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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Friday, November 26, 2021

The Shenmue Prophecy: Comparison of All English Versions To Date

We have previously carried out an analysis of the Shenmue the Animation trailer that was launched recently at New York Comic Con (NYCC) 2021. 

This time, we will examine the prophecy wording that Shenhua recites as this trailer plays, and see how it stacks up against the various other English versions that have been published to date. 

Related links:

  • Shenmue the Animation Trailer Breakdown: Part One
  • Shenmue the Animation Trailer Breakdown: Part Two
  • Shenmue the Animation Trailer Breakdown: Part Three
  • Shenmue the Animation Trailer Breakdown: Part Four

  • Prophecy Versions to Date

    Update: the prophecy that is played again at Shenmue I's ending has differences in wording compared to the one in the prologue, so I have added this version.

    Feb 2021 Update: Episode One of Shenmue the Animation contains a fuller version of the prophecy. I have updated the post with these lines.

    Versions of the Shenmue prophecy to date have been seen in:
    • Shenmue I (the prologue that plays before the title screen);
    • Shenmue I (at the end of the game);
    • Shenmue II (before the title screen & in the Stone Pit);
    • The Shenmue III "Prophecy" trailer; and
    • This Shenmue the Animation trailer.
    • Shenmue the Animation Episode One
    However when it comes to the English translation, while the meaning is retained, they are not identical to each other in wording.

    Below, I have separated the prophecy into 10 parts. As will be see, not all parts appear in every version;  a hyphen "-" mark is used to indicate if a part does not appear in a particular game or trailer.

    For example, the first game does not include the lines that describe the dragon and phoenix, which are introduced from Shenmue 2 onwards; on the other hand it contains the line "And thus the saga... begins" which is not uttered in the subsequent games.

    To help gauge how faithful the wording of each version is to the original Japanese meaning, I have given a fairly literal translation at the top of each.

    General note: the Japanese text is written in a poetic or literary style in its use of vocabulary and grammar, as if the words were written long ago.  Hence it is fitting that the English versions also assume a somewhat a poetic turn of phrase.

    ① その者、東の遠つ国より海を渡りて現れり。

    Sono mono, higashi no tōtsu kuni yori umi o watarite arawareri.
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    Saturday, November 20, 2021

    Black Rotary Phone & Other Miniatures | Merchandise

    In 2002, toy manufacturer Takara released a "Showa Memories" series of miniature sets that recreated nostalgic items from 1950's / 1960's Japan. The theme was a Japanese hot springs inn, and in fact each of the sets was sold with a packet of bath salts.

    For Shenmue fans, a number of items in these sets are just like those found around the Hazuki residence.

    The second set shown above, which features a telephone, has items that a guest might typically encounter in their room during a stay at the hot springs inn:

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    Saturday, November 13, 2021

    Weekly AM2 Vol. 5: Interview with Takenobu Mitsuyoshi & Shenmue Theme Ringtone | 11th Jan 2000

    In this series we translate Shenmue content from Weekly AM2, the official online magazine published by Sega's AM2 development team back in the day. News and information about the Shenmue series could be found regularly within these pages from the end of 1999 through to 2001 with the release of Shenmue II.

    Compared to the previous rather brief edition, Vol. 5 was packed with content, including an interview with the composer of the Shenmue Theme, Takenobu Mitsuyoshi, and a report about the Shenmue launch event at stores in Akihabara on December 29th. This edition also contains a good sprinkling of nostalgic technology, including mention of Digital Audio Tape and MiniDisc devices - even a Shenmue ringtone for entering by hand for cell phones of the day.



    Vol.5: 2000.1.11

    Hello, this is Takuan.

    I hope you guys didn't experience any Year 2000 problems*. We've had a tough time here at AM2, with people who haven't once shown up late for work in the past 5 years turning up late, people's ears bleeding from excessive nose blowing, and weight gain from overeating during the New Year holidays (lol).
    *[Note from Switch] The Year 2000 ("Y2K") problem was the general name for flaws in certain computer software that may have caused problems when dealing with dates beyond December 31, 1999. 

    This week's contents:
    • Ringtone Service Commences!
    • Interview with Shenmue Sound Director, Takenobu Mitsuyoshi
    • Shenmue Report
    • Outtrigger Event Report [omitted from translation]

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    Monday, November 8, 2021

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

    "4Gamer 2010 interview with Yu Suzuki about Shenmue Gai (translation)"

    Shenmue Gai (also known as Shenmue City or Shenmue Town) was a short-lived social-network based game that was released in Japan at the end of 2010 but was discontinued the following year. In the game, each player was a student of the Hazuki Dojo. The game was released for mobile phones and a PC version was under development but was never released.

    We will translate an interview held with Yu Suzuki just before the game's official release, in which he talks about his motivation for producing the game and some of its key features.

    Watch for it on the blog in the near future.

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    Wednesday, November 3, 2021

    [Part Four] Subtle Details from Shenmue the Animation Trailer: Recap & Analysis

    This is the fourth and final part of our in-depth breakdown of the Shenmue the Animation trailer, which was launched last week at New York Comic Con (NYCC) 2021 to a widely-positive reception. Read the previous parts here:

    The analysis continues below.

    Shenmue The Animation Title

    The next clip starts with an initially-blinding golden glow of sunlight in the sky over a cityscape of tall, densely-packed buildings. A low mountain range stretches in the background.

    The camera pans down and out to reveal two figures in the foreground, standing at the top of a building: one is Lan Di, and the other Ryo.

    This is not an action scene like the others, but it is almost like a snapshot of action, frozen in time: Ryo is shown lunging forward, elbow outstretched, a grimace of determination on his face; Lan Di has an arm raised to block the attack as he fixes Ryo with his glare, his pigtail sweeping out dramatically to one side. A narrow ray of sunlight can also be noticed beaming across the screen from left to right.

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    Saturday, October 23, 2021

    [Part Three] Subtle Details from Shenmue the Animation Trailer: Recap & Analysis

    This is the third part of our in-depth breakdown of the Shenmue the Animation trailer, which was launched recently at New York Comic Con (NYCC) 2021 to a positive reception from fans and the general public. Read the previous parts here:

    And now, let's continue with the trailer analysis. One comparison image in particular is sure to astound with the attention to detail and its faithfulness to a real-life location in Yokosuka. Read on to find out more!

    Battle with Chai in the Hazuki Dojo

    The next clip opens with a strong band of yellow-red light streaming across a polished wooden floor. Its sharply-defined edges suggest sunlight coming in through the narrow opening of half-open doors. A shadow is cast as a figure approaches from behind the camera, pausing briefly after reaching the opening. The figure's speed is steady, with arms held at the side and thus does not appear to be expecting trouble or in a state of high emotion at this point.

    The camera switches to a wide-angle shot, which reveals the location to be the Hazuki Dojo, with the light of the setting sun illuminating the interior through one of the open double-doors, and two characters present: Ryo (the presumed owner of the shadow above) and Chai.

    Ryo now stands at the far side of the room in a fighting stance as Chai rushes towards him. The rays of sunlight and lens flare add nicely to the visual effect, although a slight discrepancy in the direction of Chai's shadow compared to that cast by the doorway is apparent.

    This image is clearly not sequential to the previous image, so presumably a section was skipped for the trailer edit.
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    Tuesday, October 19, 2021

    [Part Two] Subtle Details from Shenmue the Animation Trailer: Recap & Analysis

    In this post we continue with Part Two of our in-depth breakdown of the Shenmue the Animation trailer, which was launched last week at New York Comic Con (NYCC) 2021 to a widely-positive reception.

    • In case you missed it, read Part One here.
    Our analysis continues below.


    A new scene shows the figure of Shenhua standing on a mountainside in a rural location at night, facing a full moon that bathes the landscape in its glow.

    Although the scene is dimly-lit, details such as the winding path, fence at the side, rock formations, houses and outline of distant mountains can be distinguished. The biggest clue to the location is the tall tower, matching the bell tower in Bailu village as depicted in Shenmue III. Interestingly, the anime has chosen a more natural-looking moon size compared to its oversized appearance in the game.

    Bailu village at night in Shenmue III

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    Monday, October 18, 2021

    Sega Created a Shenmue Synopsis Movie for Pioneer in 2000 | Home Theater DVD

    In the days of the Dreamcast, it was common for game demos or trailers to be found on magazine cover discs, and Shenmue occasionally featured on some of these. Today we will take a look at a DVD that contains a rather special Shenmue video - one that was produced by the Shenmue project team soon after the release of the first game in Japan, especially for Pioneer. I had no idea this existed until recently!

    About the Shenmue Video

    Booklet entry for the Shenmue video

    This is the description of the Shenmue video from the booklet accompanying the DVD, translated:
    "The CG parts of Shenmue, one of the most popular SEGA Dreamcast titles, have been re-edited by the creative staff in a special version that is only for this disc. Sound has been remastered with Surround EX*, from the voicing through to foley audio such as sound effects and footsteps. Check out the dialogue and kung fu action, as well as the detailed environmental sounds placed in the everyday settings."

    Note: "Surround EX" refers to Dolby Digital Surround EX, which provides an extra surround channel for home theater systems that have rear surround speakers. 

    The instruction booklet that accompanies the DVD

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    Saturday, October 16, 2021

    [Part One] Subtle Details from Shenmue the Animation Trailer: Recap & Analysis


    Promotional image from the newly-opened official Japanese website

    The first trailer for the upcoming Shenmue the Anime trailer, was launched last week at New York Comic Con (NYCC) 2021 and did not disappoint with its montage of recognizable characters, scenes, locations, and fighting action. Already it has generated a great deal of positive buzz, not only in fan forums but in the wider media.

    In this post, we will continue the time-honored tradition among fans of picking apart the new trailer in excruciating detail to see what clues and information can be squeezed out of it (with a dose of speculation thrown in for good measure).

    Related link: to read some background about the anime, we posted this translation of a Famitsu interview last year with creator Yu Suzuki and producer Yu Kiyozono:

    • Shenmue the Animation: Famitsu Interview with Yu Kiyozono & Yu Suzuki: Part One and Part Two
    Let's get started with the play-by-play recap and analysis of this trailer!
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    Friday, October 8, 2021

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

    "Unused Inventory Items Found in Shenmue disc files"

    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.

    Ryo's inventory display (Dreamcast)

    As to be expected, the inventory icon graphics themselves are contained within the Shenmue files. A similar, but different, set is also present on the What's Shenmue demo version of the game that was distributed in Japan a few months ahead of the full release.

    Where things get interesting is when the What's Shenmue icons are examined more closely. We'll be sharing discoveries made by LemonHaze of the Dragon & Phoenix project, who found a small number of object icons on the earlier What's Shenmue disc that are not used in either game. A few are readily recognizable as objects Ryo interacts with (but does not keep) during the main game, while a couple are harder to identify.

    We'll be examining these unused icons in this upcoming post, and with input from readers perhaps they can all be identified.

    Watch for it on the blog in the near future.

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    Wednesday, October 6, 2021

    Mini-Interview with Shenmue Composers Yuzo Koshiro & Takenobu Mitsuyoshi | January 2000

    A mini interview with Yuzo Koshiro and Takenobu Mitsuyoshi, two composers on the Shenmue project who were already known as legends in the gaming world at the time. This interview was translated from the January 2000 issue of the Japanese Dreamcast Magazine, published soon after the initial release of Shenmue in Japan.

    The translation starts below.

    Yuzo Koshiro and Takenobu Mitsuyoshi

    Usually, only one or two people are in charge of the sound for a single game. However, Shenmue has more than 30 music team members involved. Some of you may have noticed the name of a legendary sound creator among them. Yuzo Koshiro. This legendary man has enchanted fans with the numerous famous songs he has composed for classic games of the past. Let's take a closer look at the secrets of the Koshiro sound that inhabits Shenmue!

    About Yuzo Koshiro

    Yuzo Koshiro is 32 years old. In the past, during Nihon Falcom*'s heyday, he developed sounds that made full use of FM sound generation for games such as Ys, Sorcerian, Dragon Slayer V, and Xanadu, and quickly gained a strong reputation among fans. His relationship with Sega began during the Mega Drive era when he established a sound that thrilled fans with The Super Shinobi and Bare Knuckle.** Ten years ago, that "Koshiro sound" was his trademark. Recently, after Vatlva and Culdcept, he has been stepping away from the sound business to focus on his work as senior managing director of Ancient Corp.

    *[Switch] A Japanese video game developer of role-playing video games, most notably the Ys, The Legend of Heroes, and Trails series. The company was founded in 1981.
    ** Known as The Revenge of Shinobi and Streets of Rage respectively, outside Japan. 
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    Saturday, September 25, 2021

    Weekly AM2 Vol. 4: Shenmue New Year's Card Giveaway | 4th Jan 2000

    In this series we translate Shenmue content from Weekly AM2, the official online magazine published by Sega's AM2 development team back in the day. News and information about the Shenmue series could be found regularly within these pages from the end of 1999 through to 2001 with the release of Shenmue II.

    Vol. 4 was a fairly brief update posted at the start of the new millennium, shortly after the official release of Shenmue in Japan on December 28th. While not much news is contained, we do learn the nickname of Megumi Yasu, the actress playing Nozomi (read on to find out!). A lucky draw is announced for Shenmue-themed New Year Cards - of which only two were available. Let's hope they were kept and treasured by the winners.



    Vol.4: 2000.1.4

    Happy New Year to you all.

    This is Takuan.

    I hope you're all well and enjoying Shenmue.

    Let's have another great year!

    This week's contents:
    • New Year's Greetings from the Shenmue actors
    • Outtrigger Event [omitted from translation]
    • Shenmue New Year Card Present

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    Sunday, September 19, 2021

    Shenmue Tree? Cherry Tree? | Shenmue 3 Translations

    Something that has led to a lot of discussion among fans is the nature of the tree that stands gracefully in full bloom at Ternary Spring, outside the house of Grandmaster Feng in Shenmue III. When Ryo visits the area, the tree is mentioned in conversation with both Shenhua and Grandmaster Feng, but nothing is said that would remove doubt about its identity - is it supposed to be an actual Shenmue tree?

    The tree at Ternary Spring

    This question is not as easily answered as it may at first appear, since the tree is treated inconsistently between Shenmue II and III, as well as between the Japanese and English language versions.

    In this post we'll attempt to bring together the known evidence to help judge the tree's true nature.

    The Shenmue Dojo forums served as a useful reference for this post, with various theories and discussions made on this topic.

    Shenmue Tree Hypothesis

    An obvious place to start is by examining the tree's appearance, in particular the pattern of its bark and the shape of its flowers, and compare this to the tree at Shenhua's house which we know from Shenmue II to be a Shenmue tree.

    Complicating matters, the Shenmue tree in the third game was considerably reimagined. This is how it looked in the second game:
    Appearance of the Shenmue tree in Shenmue II (roots, whole form and blossom)

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    Wednesday, September 8, 2021

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

    " Interview with Shenmue sound staff: Yuzo Koshiro, Takenobu Mitsuyoshi (January 2000)"

    We will be translating an early magazine interview with two legendary music composers who were part of Shenmue's Sound team: Yuzo Koshiro and Takenobu Mitsuyoshi. Among the numerous games for which Yuzo Koshiro has composed music are the Ys series in the late 1980s and the Streets of Rage series in the 1990s, while Takenobu Mitsuyoshi has been composing for Sega games since the 1990s, including work on the Virtua Fighter series and the theme song for Daytona USA.

    This interview was published in a January 2000 edition of the Japanese Dreamcast Magazine, soon after Shenmue's release in Japan.

    Watch for it on the blog in the near future.

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    Saturday, September 4, 2021

    Weekly AM2 Vol. 3: Shenmue Triathlon | 28th Dec 1999

    In this series we translate Shenmue content from Weekly AM2, the official online magazine published by Sega's AM2 development team back in the day. News and information about the Shenmue series could be found regularly within these pages from the end of 1999 through to 2001 with the release of Shenmue II.

    Vol. 3 was released on 28th December 1999, one day before the official release of Shenmue in Japan on the 29th, and announces a speed run competition named the Shenmue Triathlon. The Weekly AM2 logo has also been revamped with the tagline "Always bringing you the hottest topics" (complete with three exclamation marks at the end!).




    Hello! This is Takuan.

    Another year comes to an end, and with it the release of the long-awaited "Shenmue Chapter 1: Yokosuka".

    This is the last Weekly AM2 of the year, and I'll be bringing it to you with the utmost enthusiasm!

    This week's contents:
    • "Shenmue Chapter 1: Yokosuka" Releases at Last Tomorrow!
    • Shenmue Strategy Guide Releases on January 7th!
    • Announcing the Shenmue Triathlon!
    • Commencing the Shenmue Original Wallpaper Download Service!

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    Tuesday, August 24, 2021

    March 2021 Yu Suzuki Interview Part Two | SEGA Hard Historia

    Part Two of our translation of a new interview with Yu Suzuki that was published in the recently-released SEGA Hard Historia book, featuring retrospectives with various key developers and staff members over the years.

    Part One can be found here if you haven't yet read it:

    In the second and final part of the interview, Yu-san talks about the evolution of 3D in games, and the Sega Saturn and Dreamcast eras.

    Source material supplied by SkillJim (James Brown). Check out his SEGA Hard Historia unboxing video at the end of the article!

    The interview translation continues below, with Yu describing how he gathered video footage for Out Run during his trip in Europe.

    YS: We took videos with a camera to the hood and near the wheel suspension, attached with duct tape or string. It also had a sunroof, so I opened the sunroof and filmed from there. When I was thinking over what the player's car should be, I saw a red Ferrari outside a public casino in Monaco. A Testarossa. And it was a convertible. "That's it!", I thought, "There's no car more exciting, no car with more presence, no other car more enviable!" And the sunshine, unlike in Japan, was so crisp and clear. With its vivid red color shining brightly, under a blue sky and white clouds - I knew this was it.

    Q: You next went on to create After Burner and G-LOC. What motivated you to create those?

    YS: Well, there wasn't anything connecting on to these games. Mr. Hayao Nakayama, who was the (Sega) president at the time, was talking a lot about how MicroProse had released a flight simulator that had become a hit in the US. He was always saying, "Don't we have a flight simulator?" So I thought, "Why don't we make a flying game?"

    It was like when I was working on Out Run and Hang On. Namco had games like Pole Position, and there was a general perception that racing games were Namco's thing. So when Mr. Nakayama said, "Don't we have a racing game?" I thought, "I should make one." (laughs) When I started Hong On, I had thought of making a racing game, but cars running into one other didn't seem very appropriate, so I decided to go with Hang On. So that's why there was this sense that Namco was the only company that made racing games. If I was going to make a game, I wanted to make one with something like the F14. Also, part of it was because Space Harrier gave me the chance to try something I hadn't done before. At the time, there was no 3D hardware, you see.

    So I rendered 3D airplanes with a 3D library I had built, and made use of the resulting set of images, switching between them. I input all the data for the plane by hand, using 3D software tools I wrote myself. As they were sprites, I was free to hand-draw them how I wanted, but if I made the missiles look too smooth, they wouldn't look 3D. I wanted them to have a polygonal appearance, so I purposely made them hexagonal.

    After Burner: Suzuki deliberately gave the missiles a hexagonal look
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    Wednesday, August 18, 2021

    Mar 2021 Yu Suzuki Interview: SEGA Hard Historia | Part 1/2

    A new interview with Yu Suzuki was published in the recently-released SEGA Hard Historia book, featuring retrospectives with various key developers and staff members over the years. In this first part of the interview, Yu-san talks about his early game development days at Sega. The interview took place in March this year (2021).

    Special thanks to James Brown for supplying the source material. James also has a superb unboxing video introducing the complete SEGA Hard Historia package, linked at the end of the article.

    The interview translation (Part One) starts below.

    AM2's Yu Suzuki gained immense popularity with his series of legendary hits in Sega's arcades, as well as ports such as Virtua Racer, in the Mega Drive's later years, and Virtua Fighter for the Sega Saturn. Sega's legendary creator reveals story upon story from those days...

    Anecdotes on arcade hits and what Sega was like at that time

    Q: What was Sega like when you joined the company (1983)?

    YS: SEGA was originally a foreign company, so at that time, all the documents were in English. Issue sheets and all sorts of other things were all in English. It struck me as a somewhat peculiar company. I was in the development section - at the start I was asked if I wanted to be in Software, Design (which is what art was called) or Sound. I was interested in all three, but my boss, Mr. Yoshii, told me that software was the way to go, so I joined Software. I still remember that the Software and Hardware sections were in the same general area. Later, Sega would be divided into the Hardware section, Software section, Console section, and Amusements section, but at that time, Software and Hardware were huddled together in the same place.

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    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.

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    Monday, August 9, 2021

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

    "Shenmue III English Lines Compared to the Original"

    The first two Shenmue games have their share of quirky English translations, and in this topic we'll turn our attention to Shenmue III and look at a number of English lines that may have caused players to wonder how closely they reflect the original Japanese.

    These may be anything from a particular word or phrase that relates to the story, to an inconsequential conversation that leaves the player feeling slightly puzzled.

    Watch for it to come to the blog in a future post!

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    Sunday, August 8, 2021

    Weekly AM2 Vol. 2: Shenmue Pre-Release Interview with Keiji Okayasu | 21st Dec 1999

    In this series we translate Shenmue content from Weekly AM2, the official online magazine published by Sega's AM2 development team back in the day. News and information about the Shenmue series could be found regularly within these pages from the end of 1999 through to 2001 with the release of Shenmue II.

    Vol. 2 was released on 21st December 1999, a few days before the official release of Shenmue in Japan on the 29th, and includes a mini-interview with the game's director Keiji Okayasu. Okayasu also directed Shenmue II and returned to Shenmue once again many years later to work with Yu Suzuki on Shenmue III.



    Hello, this is Takuan.

    Get ready for another exciting edition as we bring the latest news!

    This week's contents:
    • Pre-release interview with Shenmue game director, Keiji Okayasu
    • F355 Challenge: prizes for the top Internet Ranking winners!
    • Shenmue launch event scheduled!
    • Start of i-mode service on December 24!
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    Sunday, August 1, 2021

    Weekly AM2 Vol. 1: The Launch of Weekly AM2 | 14th Dec 1999

    In this new series, we will be translating content from the official online magazine published by Sega's AM2 team back in the day. Content about the Shenmue series was published regularly over the next couple of years until the release of Shenmue II in 2001.

    This is the very first edition of the Weekly AM2 web magazine, launched on 14th December 1999, with the release of Shenmue in Japan imminent. A link to the Weekly AM2 thereafter became a regular feature of the website.

    Although this first entry is really just an announcement of the planned series, it has short messages from Yu Suzuki as well as Makoto Osaki (the deputy director of AM2 under Suzuki, whose other projects include the Virtua Fighter series and Daytona USA).

    The three concept keywords around which Shenmue was built - "Leisurely, Fully, Gently" - are mentioned again here. Yu Suzuki referred to them in his GDC 2014 retrospective, and Takumi Hagiwara also brought them up in his 1999 pre-release interview we translated last week.



    Nice to meet you all.

    I'm Takuan, and I'll be running Weekly AM2.

    I'm looking forward to bringing you lots of great information on a weekly basis going forward.

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