Friday, September 29, 2023

Yu Suzuki Confirms Desire to Make Shenmue IV (TGS 2023)

Yu Suzuki's Livestream with IGN Japan 

Yu Suzuki attended the Tokyo Game Show last week to promote the upcoming release of the YS Net arcade game Air Twister for the PC and consoles, having been originally released last year for Apple devices.

On the third day of the event, Suzuki appeared as a guest on a livestream with Esra Krabbe of IGN Japan.

While the talk was centered around Air Twister, Suzuki made comments about future ideas, touched on a new unspecified project YS Net has underway and even spoke briefly on Shenmue. This post picks up conversation snippets of particular interest.

Yu Suzuki Classics Re-imagined

With Air Twister having its roots in Yu Suzuki's classic arcade game Space Harrier, Suzuki was asked if he has any plans to develop further games similarly inspired by his other past hit games such as Out Run, Power Drift, Hang On, After Burner and so on.
Yu Suzuki: I'd like to make a kind of set of around six games... that's if discussions happen about something like that. It would be nice to have them collected together, don't you think? Like a series.


Air Twister Special Edition: Yu Suzuki Interview Booklet

It was highlighted that the Special Edition of Air Twister will come with a booklet containing an extended written interview with Yu Suzuki.

Esra Krabbe:
I was the one who conducted the interview with you, and it lasted for about three hours if I recall correctly. While the booklet is for Air Twister, I have a feeling it also touches on Shenmue quite a lot - my bad! It has a lot about your upbringing and contains stories that we haven't heard before, doesn't it.
Yu Suzuki: Yes, it has quite a few in-depth stories.

Esra Krabbe:  I think we spoke for around three hours. I think that your fans can look forward to both the actual game as well as the interview.

New Project In Progress


Esra Krabbe: Recently you've announced Air Twister, but are there still various other games you're planning to create going forwards?

Yu Suzuki: I can't talk about it yet, but we're working on something.

Esra Krabbe: Oh, really? That's big news just to mention casually! I hope it was okay for you to say it.

Yu Suzuki: [laughs] I can't say any more than that.

Esra Krabbe: Well, hearing that there's something else to for fans to look forward to is really good news.

Yu Suzuki: It's still in development right now, so...

Esra Krabbe: I'm looking forward to it!

Shenmue's Influence

Esra Krabbe: I myself of course love Shenmue, and at the session just a little while ago there was a Japanese game set in the 1980's, so I asked them whether it had been influenced by Shenmue. And that turned out to be the case*! They said that they started development when they had been playing Shenmue I and wanted to incorporate the atmosphere of Japan in the 1980s. Recently do you also come across a lot of people who admire or have been influenced by Shenmue?

Yu Suzuki: Being at the game show today, I've been meeting a lot of different people who have said things like their life was changed by Shenmue, or that they started creating games thanks to Shenmue. I'm extremely happy to receive comments like that.

 *Note from Switch: the game being referred to is "Last Time I Saw You". There is a free demo currently out on Steam. I've made an introductory post about it here.

Yu Suzuki On Shenmue IV

Esra Krabbe: There are a lot of people who have been influenced by Shenmue in this way. We'll soon be coming up to 4 years since Shenmue III [was released]. Are you still wanting to continue on with Shenmue? 

Yu Suzuki: Yes, of course. Because it's still partway through.

Esra Krabbe: So it sounds like you have a lot of possibilities and things you'd like to do, such as Shenmue, arcade-style games, as well as a lot of other ideas?

Yu Suzuki: Yes, there's a lot I'd like to do... it's a matter of having the opportunity. If I meet the right people, or can find the right partner.

Esra Krabbe: Publishers, if you are listening...! I'm looking forward to what you will surprise all the fans with next.


IGN Japan Video

IGN Japan's full Air Twister segment with Yu Suzuki, from which the above interactions were extracted, is embedded below. Auto-translate captions are available.

Air Twister for PC & Consoles

Air Twister will become available in both physical and digital formats for Nintendo Switch and PlayStation 4 & 5 and digitally for Xbox and PC on November 10, 2023. There will also be a Special Edition that comes with extras.

The Air Twister Special Edition, at right, includes soundtrack, interview booklet & art

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Monday, September 11, 2023

Japanese Idol Group Plays Shenmue on TV Tokyo

TV Tokyo is showing a new video game-related variety show series called Game Majime-san which roughly translates to "Serious Gamers". It bills itself as a series in which "top idols of the Reiwa era [i.e. those of the modern day] play famous games seriously" and features the reactions of members of popular female idol groups playing classic video games for the first time.

The first two episodes covered Metal Gear Solid 3, and the latest episode was Shenmue! It features  comments from Esra Krabbe of IGN Japan as well as Susumu Aketagawa (the original voice recording director of the first two games).

While the title of the show is clearly somewhat tongue-in-cheek - you'll find several references emphasizing how "serious" the players are with respect to their respective missions - it should help to introduce Shenmue to a younger generation of game players who may not know about it, and the background information it shares about the game is accurate. It even contains short interviews with journalists and a former project team member (not Yu Suzuki!).

As the broadcast was in the Japanese language, we present is a full transcription of the show in English, below.

Narrator: Good evening, everyone. This show delves into classic games in an academic way. Idol heartthrobs of the Reiwa era make a serious effort to clear the games. This is a "Super-hard Educational Game Variety" show!

TV Tokyo's new series, "Game Majime-san"

The classic game we'll be talking about this time is...

Esra Krabbe (IGN Japan)

Esra Krabbe (IGN Japan): I don't think I'd be sitting here right now if this game didn't exist.

Narrator: Released in 1999, it's the first entry in the legendary Shenmue game series. Developed on a massive scale as a flagship title for the dream game machine, the Dreamcast, its attention to detail is so impressive that it was even praised by Steven Spielberg.

So, how did Shenmue influence the gaming industry at the time?

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Wednesday, September 6, 2023

Poll Result: Patrons' Choice Topic for September 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:

"Concept Art from the Shenmue The Animation Promotional Event in Dobuita (2022)"

In April to June 2022, Yokosuka City ran a promotional event in celebration of the Shenmue's adaption anime form, which was run in collaboration with IGN Japan.
There were various activities arranged including give-aways of Shenmue The Animation themed postcards at participating stores and an online gacha-gacha game.

In addition, there were physical exhibits of concept art and sketches from both the early days of the game's development as well as during the anime's creation, to be found on display inside a number of stores around the Dobuita Street area.

In this post, we will aim to bring together and present as many pieces as possible of the fascinating art that was displayed during this event.

Coming soon to the blog!

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Monday, September 4, 2023

"Bailu Cave" in Kamakura, Japan | Real-life Location

Engaku-ji is the name of a peaceful temple compound in Kamakura, Japan that houses over twenty temples and halls, and is considered to be one of the most important Zen Buddhist complexes in Japan.

At Engaku-ji

On visiting the temple, a small cave entrance can be discovered at one side, just off the main path, with a stone post next to it engraved with the kanji characters of its name.

A mysterious cave

The first two characters of the name look strongly familiar: 白鹿洞 = White Deer Cave! You may recall that these are the same written characters of the name of Shenhua's village of Bailu in Guilin - she explains to Ryo the white deer is the guardian of her village.

How did this cave come to have this name? A sign nearby gives some additional background. 

White Deer Cave

According to this sign, legend has it that on Engaku-ji's opening day, a herd of white deer emerged from this cave to listen to the sermon of Zen master Mugaku Sogen, the temple's founder, along with a great many people. Hence, the cave was named "White Deer Cave". (Note: in Japanese, the pronunciation is "Biyaku Dou", however, with no similarity to "Bailu").

Kamakura is a place we know Yu Suzuki has visited in the past - a recent example being with the Kickstarter super backers on the day of their Kickstarter Backer Dinner. Perhaps Yu Suzuki and team were inspired in the naming of Bailu Village through this very legend.

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Friday, September 1, 2023

Sacred Spot Guide Map (Shenmue The Animation Version)

In Dobuita, June 2022 witnessed the emergence of an electrifying two-month spectacle known as the "Shenmue x Yokosuka: Anime Commemoration Project," coinciding with the highly-awaited broadcast debut of Shenmue the Animation. Amidst this festivity, a renewed rendition of the much-beloved Sacred Spot Guide Map was introduced by Yokosuka City. The map can be collected on location for those visiting the area.

For preservation purposes, we've scanned all pages of the map for download at the link below. Note that this version of the map was released only in Japanese.
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