Shenmue I and II, the saga that changed the history of videogames forever

"Keep friendsthose you loveclose to you"

Years later, perhaps too many in life, this is Shenmue's greatest teaching. When, 17 years ago, behind the smoke of a soft marlboro (and that blue halo that produced the look through it) I saw Ryo Hazuki rush to the aid of his dying father and I met the perfidious and resolute gaze of Lan Di I had already decided that this crime would not go unpunished. What I couldn't imagine was that soon revenge would become a detail and would have left room for wonder for a world as real as it is different from ours, a journey that (I am referring to the co-founders of ed) would have led in a few years to discover Japan and to breathe that area steeped in tradition, future and discipline that is typical of the Rising Sun.

Shenmue is, for the most part, an incommunicable experience: how to read Sheakspeare, hear Mozart, watch a Nolan film, recite a poem that makes our soul vibrate: we can say of these works that they have allowed the authors to win prizes, to end up in school books, but all in all the best recognition is that which gives our heart back.

In front of Shenume, the first Shenmue, we experienced the meaning of the Stendhal syndrome and how one can fall in love with the art of videogames (with all due respect to the former minister Calenda). In Shenmue everything is poetry, starting from the soundtrack passing through the love of detail and ending with the dynamics of the game: when you play the role of Ryo Hazuki you don't want to complete the story, you want to live that life, you want to be Ryo Hazuki. We loved Nozomi, we felt the warmth of his hug on the bike, we became friends with Ren, we also dreamed of Shenhua, we fantasized about the mirrors of the dragon and the phoenix, we practiced martial arts and we had fun with Space Harrier and Hang -On.

It would be impossible to retrace here the story of a videogame love unfortunately destined to oblivion but which only recently, with a crowdfunding record, has seen the possibility of a renewed success. This review, pending the release of the third highly anticipated chapter of Shenmue, scheduled for August 2019, after two postponements and a fundraiser already hypothesized by us years before the various crowfunding sites were launched, it certainly cannot treat the title as a new generation video game, it is not possible, indeed, to use the categories of distant videogame eras , even in the knowledge that the gaming world owes a lot to Shenmue.

It is in the perspective of a story from now by then that the review of the re-edition of the first and second chapter of Shenmue, which we enjoyed both in the original Dreamcast version (with various uploads and disc changes) and in the Xbox re-edition, will be drafted.

We are aware that Shenmue's insufficient commercial success (probably due to the public's misunderstanding towards the marvelous console of SEGA ed.) argues in the unfavorable sense to the supposed wonder and quality of the title, but it is allowed to remember that the history of art is full of authors who died in poverty; perhaps this for Yu Suzuki will never happen because unanimously recognized as one of the founding fathers of videogame art, but with the investment in Shenmue, he came close to danger.

The feeling with Shenmue I and II is mostly influenced by the gamer's life experience, by the contacts that his own civilization has with Japan in the late 80s, non-existent contacts (except manga) for culture. that faces that substantially "fasting" world.

In art, amazement is an important component, living a new emotion plays a decisive role in appreciating the work: a perfect work that has adherence to the interacting subject's experience has an emotional response that is certainly different from the first positive experience that occurs. has in a completely unknown sector: it is like the love for a person who has known each other for a long time and has matured little by little, and the sudden love at first sight for the person who did not know each other at all up to that moment; overlapping experiences, of course, but with completely different emotional responses in the short and long term.

Shenmue in addition to being art is certainly a videogame technique of great quality and it is thanks to this title if today we can enjoy the "open world" genre that is so fashionable today or, if we want, the "full reactive eyes entertainment" or "FREE" as it was defined at that time. With Shenmue, in essence, the modern open world is born, with the possibility to explore a world almost completely free from constraints, to enjoy minigames within the game (how to forget the arcade historians, more or less famous in the title), to compete with scenes that require a reactive response in real time, the so loved / hated Quick Time Event (QTE), a modality previously largely unknown to the general public.

It is the greatness of Shenmue, therefore, that we must necessarily think when we are confronted with such wonderful titles LA Noire, The series Yakuza, Heavy Rain, the most recent Sleeping Dogs and many more; in short, Shenmue is a point of reference, a milestone, a video game that deserves to be played by those who have never seen it or have never heard of it and deserves to be experienced again by those who are excited about it. Money was never better spent on the purchase of a video game and the confirmation to this statement can only derive from your own judgment.

Remaster: homage or outrage?

Faced with an iconic game like Shenmue, as we have said, it is difficult to remain indifferent and although the title at the time did not meet the commercial success it deserved, it is not certain that in the future the third chapter will not meet the public's favor. That audience has been clamoring for a remaster of the first two historic chapters that Sega promptly released within a few months. The adaptation operation, however, we anticipate it, is basically a work full of lights and shadows.

Like all older titles, the main problem of a remaster is to adapt the controls to a user no longer accustomed to woodiness, dancing cameras and interactions with "complicated" game elements. Some excellent remasters, such as those of the first chapter of Resident Evil, have tried to offer players an alternative: original controls, as if it were a real emulation, or dynamic controls, more suitable and enjoyable by a modern audience. SEGA, on the other hand, has thought of a hybrid that tries to remedy, with little success in our opinion, the woodiness of the movements we were talking about previously, which, mind you, was not a defect then, but could be today. The result is a middle ground, which leaves unhappy those who would have liked to enjoy the story, playing the title in a similar way to what they would have done with a modern title and at the same time also disappoints the purists who would have liked to remember the title of their childhood. . In these cases, wouldn't it be better to propose an entirely new control scheme?

Even from a graphic point of view, SEGA has limited itself to the bare minimum. Thankfully the saga was spectacular back then and we could say, it has aged well and this greatly enhances the impact the game could have on the modern player. The title then boasted top-notch polygonal models, a convincing weather cycle and a day / night alternation that caused a sensation. Starting from this excellent basic material, however, SEGA has limited itself to raising the resolution up to 1080p without changing anything. The Shenmue saga would certainly have deserved something more from SEGA and not a port of this type which, to be honest, we could also have played using one of the many emulators on the network. Even the soundtrack, majestic and memorable, has not undergone major adaptations and this is perhaps a good thing. Yet the remaster of a title like this perhaps deserved something more.

The water does not stay on the mountains, nor does the revenge in a big heart.

As you may have understood, Shenmue is a life experience rather than a game. Now let's analyze the plots even for those who have not yet been lucky enough to try these splendid titles.

The first title takes place in Yokosuka, a Japanese town in Kanagawa prefecture, the year is 1986 and sees us impersonate a young Ryo Hazuki. The latter is heading home, while he notices that in front of his father's dojo there is a broken sign and a black car parked.

The worried 18-year-old goes to his father's dojo, also thanks to the suggestion of the housekeeper, who lies exhausted on the ground. As Ryo approaches, Fuku-san (friend of the boy) is thrown out the door of the gym.

The boy then enters the dojo and sees a Chinese man threaten his father (only by continuing the adventure will Ryo discover that the man is called Lan Di) threaten his father (Iwao Hazuki).

Lan Di asks Iwao with some insistence to give him a mirror, but the latter continues to deny him it, so the Chinese hit him with a powerful martial arts blow. Ryo then rushes to protect his father, but Lan Di is forged by many fights and takes the boy hostage.

Iwao Hazuki cannot resist the sight of his son in danger, so he gives up and indicates the hiding place of the mirror to the Chinese. The latter, not satisfied with what he had obtained, kills the man and disappears in the black car parked outside the Dojo.

This is the moment that triggers the desire for truth and revenge in the young Ryo Hazuki. The boy begins his information hunt and discovers that a person known as Master Chen might be for him. After talking to him, he discovers that Lan Di is a member of a criminal organization known as "Chiyoumen", he also learns of the existence of the Mirror of the Phoenix, a mirror similar to the one stolen from his father by the criminal Chinese.

Continuing in the investigation Ryo manages to get hold of the second mirror, thanks to the fact that Iwao managed to hide it shortly before he died. Among other things, the young Hazuki comes to discover that Lan Di is no longer in Japan, but is on his way to Hong Kong.

The boy then decides to chase the dangerous criminal and to do so he buys a ship ticket to Hong Kong, which is stolen from him by another member of a criminal gang that controls the port.

Ryo Hazuki is not a boy who gives up easily, his thirst for revenge pushes him to move forward without ever looking back. The young man then begins to work at the port, transporting goods and… competing with forklifts. All to find out why the Mad Angels (organization connected to the Chiyoumen) do not want to make him leave, indeed they try to kill him at every opportunity.

The help of Master Chen's son, Gui Zhang, will lead our hero to overcome all obstacles that will reveal themselves, including Chai, an assassin sent especially for him by Lan Di.

Finally Ryo can leave for Hong Kong, to find out where Lan Di is and understand the secrets related to the mirrors, so important that they push a man to commit a murder.

From China with fury ...

After the resistance encountered by Ryo, the boy finally arrives in China and continues his search between revenge and mysteries.

Initially, the young Hazuki explores the area in search of Master Lishao Tao, the latter should provide him with directions on where to find Yuanda Zhu, who in agreement with Master Chen, could help our hero find Lan Di. After stumbling upon the gang of The Heavens, inside the port of Aberdeen, Ryo reaches Lishao Tao, whose true identity is revealed to us by the person concerned, she is a woman called Xiujing.

The woman is a true teacher for Ryo, as well as teaching him great things in the field of martial arts, she will teach him things that our boy does not know about himself. Xiujing also tries to dissuade the boy from his intentions, explaining that his adventure will bring him to a bad end. After understanding that the woman is not particularly inclined to help him, Ryo will personally activate himself in the search, despite this Xiujing will help him anyway, watching over the boy.

Ryo discovers that the only person who can help him in his search for Yuanda Zhu is Wuying Ren, the leader of The Heavens. With the help of Joy and Wong, our Ryo reaches Ren, the latter will initially try to defraud Hazuki, then after a heart-pounding chase, he will reveal the existence of the Mirror of the Phoenix and by selling Ryo some enrichment opportunities he decides to help him.

Ryo finally finds Master Yuanda inside an apparently abandoned building, but the meeting does not last long, in fact the Yellowhead gang enters the scene and imprisons Zhu. Ryo with the help of Wong, Joy and Ren, will try to save Yuanda Zhu, but during this rescue plan does not go the right way, in fact Joy is taken hostage and will be released only in case Ryo defeats Baihu, a powerful clan fighter. After winning the fight, the boy rushes to the roof to save Zhu, who has just arrived and is surprised by Lan Di. After a brief battle, our Ryo manages to free Master Yuanda Zhu from the clutches of the Chinese criminal.

The latter reveals to the boy the real name of Lan Di (Longsun Zhao) and the purpose of the two mirrors, which should show the location of a hidden treasure that will lead to the resurrection of an ancient dynasty. The Master advises Ryo to go to Guilin's Bailu Village. Lan Di is also headed to the same place.

In this village, our boy meets Shenhua, who reveals that the name of the game derives from that of an ancient tree. The young Shenhua takes Ryo home, once the boy arrives he discovers that the young woman's family is linked to the history of mirrors. They both run to the stone quarry, where the girl's father works, but find that the mine is totally abandoned. The only thing they find is a mysterious note and a strange sword.

Using the sword and the mirror Ryo will activate a mechanism that will reveal a huge representation of the mirrors. Towards the end we will discover that the young Shenhua is endowed with bizarre magical powers.

The game leaves us with a cliffhanger ending that has left us hanging for 16 years.


Shenmue was and still is a legendary title, which has revolutionized the lives of many gamers, thanks to a series of innovations that only a unique and inimitable console like the Sega Dreamcast could give. Consul who recently celebrated his 20 years.

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