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The Dreamcast may be dead, but long live Shenmue! I know it's been reviewed a billion times already, but I love it so much I can't help myself. One minute you're feeding an orphaned kitten, the next you're karate-chopping thugs in the surprisingly mean streets of small-town Japan. What could possibly be better than that?

Be warned, though - this game can take over your life. The first time I played it I was up until daybreak. Opening my front door to put out the empty milk bottles before I staggered to bed, I couldn't understand why there weren't any computer-generated Japanese people moving robotically along the street... This is one game you can really live and breathe (but not eat, for some reason - as fighting machine Ryo Hazuki you manage to exist on canned drinks alone). If you're a player of the female persuasion, then you even get the chance to fancy yourself! (Or maybe I just need help?) Rest assured there's something for the lads to look at as well, in the form of shapely florist Nozomi. Don't get too excited, though, boys. Ryo may have a one-track mind but it's murderer Lan Di he's interested in, not tight-sweatered eye candy, and he never misses an opportunity to treat long-suffering Nozomi like a turd on the pristine soles of his trainers.

There's something about Shenmue that turns the mundane into the wonderful - I've never before been so excited at catching a bus or making a telephone call; I was practically wetting my pants when I got to work as a fork-lift truck driver. But there's plenty of kick-ass action too, and you'll need to hone your Dark Moons and Crescent Kicks as well as your bus-catching skills if you're going to avenge your father's death... I won't pretend there aren't any flaws - you can find yourself hanging around for hours upon end because there's no option to fast forward, and moving about in confined spaces can be awkward. Shenmue II went on to iron out some of the wrinkles in its predecessor, and is probably the better game (so long as you don't mind subtitles), but it's this one I've got the most affection for. It may look dated now, but beauty is only skin deep, remember. Be kind to your tired old Dreamcast and give it this classic game to play.
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on 9 August 2014
For 14 years I stubbornly gave an unrelenting defense in favour of this being the best game ever. My dogma was so strong I even promoted the idea it could never be beaten. Shenmue was nothing short of revolutionary for video gaming at the time of it's release. It was a masterclass of adventure, story-telling, creativity and Sega tribute. After completing it again today though, I realise I must be sensible with objectivity and revise my opinion.

As a youngster, I was more than willing to wait around for hours for shops to open and meeting schedules to occur, be goaded into extremely linear 'go to' quests, persist with the very awkward controls (and controller), and forgive every word of the lame acting. I was happy to persevere repeatedly on the ridiculously difficult motorcycle challenge to rescue Nozomi and the tricky mechanic of the forklift employment in the face of the cumbersome traffic-laden harbor environment where cats and people are stronger than vehicles. Fighting moves are rarely executed or explained clearly and the camera control in the game is another game in and of itself.

The love I have for the game was wrapped up in the novelty of it's impressive new gaming experience - something I reluctantly have to admit to today. Being able to interact with every residential dwelling or random roaming passer-by to some degree; buying (purposeful) products from stores; lush 'realistic' environments to explore; old video games to play within the game and the worldly reality inflicted from the visual day into night cycle along with the emotional spirit this triggered in me after each days struggle for justice.

I was clouded by the powerful charming effect this had on me the first time I played it but sadly, the game is quite a struggle to play and merely enjoy in 2014 - We've been spoilt with so many better made and vastly more playable games. I was a huge campaigner for a HD release but after the play-through this weekend, I think I've had my fill. Shenmue 2 is much better game in many different ways but it too has been surpassed too far now for me to champion them as the best of all time.

I hate to say this to newcomers, but you REALLY had to be there at the time to understand the impact of this title amongst gamers of that generation. It was easily the best thing to happen to gaming when it was released let alone meeting a silly 5 star metric. It is arguably the reason GTA and all the other powerful sandbox type games exist.
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on 11 January 2008
Yu Suzuki's (and Sega's) masterpiece.

Set in Japan during the 1980's, this game offers gameplay unlike any other. Prepare to be overwhelmed with technical achievements and articulately crafted material. The game is in itself, a painting of the era where it is set. No other game has encapsulated both Japan and the era so perfectly. It is very doubtful that any other game will capture, like a moving picture, any setting so well.

If you ever wished for a game that takes you on a journey to another world, another time, you may try the adventure genre. Now ask yourself, what do you, as a gamer, demand from the adventure genre? A compelling storyline, interesting characters, an original world, an atmosphere which is unique, the gameplay must be varied, plenty of extras material for you to find, and an epic length. Shenmue delivers this and so much more.

If ever there was a gaming series that catches you in an instant, this is it. Not only does it incorporate everything you wish for an adventure game to have, but some nice and new features to the genre. Shenmue gave us the QTE system, press the button which flashes onto the screen. Many argue that Dragon's Lair created this, however, I digress; Shenmue incorporated this so it fit into an adventure game. Now look at how many games have tkane the QTE system as one of their own original devices; God Of War, Resident Evil 4 et al. Not to take anything away from that, since I enjoy QTE sequences, they're a lot of fun that keep you on edge during the cutscenes. It certainly added a lot of tense moments in Shenmue, as well as replay factor; fail the first button you have to press, and get the second one right, and you shall react differently in the situation.

The action, when it arrives, is a breathe of fresh air and adds some spice to the game. The fighting moves are taken from Yu Suzuki's masterful fighting series, Virtua Fighter. The moves are easy to learn, and easy to adapt to, even for those of us who aren't very good at fighting games on the whole (myself included). The fighting can be a lot of fun, and the game's big climax is a very rewarding experience.

Then there's the freedom of the areas. You can explore Shenmue to (almost) its fullest extent. The only time I have found any limits with the areas, is when you are attempting to enter 'restricted zones' at the Harbour, or try to go onto the road, whilst at Dobuita. The many brilliant actions you can perform in this mode is incredible. Talk with the locals, buy a can of coke, play on an arcade game, spar, the list goes on and on. Very rarely do you get such a game that, strictly speaking, follows a linear path, storyline-wise, but allows itself to let you take your time. There IS a limit to how long you can keep doing whatever you wish, but it is a long, long way down the road. The game does not wish for you rush, in other words. How many other adventure games give you so much freedom? Very few, that's what.

The characters in Shenmue are either very bland and ordinary people (Dobuita's fellow locals), or extremely fascinating (Lan Di, Guizhang, Chai). The voiceover work varies greatly, whilst it doesn't take away from the overall impression, the game does suffer from mediocre overall voice work. However, there is some good work in there, regardless (Chai, Lan Di, Iwao, Terry, Guizhang, Shozo Mizuki). That is practically the only fault in a game so vast and full of great promise.

The atmosphere, I cannot put into words, for it is untold how magnificent the atmosphere in this game is. No other game has pulled me in beforehand into its world. The feelings I get from it change all the time, each time I play, there are sections that are intense, emotional, saddening, joyful, distressing, funny.

This game is a prime example of what games can, and should accomplish; give the player a sudden rush of emotions, capture the player with its atmosphere so brilliantly like a great novel, a great experience to be had that the user will never, ever forget.

The graphics are still pristine, even to this day (eight years on from the original release date). The Dreamcast was truly a blessed system, whilst not the greatest, it certainly had the potential to be. The graphics and gameplay factors in Shenmue prove just that.

Need I utter another word for you? I do not even need to spell it out to you, or to myself; this game is absolutely well worth buying. It certainly made me interested in visiting Japan in the near future, that's for sure. The sequel lives up to this promise, adding even more incredible features to the series, that so desperately needs its third title. Sega, the time is now. Release Shenmue III, for we have waited long enough. Let us turn the next page and be swept away again.
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on 8 November 2000
I played around with the Japanese version of this game on my friend's Japanese import console. I got the plot from my mate who speaks the lingo, and feel able to tell you about this game. I LOVE THIS GAME!!! It really isn't like any game I've played before. It's such a mixed bag, with elements of all game genres. And you really are free to do what you like! I went to the local Sega arcade and played old Sega greats!! I went into bars, shops, houses. I looked at objects that looked so irrelevent that you don't know why they are there, other than to add to the reality of the experience; almost everything you see you can pick up and examine in glorious 3D, simply for the joy of it!! The detail is like nothing I had experienced, and the plot (what i could gather) rivals that of any block-buster film. It snowed, it rained, it was sunny. Characters worry about you if you catch cold from playing in the snow. I witnissed sunsets so real I thought I was watching TV!! The plot is so engaging I couldn't stop thinking about it. What will become of Ryo? Who was that man in the house that day? I was told that the game features over 1200 rooms to investigate, over 500 characters to interogate over the mystery surounding Ryo's father's death, and online functions using the Shenmue passport. All in all a ground-breaking and breath-taking game, another Sega great, using all the power of the polygon-grinding, 3D world creating Dremcast. Buy this game, you won't ever stop playing it!!!! This game is so close to reality it becomes a second reality, it is so enjoyable that I wanted to buy the Japanese version, and so vast you will always be finding new things to do. A true masterpiece, everyone should get Shenmue, no substitute will ever be created.
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on 4 April 2007
The jury's still divided on Shenmue's success. You'll be either blown away by it or you'll chew off your own buttocks with boredom. I've heard it described variously as "the most beautiful game ever" and "kinda like the Sims but you get to go with them to their SimJob". Your opinion of this game will depend entirely on your vulnerability to small scale human drama, poetry, and the philosophy behind martial arts, and how much you actually want any of these things in a game. Personally I love it. It's far more haunting than any straightforward paperchase game has any right to be, and the music's utterly beautiful. The XBox version is kicking about for about £5. What have you got to lose?
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on 9 March 2004
When Shenmue was released, I thought it would just be another Broken Sword (which in my opinion are Crap) clone. I rented it out just to give it a go and I immediately took it back to Blockbusters and bought it on real game for full price. This is one of the greatest games of all time.
Shenmue follows the life of Ryo, whose father has been killed by the deadly Lan Di, who is an expert in an unknown Martial Art (it's Shaolin Kung Fu, which is one of the deadliest Martial Arts of all time). Ryo is obviously not to pleased about this and sets about his revenge.
From the very first second you step out of the house, you are hooked on the brilliantly detailed and huge 3D world that awaits you. Ryo's journey takes him to shops, habours and clubs where anything could happen (and it does).
Shenmue has such a realistic feel to it that you could swear you were helping Ryo get his revenge. One of the things that make Shenmue a masterpiece is that the whole game is based on an event that could easily happen in real life. Ryo is a person who could be someone dealing with the same tragedy.
From the moment you step out of the house to the addictive climax of Ryo's departure for Hong Kong, you will undergo such a thrill ride that you can never get tired of competing in a fork-lift race at the harbour, playing video games in the arcade or veating the crap out of a gang of thugs with your bare hands.
This game was so good that all of my friends bought it because they'd done the same thing I had did. Anyone who hasn't got this game in their collection don't know what they are missing. All you gamers out there, own this game today.
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on 23 October 2016
Why i am buying a PS4 Shenmue 3. 15 years later and still G.O.A.T
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on 1 November 2001
The game play has no equal. It's a challenge to solve the puzzles and go from place to place and added to that you need to practice your fighting moves and techniques so that you don't get beat up all the time. The locations are really good looking and the interaction with your surroundings is also good with most people happy to tell you: "I'm busy now ask someone else Okay?" or the ever popular: "Leave me alone, can't you see I'm busy!" When you do talk to the right people you quickly find yourself on an all surpassing adventure. Unbeatable! So, I hear you cry, why does it only get four stars?
The reason is that your hero is so crap with the women that the love intrest becomes incredibly frustrating. I phoned Misumi up every day, twice! And did my best to get Ryo to like her, but the game designers have other ideas and you don't even get a kiss. Its so annoying.
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on 30 November 2000
It begins. A hawk soars above a virtually unending, barren plain before coming upon a cliff. As it dives and swoops around the massive Eolithic structure, we catch a fleeting glimpse of someone atop the rock. The camera changes subjects and draws closer to a girl, her dress flapping, flowing in the wind more realistically than ever before. And right as the camera stops, she turns her face to us and, for a split second, a new defining moment in game history is made as what we are witness to is so perfect, so beautiful, and so undeniably WELL WICKED!
Such is the foundation of Yu Suzuki's crowning opus: Shenmue.
Never before has there been a game that could redefine gaming like Shenmue might. I find it hard to even speak of Shenmue as if it were a mere "game" for fear that I might undermine the sheer power and soul that it possesses.
In a game, we take control of a character that follows an inarguably linear path that leads to a foreseeable conclusion. The fact that we only see these characters as bots, drones if you will, keeps us from truly achieving feelings, a connection to the character. They become expendable and at the first sign of confusion and/or frustration we drop the character from our control without looking back.
In Shenmue, we do not take over an artificial character. At least it doesn't feel that way. In Shenmue, we experience a life. For a brief period in our own lives, we are allowed to truly walk in someone else's shoes.
The character design and development is, by far, the best ever in a game. Characters will make you want to laugh, to cry, to question, to shout. Some will steal your heart with a gaze of starlit eyes. Others will try to tear your heart out of your chest. Each inhabitant of Shenmue is an indiviual. A life.
We begin the game as a young man named Ryo. He has spiky hair, an inquisitive personality, wears faded blue jeans, a bomber jacket, and has spiky hair. He is haunted by dreams of his father's mysterious murder and the enigmatic antagonist. In an effort to uncover the truth, Ryo sets out to find the man that killed his father.
Yu Suzuki and AM2 have created a truly convincing world that surrounds Ryo. We are almost fooled into believing that this world does not revolve around us as it teems with an unparalleled amount of life. As Ryo wanders the streets of the towns and cities that he visits, we feel enveloped in a different society. Everything that we see is so meticulously constructed down to the most unimportant texture that realism does not only become a factor. It becomes a fact.
The sights and sounds cannot be accurately described on paper. Nothing I could put into words would even begin to pay homage to the visual and aural congruency that is unmatched by any fictional experience ever created. Shenmue, in short, is a masterpiece.
The genius does not end with the gaming superficialities (graphics, sound), however. The underlying quest is also in a league of its own. The "game" is divided into at least three styles that, when combined, offer us true gaming intuition.
The first is the quest/RPG mode. These segments make up the heart of Shenmue. Ryo traverses mid-1980's China with the help of NPCs (non-playable characters) and the information that he procures from speaking with them. He must also search for useful items, a source of financial security (i.e. jobs), and find means of regeneration when injured.
The second most common portions of the game are the QTEs (quick time events). In essence, they are gorgeously scripted, cut, orchestrated, and directed action scenes that allow us a nominal amount of control, but are so cinematic that they must control themselves a bit to be fully appreciated.
Last is the Free Battle mode. They play like Virtua Fighter except on optic overdrive. Yu Suzuki. Fighting. What else do you need to know?
I cannot express the scale of my excitement over Shenmue. I wish I could, but I find my words muddled. All I can say is that if you're an import gamer, this game should be acquired without hesitation. Don't worry if you don't know how to read Japanese. I guarantee that, within a week's time. there will be more internet FAQs and walkthroughs than you can imagine. And when Shenmue hits the UK in the coming months, may god have mercy on your social life.
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on 30 June 2007
It has been a few years since Shenmue came out on the Dreamcast, critically acclaimed by gamers and press worldwide but does it hold up years later or is it a big disappointment?

Well I have mostly good things to say about the games but there are defently a few negatives.

The story starts off with Ryo Hazuki witnessing his father's death, murdered by a martial arts master lan di, lan di is after a mirror that is in the possession of Ryo's father. After failing to prevent the murder of his father Ryo wants revenge and sets out trying to track down Lan Di and take revenge for his father's murder.

Shenmue can really fit in to a number of game categories as the game is extremely varied, the largest section of the game will have you searching for clues for instance after the opening scean the only clue you have as to who killed your father is that you saw there black car speeding away, so you start asking around to find out what way the car went and this will bring up new leads for you to investigate. Eventually peoples names will start popping up and your search will rely on you finding them in order to find out more information.

Fighting is also a major part of Shenmue as some people wont like your nosing around and will try kicking your ass, the combat system reminds me of virtual fighter there are a number of kick, punch and throw moves pulled off by pressing the right combo of buttons as well as your more basic moves by just hammering the buttons. There are also a number of new moves you can learn by speaking with people you meet along the way.

There are also several smaller in the game sections one is a adventure style section you will be searching fore some clues in your house, you will find secret areas and essential items that you need, there is also stealth sections where you need to break in to a wear house with out the patrolling guards spotting you and my favorite part of the game a beat em up section a bit like streets of rage on mega drive but in 3d. This section near the end of the game is excellent you and your mate take on loads of bad guys whilst trying to progress forward so you can beat the boss.

The cut scenes in Shenmue are also unique as the the game designer gives you something to do whilst these scenes play out, the scene might see Ryo trying to catch someone and as you are chasing him you might have to press a button or a combination of buttons at the correct time in order to jump over, duck or weave out the way of objects or if a character trys punching you you will have to correct button fast in order to avoid being hit. If you want to take a break from the main story that's fine there is a arcade where you can play outrun and space harrier as well as darts and a punching game its is a great way to waste some time.

So what are the bad points? In 2007 the Dreamcast graphics whilst good in there time start to show there age however for a Dreamcast game the graphics are good, moving Ryo around is quite clumsy it feels like early resident evil games so the control defently could be better. You spent too long working it takes you months(game time) to quit your forklift truck job and whilst cool at first you will be thinking your playing a in depth forklift truck simulator towards the end and you will be glad you don't have to drive that damm thing any more. The camera is also not great When fighting especially when you reach the beat em up section, the camera should be working for you not against you.

Overall Shenmue does have some flaws that you will find in a lot of games from that era but the gameplay is solid, a bit of polish on the graphics and in some other areas this game could be released today and be superb, if you have a Dreamcast buy.

So for those who have completed Shenmue head on over to my Shenmue 2 Dreamcast and Xbox review.
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