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  • Alternative Character Interpretation: Ryo and his perceived lack of attraction to women, now that Nozomi is in Canada and the game introduces several female characters that are clearly attracted to him, but he shows no interest in them. Is Ryo really that dense and oblivious to their attraction toward him? Is he so consumed by his quest that the affection of beautiful girls mean little to him? Does he keep them at a distance as not to endanger them? Is he still looking for sailors? Is he looking for anyone? Or is he holding out for Nozomi once he gets things settled with Lan Di?
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  • Author's Saving Throw: The game drew some criticism for censoring Yuan in the international versions by having him voiced by a woman and replacing all male references with female ones. Not only is Yuan given back his original Japanese male voice in the HD Remaster, but the subtitles are altered to refer to him as a man when playing with Japanese audio.
  • Awesome Music: Much like the previous game. Has its own page.
  • Breather Level: Guilin. After a tense and difficult journey to the top of the Yellow Head Building and a final showdown against Dou Niu, Guilin serves as a relaxing end to the game filled with beautiful scenery and music, and danger is minimal. Even the sound effects for some of the QTEs reflect this. We are also finally introduced to the series Deuteragonist Shenhua Ling, whom players can converse with extensively, and are also given the chance to reflect on past events and characters from both games.
  • Broken Base:
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    • Guilin, the final location in the game, is either considered a calm and relaxing Breather Level after a long and arduous journey through the Yellow Head Building that introduces the second main character, Shenhua Ling, or a Disappointing Last Level filled with dialogue and Cut-and-Paste Environments.
    • The ending of Shenmue II indicates that the series would take a turn toward fantasy and the supernatural, and trailers for the cancelled Shenmue Online seemed to imply this as well. Players who liked Shenmue for its emphasis on realism seemed to be turned off by this possible new direction, although others are curious how Shenhua's role impacts the story, given her yet-to-be-explained powers, the prophecy, as well as how the goals of the Chiyoumen fit in. Since Shenmue III's announcement, Suzuki has said that the game would still emphasize on realism.
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    • Interviews with Suzuki before the third game was officially announced seemed to indicate that Ryo would eventually abandon his quest for revenge against Lan Di. This disappointed some players, especially those who spent hours powering up their moves in both games to prepare themselves for what was expected to be an epic showdown to avenge Ryo's father, and feel it was for nothing. Others trust in Suzuki's vision and are still eager to see how the story will continue to play out, while some enjoy the idea that Ryo's journey will allow him to see the futility of revenge, in line with the values Xiuying was trying to teach him.
    • The Xbox version of the game. Despite slightly improved graphics, faster loading times and unlockable side story comics, many fans feel that it fares unfavorably against the original Dreamcast release, a large part due to the Dreamcast PAL version retaining the original Japanese dub instead of the divisive English voice overs. Although some have come to prefer the Xbox version for fixing performance issues and adding an English dub consistent with the previous game, with Corey Marshall reprising his role as Ryo. According to Peter Moore, the English dub was only made possible due to Microsoft publishing the game.
    • For the Compilation Re-release, some fans are disappointed that the XBox version of the game was used as opposed to the Dreamcast original for a variety of reasons, but there are those who prefer the XBox version for its slightly improved graphics and better performance. According to the developers for the port, the XBox version was used as no source code for the Dreamcast libraries was made available to them (perhaps not coincidentally, the HD port of this game is significantly less buggy than the port of Shenmue I).
  • Disappointing Last Level: The last section of the game in Guilin. While it is beautiful and rich in atmosphere, there is nothing to do there aside from moving on with the plot, and all of the other sidequests and locations in the game are inaccessible. The fact that the different parts of the woods are so similar doesn't help matters either.
  • Epileptic Trees: Xiuying's missing brother Ziming Hong is subject to a lot of speculation. Did he join the Chiyoumen? Is he one of their leaders? Is he actually Lan Di? If not, are they related somehow? Fans speculated for a year until the XBox version of the game, which included never-before-seen official comics that revealed Ziming is involved with the Chiyoumen, but Jossed the idea that he and Lan Di were one and the same.
  • Even Better Sequel: Fans of the original adored the sequel. With its streamlined mechanics, better pacing, ability to save anywhere... the changes are slight but make for a far better experience. Shenmue II was considered by those lucky few who actually played it to be a major improvement over the already very impressive original- it was much longer, much faster-paced, the combat system had been refined and deepened, the already stunning graphics were polished to the absolute best the Dreamcast was physically capable of, the Hong Kong setting was considered to be much more interesting than Yokosuka and the plot was much more exciting and engaging.
  • Evil Is Sexy: Chunyan Xu, one of the street fighters in Kowloon. Easy on the eyes, shows Absolute Cleavage, and even though she wears skin-tight pants, She's Got Legs.
  • Game-Breaker: The "Big or Small" game has some fairly generous odds, paying out 2x for Big or Small (over 12 or under 9), 4x for Zhou Zhan (between 9 and 12), or 8x for Chow (three numbers in sequence), and the game table under Warehouse 10 allows you to wager up to $500 per play. Combine this with the fact that you can use Save Scumming, and earning money is suddenly no longer a concern for the rest of the game. You can do this as soon as Joy sets you up with a job and use that money to win a little more at the various gambling sites in Fortune's Pier.
  • Heartwarming Moments:
    • By completing Fangmei's birthday subquest, once Ryo has to depart to Kowloon, she'll confess her love to him. Even if he can't reciprocate her feelings due to her age, it's rather cute all the same. After beating the Kowloon chapter, a bonus cutscene will play where he visits Xiuying's apartment and sees Fangmei, who is still wearing the gift he got for her and is relieved that he came back safely. He tells her goodbye before departing for Guilin.
    • A small moment, but when Ryo kicks down the debris, finally blocking Yuan from chasing them with a chainsaw, he and Ren high-five. Not only is it a moment of genuine bonding between the Fire-Forged Friends, but it's one of the few times where Ryo shows genuine happiness about an accomplishment. Even better, Ryo is the one raises his hand for the high-five.
    • While many of the conversations with Shenhua are nice to listen to, the ones in the cave are particularly nice as Ryo fondly tells her about the people who helped him in the previous chapters, such as Xiuying, Nozomi, Tom, Guizhang and even Goro. Even though he's hesitant to talk about his feelings for Nozomi, Shenhua can tell he's hiding something.
  • Memetic Mutation: "Would you like to play a game of Lucky Hit?"
  • Moe: Fangmei and Izumi. And Nozomi again if Ryo brings her up, Leitmotif included!
  • Narm:
    • The cover of Shenmue II for the Xbox tries to capture the look of an epic movie poster, but doesn't quite hit the mark.
    • The English voice acting was also very poorly received, much more than the original. Not that it's without its defenders. Ren, in particular, completely lacks the smooth gravitas of his Japanese VO, with his English actor going with a boisterous, shouty performance not unlike Yosemite Sam.
    • Getting killed by Yuan's chainsaw is not nearly as horrifying as one would think, even with a 13+ rating: Yuan either swings or throws the chainsaw at an off-screen Ryo, who screams with an obvious reverb effect as the screen turns white (red in the Japanese version). And the sound of the chainsaw hitting him? A thud.
  • Nausea Fuel: In the Yellow Head Building, after Ryo delivers a beatdown to Yuan and Ren helps secure them in an elevator, then he gets an idea and drenches Yuan in part-liquid trash.
  • Never Live It Down: For Peter Moore, the COO of Sega of America at the time of the game's release in 2001, who claimed responsibility for cancelling the Dreamcast version of the game in North America. While he addressed an apology for the backlash, it's widely believed that moving Shenmue II to the XBox was done for him to gain a position within Microsoft, as he left Sega to join them following the XBox release of the game. For years Moore was a hated figure in the fandom, as he once reported that he was told by an airport TSA security agent, "I don't need to see your passport. You're the asshole that gave away Shenmue to Xbox." It also didn't help that he claimed in an interview years later that he was the one responsible for pulling the plug on the Dreamcast console altogether, turning Sega into a third party developer, although he claims Sega of Japan put him in the awkward position to make the call.
  • Nightmare Fuel:
    • The Ghost Hall building in Kowloon. You have to reach the top of the dilapidated building, and most of the floors are completely destroyed. The only way to the top is to cross the wooden planks, and any wrong move will result in Ryo falling to his guaranteed death. The music here is incredibly spooky, too.
    • In the Black Heaven building in Kowloon, Ryo must challenge the street fighter Chunyan, but the fight takes place on an isolated platform where falling off the ring means death. Anyone who loses is also thrown to their death amid the death chants of the crowd. Ryo witnesses this when he first arrives, and there's no remorse on Chunyan's face after she sends her opponent falling to his death; she has a devious smirk on her face instead.
    • Being chased by Yuan in the Yellow Head building, who's armed with a chainsaw. The music only drives in the urgency of how serious the situation is.
    • The otherwise peaceful Breather Level Guilin has one section that takes you across some narrow, winding stone walkways in the mountains, this time thousands of feet in the air, and again with QTEs you must input to keep Ryo from falling to his doom.
  • One-Scene Wonder:
    • Master Baihu, a mysterious street fighter with a very unique appearance and also practices the Tiger Swallow style. He puts up one of the more memorable fights in the game, gets taken down in an awesome QTE sequence, and honors his word to release Joy while asking for Ryo's name to remember him by. It's not clear what his true affiliations are, leading to all kinds of fan speculation whether he's with the Chiyoumen or the Yellow Heads.
    • One of the most memorable scenes in the game is toward the end of the Kowloon chapter, where Ryo finally runs into none other than Lan Di, who's hanging onto a helicopter ladder the entire time. He even observes the final battle from above before departing.
  • Polished Port: The XBox version has improved loading times and performance, and introduces some graphical enhancements not found in the Dreamcast original such as light blooming, water that looks more natural, and higher resolution textures for Ryo's jacket. It introduces a new snapshot feature that is also used to unlock supplemental material, and for fans of the original game's dub, it adds an English dub absent in the Dreamcast versions. Lastly, the entire game is now on one disc.
  • Scrappy Mechanic: Mostly invoked with Xiuying's training.
    • Airing out the books at Man Mo Temple was detested by many players, as the process is tedious, and attempting to get the job done faster comes with the risk of dropping them more often. Certain items, cutscenes and moves can be gained if they're done quickly with little error. At least the music is good.
    • Catching a leaf can be difficult for newcomers and requires patience, but attempting to catch three leaves consecutively ended up being frustrating for many. Mess up once and you have to start all over again.
    • The Duck races can be seen as this due to the random behavior of the ducks, as well as the controls if you race your own.
    • The features added to the XBox port were mostly seen as being completely unnecessary. Motion Blur was added to fights and QTE sequences, but was more distracting and made things difficult to see. A snapshot feature was added to unlock bonus lore content, although certain characters can be easily missed, and filters could be used to change the look of the game. The HD version removes the motion blur but retains the snapshot and filter system.
  • Shocking Moments:
    • Discovering who the master of Man Mo Temple is, and the fight that happens afterward. Despite taking down all of the Mad Angels and Chai in the previous game, Ryo is effortlessly beaten without getting a single hit in.
    • Dou Niu's introduction. You know something's wrong the moment he's first introduced, and you know something is really wrong the moment he stands up. Any moment you hear his theme begin to play in Kowloon also counts, because you know the Implacable Man is nearby.
    • When you infiltrate the Yellow Head's headquarters, The Chew Toy and resident Sissy Villain Yuan appears... armed with a chainsaw and chases you throughout the building with it! Even if you manage to escape, Yuan will still pop up later and try again. And again.
    • In the game's climax, the long-anticipated appearance of Lan Di, who observes the final battle while hanging from a helicopter ladder the whole time.
  • Signature Scene: The game has plenty.
    • The QTE battle in the White Dynasty Quarter, where Ryo goes from one end of the street to the other demolishing everyone in his way. Also ends on a fantastic Big Damn Heroes moment courtesy of Xiuying.
    • Ren has a stylish introduction where he reveals himself in a dark room, and once you deliver his payment, he immediately attacks you with a Command QTE.
    • The appearance of Lan Di in the climax. Everyone was waiting for this moment in the game, and how it ends has only left fans psyched for the moment we meet him again.
    • The game's cliffhanger ending, which has Ryo and Shenhua discovering a great secret in a large cave. As the years passed with no plans being announced for a continuation of Ryo's journey, for many fans this one scene marked the sad ending of the Shenmue saga, a story left incomplete, as well as an ambitious vision that paved the way for much of today's modern gaming. It's no wonder why fans were stoked when the third game was actually announced after so many years, and the fact that Ryo and Shenhua will finally get out of that damn cave.
  • Stoic Woobie: Xiuying. You can easily see why she's eager to take Ryo off the path of vengeance, but the look on her face when he goes off to Kowloon says a lot.
  • That One Attack: What really puts Izumi into That One Boss territory is her ultimate move, the Sakura Festival. The only way to avoid it is with a Command QTE that is easy to mess up, and can pop up at any given moment as she tries this several times throughout the fight. It can even pop up the very moment she fails to connect with a somersault kick, while she's still upside down in the air. It takes off a good chunk of health if she lands it, and you're pretty much done for if you have less than a third of health remaining. At least you get a neat finishing animation to your loss.
  • That One Boss:
    • Greg More, the wrestling street fighter that must be fought in Kowloon. Aside from his damaging throws, getting caught in one can easily get you disqualified by Ring Out.
    • The optional hidden fight against Izumi. No one expected the fight against her to arguably be the toughest in the game. Aside from carrying Sarah's moveset and being exceptionally fast, she has an attack that can only be countered with a Command QTE. See That One Attack above.
    • Barry Jones stands out for a lot of people as the most difficult darts player in the whole game, once he decides to play seriously.
  • That One Level:
    • One day after leaving Man Mo Temple in the morning, you need to visit the nearby Wise Men's Quarter to get some more information. That's all you need to do for this particular day, but for whatever reason, Ryo will refuse to leave the quarter and insist he's got more searching to do there. You have to spend the entire damn day farting around in a single section of Wan Chai that has no minigames, gambling, or any other time sinks until it gets late enough for him to retire for the night.
    • The dilapidated Ghost Hall Building in Kowloon. Ryo can only make it to the top by walking across planks in QTE sequences, and a single mistake will send him falling to his doom. Should the player succumb to their demise any time during this section, no matter how far they've gotten, they'll be sent back to the very first floor to do it all over again note . The timing for the QTEs also becomes more strict the farther you go, to the point where the only way to succeed on the top floor is to know exactly what buttons to press beforehand (and the camera oh-so helpfully points downward, so you can see just how far Ryo has to fall). And just to drive the nail in, just when you've conquered this and congratulations are in order, Ren reaches the top the same time you do, having obtained the key to the elevator you passed by on the first floor. Every player had the same expression Ryo did.
      • Even if you're not engaged in a QTE sequence, stepping too close to an edge will trigger a QTE prompt anyway. Miss that and it's back to the first floor for you!
  • That One Sidequest:
    • Fangmei's Birthday requires you to meet her and complete various objectives by March 3rd, and more than likely you'll be using a guide to know what to do and where. Although using a new save file (the only option for American gamers until 2018) forces players to rush through the first disc so they can meet her on Disc 2 with time to spare, it was also more convenient to use a new save as it starts you off on February 23rd, since the first game could be beaten in late December or early January.
    • Unlocking the hidden Duck Race minigame in Aberdeen, which has all kinds of hurdles that can be easy to miss if the player doesn't know about it beforehand. They must obtain a hidden Bronze Medal, trigger the Fangmei birthday quest to meet Eileen, meet Izumi, go to the Pine Arcade and defeat both girls to obtain the Silver Medal, and Izumi is That One Boss. Furthermore, if you want to go after the Gold Medal, Ryo has to obtain his own duck by catching a feather at Man Mo Temple, which appears if he catches several leaves at once, and use it to win the race. What most people probably don't realize is you have to race the duck many times in order to boost its stats, which you'll definitely need to do if you want to go the extra mile and beat the penguin.
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