Friday, December 31, 2021

Yu Suzuki's Responses: 2021 End-of-Year Survey []

Recently Famitsu published their annual survey of members of the game industry, with Yu Suzuki commenting on his outlook for 2022.
As usual, Japanese website has also carried out their own similar 4-question survey to ask the thoughts of industry figures on looking back on 2021 and what they are looking forward to in the new year.

Here are Yu Suzuki's responses translated below (with images added):
Q1: Of all the games released in 2021, which title impressed (or shocked) you the most?
YS: Little Nightmares II. I was impressed by its atmosphere, and could really feel the creators' passion. The animation in particular is excellent.

Little Nightmares II: a puzzle-platformer horror adventure game published by Bandai Namco Entertainment.

Q2: Of the entertainment content that was released or announced during 2021, which one left the deepest impression?
YS: "Finch".

Finch: an American post-apocalyptic science fiction drama film starring Tom Hanks, released on Apple TV+.

Q3: Which figure personally caught (or is catching) your attention in 2021?
YS: [Japanese female professional billiards player] Samia Konishi. I like her decisive, aggressive play.
Samia Konishi
Q4: What are your aspirations for 2022, and what is your message to 4Gamer readers?
YS: To the readers of 4Gamer: next year's zodiac sign is the Tiger, which is also Ryo's trademark in Shenmue and can be seen on the back of his jacket. Please look forward to "Shenmue The Animation," which is scheduled to be released in 2022, as we are working to make the world of Shenmue easy to grasp and enjoyable to all.
Shenmue The Animation

This year, Suzuki did not explicitly link his comments to the keyword that he gave recently in the Famitsu survey ("mix") but did provide some insight into his recent game playing with his praise for the atmospheric adventure game Little Nightmares II. Finally, it is clear that Shenmue will play an important role in 2022, notably with the upcoming anime release - whether we may have any other Shenmue-related project announcements is still up for speculation.

Survey (Japanese):

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Wednesday, December 29, 2021

Yu Suzuki's Keyword for 2022: "Mix" + Announcement Hint []

"127 Game Creators' New Year's Resolutions" (the waving tiger represents the 2022 animal sign of the Chinese Zodiac: the Tiger)

As in previous years, Japanese website has released their annual survey of members of the games industry, this time interviewing a total of 127 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.

As per tradition Famitsu has recycled their favorite photo of Yu Suzuki from their archives (their 2016 interview).

This year, Yu Suzuki wraps up the survey as the very last entry in the article. Here are his responses, translated from the original Japanese:

Q: Your Keyword for 2022?

YS: "Mix" [Suzuki uses the word borrowed from English, and also adds the English spelling of the word].
Q: Your New Year's Resolution?

To work with people from different industries, such as movies and musicians.
I want to bring a different style to game making.
I hope to have something to announce in 2022.

Q: Status update?

YS: Unusually for me, I've been playing games... I can't really have discussions with people around me unless I know at least the trends. I've been delighted to see so many interesting and unique games.
Q: What will you be keeping an eye on in 2022?

YS: Of course, Shenmue the Animation, scheduled for release in 2022! It will allow the world of Shenmue to be enjoyed much more conveniently than the games. Everyone will be able to enjoy it, so please look forward to it.

For the first question, Yu Suzuki replies with the word "mix", most likely using the word from English for convenience. It seems likely this ties in to his New Year's Resolution in his second response where he talks of working with people across different industries, with movies and music being given as examples. This harkens back to the novel approach he took with development for the original Shenmue project, as he described in a 2019 interview with IGN Japan:

"The industry didn't have directors, or people experienced at motion capture - it was a new concept. Games didn't have things like voiced lines or acting. So to implement it, I gathered people from various different industries: a movie person, a scriptwriter, a novelist and so on".

Excitingly, a game-related announcement within the coming year is hinted at. Whether or not this may be Shenmue related is left open, but fans will be waiting with great interest for any news of a new game project from YS Net.

While Yu Suzuki has famously professed to rarely playing games himself during his career, last year, in a separate interview with IGN Japan, he spoke of the need to be aware of the expectations of gamers other than existing fans for development of the next Shenmue game. His next response in the survey confirms that he has been putting words into action with hands-on play to stay abreast of game releases and trends.

Finally, Yu Suzuki highlights the release of the upcoming Shenmue Anime, of which he is executive producer, in 2022. It is looking to be a significant year for Shenmue!
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Sunday, December 26, 2021

Yokosuka Road Tunnel | Shenmue Anime X Real Life Location

The Shenmue Anime is promising to be a highlight of the coming year and we can't wait!

Here is a scene reproduced from the trailer, set in the real location in Dobuita.

This is the far entrance of a road tunnel that is situated a few minutes away from Dobuita Street.

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Saturday, December 25, 2021

The Mystery of the Hazuki Handguard and the Sword | Unused Game Assets

The Mystery of the Hazuki Handguard and the Sword

The sword (katana) and handguard, that latter being a Hazuki family heirloom, play an important role in progressing through the story of the first game. The relationship between these two objects is an enigma, as during the game we learn that, despite their apparent connection, the handguard is not able to be fitted onto the sword blade.

In this post, we will consider the question of whether the handguard was ever meant to have fitted onto the blade, and dig through a number of clues and evidence that were left behind in the game files that indicate that in fact this had been the case - at least during an earlier part of the game's development.

Story spoiler warning: this post discusses how the sword and handguard are used in the game.

Special thanks to SkillJim for his helpful discussions & to LemonHaze for examining the game code for model usage.

The Hazuki handguard (left) and sword blade (right)

Hazuki Family Crest

First, let's look at some of the clues that are already present during the game.
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Friday, December 17, 2021

Yu Suzuki Pre-launch Interview on Shenmue Town (Shenmue City) | 4Gamer 2010

Shenmue Gai (シェンムー街) was a Shenmue spin-off social game developed by YS Net and published by Sunsoft for Japan's largest mobile-based social game network, Yahoo! Mobage. It launched in Japan at the end of 2010, but the service was brought to a halt only a year later.

In November 2010, just before the game's official launch, Japanese gaming site 4Gamer spoke with Yu Suzuki, about the development of Shenmue Town and his aspirations going forward.

Note: leading up to launch, in English-language media the game was frequently translated as "Shenmue City", but in an interview with Gamasutra following the game's launch, Yu Suzuki expressed that the English word "city" felt too large for the game, and that the environment felt much more like a town. In keeping with Yu-san's guidance, we've used "Shenmue Town" for this article.

The translation begins below.

As reported in our recent article, the social game Shenmue Town was launched at the Akihabara UDX Theater in Tokyo on November 15th.

After the event, I had a chance to have a brief joint interview with Yu Suzuki, president of YS Net, who is in charge of the development of this game. In this interview, I asked him about the background to the release of Shenmue as a social game, as well as many other interesting points.
"For this destiny predetermined since ancient times"

"And thus the saga... begins"

4Gamer: Thank you for time today. First of all, can you tell us what inspired you to develop Shenmue Town?

Suzuki: I don't know if this will answer your question directly, but Shenmue is something with an immense and deep background, isn't it.

I do have the desire to create Shenmue III, giving it the same amount of content as the previous games, but getting started again on such a massive undertaking requires an appropriate amount of preparation. And of course, I also get requests from players, including those overseas, who want me to make it. For a long time now, I've wanted to take responsibility for the [future of the] series if I can, in some form or other.
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Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Unused Inventory Icons Discovered in What's Shenmue

All Shenmue players will be familiar with the inventory screen and its depiction of small icons that represent the things Ryo is carrying at the moment.

An example of Ryo's inventory (Dreamcast)

These inventory icon graphics are of course stored in files on the game disc; but now an earlier version of these icon graphics has been discovered by LemonHaze, project leader of the Dragon & Phoenix project. These are to be found among the game files of the What's Shenmue demo. This was a playable game demo distributed in Japan while Shenmue was still finishing up development, allowing a fascinating glimpse back to an earlier point in the game's development.

Where things get especially interesting are where icons differ from the ones in the final version of the game, with the identity of a few of them being up for debate.

Many thanks to LemonHaze for providing the graphics files and discussion on the icons for presenting in this post.

Below we will walk through each of them to evaluate whether they appear in the released game, and for those that aren't, try to identify what each represents.

The Inventory Item Set from What's Shenmue 

The set of icons are stored in two image files on disc, and appear as shown below. 

Next we'll step through and comment on each item in turn, starting with the most readily identifiable ones.
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Tuesday, December 7, 2021

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

"Interview with developer Eigo Kasahara about the Shenmue Passport" (translation)

When the first game in the Shenmue series was released on the Dreamcast, along with the three game discs was a fourth disc called Shenmue Passport. This was a stand-alone piece of software which acted as a companion to the main game, containing additional content to enhance the player's experience such as music, guide videos and in-depth information about the characters, places and objects in the game. It even made use of the Dreamcast's ability to connect to the internet to download data and display Shenmue related event news and other messages. (Unfortunately, the Shenmue Passport was not part of Sega's Shenmue I & II re-release in 2018, so the fan community has created an app called Suka Pass that recreates the experience for mobile devices).

In this post we will be translating a magazine interview from shortly after Shenmue's release with senior Sega developer Eigo Kasahara, who oversaw the Shenmue Passport (as well as taking on the role of planning director for the main game).

Watch for it on the blog in the near future!

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