Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Unused Assets: Mr. Yukawa Business Card Variants | What's Shenmue

What's Shenmue is the name of a playable demo that was released in Japan in August 1999, shortly before the full release of Shenmue. It took place in Dobuita Street and involved a short quest in which Ryo has to to locate Mr. Yukawa (a real-life former senior executive at Sega) before a deadline at the end of the day.

During the quest, Ryo visits the You Arcade where he obtains Mr. Yukawa's business card...

The business card Ryo receives of Hidekazu Yukawa

Details on the front of the card include the SEGA logo, Mr. Yukawa's full name and title (Hidekazu Yukawa, Former Senior Managing Director), his company (Sega Enterprises) and a link to the Shenmue.com website.

The back contains a handwritten clue over the Dreamcast swirl that points him to the next location of interest ("After 4 o'clock, Asia Travel Co.").

"After 4 o'clock, Asia Travel Co."

While this is the card that is seen when playing the demo, in fact among the game files are a couple of other minor variations of the Mr. Yukawa business card that would have been produced during its development but not used, but were left behind.

Let's examine these unused assets to spot differences compared to the release version.

Unused Business Card #1

Here is the appearance (front and rear sides) of the first unused variant, with important differences highlighted in red:

The front of this card at first glance looks identical to the one in the final release, but there is once main difference: the homepage information.
  • The release version has "Shenmue homepage: http://www.shenmue.com/", while this version instead has "SEGA homepage http://www.sega.co.jp/"
It is likely that the Sega homepage was used as a temporary placeholder until the official URL for the game's own domain had been confirmed.

On the reverse side of the card, we see that a different color scheme and layout is used.
  • The background is white with an orange Dreamcast swirl, rather than the reverse color scheme seen in the released version.
  • The swirl is small and appears to the left of the Dreamcast logo text.
Finally, the appointment time for Ryo to visit Asia Travel Co. differs.
  • In the released demo, the card states "After 4 o'clock", but this version of the card has "20:30"  (i.e. 8:30 pm) written upon it.
In the released demo, the deadline by which Ryo must complete his quest to find Mr. Yukawa is 7 pm, so it appears that originally the deadline was going to be set later, perhaps to fit Asia Travel Co.'s closing time of 9 pm. However at this point, Dobuita would be almost deserted with many characters having closed up shop and gone home once darkness fell, so the adjustment to an earlier time makes sense.

Unused Business Card #2

The second variation has the same difference as the first on its face, with other changes on the back:

The background color on the back is still white, but the layout of the logo and swirl has been changed.
  • The orange swirl is large and sits above the Dreamcast logo text, matching the layout in the released demo.
Interestingly, there is a new appointment time for Ryo to visit Asia Travel Co.
  • In the first unused version, the time was 20:30 (8:30 pm), but in this version the time has been moved earlier has "17:30" (5:30 pm) written upon it; still not the time of 4 pm that was eventually used.
Why was the start of the time set even earlier than 5:30 pm in the released demo? Perhaps this was in order to give players a wider window in which to commence the event with Mr. Yukawa at Asia Travel Co, and to reduce the waiting time for this event so the demo could be completed rapidly.

Bonus Mr. Yukawa Reference: Newspaper at the Yu Arcade

Since this post has a Mr. Yukawa theme, before wrapping up this post, let's take a quick peek at the newspaper on the counter at the You Arcade, the same as the one that appears in the full Shenmue game.

Here is the full newspaper texture that shows an advertisement featuring Mr. Yukawa in his typical clenched-fist pose of determination:

Written to the left is "専務~" which is a pun for the benefit of those players who choose to zoom in on the newspaper during play: on the one hand, it has the meaning of "Managing Director", being the position Yukawa had as a Sega executive; and at the same time its pronunciation is senmu with the final vowel sound extended, resulting in a sound that is very much like "Shenmue"!

It was recently reported that, sadly, former Sega executive Hidekazu Yukawa - the "Mr. Yukawa" who played a starring role in the What's Shenmue demo - passed away last year, in 2021. We hope this post may serve as a way to remember and celebrate his contributions to Sega and the Shenmue franchise in particular.

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