Thursday, April 27, 2023

Mystery Location in Photo at Shenhua's House Identified? | Shenmue II

Last year, we posted an article about an unidentified photo that can be glimpsed at Shenhua's house in Shenmue II.

The photo can be partially seen on the desk in Shenhua's father's room, in the pile where Ryo finds the plans for the Phoenix and Dragon mirrors. But there is no way for the player to move the other papers aside to examine it, and Ryo makes no comment about it.

It is, however, possible to view the full photo by accessing the game files directly, which looks as below. It appears to be some kind of outdoor scene with arches, trees, and some kind of structure in the center:

The mystery photo uncovered

In our post about this photo, we posed the question of why this photo would have been present among the design documents (albeit largely obscured), whether it had any significance and - most of all - whether such a location exists or existed in real life.

Well now, a possible candidate for this mystery location has been identified!

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Wednesday, April 19, 2023

Mirror Lore & Celestial Connections in Shenmue | Part Two

In this post we complete our investigation into the secrets of the Dragon and Phoenix mirrors and related lore surrounding them as revealed throughout the Shenmue games.

In Part One, we looked at the following topics:

  • Ancient Beliefs: the Guardians of the North Star
  • The Xing Xiu and People's Fates
  • Five Stars Corp.
  • Sword of Seven Stars
  • I Smell Treasure
  • The Chi You
  • The Mirrors & the Qing Dynasty

This time, we will go deeper into the mysteries with the following topics:

  • The Prophecy
  • Shenmue's Bad Ending
  • The Origin of the Mirrors
  • Photo of the Imperial Envoy
  • The Last Emperor: Pu Yi
  • The Purpose of the Verdant Bridge
  • The Envoy's Mission
  • The Scroll
  • The Cliff Temple
Spoiler Warning: This post covers story-related aspects from the first three games.

The Prophecy

A reference to the Dragon and Phoenix together also occurs outside of gameplay, in the prologue of each of the games in the series, in which Shenhua is heard reciting the prophecy (see also our comparison of the various versions of the prophecy to date).

This wording is from the Shenmue II version:
Shenhua: A Dragon shall emerge from the earth, and dark clouds shall obscure the heavens. A Phoenix shall descend from above, its wings will create a purple wind. In the midst of the pitch-black night, a morning star shall glisten, alone...

These words paint imagery of a conflict or dramatic event involving a Dragon and Phoenix in some form.
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Tuesday, April 11, 2023

Former Developer Anecdote: Shenmue II's Duck Racing Was Created In Secret

A former Shenmue developer has shared a brief but amusing anecdote in response to a tweet from Shenmue Forever that praised Shenmue II's intricate duck racing Easter Egg.

In his tweet, the developer that revealed that the entire duck race event was in fact created secretly by the Game Director* and staff without Yu Suzuki's knowledge!

An image of the original tweet is shown below.

Source tweet

About Satoru Tsuji

Satoru Tsuji (Twitter account mame_XPERIA) was one of the member of SEGA's 7-person Event Planning team on the Shenmue II project. He mentions that he was in charge of the fortune tellers in the game.

* Note: Tsuji's tweet about the duck race partially censors the Game Director's name as "Oka***". At first I assumed this might be (Keiji) Okayasu, however the Shenmue II end credits confirm this refers to Yoshihiro Okabayashi, who both headed the Event Planning team and was one of Shenmue II's two Game Directors.
Shenmue II End Credits: Event Planning team


Guide to Duck Racing in Shenmue II

Video: Shenmue Fans channel

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Saturday, April 8, 2023

Shenmue Chapter Concept Art Released in High Resolution! (Tiles 1-7)

At the 2014 Game Developers Conference (GDC 2014), Yu Suzuki gave a special talk of approximately an hour in which he talked about the development of Shenmue. It covered the early days from its conception as Virtua Fighter RPG, when the protagonist was to have been Akira Yuki.

During the talk, Suzuki revealed a slide entitled "Chapter Concept Art" which showed 11 full-color illustrations that represented the plans for each chapter of Virtua Fighter RPG. These were drawn following Suzuki's trip to China in 1994.

Although various changes and rearrangements are known to have taken place since then, many of the elements observed in these chapter tiles are instantly recognizable including several of the characters appearing in the Shenmue games released to date, and for this reason obtaining high-resolution images of these tiles to study further has been something Shenmue fans have been desiring ever since they were revealed.

The 11 tiles of the Chapter Concept Art revealed at the GDC 2014 conference

The chapter tile illustrations were glimpsed again in footage for Adam Sipione's Shenmue Documentary ("A Gamer's Journey: The Definitive History of Shenmue") - which, incidentally is shipping imminently on BluRay - as the filming crew had privileged access to concept art shared by Suzuki during their time with him.

And now, thanks to Adam, the first seven of the tiles are available in high resolution for all fans to enjoy! There were released recently on a Shenmue Dojo forum post containing updates about the Shenmue Documentary.

Each tile is packed with details, and release of these high-resolution versions has already sparked renewed discussion and exchange of theories among fans on the forums and elsewhere.

The superb chapter tiles are displayed below!

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Thursday, April 6, 2023

Poll Result: Patrons' Choice Topic for April 2023

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:

"Weekly AM2 Volumes 8 & 9"

The topic selected this time is a continuation of our translations of the official online magazine published by Sega's AM2 team back in the day, the Weekly AM2. This magazine published content about the Shenmue series from December 1999 through to around the release of Shenmue II in 2001, and a link to issues of the Weekly AM2 thereafter became a regular feature of the website.

This time we will be translating two more editions of the Weekly AM2: Volumes 8 and 9, published online in the first two weeks of February 2000.

Weekly AM2 Vol.8 reveals the winners of the First Network Rankings Tournament, and announces a second tournament.

Some of the fabulous Shenmue merchandise prizes for winners of the Network Rankings Tournaments

Weekly AM2 Vol. 9 announces a third Network Rankings Tournament! In addition, this edition contained all the data needed for readers to set their mobile phone ring-tone to Shenhua's Theme (we will create a simulation of the tune for your enjoyment!).

Coming soon to the blog.

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Tuesday, April 4, 2023

Mirror Lore & Celestial Connections in Shenmue | Part One

The Phoenix and Dragon mirrors lie at the core of Shenmue's story right from the beginning, with Lan Di and his henchmen seizing one of the mirrors from the Hazuki Dojo in the shocking opening scene of Iwao's murder. From there, Ryo stumbles upon a web of interconnected topics and events, ranging from the significance of constellations in the sky, to an imperial order made long ago.

In this series of posts, we will carry out an in-depth review of several inter-related elements and clues that Ryo learns along his journey in the course of the first three games and see how they fit together.

We'll also highlight a number of translation clarifications along the way, where the English version of certain lines gives a different (possibly even incorrect) impression from the original Japanese.

Spoiler Warning: This post covers story-related aspects from the first three games.

These are the topics we will be covering in today's post:
  • Ancient Beliefs: the Guardians of the North Star
  • The Xing Xiu and People's Fates
  • Five Stars Corp.
  • Sword of Seven Stars
  • I Smell Treasure
  • The Chi You
  • The Mirrors & the Qing Dynasty
We start our exploration with the Phoenix Mirror that Ryo discovers early in the first game in the basement of the Dojo.

Ancient Beliefs: the Guardians of the North Star

Ryo visits the Russiya China shop in Dobuita, and shows the Phoenix Mirror to the shop owner, Xiuyu Xia.

Xiuyu explains the significance that people in China attach to the Phoenix, and that it has a presence in the night sky:

Xiuyu: In China the Phoenix is the legendary bird of fortune... It's a guardian for the Sky Lord. 

Xiuyu examines the Phoenix mirror at the Russiya China shop

Xiuyu: The other guardian is the Dragon. In China, people consider the North Star to be the lord of the sky. Look, there. [pointing to a map on the wall] That is an old Chinese map in stone, see? It's a map of the Big Dipper from the Han Dynasty.

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