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Video Game / Shenmue II

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Shenmue II is the 2001 sequel to Shenmue, produced and directed by Yu Suzuki and developed by Sega-AM2.

Released on the Sega Dreamcast toward the end of its life and then ported to the Microsoft Xbox the following year, the game follows Ryo Hazuki as he arrives in Hong Kong to find Lan Di and avenge his father's death. But first, he must seek out Lishao Tao, the martial arts master who can help him discover the whereabouts of Yuanda Zhu, the man who sent Ryo's father the letter warning him that Lan Di was coming for him. However, Ryo quickly discovers the dangers that lie within Hong Kong, and not everyone is willing to give him the answers he seeks. Will he find Lan Di and avenge his father's death, or will his desire for vengeance lead him down a dark path that will ultimately destroy him?

While the general gameplay was mostly similar to its predecessor, the sequel tried to be far more action-oriented than the slightly plodding original. In addition to the plot's pacing, the sequel also has much more combat, with fights being more common (both story-related and optional). As Ryo has no place to call home in the unfamiliar city of Hong Kong, he must find ways to make money in order to survive on the streets. Aside from a part-time job, Ryo can also engage in several Betting Minigames, engage in arm wrestling and participate in underground street fighting to earn money.

Developed in conjunction with the first game, as the developers were perhaps clear in the knowledge they wouldn't release as many games as planned, the second game attempted to cram much more of the story in. Shenmue II covers numerous chapters that take Ryo throughout Hong Kong, including Aberdeen, Wan Chai, and the dangerous walled city of Kowloon, followed by the beautiful mountain forests of Guilin. On Ryo's search he meets Joy, a rebellious biker who helps him survive on the streets, beautiful martial arts expert Xiuying, who tries to dissuade him from pursing his quest for revenge, and the charismatic gang leader Ren, all leading up to the destined encounter with the mysterious girl that appears in his dreams.

In Hong Kong, Ryo learns that Yuanda Zhu has gone missing, and that the Chiyoumen have hired the crime organization known as the Yellow Heads to seek out and capture him. Making several friends and enemies along the way, Ryo discovers that Zhu is hiding in Kowloon and must get to him before the Yellow Heads do. After a climatic battle against the gang, his quest takes him to the forests of Guilin, where he meets Shenhua Ling, who leads him to the place where the jade for the mirrors was mined. The second game left us with many unanswered questions and a cliffhanger, one that would be unresolved for several years.

The game had a troubled release, with the Dreamcast's NA version cancelled barely more than a month before the scheduled release date due to the console being discontinued and the subsequent deal with Microsoft, which had interest in bringing the game to their console. As a result, even national chains such as GameStop carried imported PAL versions of the game. It was eventually released for the original Useful Notes/Xbox in 2002 with an English dub. Due to development costs and disappointing sales, Sega expressed no plans in producing any further games in the series, and as years passed by with no sign of a third entry going forward, many fans lost hope that a sequel would ever come into fruition.

However, at E3 2015, 14 years after Shenmue II's original release, a Kickstarter was announced to fund Shenmue III, which reached its goal of $2 million in nine hours and broke the record for the fastest project to break one million dollars in fundingnote , as well as becoming the highest funded video game on the site at the time. Meanwhile, Sega announced in 2018 that the first two games would be packaged together on modern platforms in a Compilation Rerelease.

Shenmue II contains examples of the following tropes:

  • Actionized Sequel: While the mechanics haven't changed, the game throws more action at the players.
  • Actually, That's My Assistant: Ryo spends the entire Wude quest assuming that the male monk who sent him on it is Lishao Tao. He's not. It's actually Hong Xiuying.
  • Adventure Game: With a vastly larger world to explore than the previous game. Many quarters of Wan Chai are roughly the size that the main business district Dobuita was back in Yokosuka.
  • Aliens Speaking English: Although the game moved to Hong Kong and Southern China, apparently everyone speaks in Japanese/English that Ryo can understand. This is acceptable break from the development's standpoint, but the weird thing is, this ignores the fact that Ryo couldn't speak or read Chinese at all in the first Shenmue, let alone Cantonese used in those regions.
  • Anachronism Stew: Like the original, there are other references to franchises that didn't exist yet in 1986, such as Sonic the Hedgehog or even Virtual-ON.
  • Anti-Frustration Features: Quite a lot has been done to make for a smoother and more straightforward experience compared to the original:
    • Looking for a place and don't know where it's at? Ask around and you'll find some people who will guide you there, and you'll begin to follow them. You can also cancel out of it if you like.
    • Can't figure out how to perform a new move and don't have a Dreamcast VMU? Eventually you'll get a Command QTE prompt showing you the proper input.
    • Not good at QTEs or combat and having a hard time catching Wong? You can hunt him down and have a do-over, but fail enough times and he'll eventually stop running and cooperate.
    • Although you can still save the game wherever you're spending the night, you can now save wherever you want, whenever you want (provided you're in free mode), allowing for Save Scumming.
    • You are no longer forced to fart around until scheduled events take place, and can simply choose to wait and speed through the idle timenote . You can also re-visit important locations instantly via quick-travel should you run out of day in the middle of a task. Both are completely optional for those who'd rather take their time and explore.
    • Opponents in Free Battle mode now have a visible health meter, helping you figure out which moves work best and cutting out the "Why Won't You Die?!" moments from the last game's lengthy boss battles.
    • Although Joy lands you a job at the very beginning of the game, you're not required to keep working there as with the previous game. It's more of a volunteer effort, allowing you to work whenever you want, or you can look for other means of gaining money as mentioned below.
    • The game introduces countless ways of gaining money, such as numerous gambling games, partaking in a short job, selling your gacha toys, or participating in street fighting events in Kowloon. A much wider variety than the first game, where you had only Ryo's ¥500 daily allowance and a little extra from his savings account to tide you over until he got a job in Act 3note .
    • In the section of the Yellow Head building where you're given a short time to find the watchman's room, the wrong rooms will be marked after you visit them. They'll remain marked if you run out of time and have to do it again.
    • Don't feel like chatting with Shenhua in Guilin? Most of the time you're given the option to simply move onto the next area.
  • Artistic License – Geography: The Yellow Head Building in Kowloon, located right in the middle of the city, is by far the tallest building around at 40 floors tall, with the top level affording a dominating view of the rest of the city below. Except that back when the real-world Kowloon Walled City was still standing, despite massive expansion of the structures within in the 20th century, no one ever dared to build anything more than 14 storeys tall because of the very real hazard represented by low-flying aircraft either on approach to land on Runway 13, or on their climb-out after taking off from Runway 31 at the nearby Kai Tak Airport, as the entire complex was directly under the flight path for said aircraft. This meant that much of the skyline's elevation was fairly uniform.
  • As Long as It Sounds Foreign: In Japanese and English audio tracks, when Joy picks up Ryo after his first night at the Come Over Guest House, she asks him something in Chinese which he doesn't understand. The subtitles for this phrase are also in Chinese, leaving many players just as confused. While the subtitles translate roughly as "Have a good dream?", those who know the language claim the phrase being spoken isn't Chinese but likely gibberish.
  • Back-to-Back Badasses: Ryo and Ren eventually reach this point as they fight their way through Hong Kong.
  • Bag of Spilling: Ryo permanently loses any money he had before a very early event due to being mugged and the thieves lost it all on gambling. Thankfully, they weren't interested in the Mirror or any collectibles brought from Japan or bought from the local market stands.
  • Betting Mini-Game: Even more than in the original, and this time, you actually get to keep your winnings in most of the games.
  • Beware the Silly Ones: In Hong Kong, you'll likely to run into Barry Jones, a Jamaican with a hilariously poor understanding of Japanese people, speaks in Gratuitous English in the original dub, and has funny mannerisms reminiscent of Tom from the first game. He may seem like a joke even when you challenge him at darts, but as pointed out below, he's by far the most difficult darts opponent in the game.
  • Big Bad: Dou Niu is the biggest threat who tries to kill Ryo several times, he's the leader of the gang known as the Yellow Heads that bully the residents of Hong Kong and the one who is housing Lan Di. He serves as the final boss.
  • Blood Sport: In one of the many dilapidated buildings in Kowloon, Ryo witnesses a vicious street fighting ring where losers are thrown from the ring and fall several stories to their deaths, with spectators cheering on the brutality from a distance. Ryo is clearly disgusted by what he sees.
  • Book Ends: The opening demos for the first and second game has Shenhua recite a poem about her destined encounter with a man from the east and the journey they must embark on together. At the end of the game, upon discovering the giant Dragon and Phoenix mirrors with Ryo, she recites the same poem to him, realizing he's the man spoken of in the legend, and that their journey together has only just begun.
  • Callback: Being the second part of an ongoing story, many events and characters from the first chapter can be brought up. This is most apparent when Ryo travels with Shenhua and can bring up Nozomi, the forklift job, and more. And poor Fangmei, each time Ryo sees her he can't help but wonder how the little kitten at the shrine is doing.
  • Cash Gate: Introduces quite a few. One character early on wants money before telling Ryo where Lishao Tao is located, but can be tricked into giving the information without paying. Later on, Ryo will need $500 to meet Ren, and will need more in Kowloon to face each of the three street fighters needed to gain entry into the Yellow Head Building.
  • Chained Heat: Ren and Ryo play this trope to the letter when they first hit Kowloon, Toilet Humor included.
  • Chase Scene: Plenty, and usually in the form of QTE sequences. A non-QTE variant in Aberdeen happens without warning, requiring the player to chase down one member of the Heavens on foot. The ones in Kowloon switch it up, which has Ryo and Ren running away from the Yellow Heads.
  • Chekhov's Skill: The Counter Elbow Strike, which Xiuying taught Ryo before his departure to Kowloon, is used as a Finishing Blow against Dou Niu.
  • Cliffhanger: The game ends with one, which went unresolved for over 15 years.
  • Climax Boss: Dou Niu serves as the Final Boss, though there's another disc of denouement.
  • Continuing is Painful: Normally Death Is a Slap on the Wrist, but there are a few cases where screwing up can set you back quite a ways: Fall off the planks in the Ghost Hall building and you have to start all over again from the first floor (you can thankfully use Save Scumming to mitigate this), while missing any of the four Command QTEs at the end of Ryo's showdown with Dou Niu forces you to start the entire fight over from scratch (no such loophole with this one). There's also a brief segment in Guilin where you have to walk carefully across a few narrow stone walkways, and if you fall to your doom, the game puts you back at the very beginning of it. Saving is also disabled in this section.
  • Cosmic Keystone: Apparently there are two mirrors, the Dragon mirror and the Phoenix mirror, which, when together, grant their holder unbelievable power. Some of their power is finally seen in the cliffhanger ending.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Xiuying, whose skills may be on par with Lan Di's, is pretty much this trope personified. Any encounter against Dou Niu will be also this against the player until the Final Battle.
  • Cut and Paste Environments: Apparent in Kowloon where most of the floors in each building look similar to each other, as well as Guilin.
  • Dénouement: The entire final disc is a combination denouement and Sequel Hook, with Ryo and Shenhua finally meeting.
  • Developer's Foresight: Players are given the option not to pay for each night spent at the Come Over Guest House, though the snaky landlord will always get on them for it. Since this doesn't prevent Ryo from continuing his quest, many players completed the game boasting that they never paid for a single night without consequence. What they didn't realize was that once the three street fighters in Kowloon are defeated, which earns Ryo a ton of money, some of it will be missing the next day. If players open their notebook, an entry reveals that Ryo gave Joy whatever money he owed to pay off the bill.
  • Distressed Dude: Ryo finally meets Yuanda Zhu in Kowloon, but their meeting is short-lived as he is immediately kidnapped by the Yellow Heads. It's up to Ryo and his friends to save him before it's too late.
  • Door Judo: Ren hilariously does this to himself due to his impatience with an elevator, and ends up falling inside and hurting himself.
  • Dub Name Change: For Cool Z, who was named "Cool J" in the original game. It was likely changed to avoid any potential legal issues with LL Cool J.
  • Earn Your Bad Ending: Getting a bad ending in this game (wherein Lan Di tracks down and kills Ryo and Shenhua) is even more difficult than the first, as the time limit for it to trigger is even more extensive. The default starting date for the game (if not importing a save from the first game) is February 23rd, but with an imported save from the first game that was beaten quickly, it's possible to start as early as January 6th. The last day before the time limit is July 31st, making it possible for over half a year of in-game time to pass before you run out of time, with a warning vision from Shenhua when there is 1 month left. As in the first game, there is a certain QTE (Zhangyu Barbershop) which can be failed repeatedly to advance through the days faster, but would take even longer.
  • Easter Egg:
    • It's easy to miss as he doesn't appear at all times, but in the Yan Tin Apartments, Ryo can stumble upon Guangyan Wang, who happens to be the twin brother of Guangji Wang from the Ajiichi Restaurant in Yokosuka. If you're playing the Xbox version or the 2018 port, you'll need his picture to unlock a comic.
    • When Ryo listens to cassette tapes to learn of Zhu's whereabouts, he can uncover a secret recorded conversation between Joy and Guizhang at the very end of it.
    • Also in Kowloon, Ryo is often woken up by other characters, such as Joy and Cool Z. Before he goes to the Yellow Head building, a random cutscene can be triggered in which Ren is woken up by Ryo instead.
  • First-Name Basis: When Fangmei is first introduced, she refers to Ryo as "Hazuki-san". In order to complete the birthday sidequest and unlock a scene where she confesses her love for Ryo, he needs to have numerous conversations with her until she starts referring to him as "Ryo-san", indicating a growth of sorts in their relationship.
  • Fish out of Water: A central part of the game now that Ryo has left Japan and has traveled to Hong Kong, he must learn to adapt and survive in a world that's very unfamiliar to him, in contrast to the Close-Knit Community seen in the first game. Fortunately, he quickly gains some new friends and allies to help him on his journey.
  • Flashback: Unlike the previous game, where flashbacks were seen only through Ryo's eyes, flashbacks from other characters are also shown. Xiuying's shows her past with her brother, and Shenhua's reveal her connection to the Shenmue tree.
    • However, Shenhua's first flashback reveals one unusual detail: it takes place in an entirely different time period, compared to her second flashback as a child which is clearly more recent.
  • Fun with Subtitles: If Ryo acquires a duck and shows it off to Izumi, the subtitles translate what the duck is saying. Hilariously, it calls Izumi a babe and excitedly boasts that it's "gonna kick some ass".
  • Game Within a Game: Most mini-games from the previous game return, including Space Harrier and Hang-On, and OutRun and After Burner II are introduced.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: In the Yellow Head Building, Ryo can meet his end at the hands of Yuan's chainsaw by failing certain QTEs. The only thing shown is Yuan hurling the chainsaw as the screen goes white, accompanied by a loud thud and Ryo yelling offscreen.
  • Guide Dang It!: Players will definitely need one if they want to see all of the game's bonus scenes and events, and can easily miss Fangmei's Birthday, the Duck Race sidequests, and the sole location of the Hang-On arcade machine.note 
  • Halfway Plot Switch: This considers that the game contains Chapter 3, 4 and 5 of the series. (The plot switches again in Guilin but only the epilogue)
    • The first half, is based mostly in Wan Chai and Aberdeen and resolves around Ryo's training with Master Lishao Tao.
    • The second half, mostly on the largest Disc 3, focuses on his hunt for Yuanda Zhu in the seedier Kowloon and the war between the Yellow Heads and the Heavens, here the deuteragonist switches from Xuying to Ren.
  • Hopeless Boss Fight: Unlike the first game's subversion, the sequel plays it straight when Ryo takes on the entire Heavens gang alone and in the first fight against Dou Niu, where the screen begins to fade after a certain amount of time. Xiuying takes this trope to new levels.
  • Hustling the Mark: In Aberdeen and Wan Chai, you can play darts against a Jamaican guy for a bit of money. He throws with his left hand and is pretty easy to beat. If you win twice in a row you can play for high amounts of money and then he will get serious. His theme music changes, he starts throwing the darts with his right hand and will ultimately become an incredibly tough, almost unbeatable opponent.
  • Interface Spoiler: The Secret Snapshot sidequest present in the Xbox and HD Remaster versions asks you to take screenshots of many different characters from all throughout the game to unlock extra image galleries. You can access the full list of required characters as soon as you start the game, along with some handy thumbnail shots to help you identify said characters. The dodgy part lies in that this includes several plot important characters who you won't meet until significantly later on in the story as well as Lan Di's One-Scene Wonder appearance. Though it's worth noting that this feature also includes a partial aversion with the omission of Yuanda Zhu, whom you spend the middle third of the game searching for during a sequence wherein your own ignorance of what he looks like adds to the mystique.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: When Ryo first encounters the street fighter Chunyan, he watches as she kills her opponent for the crowd's entertainment, and her brother and bookie Caiming shows no concern for anyone who dies. During their fight, Ryo ends up throwing her off the ring, and while she's able to hang on, the crowd chants for Ryo to finish her off to Caiming's horror. Ryo instead lifts her up and throws her back in the ring, leaving both Chunyan and Caiming shocked at the mercy shown to them.
  • Left Hanging: Shenmue II ended with a cliffhanger that hadn't been addressed in well over ten years, but several fans never gave up hope. Come 2015 with the announcement of Shenmue III, this is no longer the case.
  • Long Song, Short Scene: Joy's theme song is nearly three and a half minutes long, with a nice guitar solo halfway through it. Most scenes featuring it don't last long enough to hear it.
  • Motion Blur: Used extensively in the Xbox version during fights and some QTE sequences. It was removed in the 2018 re-release.
  • Noodle Incident:
    • In the beginning of the game, Ryo meets up with a woman named Jiangyu and her daughter Xiaomei, who thank him for when the girl was scared on the boat to Hong Kong. An unlockable comic in the Xbox version, released a year later, would reveal that Chai (the Final Boss of the previous game) had snuck onto the boat and took Xiaomei hostage to lure Ryo out to fight him once more, only to be knocked into the water again. This scenario is the second chapter in the series, and was originally intended to be playable before getting axed on the cutting room floor.
    • When Ryo is taken under Xiuying's wing, players can bring up certain subjects when talking with Fangmei, such as how dinner had tasted the previous night or the serious look she has when she cooks. In the game itself, we never see Fangmei cook and there's no option for Ryo to spend his nights eating dinner with her and Xiuying.
  • NPC Scheduling: Downplayed from the first installment. Shops still keep hours and important characters still have times and places where they can be found, but random NPCs now function more like they do in most other games as background "filler" characters.
  • Obfuscating Disability: In Kowloon, Ryo is challenged to fight a man in a dark room. His opponent turns out to be the same blind elderly man he met earlier, who reveals he's not even blind at all, but pretended to be in order to hone his remaining senses in his martial arts training.
  • Old Save Bonus: Shenmue II lets you import data from Shenmue and continue the game with the money, stats, and collectibles that you earned on the first game (although Ryo is robbed at the start of Shenmue II, meaning that unless you spend it all on figurines and zippos beforehand, the money you earned in the original Shenmue is moot). Unfortunately this only works for versions from the same region note . And since Americans never got the Dreamcast version of II and you obviously can't port your Chapter I save to your Xbox, this feature was basically missing for North American gamers until the 2018 HD re-release.
  • Paper Tiger: Cool Z looks large and intimidating, but once you take down Sam and Larry and put him in a corner, he'll run as far as he can. When Ryo has to chase one of the Heavens down, chasing Sam or Larry puts you in a fight against them, but corner Cool Z and he'll try to make another run for it, but not without his precious boombox.
  • Permanently Missable Content:
    • Certain cutscenes and side events, some of which earn you photos, items or notebook entries, as well as arcade games, can only be unlocked during specific time frames in Ryo's quest, and can't be accessed past certain points in the story. Naturally, events taking place in Aberdeen and Wan Chai are lost once Ryo's gone to Kowloon, and likewise with Guilin.
    • In the Xbox and 2018 re-release versions, in order to unlock hidden comics, Ryo must find certain characters and take pictures of them. If you head to a new city (Kowloon or Guilin) before getting everyone else previously, you won't be able to go back and get their photo, requiring a new save file if you want to unlock the comics.
  • Plummet Perspective: The game treats you to this whenever Ryo's walking across a plank or narrow walkway and a QTE pops up as he loses his balance.
  • Police Are Useless: Averted. When listening to the tapes in Kowloon, one of the recordings reveals that Ryo's violent activity in Aberdeen and Wan Chai hasn't gone unnoticed by the police.
  • Press X to Die: Ryo meets up with Zhangyu, a barber offering information on one of the four Wude, which any martial artist should know. He trims Ryo's hair, and suddenly asks you to stay calm. He puts a razor to Ryo's throat and a Quick Time Event appears. Pressing the button will cause Ryo to free himself. This is exactly the wrong thing to do, as the third Wude, DAN, means to "Be brave and stay calm to make the right decisions." Do this, and you'll have to wait the next day to try again.
  • Press X to Not Die: Much like the previous game, except QTE events will now utilize the X and Y buttons as well. The game also introduces the Command QTE, which shows a sequence of buttons that must be pressed in the right order in a short time. It will also pop up if the player cannot figure out the command when being taught a move. However, the game also sneaks in a subversion as mentioned above.
  • Previously on…: The Dreamcast and Xbox versions include a digest video that covers the events of the previous game, and it's almost 15 minutes long.
  • Product Placement: Sapporo beer signs show up in Hong Kong, and Zippo-brand cigarette lighters appear as collectibles for you to buy. The latter has an in-game advantage: authentic Zippos can be sold back for more money compared to knockoffs, so buying up plenty of them is a good way to keep a lot of your cash near the start of the game, when Ryo's pack is stolen. The HD rerelease cuts out both brand logos, but the real Zippos can still be spotted by the "Made in the U.S.A. Bradford, PA." stamp on the bottom.
  • Racing Minigame: The hidden Duck Race in Wan Chai. Once unlocked, Ryo can place a bet on a duck to win a race. He can also capture a duck of his own to use, which the player controls during the race.
  • Real-Place Background: Man Mo Temple, although its location in the game deviates from Real Life, the inside of the building is quite a faithful representation. Kowloon is also clearly based on the former walled city.
  • The Reveal: Yuanda Zhu reveals that Lan Di killed Ryo's father because he believes Iwao killed his own father Sunming Zhao, revealing that Ryo could become trapped in a Vicious Cycle if he succeeds in his own quest for vengeance. He also reveals that both Dragon and Phoenix mirrors serve as a map to a great treasure, but only together.
  • Ring Out: Many of the game's numerous street fights can be won or lost this way. In one particular case, it's fatal.
  • Rooftop Confrontation: The Final Battle of the game happens here.
  • Samus Is a Girl: Ryo is thrown to discover that the elder kung fu master he came to find is Xiuying Hong, the stoic, beautiful young woman whom he'd previously met at the Man Mo temple. In his defense, Ryo was expecting a man because he was told to meet with the more masculine-sounding "Lishao Tao", which is her pseudonym used by other masters.
  • Scenery Gorn: Many buildings in Kowloon are on the brink of collapse, as many floors inside the buildings have completely fallen apart, making it one of the more dangerous areas in the game. Many ancient structures in the outside areas aren't faring much better.
  • Scenery Porn: One of the most detailed and best looking games on the Dreamcast. Aberdeen and Wan Chai, in both the civilized and broken down areas, are filled with gorgeous color at night. The dilapidated walled city of Kowloon is a marvel to behold even with the state its in, and Guilin forest couldn't be more gorgeous and magical than what Yu Suzuki's team achieved after their trip to China.
  • Sequel Escalation: The Slice of Life elements are still present, but the scope of Ryo's journey is much grander and the tone more adventurous this time out. There are also more places to see, more things to do, more people to meet, and loads more ass to kick compared to the first game. Also, there was only one way to die in the original game, whereas the sequel has multiple action sequences with lethal consequences for failure.
  • She's a Man in Japan: Infamously, Dou Niu's Dragon Yuan was a male in the Japanese version of the game, and was changed to a female when the game was localized for other regions. The Dreamcast PAL release, which retained the Japanese dub, even replaced Yuan's original actor with an actress and removed all male references. The changes carried onto the Xbox version's English dub.
  • Ship Tease: Quite a bit of it. The game features a much larger female cast, and almost all the women Ryo encounters show attraction to him on some level.
  • Shout-Out: The street fighters Rod Stunt, Greg More, Chunyan Xu and Master Baihu share the same moveset of Virtua Fighter characters Jeffry, Wolf, Sarah and Lau respectively. A Superboss also shares Sarah's moveset. Doubles as a Mythology Gag since Shenmue began development as a spinoff of Virtua Fighter.
  • Sick Captive Scam: When Ryo and Ren are captured in Kowloon, they pull this on the cell guard. Since Ryo can't reveal any info on Yuanda Zhu to the Yellow Heads if he's dead, the guard opens up and they knock him out.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: The cheery Tomato convenience store theme plays when you're fighting the Hong Kong store clerk Izumi in a martial arts tournament, who is likely destroying you.
  • Stalking Mission: One section has Ryo and Ren follow Yuan throughout Kowloon to discover where Zhu's associate is being held, and must maintain their distance.
  • Stealth-Based Mission: One section in the Yellow Head building involves running through a path of flickering lights to avoid being seen by enemies. Being caught under a lit light will prompt a free battle, which can otherwise be avoided if Ryo gets through undetected.
  • Step into the Blinding Fight: In Kowloon, Ryo is mysteriously invited to a dark room to fight an opponent he can't see. He's challenged to fight them without relying on sight. Subverted in the gameplay, where the opponent can slightly be seen but only within close range.
  • Strong Family Resemblance: On the third floor of the Yin Tan Apartments, Ryo can meet a man who looks exactly like Wang-san of Ajiichi back of Yokosuka. It turns out to be his older twin brother, Guangyan. Ryo is completely wide-eyed the whole time, surprised how identical they look.
  • Superboss: A sidequest in Wan Chai allows Ryo to participate in a fighting contest where he can challenge fellow martial artist Eileen Edelweiss, and defeating her allows a special match against a surprise opponent. These opponents are not to be underestimated.
  • There Is Only One Bed: When Xiuying takes Ryo under her wing, she offers her apartment as a place for him to stay (even though Joy already set him up at the Come Over Guest House). A single-room apartment, the first thing he notices is that there's only one bed and nervously points it out. She tells him he'll be sleeping on the couch instead, to his relief.
  • Tightrope Walking: Usually in the form of long wooden planks in high areas. Some instances require Ryo to get on these to get from one point to another without losing his balance and falling, usually in the form of a QTE sequence. One instance in Guilin has Ryo walk on a very narrow rock formation, and it's up to the player to move as straight as they possibly can.
  • Timed Mission:
    • Like the first game, the player is given a set amount of time to beat the game before Lan Di's trail goes cold, which comes at the very end of June (a new game starts at the end of February).
    • Most of the street fighting matches are timed, but the rules differ between succeeding before time runs out or surviving until the timer hits zero.
    • One particular instance in the Yellow Head Building has Ryo trying to hunt down the floor's elevator key before the guards go their rounds on him.
    • Another exists in Guilin where Ryo has to find the path out of the forest before sundown occurs.
    • When Ryo's looking for firewood with Shenhua, he's given a limited time to do so. She'll help out if you take too long.
  • Time-Passes Montage: One occurs while Ryo and Ren listen to the wiretapper's entire collection of audio tapes, save for the last one. Enjoy listening to it for clues!
  • Title Drop: When Ryo reaches Shenhua's house, she finally reveals what "Shenmue" actually is. It's the name of the large tree that sits outside her house. Not only is Shenhua named after the flower that grows on it, it's implied that the tree possesses powerful spiritual energy that has protected her all her life.
  • Traveling at the Speed of Plot: Occurs inside the Yellow Head Building, where the clock runs at a significantly slower pace. It's not shown on the screen when you reach the basement of the Big Ox Building, and the loading screen completely does away with it upon reaching the 40th floor. Most players will reach the basement around 1:00 p.m. to fight against a certain opponent, but no matter how long the fight takes, you'll always arrive at the 40th floor at about 5:30 p.m. for the climatic Rooftop Confrontation at sunset.
  • Unexpectedly Realistic Gameplay: The Yellow Head Building is shown to be falling apart from the inside, and a heavy guy like Dou Niu runs rampant throughout the building. A possible outcome of a chase scene has him attempt to stomp on Ryo, only for his weight to break through the floor, sending him falling and becoming stuck on the floor below.
  • Victory Is Boring: When Baihu is introduced, he's shown making quick work of a common street fighter and is bored at the outcome.
  • Villain: Exit, Stage Left: After witnessing the final fight between Ryo and Dou Niu from high above, despite what he's shown to be capable of, Lan Di instead flees and departs from Kowloon.
  • Wacky Wayside Tribe: The fight with Master Baihu. He's a pale, garishly-dressed, but powerful warrior who fights in the basement of the Big Ox building, has no readily apparent role in the Yellow Heads or the Chiyoumen, and kidnapped Joy, so Ryo would be forced to fight him.
  • Wild Magic: Towards the end of the game, magic forces begin to engage into the history, which hints the series was going to do a turn for the supernatural.
  • Would Hit a Girl: The game introduces Free Battle female combatants partaking in fighting competitions and street fighting. Outside Japan story-wise, Yuan is hit with this hard, though not undeserving of it.
  • Wretched Hive: Subverted with Kowloon. Several characters warn Ryo how dangerous it is before he goes there. When he does, several buildings are shown to be falling apart, fighting contests and gambling are rampant, and the whole place is run by the Yellow Head gang. In spite of that, the city is shown to be filled with several hardworking people trying to get by and make a living, much like it had been described in real life.
  • Yet Another Stupid Death: Immediately after leaving the sewers under the Yellow Head building, there's a single, conspicuous door in front of the locked elevators. Opening the door reveals Dou Niu's big, fat ass sitting behind it, then his goons walk in behind you and Ren and a beatdown ensues.