Thursday, October 12, 2023

Weekly AM2 Volume 9 - Results of the 2nd Network Rankings Competition & Shenhua's Theme Ringtone

In this series we translate Shenmue content from Weekly AM2, the official online magazine published by Sega's AM2 development team back in the day. These pages regularly featured news and information about the Shenmue series from the end of 1999 through to 2001 with the release of Shenmue II.

Vol. 9 follows up the Network Rankings Competition #2 announced in Vol. 8 with a third one - this time it's Forklift Racing! The prize line-up is very similar, but there is an amazing new framed print for the first-place winner. Also in this issue is a new ringtone tune of Shenhua's Theme. It is fun to recreate the notes to hear how it would have sounded - video demonstration at the end of this post!



Vol. 9: 2000.2.8

Hello, this is Takuan. I've finally completed Shenmue.

This week we will again be announcing Network Rankings Competition results. What kind of time secured first place for the winner? Let's take a look!

This week's contents:
  • Results of the 2nd Network Rankings Competition
  • Announcement of the 3rd Network Rankings Competition
  • Ringtone Service: Second Tune!
  • F355 Challenge Net Ranking Prizewinners Announcement! [omitted from translation]

Become a Patron!

Tuesday, October 10, 2023

Poll Result: Patrons' Choice Topic for October 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:

"Examining the Maps from the Shenmue Premiere Art Booklet: Unused Canal & Island Locations"

During the showing of the Shenmue Premiere in 1998/1999 in various cities across Japan, ahead of the game's original release on the Dreamcast, a 36-page art book was one of the items of merchandise made available. It was filled with concept art, photographs, design diagrams and other materials related to the making of the games.

In past posts on this blog we have analyzed some of the fascinating snippets of early design documents that can be glimpsed in this booklet, such as:
Such charts and drawings are used as background images to accompanying pages describing the making of the game. As such, they are often partially obscured and hard to decipher.

On the following pages of the booklet, two maps representing towns can be found that are not of places Ryo has visited so far in his journey. One is in blue ink, and the other in black ink:

The page with the mysterious maps (image credit: Shenmue Master)

The blue one appears to be a city that has canals running through it, while the second looks to have buildings built out upon water, surrounding a mountainous island.

In this upcoming post, we will examine the maps and the labels in detail to see what hints they may shed on Ryo's once-planned - or future - travels.

To be published in a future blog post!

Cover of the Shenmue Premiere Art Booklet

Become a Patron!

Wednesday, October 4, 2023

Did You Know? The Three Blades

Did you know? The Three Blades Ryo learns about in Shenmue has a historical basis. In the early 1900s, the Japanese government restricted jobs permitted for Chinese workers to 3 occupations (chef, barber, tailor) known as the sanbato. (三把刀).
"This resulted in the popularization of Chinese food and consequently the development of ramen".
- Display at the Shin-Yokohama Ramen Museum

Become a Patron!

Monday, October 2, 2023

Upcoming Indie Game Set in 1980s Japan: "Last Time I Saw You"

In IGN Japan's recent interview with Yu Suzuki at TGS 2023, host Esra Krabbe mentioned having spoken earlier in the livestream with a developer working on an upcoming game that was influenced by Shenmue, among other inspirations. The game's name is "Last Time I Saw You" and is set in Japan in the 1980s.

The studio founder, who is Spanish and has been living in Japan for several years, is also responsible for the game's artwork and has captured the atmosphere of the Shōwa era of Japan perfectly. The beautifully-portrayed townscape is sure to make fans of Shenmue feel right at home:

The game's tag line describes it as a narrative-driven coming-of-age adventure about a first love. The protagonist of the story is Ayumi, a 12-year-old boy, who "wanders the melancholic countryside of Japan in search of the mysterious girl he has been seeing in his dreams" - another element that evokes a parallel with Shenmue. 

The art is breath-taking and completely hand-drawn, with an anime style that employs parallax scrolling, and small but detailed animations throughout. Game play is set to a melancholic ambient soundtrack. The locations are brought to life with other characters who can often be spoken to, as well as various animals, including a dog - and yes, petting it is possible!

A demo is available from the game's Steam page, and this looks to be well worth adding to the watch list of any Shenmue fan. Release is scheduled for 2024. The studio, Maboroshi Artworks, can be followed here on X (Twitter).

No 1980s story set in Japan would be complete without a run-in with the local thugs!

View the Announcement Trailer

IGN Japan Livestream Developer Interview at TGS 2013

(Replies are in English)

Become a Patron!