Saturday, December 30, 2023

Yu Suzuki's Key Theme for 2024: "Creating Games I'd Want to Play Myself" []

"163 Game Creators' New Year's Resolutions" from Famitsu (the dragon represents the 2024 animal sign of the Chinese Zodiac: the Dragon) has unveiled its yearly survey of individuals within the Japanese gaming industry, engaging with a noteworthy 163 game developers. As customary, the survey prompted them to select a "keyword" or phrase encapsulating their focus for the upcoming year. Additionally, participants were asked to share their New Year's Resolution and provide a comment regarding their present circumstances.

Yu Suzuki, CEO of YS Net.
(This archive photo was seen in 4Gamer's developer survey last year)

Yu Suzuki's responses for the coming year in 2024 were as below, translated from the original Japanese:

Q: Your Key Theme for 2024?

YS: Creating games I'd want to play myself!
Q: Your New Year's Resolution / Aspirations for 2024?

YS: Collaborate on a project with scriptwriters and musicians from different industries.

Q: Status update

YS: In 2023, we successfully released a fantasy shooting game called Air Twister on home gaming consoles and PC. Feel free to enjoy the year-end and New Year holidays with the casual fun of Air Twister!
Q: What will you be keeping an eye on in 2024?

I believe that clever and compelling stories like those found in Spy × Family*² and The Apothecary Diaries*³ could be beneficial in game development. By the way, I recently got my hands on the Juzo Itami Film Collection Blu-ray Box* and have been grinning happily ever since.
  1. In Japanese the first question translates more literally as "your keyword(s)", however it is a versatile term that can refer to both a single word or a phrase that encapsulates a main theme, idea, or concept. Taking this into account, here it is translated more broadly as "key theme".
  2. Spy × Family is a Japanese manga series that was first published in 2019 and was subsequently adapted to an anime television series, and has been described as "an action-packed comedy about a fake family that includes a spy, an assassin and a telepath." It has received widespread acclaim, having won several manga prizes and awards. An anime film adaptation and a novel were released in Japan earlier this month.
    Spy × Family

  3. The Apothecary Diaries (Japanese name: Kusuriya no Hitorigoto) is a fictional series set in Ming-era China that was originally published as a novel, and has been subsequently adapted to a manga series as well as an anime television series.  

    The Apothecary Diaries

  4. The Juzo Itami Film Collection Blu-ray Box is a collection of all 10 movies by acclaimed director Juzo Itami who made his directorial debut at the age of 50 with the film "The Funeral" in 1984. The movie gained popularity in Japan and received numerous awards, including Japanese Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Screenplay. However, it was his second film, the 1985 "Tampopo," with the story of a woman's quest to create the perfect bowl of ramen, that brought him international recognition and praise.

Yu Suzuki's response to his theme or concept for the year - "creating games I'd want to play myself") - suggests a personal and passion-driven approach to game development. Throughout his successful career, he has often developed games based on concepts suggested by others, particularly during his earlier years at SEGA. In this later part of his career, he has the freedom to create games that he finds personally engaging, as an initial benchmark for their broader appeal. It may also reflect his desire to continue to bring innovation and creativity into the development process and explore unique ideas and gameplay mechanics that resonate with him personally.

His mention of involving scriptwriters and musicians from other industries (i.e. outside of games) recalls his response to Famitsu's survey held in December 2021 in which he expressed a similar desire to "bring a different style to game making" by working with people from other industries. And indeed, this has already been seen in Air Twister, collaborating with Dutch artist Valensia who provided the amazing soundtrack for this game.

Suzuki ends by emphasizing his appreciation for "clever and compelling stories". He has mentioned in previous interviews his admiration for a scene in director Juzo Itami's "The Funeral" that depicts the everyday life of the Japanese culture in a humorous way - in one scene a guest staggers from "pins and needles" (the tingling feeling in one's limbs) when trying to stand after sitting with his legs folded underneath for a long period of time. It is pleasing to see his affirmation of the importance of story-telling, something that is an important component of the Shenmue series.

The "pins and needles" scene from the movie "The Funeral", directed by Juzo Itami

Related Links

Yu Suzuki's end-of-year interviews from recent years:

Source (Japanese):

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Friday, December 29, 2023

Photo Report: Visiting Shenmue's New Yokosuka Harbor in Real Life (Nagaura Port)

Nagaura Port is the real-life harbor on which New Yokosuka Harbor in the first game is modeled. True to its depiction in the game, it can be reached by a short ride from the bus stop near Dobuita Street. This post contains photos that highlight how close certain features of the real-life location still match today with the game's 1986 version.

Current-day Nagaura Port

Ryo admires New Yokosuka Harbor
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Thursday, December 14, 2023

Two Pre-Release Screenshots of Langhuishan Village in Shenmue 2 | Analysis

Today we will examine two early-development screenshots of Ryo's arrival in Guilin from a Japanese magazine from the time of Shenmue II's development, showcasing the charming riverside village of Langhuishan.

Accompany an article about Shenmue in Japan's Famitsu DC magazine in February 2001, these images offer a fascinating glimpse into how its design changed during the game's development.

Langhuishan (Feb 2001 image 1)

Langhuishan (Feb 2001 image 2)

Analysis of Langhuishan Image 1

The first image depicts Langhuishan's village square, overlooking the tranquil river. A comparison with the final release version of the game reveals some intriguing differences:

Langhuishan view towards river showing a stall in the early screenshot (top) that was relocated in the release version (bottom)

The background mountains and dock are almost unchanged in the release, but the pre-release image features an additional element: a vegetable stand beside the dock, facing away from the river.

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Wednesday, December 13, 2023

Poll Result: Patrons' Choice Topic for December 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: Translation of Next Issue (Vol. 10)"

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 a further edition of the Weekly AM2: Volume 10, published online on 15th February 2000.

Contents Preview:
  • Results announcement for the 3rd Network Ranking Tournament
  • Notice of the 4th Network Ranking Tournament
  • Messages from Winners of the 2nd Network Ranking Tournament (70-player Battle)
  • Strategy Guide for Shenmue Chapter 1: Yokosuka Confirmed for Release!
  • Shenmue Spoiler BBS (Bulletin Board System) Launched!
  • Opening of the AM2 Supporter Homepage
  • Shenmue Chapter 1: Yokosuka Director Okayasu to Feature on the "Super Mobile Anime & Game Master" Radio Show
  • i-mode Gallery Image #3
This edition will be translated in a future post on the blog.

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