Friday, May 20, 2022

Hidden Yu Suzuki Model Unearthed in Shenmue 2 | "Game Jam" Prototype Release!


A Yu Suzuki character model has been discovered among the files of a Shenmue II prototype that has been recently acquired by members of the Shenmue community. He is dressed in Ryo's classic clothing - leather jacket, white T-shirt, jeans and sneakers - but is otherwise the spitting image of Yu-san. The character even has a somewhat (ahem) "girthier" look compared to Ryo!

Although the character is not available by default, after some adjustments made to the game files, it is now possible to play the game proper entirely as this hybrid "Ryo Suzuki"! The effect is hilarious, as can be previewed in the trailer below.

The existence of a Yu Suzuki character was first mentioned in a tweet from a former Shenmue developer ("ashizuka16bit") back in 2019. It was created by the developers as a fun Easter egg, but unfortunately the idea was rejected by the senior manager and did not make it into the release!
"Shenmue often features developers as general NPCs, but Yu-san actually appeared in Shenmue II as a hidden character. I had a good laugh when I was shown it late at night, but the top development manager found it and put it on hold. If it had been released as it was, it would have caused a stir. By the way, he could be discovered if you searched a certain place [on the way to] Bailu Village"
(Note: the original tweet said "at Bailu Village" but the developer clarified this as meaning "somewhere on the way to Bailu Village", which would suggest during the walk with Shenhua.)

This is just one of the findings that has come out of analysis of an early prototype of Shenmue II that is now in the hands of the community thanks to the generosity and determination of a small group of Shenmue fans: the "Game Jam" prototype.

The "Game Jam" Prototype

This prototype was listed on a Japanese online auction site in March 2022 as a set of four Dreamcast discs, and quickly drew attention.

Photos in the listing showed hand-written labelling on the 4 discs making up the set with the words "Game Jam" and a date of "4/11", indicating that it was used for demonstration at Sega's Game Jam event.

Game Jam was an event was held in Tokyo on the 14th and 15th of April 2001, some months prior to the game's eventual release in Japan in September of that year. Yu Suzuki himself demonstrated the game on stage, and was joined by Masaya Matsukaze and Takumi Hagiwara (Ryo and Ren)

A small group of fans banded together to produce a winning bid on the listing, and in this way have saved it from disappearing once more into a private collection where it might never be seen again.

Not only that, but this group has worked together to analyze the contents in detail, carry out reverse engineering to add and unlock special features, and finally to share not only all their findings but to make available the game prototype itself for all of us to enjoy.

The prototype acquisition was brought about thanks to the following people. A huge shout-out on behalf of the whole Shenmue community for their generosity in procuring this valuable and historical item, as well as their hard work on in-depth analysis.

A Few Selected Highlights from the Prototype Release

There are numerous small differences to be seen in this version of the game, and many of these have been catalogued comprehensively on the Sega Dreamcast Info website. The ones below are just a small selection, to whet the appetite:
  • Play as Yu Suzuki: as seen at the start of this post, a special "Yu Suzuki Build" has been created that allows you to play as the hybrid Ryo Suzuki for the whole game!
  • Completely different cinematic prologue: while still featuring Shenhua, the hawk and cliff, this version is set at night, and includes the motif of a mirror over the full moon. The ending, which has Shenhua climbing up a rockfall then stretching out a hand to offer help, ends rather abruptly.

The release version of the prologue for comparison (Shenmue I & II):
  • Temporary voice audio: it appears that not all of the final voice recording had been completed, and in certain scenes the voices sound to be temporary, and not those of the true voice actors. They may instead have been recorded by development staff to work out timing. Here is an example cutscene where the voice of Ryo does not sound like Masaya Matsukaze.
  • Title Screen Debug Menu (new feature): this menu was not originally active in the prototype, however thanks to the work of LemonHaze it has been retroactively enabled. This allows direct selection of various scenes on the discs. (Full details are contained in the write-up analysis page on the Sega Dreamcast Info site).

  • Bicycle Creation (new feature): LemonHaze has discovered a mystery bicycle-related function, and through reverse-engineering has managed to create a special "Create a Bicycle" feature! This allows you to spawn a bicycle model at will inside a special test area, using the debug menu. It has been made available in a special "Create a Bicycle" build.

  • Texture differences: there are numerous differences in textures, including things such as shop names, maps, and more. A large selection can be seen in the analysis page at the Sega Dreamcast Info site.
Many more fascinating differences and changes are introduced and discussed in great detail on the Sega Dreamcast Info site, on the same page as the link to downloads below.

Downloading the "Game Jam" Prototype & Special Builds

Links to download the Shenmue II Game Jam prototype, as well as the special builds (Debug Menu Build & Yu Suzuki Build) and mods (including a Debug Log Mod, also created by LemonHaze) can all be found at Comby Laurent's Sega Dreamcast Info site:

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  1. That's so cool, it would have been fun as a secret cheat code

    1. It would! Analysis of the game code is actually going on by others to see if this may be the case..