Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Interview with Singer of Shenhua's Theme IOLI | Dreamcast Magazine 1999

In early 1999, to mark the upcoming release of Shenhua's Theme as a CD single, Japan's Dreamcast Magazine featured this interview with IOLI (derived from her surname 伊織 Iori), the singer who performed the moving vocals on the track. She also sang live at the Shenmue Premiere in Yokohama in December of 1998.

There is not a great deal of information to be found about this singer online, even on Japanese-language sites, so this is a short but rare snippet of history.

Special Report! Shenhua Theme Releasing on April 1st (CD Single & Album)!


  • SEGA
  • Release scheduled for this Spring
  • Price: TBD
  • FREE (Full Reaction Eyes Entertainment)

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Tuesday, August 23, 2022

[Part Ten] The Secret of Miao Village: Extra Dialogue & Facts Collected

We will come back to examine this image more closely in this post!

Previously in this series, we walked through the entire sequence of events (first halfsecond half) that would likely have taken place during Ryo's visit to Miao Village, based on the dialogue text files from the Game Jam prototype build of Shenmue II.

This time, we will run through extra dialogue and interactions Ryo can have with various characters. These aren't necessarily part of the main story flow, but they shed more light on the relationships and personalities of the villagers.

Note: in some places in the dialogue files, varied responses from a character can be identified with respect to a single query from Ryo. This may indicate where a different response is picked (perhaps at random) each time Ryo asks the same question.

Miscellaneous Dialogue

Miscellaneous Dialogue: Yiming Ke

Yiming Ke is the elder brother of Rong and son of Cuili. Although his character didn't feature in our previous story summary posts, he is one of the most specific in his directions about how to find certain landmarks, adding to our knowledge of Miao Village's layout.

Yiming Ke (character model: YKM)

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Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Dissecting SEGA's Shenmue Patent: Magic Weather & Magic Rooms

In today's post we will examine a patent application submitted by Sega back in 1998 relating to the generation of graphics suitable for interactive role playing games (RPGs), with the inventors listed as Yu Suzuki, Takeshi Hirai, Kazuo Kondo and Kazunori Masuda.

While Shenmue itself is not mentioned by name within the document, of course, the concepts described within can be readily recognized as pertaining to the soon-to-be-published game series. This includes two algorithms in particular for the automated generation of in-game content that were designed to save having to store vast amount of data on the limited space afforded by physical discs: Yu Suzuki dubbed these Magic Weather and Magic Rooms. We will focus on these two systems in this post.

The patent document contains 24 pages in total, over half of them being diagrams and flowcharts. 

The US patent document contains 24 pages

As a whole, the patent brings together a number of concepts that describe what we know today simply as the "game engine". The motivation was to ensure that the Graphical Processing Unit (GPU) receives display data fast enough to ensure that the display is updated frequently enough to maintain smooth output. The game prepares and sends a single image, or "frame", to the GPU in a never-ending loop. This means that the game's logic processing must be handled efficiently in the time period between one frame being sent to the GPU to be displayed, and the next.

An English-language version is available in the form of the US patent application document, from which the diagrams in this post have been sourced. The language used in the English version is rather stilted and confusing, so relevant snippets of text have been translated from the Japanese original in preference. Additional color images have been included for illustrative purposes.

Before diving into the patent itself, let's have a brief recap on what these two systems are about.

Thanks to LemonHaze who provided technical explanations and information about the implementation in the first two Shenmue games.

Magic Weather

Revolutionary when featured in Shenmue, the "Magic Weather" system controls the ever-changing climate and weather conditions experienced during play.

In the "Making Of" video documentary about Shenmue produced by NHK in 1999, the narrator introduced it as follows:
"The game contains a system that realistically recreates the weather and other natural phenomena. That system is called Magic Weather. In the game, the weather changes as time passes: fine, cloudy, rainy. These changes are based on the long-term weather data for Yokosuka, the town in which the game is set.

"Let's consider a case in the actual game where it is, say, fine one day and rainy the next. The weather conditions encountered by the player will differ depending on how they go through the game. For a player that moves ahead rapidly, they may visit a certain house on a fine morning. On the other hand, a player who plays more slowly may end up visiting the house the following night in the rain."
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Sunday, August 14, 2022

Poll Result: Patrons' Choice Topic for August 2022

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 that has been voted this time is:

"Interview w/ martial arts instructor Tetsuya Hattori and Masaya Matsukaze (Dreamcast Magazine, Feb 2000)"

In this post we will be translating a four-page feature interview from early 2000 with Tetsuya Hattori, Bajiquan master and martial arts director for Shenmue, along with Masaya Matsukaze, the Japanese-language voice and motion capture actor of the game's protagonist Ryo Hazuki.

When younger, Hattori had studied under Bajiquan grandmaster and friend of Yu Suzuki, Master Wu Lian Zhi, and went on to found his own Bajiquan school within Japan called Kaimon Kensha.

The interview translation will be posted up to the blog in the near future.

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Monday, August 8, 2022

[Part Nine] The Secret of Miao Village: Dialogue Revelations & Sequence of Events (Cont.)

In this post we complete our examination of the Key Story Beats for the Miao Village arc with the final entries 7 to 10, highlighting conversations found in the recent Game Jam prototype of Shenmue II.

Miao Village Story Arc Recap to This Point, Entries 1-6:

Ryo speaks with Zhang, who claims to be Yuanda Zhu's aide and asks Ryo to retrieve the second volume of the Wulinshu martial arts book from a man named Kongzheng Luo who lives in Miao Village. Ryo volunteers to assist the elderly owner at Sunny Capital Pharmacy by delivering some herbs to Miao Village by bicycle, together with his niece Xiaoqing. After carrying out this task, Ryo then asks passers-by as to Kongzheng's whereabouts and learns that he was killed two weeks earlier.

We now pick up again with Ryo looking for a way to get inside Kongzheng's house, which is locked up, to search for more clues about his death.

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Monday, August 1, 2022

[Part Eight] The Secret of Miao Village: Dialogue Revelations & Sequence of Events

Recently, a previously-unseen Shenmue II prototype was successfully purchased at an online auction and, thanks to the generosity of the group behind the purchase, it was shortly afterwards released to the community. This discs were marked "Game Jam," which was the name of an event that occurred in April 2001.

Related post:
Perhaps one of the biggest questions at the forefront of the minds of many fans was whether the prototype would help reveal anything more on the topic of the legendary Miao Village that had been cut early in development.

And this proved to be the case! Shortly after the prototype's release to the community, the discovery of a wealth of Miao Village related dialogue content on the discs, in the form of Japanese subtitle files for conversations and events, was announced on the Shenmue Dojo forums by veteran Shenmue hacker LanDC (link to thread and discussion) with detailed explanations of several key conversation sections.

It is now possible to piece together a comprehensive picture of the cut story content, and confirm at last what had once been theories and suppositions: how Miao Village was to have been integrated into the main story, details of the bicycle quest with Xiaoqin, and the true meaning of the dialogue seen in the AM2 screenshots all those years ago.

Starting with today's post, we will be presenting as much of the newly-found Game Jam dialogue as possible, and present it in a logical order that reflects the most likely sequence of events relating to the Miao Village content.

  • The conversations shown here have been translated from the Japanese dialogue data extracted from in the Game Jam discs. The original Japanese text is also provided for reference with each conversational interaction.
  • The original dialogue content that remains on the Game Jam version covers only a subset of all the characters that would have once been part of the Miao Village subplot, however it is still substantial enough to draw useful conclusions.
  • Some notes have been added in italics, such as to indicate when a character is pointing, or when new information has been learned that gives Ryo a new objective. These are speculations based on the dialogue context.
  • The Shenmue II order has been followed for the names of Chinese characters e.g. Lishao Tao (rather than Tao Li Shao). 
  • A selection of conversations with various characters has been included, included repeated questioning, to demonstrate the variety of interactions through which Ryo is able to acquire clues.

Miao Village Story Arc: Key Story Beats

Below are the key story beats that can be identified in the cut subplot. They have been assembled into an order that appears to fit the content best. 
  1. Cut Scene: Meeting Zhang & a Mission to Retrieve the Second Volume of the Wulinshu
  2. Searching for a Way to Miao Village
  3. Visiting Sunny Capital Pharmacy & a Bicycle Delivery Quest
  4. Medicine Delivery at Miao Village
  5. Looking for Kongzheng Luo's House
  6. A. The Fate of Kongzheng Luo
    B. Master Yunhai's Friendship with Kongzheng Luo
  7. A. Finding a Way to Enter Kongzheng Luo's House
    B. Obtaining the House Key
    C. Identifying the Boy in the Photo
  8. Talking with Zhengye Luo
  9. Cut Scene: Visiting Master Yunhai at Miao Guang Temple
  10. Delivering the Wulinshu to Zhang
We'll run through each of these in detail.

Starting Point of the Miao Village Cut Content

The first relevant dialogue is a cut scene, that takes place with Yuanda Zhu's aide, Zhang. At this point in the story, it can be assumed that the following events have occurred as they do in the release version of the game:
  • Ryo has met Lishao Tao and discovered the Wulinshu in the library at Man Mo Temple. Inside the book he found a note with the Chawan Sign, which serves as his next clue to locating Yuanda Zhu.
  • After making the Chawan Sign at the Dou Jiang Diner, he has met with a man in a brown suit, who we later find out is named Zhang, who revealed that he serves Yuanda Zhu. However before Ryo had a chance to ask him any questions, several thugs burst into the restaurant and abducted Zhang.
  • A QTE event played out in which Ryo chases after the thugs - dodging a watermelon projectile in the process - and Zhang was rescued, thanks to the invisible help of Xiuying.
Ambush at the Dou Jiang Diner (screenshot from release version)

This brings us to the likely point of the first scene of cut content we will be looking at, in which Ryo talks with Zhang once again after the thugs have been defeated.
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