Reviews: Shenmue

A Piece of Gaming History

Shenmue is a difficult game to explain these days. Its something truly rare in the industry today, and thats a labor of love. In a time before the gilded high budget blockbusters of gaming megastudios Sega's AM-2 spent 7 years and $70,000,000 producing a game because old hand Yu Sazuki (of Virtua Fighter fame) decided he had a story to tell. The result was one of most massively scoped and intricately detailed game worlds ever created. Employing the then massive resources of Sega, a small army of programmers, artists, voice actors (one for every character), motion capture marital artists, and even a symphony orchestra set out to make a sprawling epic of intrigue, love, and revenge. The biggest draw of the game is that it has non linearity to put anything else to shame. If games like Grand Theft Auto are sand boxes then Shenmue is the goddamn Sahara desert. You can walk around picking things up and opening drawers, buy tuna, talk to anybody, play video games, drive a forklift for money, use vending machines, or even raise a kitten. The game play is admittedly slow paced and hit or miss at times, especially the QTEs which some people find absolutely maddening. The same goes for the occasionally narmtastic voice acting on the English dub. But whatever your nitpicks its hard not to get sucked into Suzuki's amazing world.

If you are one of the die hard sega fans that still owns a dreamcast you owe it to yourself to check the first game out. If you have an xbox or xbox 360 you can get Shenmue 2 complete with a separate disk containing a plot synopsis movie of the original. Both will run you around five dollars US for a piece of gaming history.

Everybody else? Well check out the intro for a brief look into one of gaming's most ambitious projects ever.