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Showing posts with label AM2. Show all posts
Showing posts with label AM2. Show all posts

Shenmusings of Dobuita, Community, and the Friends We Stalked Along the Way

In better times, my neighborhood reminds me of Dobuita, the vibrant business district setting of Sega and AM2’s pedestrian stalking simulator, Shenmue. It bustles with life as people pack the restaurants, bars, shops, parks, arcades, and the streets in between. I can take a quick jaunt down the road and be surrounded by patrons, workers, shop owners, cooks, bartenders, barbers, and even sailors (well, commercial fishermen, actually). These folks are more than cursory non-player characters. They are my neighbors. They are my friends. They are the very fabric of my community.

But for now, they are gone.
These days, walking through my neighborhood feels like I’m in a typical late '90s video game town. Clusters of buildings line the street but the developers were unable to render more than a handful of NPCs to populate it.

Taking a step back: My heart goes out to everyone struggling through this uncertain and challenging time. If there’s a silver lining, it might be that we’re fortunate to have a hobby like video games to help bide our time as our non-virtual world lies in stasis.

It also helps that gaming is a uniquely personal medium. Through our interaction and immersion, games invite us to co-author a broad range of experiences which we can enjoy on a multitude of levels. Games can bring welcome moments of reprieve and distraction. We can find comfort in their escapism and nostalgia. Whether from across the couch or the internet, we can share experiences with old friends and make new friends of strangers. Beyond that, games can challenge us – and not only in terms of precision, reflexes, or strategy. They can push us to expand our understanding, grow our perspectives, and stretch our imaginations through memorable experiences that we carry with us long after we’ve put down the controller.
In its own way, this situation is a unique opportunity to slow down and consider what is most important to us, whether that's friends, family, community, altruism…and video games, of course. Lately, I’ve been reflecting on my time with gaming, what I appreciate most about the hobby, and what I really want out of it going forward. I’ve also thought about the games that significantly shaped how I engage with the medium. In that sense, I can’t help but keep coming back to the Dreamcast’s library.

Nostalgic attachment aside, Sega’s swansong console simultaneously defined and challenged my perceptions of video games. Although the Dreamcast initially drew me in on its promise of more-than-faithful arcade conversions and the triumphant return of a blue childhood icon, it ultimately forged its legacy by striving to redefine gaming’s future more than rehash its past. It showed me how games can be more unique, interesting, and meaningful experiences well beyond their fun factor and replay value. Through its culture of unbounded creativity, the Dreamcast was refreshingly unorthodox and innovative in ways the industry rarely allows.

In some ways, the Dreamcast was as much an art collective as it was a consumer product. Nowhere was this clearer than in the unchecked (and frankly, fiscally reckless) authority Sega gave its development studios and publishing partners to create whatever the hell they wanted for its wacky white box. In that spirit, this essay could've been about any one of the Dreamcast’s unabashedly inventive works: Rez, or Jet Set Radio, or L.O.L.: Lack of Love, or the VMU, or Illbleed, or Maken X, or Chu Chu Rocket, or D2, or Roommania #203, or Seaman, or Samba de Amigo’s maracas, or…you get the idea.

But this is about Shenmue, because of course it is.

A Quick Look At 18 Wheeler: American Pro Trucker

Of all the NAOMI to Dreamcast ports that were given a wide release - there are several that only got a limited release in Japan - 18 Wheeler is undoubtedly the one that gets the shortest of shrifts. Cast your mind back to those pastel hued days of Sega's arcade dominance and subsequent ports to the home tellybox, and names like Crazy Taxi, Ferrari F355 Challenge, Virtua Tennis, Outtrigger and Cosmic Smash instantly spring to mind. 18 Wheeler? Not so much.
This is odd for a couple of reasons, but the main one - for me at least - is the awesome way in which the game was presented in coin-op fashion in some locations. To whit, the game was set up with a huge mock truck cab that did a good job of allowing the player to feel like they were really driving an articulated lorry - it certainly felt very grand to the teenage me playing 18 Wheeler in the Namco Station at Manchester's Trafford Centre, anyway.
Since those heady days of the early 2000s, I have gone on to acquire my HGV license in real life (don't ask, it's a long story) and I am legally allowed to drive trucks of varying sizes. I can say though - with some authority - that driving a truck in reality is nowhere near as fun as it is in 18 Wheeler: American Pro Trucker. The game was ported from the arcade to the Dreamcast and released in PAL territories in June 2001 - several months after the announcement that Sega was ceasing production of the console. As you can probably imagine, the reception was lukewarm - to say the least.
This late release probably has a lot to do with the decision to allow Acclaim to publish the game on the PlayStation 2 and Gamecube after Sega had consigned the Dreamcast to the great bargain bin in the sky; but for the purpose of keeping this consignment of Dreamcast-related cargo on track, let's hit the road and take a look at Crazy Taxi's poor relation. More specifically what it gets right, what it gets wrong and whether it's worth your time and money. This is 18 Wheeler: American Pro Trucker...

The Greatest Story Ever Told...


I'm sure this title was originally reserved for the film version of the birth of Christ, but I'd beg to differ... For me its the story of Ryo Hazuki, and the murder of his father, you know the day the rain turned to snow...


I'm fairly sure there has never been a proper Shenmue 2 post here on the 'Yard, so here goes....Where do I start? Let me tell you about my own Shenmue 2 experience... I knew nothing about this game, nothing! I walked into Gamestation, looking for the usual £2.50 Dreamcast bargain and saw a title that warranted the price tag of £25.00... It was a double disc title as well. OK the price hinted at something big, and the two disc package hinted at something epic...


And epic it was! This game has probably consumed more of my life than any other! As I tentatively placed the first disc into my Dreamcast, I was greeted by a glorious visual feast... Something akin to a movie, with titles, the name Yu Suzuki attached to it, and a boy, on a ship sailing towards Hong Kong...

And so it started, off the boat, there were the most beautifully bedecked characters... Every person was dressed in beautiful silks... The lines on their faces, so fabulously rendered, speaking in unintelligible Japanese... (That sounded so right, with its subtitles...)


And so it continued... Graphically, this game still outstrips Red Steel, the Wii launch title (and why shouldn't it?) This is the most expensive game in developers history! AM2 seriously depleted Sega's budget producing this game! But lets get back to Ryo's journey...


As you wander round Hong Kong, you're gonna have your bag stolen by those pesky Heavens gang... But your bag contains that all important mirror so central in unravelling the mystery of your father's death? So you're gonna have to get it back by executing some VF3 fighting moves... (apart from the wandering round, you'll have to fight enemies and competitors on a regular basis and as you fight your repertoire of killer moves increases!) The story unfolds beautifully, as you pick up clues and explore your environment talking to key characters...


The timescale of Shenmue, is in real time, you're affected by the weather, your finacial responsibilities and so on.... You'll have to find lodgings, employment or gamble to make money and there can be a lot of waiting round! But you can just go and explore every, barber shop, temple, warehouse building, cafe and caged bird shop you want to!

That's the great thing about Shenmue! it rains, its sunny! Wanna kill some time? Go and work at the docks shifting crates! Go and play gambling 'Lucky Hit' games, or just waste some cash down at the arcade playing 'After Burner', 'Super Hang On' or 'Outrun' (all previous AM2 titles) which are secreted within the game...

The people that populate the Shenmue world are all interactive - by that I mean they will all talk to you (some are helpful in your quest, some indifferent and some hostile). The game unfolds at a very gentle pace and will take lierally days to complete. I'd highly reccomend a walkthrough, as the game can be frustrating if you get stuck with unravelling part of the plot... There's one here if you need it... Without a walkthrough you might miss the hidden treasures like the ever beguiling duck race (you can find your own racing duck within the grounds of the Man Mo Temple, but where do you race it????)
The characters you meet are fabulous - Shenhua Ling, Joy, Ren Of Heavens, Lan Di, Xiyung Hong - check them out here...

The game just gets you hooked and there is the first title (the very badly voice acted Shenmue) to play afterwards! And that's the way it was for me! I played them back to front, playing Shenmue 1 second. It's great, but the terrible wooden English voice acting make it a much leser experience... The world you can explore is considerably smaller, and the colours less vibrant. If you're only going to play one title, make sure its Shenmue 2...

The story unfolds, you've got to find out about those creeps that killed your Dad right? You'll find yourself hooked into the drama that connects you with a story that exists within China and Japan, Yakuza, gangs, Buddhism and Taoism...

As you span those two discs, you'll uncover fighting moves, mystery, spirituality and more...

I could spout on forever about the wonder of this game, but the greatest way to experience it is to play it yourself! Oh and the QTE's (or Quick Time Events) see you mash buttons at crucial moments, in response to the game's demands... Allowing cinematic events to unfurl before you if you're quick enough to meet their demands...

And the side/mini games/activities such as collecting bargainable capsule toys... Wonderful! Spend your hard earned dollars on capsule toy collections, and you'll have money to spend when you really need it! Just go to a pawn (not pr0n) shop and you'll be quids in!

The game never reached the US, being released in Europe and Japan only, but it did re-emerge on the XBox, bundled with a DVD of the story of the first Shenmue, allowing those who had never played the first title, so they would be up to speed when Ryo stepped off the boat... Sadly there never has been a conclusion to the story, no Shenmue 3. Reputedly in full development, the theory goes that it would be fincially disastrous to release and promote it, just bad economic sense... Despite the hopes of Shenmue addicts like myself, it's unlikely it will ever see the light of day. One thing is for certain, if it came out on the Xbox 360 or PS3, it would see me getting one on the day of its release!

I'm waffling a bit, so I suggest you check out a proper review here, here, here and here... Oh and for every Shenmue resource you'll ever need look here...