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Showing posts with label Shenmue III. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Shenmue III. Show all posts

Shenmusings of Ryobots, Niaowu, and Shenmue III's Uncertain Legacy

Ryo Hazuki is an android, right? I’ve suspected it for a while but after finishing Shenmue III recently, I'm going all in on the Ryobot theory. It explains too much not to be canon.

Ryo has always been a bizarrely stilted and stoic character, of course. That much isn’t news. Yet after accompanying him for every waking minute across three games – games which depict the painstaking minutiae of everything from longshore crate logistics to the mid-‘80s weather record of the Kanagawa Prefecture – Ryo still has not pooped.

In fairness, few protagonists in fiction are forthcoming about their physiological functions. But, unlike Ryo, they at least behave in ways that can be reasonably interpreted as human-like. Meanwhile, Ryo acts less like a person and more like an emotionally unavailable animatronic, programmed in the languages of kung fu and non sequiturs.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to knock him. The technology behind Ryobot was very impressive for 1987.

Oh, and did I mention the shared consciousness between Ryo and his friend, Shenhua? She is also an android, probably, in addition to being the unwitting mascot of a junk food brand for some reason.

OK. The point of this write up is not to espouse the incontrovertible theory that Ryo is a semi-sentient robot, even if it is also that. Back when it came out in November 2019, I had put about a dozen or so hours into Shenmue III before dropping off of it. After leaving him in stasis at Hotel Niaowu for a full calendar year, I recently (and finally!) caught up on Ryo’s journey to date. I also realized we hadn’t yet discussed the game in-depth on the Junkyard since its release. With all that, I’m really here to work out my thoughts on Shenmue III in hopes of making some sense of its place in the series’ legacy. But first let’s take a step back, and into the shoes it hoped to fill…

As for many fans, the first two Shenmue games were formative for my interest in gaming. For a medium where kinetic action and instant gratification shaped the bedrock of most gaming experiences, it was oddly refreshing – if jarring – to play something with such love for mundanity and contempt for players’ impatience. Ironically, it was my own impatience that led me to buy the Japanese version of the original Shenmue, several months before its western release. I couldn't say why; I didn't even speak Japanese. Hell, I was barely pulling a passing grade in English class.

Yet, even then, my 14-year-old mind was blown by Shenmue’s unabashed indulgence in the ordinary. I was taken aback by its audacity to let me knock on neighbors’ doors, chug orange Fanta*, and stalk an entire community of busy folks for no other reason than because I could. When the events of Shenmue II set Ryo loose to explore Hong Kong, seeing it all scale to a bustling, urban setting was revelatory all on its own. Shenmue I and II’s detailed and lively locales immersed me in their astonishing sense of place and community. They felt like genuinely bustling locations that could believably exist without me. They also challenged any assumptions that video games always had to be, well, game-like. Through its novel approach to worldbuilding and interactivity, Shenmue invited me to inhabit its worlds – not only as a player – but as a resident and visitor.



* Vending machines in the Japanese version of Shenmue were stocked with licensed Coca-Cola products rather than our beloved “Jet Cola” and “Frunda” off-brands (also, was Bell Wood a person, or...?)

Yu Suzuki and AM2’s magnum opuses offered a remarkably ambitious and unorthodox vision for what video games could be and how players could engage with their spaces. In bankrolling their vision, Sega rebuked all conventional wisdom that big budget games ought to be marketable and fiscally viable. Shenmue I and II were neither – or at least not either enough – and Sega paid a steep price. Beyond failing to recoup its massive development and marketing costs; beyond its eventual retreat from the hardware market; Sega presented a perennial Exhibit A for the downsides of risks to an increasingly risk-adverse games industry.

After that, it seemed unfathomable that we would ever return to Shenmue’s amazingly ambitious, immersive, and bustling world. Nearly two decades later, we still haven’t.

New Shenmue III Trailer & Logo Divides Opinion

Yeah, yeah. It's not really related to the Dreamcast anymore but here it is. Shenmue III's latest trailer. Apparently this is showing off some actual in engine footage which is...interesting. I mean, the locations look excellent - lots of lovely lighting effects, shadows and architecture as you'd expect. The music, too is as rousing and spine tingling as it ever has been. However, those character models look a bit basic don't you think? After two years of development time?


Again, these are early renders but the comments on the Shenmue III Kickstarter page show that people are divided not only by Ryo's altered look, but also the new logo. Some of the more negative include this from Phillip Zamora:

"While I can see your going for a somewhat cartoon look, the bad guy's face looks ridiculous & unrealistic for a human being. As well the new Shenmue logo looks less cool or professional than the original handwritten one."

And this from Fran├žois Mahieu:

"The best decision now would probably be to cancel the project. Please leave us with our memories from the original Shenmue."

Although it's not all bad - far from it in fact - and lots of positive comments echo what Riled Up had to say on the progress thus far:

"The game really looks good. But you need an inteligent mind to see that. You could easily say no facial expression blabla. But that trailer is not intended to show that it is final."

Personally, I couldn't give a flying toss about either as long as it plays well when it lands in my PS4, and going off Yu Suzuki's back catalogue I don't think we have anything to worry about on that front. But what do you think about this new trailer and logo change? Sound off in the comments or in our Facebook group.

Previous Shenmue related posts:

Shenmue III PC Pre-Orders Will Open On 15th December

It's barely Dreamcast-related, but I spotted this while perusing some 'proper' gaming sites - namely Videogamer and Gamatsu: pre-orders for the PC version of Shenmue III will open on 15th December...which is two days away at the time of writing. We've been closely following the Shenmue III development journey, and take great delight in reporting anything and everything we can on the game's development. Yu Suzuki has a different filling on his sandwiches today? We're there. Somebody gets coffee granules in the sugar pot at Ys Net HQ? On it. Someone tramples mud in through the main entrance and doesn't even attempt to clean it up? We got this. Mainly by stealing content from other sites...but hey - at least we admit it when we do. Here's some other stuff some bloke said about some game or something (also copy and pasted from Gamatsu):

Development is entering the final stage headed towards full-scale production. Early in the new year, I think we’ll be able to show you things such as new videos.

We will continue progressing with development so that our backers and those who experience the world of Shenmue for the first time can do so with pleasure.

Also, at noon on December 15, we will start pre-order sales for the PC version of Shenmue III, which received a lot of requests.

Those interested in Shenmue III, please check the official website.
-Yu Suzuki

So yeah. Keep an eye on the Shenmue III official website. And don't get coffee in Yu Suzuki's sugar or there'll be trouble, right? Good.

Shenmue III Kickstarter Update August 2016

It's all been a bit quiet on the Shenmue III front recently. Apart from the odd snarky comment I've heard on various podcasts about how shit it's inevitably going to be* when it finally drops, there's been precious little information forthcoming from Ys Net's headquarters in Japan. That changed today though, with a Kickstarter update titled 'From the Dev Room.' The update only really consists of a short video where several developers are interrupted and asked to show the camera what they're working on though, so don't get too excited.
One guy shows that he's working on a recreation of the river jumping section from Shenmue II and demonstrates some wireframe animations of Ryo trying his best not to get his trainers wet; while a colleague shows off a section in which Ryo is avoiding being crushed by falling rocks. I've taken a few screen grabs of the video and dotted them around here, but you should probably go and check out the video on the Kickstarter page too. Oh, and donate while you're there if you haven't already.

Shenmue III Kickstarter Update Discusses Voice Acting & Logo Design

I know it's not really Dreamcast-related, but I thought it was worth sharing the news that Ys Net has updated its Shenmue III Kickstarter page. That said, pretty much all of us here at the 'Yard backed the Shenmue III project and we're sure many people who regularly visit this blog did too. Also, Shenmue is synonymous with the Dreamcast so I'm using that tenuous link to validate me sharing this here. The April 2016 update addresses some of the issues Shenmue fans have been vocal about, namely the design of the Shenmue III logo and the ability to switch between English and Japanese voice acting on the fly:

Before getting into the main part of the update, we would like to respond to two issues brought up by the community—the Shenmue III logo and voice audio options.

First for the Shenmue III logo. There have been many comments from Shenmue fans wanting the logo to match the original logos from Shenmue 1& 2. We have heard your calls and will of course put it on the to-do list. This particular issue will take some time, however, as game development is currently taking a front seat to other design issues. Designers and other parties will also need to be consulted with, so before we can give a more definite answer, we would ask you please give us some time.

The second issue receiving a lot of attention concerns the voice audio options. Many people have asked for there to be an option to switch between Japanese and English voicing. We understand how strongly people feel about this feature, and it is something we would like to include as well, but the inclusion of a dual audio option will ultimately come down to budgetary limitations. Whether it will be added or not, will need to be decided as development progresses.
- Shenmue III April 2016 Kickstarter Update

The rest of the update introduces Shenmue III's environment and architecture designer Manabu Takimoto, and shares some images of him at work with Yu Suzuki. 
"Stay inside the lines!"
As mentioned above this isn't strictly Dreamcast news, but as so many people who are fans of Shenmue have a history with/are still Dreamcast fans, we felt this was worth documenting here. Furthermore, we spoke to Shenmue super-fan Adam Koralik and the voice of Ryo Hazuki Corey Marshall on our podcast recently, so there's another tenuous link and a shameless plug for the DreamPod!

Source: Kickstarter