Thursday, April 29, 2021

Yu Meets (and is Knocked Down by) Master Wu: Yu Suzuki's 1994 China Research Trip, Part 8 | Translation

A continuation of our series on Yu Suzuki's 1994 Research Trip to China. This topic was selected by the Phantom River Stone blog patrons via our monthly poll on the Phantom River Stone Patreon and was available for early access.

In the early 1990s, Yu Suzuki made a seminal trip to China. His objective was to research and gather material for his upcoming Virtua Fighter 2, and this research also influenced his concept for a "Virtua Fighter RPG" which eventually came to be known as Shenmue.

Previous posts in this series of blog posts:

  • In Part One, we translated blog entries about the trip by Kazunari Uchida, the person who accompanied Yu Suzuki.
  • Part Two is a magazine article in which Yu Suzuki gives own comments about his trip, and how his findings would be useful for the development of the Virtua Fighter series.
  • In Part Three, Yu's traveling companion, Kazunari Uchida, talks about how he first met Yu Suzuki and his curiosity to learn about the genius behind the man during the upcoming trip.
  • Part Four is Kazunari Uchida's journal entry for the start of the trip itself: Day One - Beijing.
  • Part Five is Days Two and Three of the trip in which Yu travels to Luoyang, Xi'an and Dengfeng, and arrives at Shaolin Temple.
  • In Part Six (Days Four through Six) Yu observes fighting demonstrations at Shaolin Temple in Dengfeng county.
  • In Part Seven (Day Seven), nursing a fractured rib, Yu spends some time sight-seeing in Luoyang then travels on to Cangzhou.
Now we continue from last time...

About the Diary Author

Born on January 15, 1961 (age 33), Kazunari Uchida is a writer and photographer who writes about a wide range of topics including outdoor activities, motor sports, and travelogues. He is currently active in such publications as Monthly Motorcycle (Motor Magazine), Yu-Ben (Kodansha), and Outdoor Guide (JTB). He accompanied Yu Suzuki, the developer of "Virtua Fighter," on a research trip to China.

The Story So Far

Five days after leaving Japan, Yu Suzuki and his group were finally able to meet a real Shaolin Kung Fu master. Suzuki witnessed powerful demonstrations of Crane Fist, Hawk Fist, and Seven Star Fist, which were dramatically different from the tourism demonstrations of the previous day. Despite suffering a serious injury, Suzuki was able to acquire something deep from this practical instruction. And now, as the end of the trip grows near, he has been given the opportunity to meet the authentic practitioner of the art through an unexpected connection.

The photo of Yu Suzuki in the article (left) was used directly as the backdrop for the Akira CG image in the Virtua Fighter CG Portrait Series (right), a connection realized by James Brown! Read more about the Virtua Fighter CG Portrait Series here in his previous guest post for the blog.

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Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Poll Result: Patrons' Choice Topic for April 2021

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 April 2021 is...

"Characters in Shenmue Based on Real People"

Several characters that appear in Shenmue have models that were based on real-life people such as members of the development staff.

One of these, and perhaps the most well-known among fans, is Manabu Takimoto. He appears as a beleaguered architect who can often be found in Sakuragaoka, working on a construction project for a friend. In real life, he runs an architectural company and was also the environment designer for the three Shenmue games released to date.

Manabu Takimoto: top-left: at the construction site in Sakuragaoka, top-right: character model, bottom-left: Shenmue III interview video, bottom-right: from a 2000 magazine interview.

Sadly, it would seem Lan Di's speeding car took away Manabu Takimoto's closest companion...
[Official profile, from the Suka Pass app]

There are several other characters in the game who are based on real-life SEGA staff, some less-well-known than others. We'll be covering them all in our up-coming post.

Watch for it on the blog in the near future!

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Friday, April 16, 2021

3D Bat Model & Odd Unused Objects in Shenmue Game Files | Dragon & Phoenix Project Discoveries

Today we have some small but unusual items of unused content to share, courtesy once more of LemonHaze, who ran across them during his work for the upcoming Dragon & Phoenix Collection fan project. They are object models contained within the released Shenmue game files that are not used in the actual game itself.

Development Placeholder Cone

The first is an object that is made of four triangular sides (colored red, yellow, green and blue) arranged together such that they form a square base. LemonHaze explains that this was used during development of the game as "a placeholder object for interactive assets which aren't implemented/made yet".

The placeholder object

It is reminiscent of a traffic cone - hence the filename "pilon" for this object model on disc, as this approximates the pronunciation of the word meaning a traffic cone in Japanese.

The file is located in the Shenmue I game files at MODEL/OBJECT/PILON.MT5, but in fact LemonHaze has spotted the object in actual early footage of Shenmue II, shown in the NHK "Making Of Shenmue" video that was aired on Japanese television in July 1999.
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Monday, April 12, 2021

Shenmue Theory: Sakuragaoka's Best-Kept Secret | Guest Post by James Brown

Back in 2019, I discovered in Shenmue something truly special and mind-blowing to myself that again proved that Shenmue is more than just a game. Admiring its breath-taking detail led me to discover a seasonal change that only a handful of people would ever realistically discover. In Japan, at the turn of spring cherry blossom season springs into life, bringing picturesque cherry trees into bloom with their sakura blossoms that are certainly a showstopper. And this is also the case in the game, with the Hazuki Residence’s Cherry Tree going through a gradual transformation over a number of weeks, as blossoms begin to bloom, eventually leading to a spectacular display.

The petals then start to fall, leaving them scattered on the ground, another fantastic detail.

This whole process can be considered a bit of a metaphor it seems, as Ryo is warned of time running out on his quest just before the blossoms start to dwindle - “When the cherry blossoms fall, the dragon shall descend on you” - and when the tree’s life cycle is finished so is Ryo’s, as Lan Di returns to the Dojo with the knowledge of the second mirror; in the process dealing Ryo the same devastating blow he performed on Ryo’s father at the start of the game and taking the Phoenix Mirror. This scene makes a point of showing the Cherry Tree at the end of its life cycle.

This date in the game is around the middle of April, a time which only an extremely… extremely… extremely slow player would reach - or someone deliberately taking advantage of the day skip (even doing this, the player would need to halt the day skips and continue to waste a day at a time as the tree reaches its full bloom).

The above information may not be new to you diehard Shenmue fans out there today - but over the last week, whilst working on the next release of the Suka Pass app with Switch, I had a bit of an epiphany that I’m looking forward to sharing with you today. I would love to hear your opinions!

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Friday, April 9, 2021

Eric Kelso Returns to Voice Ren in Shenmue III | Shenmue Dojo Mod


Following the release of Shenmue III in 2019, fans in the Shenmue community have released a range of mods for the PC version of the game to tweak all sorts of aspects, including graphical and audio adjustments.

Back in 2019, a Shenmue III mod was organized by Patrick Fuller that allowed players to hear Ryo's telephone conversations with Guizhang and Fuku-san voiced by the original voice actor from the first game of the series, Eric Kelso, who specially recorded all the lines for fans to enjoy.

And now a brand new, and much more substantial, Eric Kelso mod has been released by the Shenmue Dojo. Produced once again by Patrick, this mod amazingly swaps in the voice of Wuying Ren as heard in Shenmue II, for Ren's entire part in the game! The recordings have been masterfully and seamlessly integrated back into the game, and hearing Ren's restored voice will bring a smile to the face of fans for whom this is the true voice of Ren.

This mod is the culmination of efforts from the project team, and is credited to the following core team: Patrick Fuller* (producer / director), Lemon Haze (coding), James Brown* (testing / footage), Jibby* (graphic design) and Peter Campbell (audio assistance).

* Also supporters of Phantom River Stone through Patreon!

There is even an added bonus in that Lan Di's lines, although not many in Shenmue III, have been revoiced by voice actor Paul Lucas. They bring back that snarling sense of menace all players will remember from Ryo's encounter at the start of the first game.

Both voice actors are well loved in the community for their ongoing support and participation of the franchise ever since the release of the original games, and have contributed their recordings free of charge. Thanks to their generosity, and the hard work of the Shenmue Dojo project crew, fans playing the PC version now have the option of hearing the original Ren and Lan Di.

This superb mod has already caught the attention of global media (including PCGamer). And hopefully this incredible effort will also come to the attention of producers of the upcoming Shenmue Anime. I'd love to see Eric and Paul back to provide the English voices.

How to Install the PC Mod

Installing the mod is simple. Just follow these steps:
  1. Download Forklift zip from the Shenmue Dojo server
  2. Unzip the zip contents into your Shenmue3\Binaries\Win64 folder.
  3. Download the mod zip. This is the complete version which has the new Ren mod as well as the previous Eric Kelso voices for Ryo's telephone calls with Guizhang and Fuku-san.
  4. Create the folder Shenmue3/Content/Paks/~mods if it does not already exist, and unzip the zip contents into it.
  5. Start the game.

Watch the Scenes

If you don't have a PC, you can watch all the Ren scenes (together with Lan Di at the end!) on the Shenmue Dojo channel:

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