Thursday, August 12, 2021

Fan-built Shenmue 3 Character Database Released!

Something that adds greatly to Shenmue's sense of realism are the believable characters that inhabit its world. Each has been carefully crafted, with their own motivations and back-stories, not all of which is necessarily even revealed while playing - how many players will have been astounded to find out perhaps many years later that the "fine and dandy" drunk that stumbled around Dobuita's streets at night is an ex-actor who is in fact only pretending to be drunk?

When Shenmue I and II were released, players had various options to access this extra character information in various forms such as the Shenmue Passport disc (for Shenmue I), magazine features and strategy guidebooks - even if much of this was published only in Japanese. However with Shenmue III,  there has been no such guide or character repository for Yu Suzuki's third game in the series.

But now, long-time Shenmue fan Stuart Peacock (otherwise known as Miles Prower on the Shenmue Dojo forums) has released to the community a comprehensive Shenmue III character database. The culmination of a great deal of thorough research and careful investigation, the database contains entries for 300+ characters met or seen in the game, complete with headshot images, names, ages, locations, notes and more, all of it just a few taps away.

So what inspired Stuart to create a Shenmue III character database? It was partly because it seemed a logical step, after he created one for Shenmue II several years ago. But there was also something else:

"It was also partly because, during those frustrating years where it seemed like we'd never get a Shenmue 3, that if by some miracle the game ever did materialize, that it felt like my duty as an obsessive, passionate fan of the series to catalogue all of its characters, simply to document and preserve information for 'the impossible game' ".

One of the biggest challenges Stuart encountered was obtaining headshot images for each of the characters:

"For the majority of the Niaowu shopkeepers, I simply cropped headshots of them from the in-game Shop Cards; that took good care of a good chunk of the game's characters. However, this meant there were still many others to capture, such as all of the Bailu NPC's and the other miscellaneous NPC's in Niaowu. The Shenmue III Let's Play on the Dojo's YouTube channel proved an invaluable resource for this (taking countless screenshots as I watched through) - as well as simply being heart-warming to watch, seeing long-time fan Peter Campbell's giddiness in simply playing Shenmue III! There were still a handful of characters left even after using this, so I ended up recording myself 'mopping up' the other characters on the PS4 version, and then uploading this to YouTube to take screenshots. It was a long, laborious process, but hopefully worth it!"

Complicating the compilation of the information was that, while the names for most characters are displayed on-screen during gameplay, there are number of characters for whom this does not occur such as those seen during cutscenes. Stuart even went digging into the game files for clues about characters or names that couldn't be easily confirmed from gameplay alone.

Stuart relates how he managed to track down one a character that was particularly challenging to identify:

"One character that nearly slipped through the net was Zhang Xiaoying - this is the woman who takes Ryo's bag to the hotel for him as he and Shenhua get off the boat to Niaowu. As she is only seen in a cutscene, you don't see her name flash up on-screen as with other NPC's. So this seemed like one of the characters I would have to list as unnamed. 

The name of this character, who takes Ryo's bag to the hotel, is not revealed during the cutscene.

"However, there is a phone card depicting her you can obtain, and as it turns out, it has her name printed on it also! (in Chinese characters). It may seem like a superfluous detail, the name of such a minor character you only see that one time, but this was especially pleasing to figure out just for completion's sake!

"It was also quite satisfying to figure out how certain characters in Bailu Village were related to each other, by combing through the game's files for easy-to-miss conversations (most of them are part of a larger family unit) - again, little details, but it's this sort of thing that gives the Shenmue games that cozy, intimate feel".

Accessing the Shenmue III Character Database

The Shenmue III Character Database is available to download for free!

Visit the page below on Stuart's Shenmusings blog to download - and you can also read more details on the fascinating process of the database's creation.

Blog Post with Download Link:

Some of the interesting comparison statistics highlighted in the database

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