Thursday, December 29, 2022

Yu Suzuki's Responses: 4Gamer's 2022 End-of-Year Survey

Yu Suzuki was one of the 165 prominent games industry figures who were surveyed by Japanese games site in their annual feature that was released today.

Here are his responses, translated from the original Japanese text.

Yu Suzuki

Q1: Of all the games released in 2022, which title impressed (or shocked) you the most?

YS: Vampire Survivors, which was officially released on October 21.

Its intricate design, which has clearly been finely tuned over many iterations, and the movements of the enemies are superb.

I'm impressed with the way the game has been made, by not solely relying on graphics but by refining the playability and feel of the game.

Vampire Survivors is an action roguelike game developed and published by indie developer poncle

Q2: Of the entertainment content that was released or announced during 2022, which work left the deepest impression?

YS: The anime Chainsaw Man.

It is a well-executed work that incorporates modern techniques in its scenario, composition, and direction without being a hodgepodge.

It is wonderful how it combines the original [manga] story's audacious premise of parts of the body being chainsaws, with human drama.

Chainsaw Man, released in anime form in 2022

Q3: Which person is (or has been) in your personal spotlight in 2022?

YS: Billiards player Naoyuki Oi.

He is ranked 4th in the WPA world ranking and is the closest male player to [number one in] the world in Japan today.

His intuitive, unique and rapid decision-making that he has refined in the international scene is what sets him apart from other players, and makes his play so appealing.

Billiards player Naoyuki Oi

Q4: What are your ambitions for 2023, and what is your message to 4Gamer readers?

YS: I will be continuing diligently to create games next year.

In 2022, we announced a new shooting game, Air Twister, on Apple Arcade. It is a shooting game with a fun swiping mechanic, so I hope you will enjoy playing it during the year-end and New Year holidays.

Air Twister

Source (Japanese):

Related Links

Here are some of our past blog posts detailing Yu Suzuki's end-of-year responses to 4Gamer from recent years:

See also the recent survey from Yu Suzuki's Keyword for 2023: "Light AI"

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Wednesday, December 28, 2022

Yu Suzuki's Keyword for 2023: "Light AI" []


"141 Game Creators' New Year's Resolutions" (the jumping rabbit represents the 2023 animal sign of the Chinese Zodiac: the Rabbit)

Japanese website has released their annual survey - much anticipated by Shenmue fans eager for any hint that might relate to our beloved franchise - of members of the games industry, this time interviewing an impressive 141 game developers. As usual, the survey asked them 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.

Famitsu's archive photo of Yu-san is now getting a little long in the tooth, now dating back to 6 years ago!

Here are his responses for the coming year in 2023, translated from the original Japanese:
Q: Your Keyword for 2023?

YS: Light AI.
Q: Your New Year's Resolution / Aspirations for 2023?

I'd like to try taking a light-hearted approach to AI, without pretentious logical thinking. The answers that an imperfect AI, including bugs, can come up with should be fun. I'm setting out on a journey to seek new ideas using AI. [Suzuki adds a "w" at the end of his response, indicating smiling or laughing].

Q: Status update

YS: In 2022, Apple Arcade released my new game, Air Twister, and in 2023 I am also involved in overseeing the characters for a project called "OASYX".
Q: What will you be keeping an eye on in 2023?

YS: I have high hopes for the evolution of AI technology and the emergence of entertainment with visual images that transcend the human imagination, as well as for initiatives to find original value in digital data.
Regarding Suzuki's response of "Light AI" for his keyword for the upcoming year, the light refers to not being overly heavy or complicated.

AI has certainly now become a hot mainstream topic, with public online access being opened up to some impressive AI projects: systems that can create realistic images and art from a text description (DALL E2) and language-model chat assistants (OpenAI's ChatGPT). 

Suzuki also expressed his ongoing interest in AI during a discussion panel with IGN Japan last year on the movie "Free Guy" (currently available on Patreon) and touched on its potential for controlling NPC behavior in games:
Suzuki: In terms of the world that is portrayed, in Shenmue's case, I didn't go as far as using AI in moving each of the characters [NPCs] around. When I was making Shenmue, I thought that in the future, once the processing power of CPUs and computers had improved enough, I would certainly use AI.
Air Twister was successfully released for iOS devices during the year, and looking back it can be seen how his keywords for the past few years can be tied to it:
  • 2020: "A new project start" 
  • 2021: "Shooting / RPG" (at least the "shooting" part)
  • 2022:  "Mix" (In his response, Suzuki spoke of working with people from different industries "such as movies and musicians" - he worked with Dutch composer Valensia who provided the soundtrack for the game).
The OASYX project mentioned is an NFT (Non-Fungible Token) project - an area fraught with reputational risk due to various controversies associated with it. This particular project was launched by Oasys on their gaming blockchain, and aims to create NFTs for the gaming community in collaboration with legendary creators, artists and developers, and is backed by some big Japanese game development studios including SEGA, Bandai Namco and Square Enix. Suzuki will oversee the overall theme and art direction of the project's first series, which involves the distribution of 10,000 original characters in a free-to-own format.

Suzuki ends by highlighting his anticipation of the further evolution of AI-related technology in the future, including its use for impressive visuals in entertainment.

While there was unfortunately no obvious hint as to any Shenmue-related project in the works, we'd like to think there is a Shenmue project YS Net are working away on to fulfil Suzuki's long-held dream of developing a lightweight AI system for even more naturally-behaving NPCs.
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Sunday, December 25, 2022

Merry Xmas 2022 from Phantom River Stone

Wishing everyone in the Shenmue community a happy holiday break.

We will have heaps more translations, articles and video subtitles to come in 2023... not to mention keeping an eye out for Yu Suzuki's New Year Resolutions!

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Wednesday, December 21, 2022

Yu Suzuki's Visit to Dobuita Street with IGN Japan | Video with ENG Subtitles

As part of the Shenmue the Animation promotional celebrations earlier this year, IGN Japan's Esra Krabbe met up with Yu Suzuki in the real Dobuita, in Ryo's hometown of Yokosuka (April 2022). As the original video was made available with Japanese audio only, for this post we have added English subtitles so fans around the world can enjoy hearing the series' founder reminisce about the development of the games and the anime series.

This is the extended version with extra footage compared to the originally-released video. I hope you enjoy hearing Esra and Yu-san's comments as they soak up the atmosphere and interact with various shopkeepers.

In a future post we plan to cover the concept and storyboard art shown in this video, which was displayed in several shops around Dobuita as part of the event, in detail.

A transcript with still images from the video follows after.

This topic was selected by the Phantom River Stone blog patrons via our monthly poll on the Phantom River Stone Patreon and was available for early access. Thank you for your support!



<Esra Krabbe & Yu Suzuki greet each other outside the Honey Bee restaurant in Yokosuka>

Krabbe: Hello, Yu-san! Long time no see.

So, this is the the "Honey Bee". In the game the name is Funny Bear. This is the place, isn't it. It was the inspiration, so how about we grab a bite?

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Tuesday, December 6, 2022

Poll Result: Patrons' Choice Topic for December

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:

"Yu Suzuki Discusses the 2021 Movie Free Guy"

Last year, IGN Japan invited three famous game creators (Shenmue creator Yu Suzuki, creator of the Silent Hill franchise Keiichiro Toyama and producer of The Last Guardian, Kazunobu Sato) to a preview of the newly-released film Free Guy, and held a discussion with them afterwards.

Free Guy is a 2021 American science fiction action-comedy film that tells the story of a bank teller who discovers that he is a non-player character in a massively multiplayer online game.

Free Guy, starring Ryan Reynolds

After giving their thoughts on the movie itself, the creators also gave responses on a number of topics. These included:
  • Free Guy's NPCs compared with the development of those in Shenmue (naturally, this was directed at Yu-san!)
  • The authenticity of behavior of Guy and the other NPCs in the movie
  • How the movie portrayed the relationship between Guy and the NPCs
  • As a creator, do you factor in game commentary streamers when creating a game?

As the interview was held in Japanese only, we will be translating the responses into English.

Watch for it in an upcoming post, with early access for blog patrons!

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Sunday, December 4, 2022

World Cup Ambitions: Yasuo and Kota

* Idea for this entry suggested by Patrick Fuller

Football (soccer) fever has struck Japan again with the national team having advanced to the final 16 in the FIFA World Cup! The first Shenmue game also starts in a year in which the World Cup had been played in Mexico, with Diego Maradona leading Argentina to victory in 1986.

It is not surprising, then, that there are two young soccer fanatics living in Ryo's neighborhood: Yasuo Ito and Kota Mitsui, aged 7 and 8 years when introduced in the game, but with only a couple of months separating them.

Near the start of the game, their practice in the street triggers a QTE sequence when Ryo approaches, putting the player's reactions to the test to avoid the awkward outcome of making Yasuo's little sister Kayoko burst into tears!

Kota and Yasuo are gently reprimanded by Ryo after the QTE

The official character profiles also make mention of their love of the game, with specific reference to the World Cup.

From Kota's profile:
"Kota likes playing soccer and video games. He loves talking about soccer with his best friend Yasuo. Influenced by a popular comic book, he wants to become an ace striker in the All Japan League and enter the World Cup." 
Character profile for Kota Mitsui (screenshot from Suka Pass)

Back in 1986, Japan's national football association league was called the Japan Soccer League (from 1965 and 1992) and was the precursor to the present-day J.League professional league.

The influential comic book referred to in the profile may have been Captain Tsubasa by Yoichi Takahashi, as it has been in circulation since 1981 and is one of the longest-standing and most famous soccer manga. The series follows a boy named Tsubasa, who - just as Kota does - dreams of winning the FIFA World Cup playing for Japan.

Cover of the first volume in the Captain Tsubasa manga series

Where Kota dreams of success as a striker, Yasuo is set on being a goalkeeper:
"Like his friend Kota, he is crazy about soccer and the two of them never get tired of talking about it. His dream is to be a goalkeeper and play in the World Cup with Kota."

Character profile for Yasuo Ito (screenshot from Suka Pass)

In Shenmue's world, we hope Yasuo and Kota did eventually make it into the national team and fulfill their dream of representing their country in the World Cup.

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