of Yu Suzuki's New Year's Resolutions is to "look back" on competitive fighting games. It would be an exciting development if the father of the Virtua Fighter franchise were to develop a new twist on combat games.

The other part to the New Year's Resolution response was left deliberately open-ended: "The sequel to..." - surely a tease especially for Shenmue fans! Yu Suzuki spoke earlier in the year, in the above-mentioned IGN Japan interview, of his desire to continue on to a Shenmue IV if the demand is there, and I'd like to think that this response is a reaffirmation of that, or even better an indication that there may be some movement behind the scenes for the sequel.

We feel hopeful that there will be some interesting project news announced by Yu Suzuki and YS Net in 2021.
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Friday, December 25, 2020

Merry Xmas from Phantom River Stone

Thank you to everyone for supporting the blog, and a special shout-out to our amazing patrons!

Have a safe and happy Christmas everyone! メリークリスマス!

This image is from a Christmas Card that was distributed to attendees of the Shenmue Premiere in 1999.

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Thursday, December 17, 2020

The 3 Years I Spent Recording Shenmue at SEGA: Susumu Aketagawa | Translation

This is a translation of an interview published by Japanese website Anime Hack in 2019, in which sound director Susumu Aketagawa talks about his time spent at SEGA during the creation of the original Shenmue games.

Susumu Aketagawa in 1999 directing a voice recording for Shenmue

About Susumu Aketagawa

Susumu Aketagawa is the president of the company Magic Capsule and a director of the Japan Audio Producers' Association. He has been involved in the field of sound since the dawn of Japanese animation, and his works as a sound director include Princess Knight, AKIRA, Legend of the Galactic Heroes, Mistin (Kasumin) and many others.

The 3 Years I Spent Recording Shenmue at SEGA

I was working on several games, but the one I was most involved with was the Sega Shenmue series (Shenmue: Chapter 1: Yokosuka and Shenmue II). I was in charge of some casting and dubbing direction, and although I wasn't involved in the music or sound effects, it was an interesting job, recorded in a completely different way than my animation work.

Shenmue became a topic of conversation due to its huge budget and large-scale production, but the method of voice recording was also very different from usual. For about three years I went in to Sega's studio in Haneda, Tokyo, for three days a week to record from about 10 a.m. until evening. As well as being used in the game, the recordings made were also useful during the game's creation.

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Saturday, December 12, 2020

Where Did the Road Past Sumiya-san's House Originally Lead?

Situated as Sakuragaoka is, on the side of a hill, stone walls are a common sight along the roads that lead to and from the neighborhood. However there is one particular wall that feels a little out of place, and that is the wall that blocks off the end of the road that leads up past the house of Sumiya-san (who can often be found nearby, meticulously sweeping a patch of road near her house entrance).

But investigation of some of the unused map data for the game reveals clues that this road was once been going to continue onwards.

Let's have a look at what can be uncovered!
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Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Poll Result: Patrons' Choice Topic for December 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 winning topic for the end of 2020 is...

New Year decorations and costumes in Shenmue.

The way the changing seasons are depicted in Shenmue really helps to make the player aware of the passage of time within the game. The atmosphere of the snowy streets and parks of Yokosuka is one of the most memorable aspects of the first game which really draws the player into the world.

In this post we will be looking at how the world of Shenmue reflects New Year celebrations in Japan. During New Year, the streets undergo a complete change with festive decorations displayed on street posts and above shops. Characters can be also seen dressed up in festive kimono costume. 

While none of these New Year changes directly affect the game's story, they serve to deepen the realism of the world.

Watch for it on the blog in the near future!
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Monday, December 7, 2020

Double Blow: A Glimpse into How Virtua Fighter Continues to Inform Shenmue’s World | Guest Post by Segalicious

Segalacious is back again with a new post, this time an analysis of the background of Yamagishi-san and some intriguing ties to Virtua Fighter lore!


In terms of its history and lore, there is more to Shenmue than meets the eye. Though it retains its own distinct identity as a stand-alone series, Shenmue’s shared history with Virtua Fighter means that its world will forever be inextricably tied to the same backdrop as Sega’s greatest fighting game franchise. Like the Yin and Yang of traditional Chinese philosophy, no full understanding of one can be obtained at the expense or deficit of the other.

Just as an unassuming character like Shigeo Yamagishi once taught Ryo the secret of Yin and Yang, a look below the surface of this character’s past reveals insights that deepen one’s understanding of both Shenmue and Virtua Fighter to such an extent that neither can be looked at in the same way ever again. Prepare for a glimpse into the heart of each series’ deepest lore. Let’s get into it!

Just as Yamagishi-san taught Ryo the secret of Yin and Yang, his past holds the key to some of the deepest lore shared by both Shenmue and Virtua Fighter.
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Thursday, December 3, 2020

Naoyuki's Stylish Motorbike Key Tag | SEGA Branding in Shenmue

Various branding can be found scattered throughout the Shenmue games. Right from the start of the first Shenmue, when Ryo explores his room and the contents of the desk and closet, the numerous small objects and items within give the world a lived-in feel; and such is the detail that many in-game items even have their own branding. In some cases, real-life licensed brands were used through agreements with the manufacturers, and in others they were made-up. And a small number proudly carry the SEGA brand.

In this post we'll go through some of the Sega-branded objects that can be found in Ryo's house and elsewhere in the first Shenmue game - some of which are obvious, and others which are only apparent upon the closest examination.

Genuine Sega Items

The most obvious Sega items are those which are manufactured or made under official license in real-life, such as the arcade games at the You arcade (we'll also include the Shenmue-specific variations such as the darts games), capsule toy machines, game posters such as the Virtua Fighter ones in Fukuhara-san's room, and of course the Sega Saturn console at the Hazuki residence.

Shenmue I & II Rebranding

A case of Sega branding that can be seen in the recent Shenmue I & II re-release of the game serves to replace the branding in the original Dreamcast version of the game: Ryo's wristwatch. This originally had a Timex brand on the watch's face but in the re-release, this has been changed to SEGA, presumably to avoid licensing complications. The watch's appearance and functionality were not changed however, and it is still instantly recognizable as a Timex.

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