Sunday, November 19, 2023

Motivations and Secrets: The Significance of Two Letters | Analysis

The start of Shenmue's tale revolves around two intriguing letters obtained by Ryo Hazuki, setting the stage for the enigmatic narrative to unravel.

The first letter holds poignant meaning as it was written by Ryo's late father, Iwao, who passed away in a violent encounter with a man in Chinese clothing called Lan Di. Ryo discovers it sitting out on his father's desk for him to find.

Adding to the intrigue, a second letter arrives from Hong Kong, sent by a mysterious individual whom Ryo later learns is named Zhu Yuan Da. Written in cryptic Chinese script, it arrives shortly after Iwao's passing.

Upon having it translated, Ryo uncovers that this letter served as a warning to his father, although it arrived too late to fulfill its intended purpose.

The two letters raise some interesting questions. How did Zhu Yuan Da know about the threat to Iwao? And did Iwao Hazuki know Lan Di was coming?

Today, we will attempt to answer these questions by examining the letters, comparing the Japanese and Chinese sources with the English translations provided by the game, and by delving into the events that take place over the course of the first two games.

This topic was suggested by blog patrons Patrick Fuller and James Brown.
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Sunday, November 12, 2023

14 More Tweeted Anecdotes from Former Shenmue Developer Morio Ashizuka

"Morio Ashizuka" is the pseudonym used on Twitter/X by a former developer who was deeply involved with development of the first two Shenmue games, in particular character animations and motion capture. He tweets prolifically about video games, SEGA and other topics - along with occasional fascinating insights and anecdotes from the day.

Last time, we introduced a selection of Shenmue inside stories and anecdotes from this former developer.

This time we continue on with a whole new batch of Shenmue-related tweets we'll be translating, again touching on his many experiences during the game's development:
  • Revelation #15: A Stand-alone Forklift Racing Arcade Game Was Floated
  • Revelation #16: The Scrapped Alternative Forklift Racing Start Scene
  • Revelation #17: Actor Photos: Fujioka and Matsukaze Meet With Yu Suzuki
  • Revelation #18: Notebooks Were Used for Cut Scene Management
  • Revelation #19: Shenmue II's Motion Capture System
  • Revelation #20: There Was a Slider Tool For Ryo's Facial Expression
  • Revelation #21: Sleeping at the Office
  • Revelation #22: "Open-Door" Policy
  • Revelation #23: Ryo's Wooden Motorbike 
  • Revelation #24: Suzuki Wanted to Make a Shenmue Alarm Clock
  • Revelation #25: Questioning Why There's a Saturn at the Hazuki Residence
  • Revelation #26: Shenmue II's Distinctive Characters
  • Revelation #27: Yu Suzuki's Theme for Shenmue II
  • Revelation #28: Ashizuka's Most Satisfying Animation
  • Bonus Revelation: Fujioka at the Motion Capture Studio
Read on for details!

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!

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Thursday, November 9, 2023

Poll Result: Patrons' Choice Topic for November 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:

"Inspiration or historical basis of the Chawan Sign in Shenmue"

In Shenmue II, Ryo learns that arranging teacups in a certain pattern in a public place is a secret method to discreetly communicate with allies. This is known as the "Chawan Sign" (chawan means teacup in Japanese).

Arranging four teacups

However he is warned that placing them at the wrong location, or carelessly arranging them in the wrong pattern, can result in unwanted attention...

Trying at the wrong location may attract trouble

But was the Chawan Sign something that Yu Suzuki and team created purely for Shenmue, or did it have some kind of historical basis?

In this upcoming topic, we will try to answer this question by looking at a possible source of inspiration.

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