Sunday, June 27, 2021

The End of Yu's China Journey & Creation of Virtua Fighter 2 | Yu Suzuki's 1994 China Research Trip, Final Part

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.
  • In Part Eight, Yu spars with Bajiquan grandmaster Wu Lianzhi in Mengcun, and is accidentally knocked to the floor.
Today's post, Part Nine, is the final part of the series! In it, Yu enjoys a final meal in China before returning to Japan to fold his new-found experiences into the development of Virtua Fighter 2.

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.


"It's all about the people. The people are so interesting..."

Yu murmured this to himself as he gazed down at the yellow earth just after our airplane had taken off.

I too have traveled a lot in my life, and no matter what kind of trip I've taken, it's the people that leave a lasting impression. I think the degree of fulfillment you get from a trip is determined by how many rich encounters you have had.

On this trip, we had encounters with Master De Li of Shaolin Temple, Mr. Wu Liangzhi of Cangzhou, and many other people - too numerous to list here.

China is a country with a very complicated history, and it has been subjected to many upheavals, including the Cultural Revolution and the Tiananmen Square incident, just to name a few. However, despite that fact that everyone here has been through such rough times, everyone was frank, friendly, and very big-hearted.

Yu lost in thought at the Great Wall of China, reflecting on his two-week trip...

As we would be leaving Beijing early the next morning, we had our last meal with Ms. Zhang, our guide who had been most helpful to us during this trip. As we ate, the topic of conversation turned to what our favorite word was.

Yu wrote the word "ENERGY" on a paper napkin close at hand and held it up.
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Saturday, June 19, 2021

Shenmue Music Box in Collaboration with Ryuji Iuchi

A new officially-licensed limited-edition Shenmue collectors' item has been announced for pre-order by Wayō Records: a beautifully-crafted wind-up music box, designed and created in collaboration with composer Ryuji Iuchi. The color outer box is a green hue reminiscent of Phantom River Stone, with a Phoenix motif on the top.

The melody played by the music box is an arrangement of Shenhua's Theme created especially by the composer, and each music box comes with a score sheet hand-signed by Ryuji Iuchi himself.

Pre-Order Link

Although not cheap at 274.80 Euros (approximately US $325), only 250 music boxes are being made available, so fans wanting to secure one may need to act fast. Note, this price may be adjusted after entering your payment details when ordering on the website, depending on factors such as shipping and whether taxes have been applied etc.

Delivery is scheduled for "Fall 2021".

Music Box Features

  • Performs the melody from Shenhua’s Theme (30 seconds, looping 10 rounds), entirely automatic (without handle)
  • 220mm (width), 120mm (depth), 55mm (height)
  • Wooden box crafted in noble materials
  • Precision mechanism made of a rotary cylinder and 30 pins
  • Shipped in a quality padded package with Shenmue's designed logo

Comment from Ryuji Iuchi

Ryuji Iuchi commented regarding the music box announcement on his Twitter feed:
"It was my first time arranging music for a music box, and it was fun!" [Twitter]
He also noted that the sound playing in the official video above is synthesized and not actually from the music box itself:
"The sound in the video demo is created by a synth sound source, so I hope you'll enjoy the feeling of pensiveness and character produced by the actual music box. ^_^" [Twitter]
Hopefully we will be able to hear a live rendition from the music box in the future!

About Wayō Records

Wayō Records is a French company that specializes in officially-licensed Japanese videogame and anime soundtracks, working directly with major videogame publishers and even the original composers. This bridging of cultures is reflected in their name, as "wayō" means "Japanese and Western".

Will you be able to resist ordering a Shenmue music box? Leave a comment below.

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Thursday, June 17, 2021

Yu Suzuki on Stage at Network Jungle II: Digitaliland

This post is a translation of a report in the May 1999 edition of the Japanese Dreamcast Magazine about the Network Jungle II: Digitaliland event that was held in the months leading up to the release of Shenmue. During the event, a stage event was held in which Yu Suzuki, Hiroaki Takeuchi and Hidekazu Yukawa talked about the upcoming game.

Related posts:

Recap and Comments from Yu Suzuki's Special Talk

Some incredible images were on show at this event, prompting us to ask ourselves "How on earth did they create that footage?" and wonder how far along Shenmue was in its development. The answers to these questions were to be found in the talk show with Yu Suzuki at 3:00 p.m. Many exciting things were said, including comments by Former Managing Director Yukawa!
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Sunday, June 13, 2021

Poll Result: Patrons' Choice Topic for June 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 June 2021 is...

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

We are now closing in on the end of this travel series which details the two weeks Yu Suzuki spent in 1994 in China gathering material for his upcoming Virtua Fighter II game. After this trip he also went on to work on his Virtua Fighter RPG project which eventually became Shenmue.

Summary of the trip so far: after visiting Beijing, Luoyang, Xi'an and Dengfeng (including Shaolin Temple), Yu visited Mengcun where he met martial arts expert and descendant of the founder of Bajiquan, Master Wu Lian Zhi.

Now in their final day before having to leave China and return to Japan, Yu and his companions reflect on the locations visited and experiences of the trip.

Watch for it on the blog in the near future!

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Monday, June 7, 2021

Suka Pass New Release: How We Restored "Nozomi's Messages"

The latest version of Suka Pass, the fan-made Shenmue Passport, has just been released! I thought I'd talk through some of the new changes that the team has made this time, with a few thoughts and comments about what was involved with putting together the update this time.

Quick-Glance Summary Cards

After you've upgraded to a new version, we thought it would be helpful for the app to highlight the main latest features for those who don't dig into the details of the release notes. So we've added small "at-a-glance" summary cards like the one below, which pop up the first time you open the app after installation.

Eri's Camera (Screenshots)

Just like the original Shenmue Passport on which it is based, Suka Pass gives access to a lot of extra detail about characters and places not to be found in the main game, such as the official character biographies. 

The new Screenshots feature makes sharing any of the content in the app even easier. Just tap the camera icon, which is positioned initially at the bottom of the screen, at any time you would like to share the current app screen with other Shenmue fans or your followers of social media, then choose the sharing destination. The app will pop the image into a draft tweet / email / message etc, ready to send. It will even create a short text message that is tailored to the current screen you are on. The camera icon can also be moved anywhere on the screen if it ever interferes with viewing content. (We originally had a standard-looking camera icon, but decided to make it an instant-camera style icon, in keeping with the one Eri has!).

We've already started planning out some fun ideas for building on this feature in future versions.

Main Menu Updates

If you've been using the previous version, you may notice a minor revamp to the main menu items with some new entries we'll be covering below (Urgent Messages! and Nozomi's Messages) and some reordering which brings it even closer into line with the original Shenmue Passport. The Music Page can now be accessed by tapping on Tom's red stereo which now sits at the bottom right of the screen.

The Suka Pass menu screen

The original Shenmue Passport menu screen

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