Ever since the launch of the Dreamcast, Sega have been looking for a decent RPG to bolster the range of titles available and to reply to the popularity of the final fantasy series on the PlayStation.
The main character of Shenmue is Ryo Hazuki, a hard-working college student who has been knocked sideways by the death of his father and swears vengeance as he sets off in search of the killers.
Although the story sounds familiar, Shenmue differs through its execution. Everything from the finely tuned opening sequence to the interactivity with the 500 or so characters is nothing short of superb.
But beware, this is no pick-and-play game. Shenmue comes on three packed discs, with a further disc for extra features and Internet options allowing the game to boast over 250 hours of gameplay. Couple this with the rumours that this is, in fact, part one of a trilogy and you've got an epic on your hands.
The game boasts distinctive time settings: different things happen during the day and night. Knock on someone's door during the day and they are likely to be out; visit the local shop in the evening you'll probably find it closed.
But it's not all talking to old people and children in an attempt to find the bad guys. Shenmue offers the chance to get into fights, race a motor bike and interact with everything and anything.
This game is a slow-burner, rising to an epic crescendo at the end. It's notCrazy Taxi or Resident Evil but something far greater, something almost compelling so that, although you know you're going to do a lot of walking around searching, you can't help but blindly carry on. --Stuart Miles
This event immediately sparks in him a quest for both revenge and an investigation into the mysterious jade amulet the thugs stole. You'll have to play detective to gather clues, such as possible motivations and whereabouts, from non-playing characters. Not all of the people you question will be happy about you nosing around, so be prepared to fight and keep fighting. You'll need money for the quest, and there's plenty of mini game-style ways to get it--from forklift driving to casino gambling.
The game features vibrant 3-D graphics, which are nearly photo-realistic in their astounding attention to even subtle detail. For example, the sky background changes slowly to denote the passing daylight.