Saturday, March 27, 2021

[Part One] Shenhua's House: Shenmue 2 vs Shenmue 3 | Pictorial Comparison

Near the end of Shenmue II, Ryo and Shenhua take the path from the riverside port of Langhuishan and cross the mountains to eventually reach her father's house, located on a rocky plateau high above the Yingshuihe river.

This familiar location was recreated in Shenmue III, being the place Ryo returns to each evening during his investigations at Bailu village, with a number of minor differences in appearance. In this post we will take a complete tour of this outdoor area, to compare the landscape around the house as it is portrayed in Shenmue II vs Shenmue III (with the house's interior to be covered in a future post).

Tools used: our out-of-bounds cheat tool for Shenmue II and LemonHaze's miscellaneous mods tool for Shenmue III.

Aerial View

To start with, let's look down on Shenhua's house from above. The path from Langhuishan / Bailu village can be seen entering from the left side, and continuing past the house in the direction of the Stone Pit. The topography in Shenmue III matches the previous game closely, with one noticeable difference being that the plateau on which the house sits is now wider and less enclosed. The craggy rocks and cliffs are have a somewhat different appearance to the more sheer and flatter shapes seen in Shenmue II.

Bird's eye view of landscape around Shenhua's house (top: S2, below: S3)

Approaching Shenhua's House

In Shenmue II, this is the first view Ryo has of Shenhua's house - and the majestic Shenmue tree - after their journey from Langhuishan.

View up the hill to Shenhua's house (top: S2, below: S3)

In Shenmue III, some new rooved structures have been added: one holds bundles of grain and the other a water pump.
New rooved structures (S3)

In Shenmue II, the land at the left was enclosed by rocky walls of natural rock, but in Shenmue III the landscape feels much more grassy and open, and there is now an expansive field of colorful flowers to the left side.

In front of Shenhua's house (top: S2, below: S3)

Continuing up the to the house, we next come to a row of stone cooking stoves with woks sitting on top. These are separated in Shenmue II, but form one long row in Shenmue III.

Outdoor cooking stoves (top: S2, below: S3)

Past these is the well, with a bucket hanging from a rope.

Well outside Shenhua's house (top: S2, below: S3)

Shenmue Tree

As seen in the earlier screenshots, the blossoms of the Shenmue tree have been magnificently recreated in Shenmue III, and the swing is suspended in the same position. One feature that differs is the trunk, which now resembles that of a large cherry tree, compared to the gnarled and moss-covered trunk and roots of the Shenmue II tree (which seemed fitting to me for such a historic and mysterious tree).

The swing at the Shenmue tree (top: S2, below: S3)

Looking up at the Shenmue tree (top: S2, below: S3)

Rocky Outcrop

One vantage point I personally enjoyed in Shenmue II was the rock ledge that juts out above the river. You can take Ryo to the edge and gaze out at the forest-covered Guilin mountains that surround the area, and look down at the river below. This ledge wasn't carried across fully to Shenmue III, being more of a grassy patch that does not offer such views of the landscape.
Rocky outcrop (top: S2, below: S3)

Shenmue II: a view of the Guilin mountains and river below

Exterior of Shenhua's House

In general, Shenhua's house has kept the same look between the two games, although the shape of the roof at the side of the house has changed in Shenmue III due to an extension added at the rear of the house which will be seen a little later.

Front of Shenhua's house (top: S2, below: S3)

Mountain-facing side of Shenhua's house (top: S2, below: S3)

Shenhua's house in Shenmue II did have electric lights, so an electric generator at the side of the house in Shenmue III seems a reasonable addition!

An electric generator appears in Shenmue III

The wooden storm shutters over the windows seen in Shenmue II are no longer present.
River-facing side of Shenhua's house (top: S2, below: S3)

The most significant alteration can be observed at the back of the house, where the addition of a new room (Ryo's bedroom) has changed the house's footprint.
Back of Shenhua's house (top: S2, below: S3)

Door and windows (top: S2, below: S3)

Paths from Shenhua's House

Looking back along the path towards Langhuishan / Bailu village gives quite a different view between the two games. Shenmue II's environment feels steep and mountainous, compared to the vista of rolling hills that opens up in Shenmue III.

Path to Bailu village (top: S2, below: S3)

The path leading away from Shenhua's house in the other direction (towards the stone pit) curves to the left around a large wall of rock in both games but is lined with trees and flowers in Shenmue III.

Stone to the Stone Pit (top: S2, below: S3)

Animal Enclosures

Shenhua's house has an animal enclosure on either side. The one by the river holds cows in Shenmue II but goats in Shenmue III.

Sheds and enclosure (top: S2, below: S3)

The two sheds next to the enclosure have gained doors in Shenmue III (although they can't be opened). Presumably these are outhouses, as there is not bathroom in the main house - and in Shenmue III if you stand outside them you will hear a fly buzzing!

Shenmue III outhouse: a fly can be heard buzzing around.

The enclosure on the other side next to the well not only has cows grazing, but also appears to contain some kind of crops or vegetables in Shenmue II. In Shenmue III there is no evidence of such plants, and the enclosures have gained entrance gates.
Enclosure (top: S2, below: S3)

Closing Comment

I hope you've enjoyed this side-by-side pictorial tour of the environment around Shenhua's house to note some of the main changes between Shenmue II and III. There are also comparison videos made by fans that can be viewed online which are worth checking out.

Overall, Shenmue III's recreation of his location has remained faithful to the second game, with a few exceptions here and there. There is also a subtle difference in atmosphere which may largely be due to the differing appearance of the Guilin cliffs and mountains, being steep and towering needle-like mountains in Shenmue II and craggier, spread-out formations in Shenmue III.

In a future post we will examine differences between the two games in Shenhua's house's interior layout and the items it holds.

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