Tag Archives: SEGA

Evolution Of F1 Games 1974 – 2020

Formula 1 as a sport turns seventy years old this year. That’s quite a momentous occasion to celebrate. I used to be a huge F1 fan, mainly through the eighties and nineties with Ayrton Senna being my favourite driver. Then, the blackest race weekend that was Imola  94 happened and for me, F1 died. Still, I’ve always enjoyed playing F1 games even if I really don’t follow the sport itself much anymore.

So I thought, to celebrate seventy years of Formula 1, that I would look at how F1 games have evolved through the years. From the first ever F1 game right up to the latest in 2020. Now, I’m not going to cover every single F1 game as there’s quite a lot of them and when you get into the latter games, they’re really just yearly updates. But I will be looking at some of the more notable F1 games to see how they’ve changed over the decades. Plus, a lot of the early games may not have been officially F1 licensed, but it’s very clear they were definitely F1 influenced. There will be links aplenty to gameplay footage of many of the games, a big thanks to the various YouTubers who complied the gameplay.

So anyway, here we go on an F1 trip through gaming, spanning six decades.

BORN 1950

The first ever Formula One race was held in 1950 at the famed Silverstone circuit. Italian driver, Emilio Giuseppe Farina would go in to be crowned the first official F1 World Champion. I don’t have to go back to the fifties (especially as video games didn’t exist then) for the first ever F1 game, but what could be considered the first F1 themed game is still very early in gaming history.

The Seventies

1972’s Pong is often considered the first ‘proper’ video game. It’s certainly the one game that kick-started the whole arcade and video game revolution in those early days. Back then, gaming was in its infancy and games were very simple. Perhaps the first F1-ish game could be Speed Race from 1974.

SPEED RACE

Developed and released by Tatio in Japan (Midway in the US where it was called Wheels), Speed Race offered some very simple gameplay. You controlled an F1-like car on a fast vertically scrolling road. Given just ninety seconds to make it as far along the road as you could. Along the way, you’d have to weave in and out of other racers. The arcade cabinet itself was a stand up thing with a steering wheel, simple hi-low gears and an accelerator peddle. The game itself was very basic and may not have offered much in the way of F1 thrills, but it’s cabinet design screamed F1. I believe that Speed Race was also the first ever vertically scrolling video game.

Also from 1974 was Gran Trak 10, developed and published by Atari. This wasn’t scrolling like the previous game, but instead had you racing around a single screen track. Gran Trak 10 was a bit more in-depth compared to Speed Race. It was another stand up cabinet with peddles to accelerate and break, but this one offered multiple gears, including a reverse. There was only one track available in the game and you had to race through checkpoints to extend your limited time. Do as many laps of the track as possible before the time runs out.

A lot of those early seventies racers followed a similar gameplay style. Simple weave in and out of traffic, or complete laps within a time limit. Titles such as Sprint 2 (it wasn’t a sequel, the number just reflected the number of players) was the first in a long running franchise Night Driver and F-1 were further early examples of such games with similar ideas. The latter using a unique miniature diorama and projector system to create the illusion of racing over standard graphics. But it was perhaps Sega’s Monaco GP from 1979 which could be considered the first ‘proper’ F1 game.

MONACO GP

Where as the previous games mentioned may have had an F1 art style to the cabinet with some F1 questionable influence, Monaco GP was unmistakably Formula 1… mostly. This one played very similar to Tatio’s Speed Race, it just had fancier graphics and a few new gameplay additions like night driving, ice roads, etc, all those things not seen in Formula 1 . Still with that vertical scrolling, race against time thing while dodging other cars. It certainly wasn’t a revolution in gameplay, but it was definitely trying to engage the F1 fans of the day. I mean, it was called Monaco GP, named after one of the most popular and famous races in F1 history. Plus, once again the cabinet was F1 themed especially the sit-down version.

The Eighties

If the seventies was the infancy of the Formula 1 game, then the eighties were its teenage years. The first few eighties F1 games still carried the same ideas and concepts from the seventies, not too much evolution really going on. Then 1982 happened and Namco released Pole Position. Just reading that title should spark off memories of many an older gamer and if it didn’t, this screenshot will:

POLE POSITION

Pole Position was perhaps the defining Formula 1 game of the eighties. Playing from a third person perspective, you raced around a (for the time) accurate recreation of the F1 Fuji racetrack. Before you could race, you’d have to ‘prepare to qualify’, as the digitised speech would tell you. Put in a good time for a lap and then it was on to the actual race. Here it was you against several CPU controlled opponents in a championship race. Overtake other cars, try not to explode by crashing into billboards and come first. Pole Position was the first F1 game to depict a real race track and also the first to feature a qualifying session and actual racing instead of just overtaking endless opponents. The following year in 1983 and Namco followed up with Pole Position II. Very much more of the same with some minor graphical refinements. Plus it added three more tracks, taking the total to four. Though the gameplay between the two games was identical.

By now, and thanks to the success of Namco’s two Pole Position titles, F1 racers were fast becoming hugely popular in the arcade and even at home. The rise of cheaper hardware saw consoles and computers in the abodes of avid gamers around the world. 1983’s Chequered Flag for the ZX Spectrum was an early example of a F1 simulator. You got to chose from three F1 cars, two called Ferretti and McFaster (Ferrari and McLaren) and race around six representations of real F1 tracks and four fictional circuits. There were no other cars to race against, just you trying to put in fast laps… oh and you had to avoid on-track hazards like oil slicks and broken glass, just like real F1? Chequered Flag also featured a pit-stop game mechanic, the first game to feature pit-stops where you could repair and refuel your car.

Grand Prix Manager from 1984 on the ZX Spectrum was the first ever F1 management game. Putting you in charge of a Formula 1 team. Chose your difficulty, number of races, sponsor, driver, hire mechanics and then it’s away you go. You have to keep an eye on your team, the car, drivers as you advance through the season. Grand Prix Manager was basic, very basic stuff, but it did the job well enough, for the first ever F1 management title.

GRAND PRIX MANAGER

By the mid eighties, there was a great mix of arcade style racers, more simulation style F1 games and even a few hybrids of the two. Atari released Super Sprint in 1986, a sequel to their long running Sprint franchise. 1985’s Formula 1 Simulator, despite it’s name, was less a simulator and more a Pole Position clone for the home market, even though Pole Position saw several home ports. Pitstop and Pitstop II (1983 and 84 respectively) offered some simple but fun F1 action for home computers. The latter of the two, me and my brothers spent many an hour on racing each other on our Commodore 64.

The late eighties began to see the rise of the officially licensed Formula 1 games. Satoru Nakajima F-1 Hero for the Famicom from 1988 was one of the first licensed F1 games. It saw a release outside of Japan on the NES as Michael Andretti’s World GP, which actually made little sense as Michael Andretti wasn’t an F1 driver, he raced in IndyCar. Though he did eventually race in F1 for the 1993 season. Anyway, the game was one of the first to offer a playable full F1 season, complete with all the real races and ‘drivers’… though pseudonyms were used. Then there was Nigel Mansell’s Grand Prix for home computers from 1988. This one was much more simulation-like and even allowed you to try full race distances. It also offered recreations all of the sixteen Formula 1 circuits of the time.

FINAL LAP

Arcade titles such as 1987’s Continental Circus and Final Lap, 1988’s F-1 Dream and 1989’s Super Monaco GP (the sequel to the Sega classic Monaco GP from 1979) began to push just what arcade games could really do. Buttery smooth and fast gameplay with exciting race action to boot. But then, as the eighties began to end, a real game changer was released. Namco had already established themselves a great arcade racer developers, but in 1988, they unleashed a genuine beast of a game. Winning Run was was a revelation in arcade racers, F1 themed sure, but it was the titles amazingly impressive 3D shaded polygon graphics that really blew people away. Giving you a choice of two difficulties (cars) but only one track. You have to complete a qualifying lap before going up against twelve other racers to fight for first place. Winning Run opened the doors for 3D polygon racers, both in the arcade and at home.

The Nineties

Well this is it, the decade where Formula 1 game really took hold and began to show just how good they could be.  There were more F1 games released in the nineties than any other decade. The arcade format began to grow a little tired of the Formula 1 racers and started to look at other racing disciplines for games to be based on, but the home market was a very different story, you could hardly move for F1 themed games for home consoles and computers. It was 1991 when one of the finest Formula 1 games ever was released with Formula One Grand Prix.

F1GP

At the time, Formula One Grand Prix, from game designer Geoff Crammond was THE definitive F1 game for home computers. Its impressive 3D graphics were highly detailed for the time and the game offered a very, very in-depth, simulation representation of the 1991 season. Though the game was not officially licenced by the FIA, Geoff still made the game as authentic as he could. All the correct tracks were there and so were the drivers and cars… kind of. The driver helmets and car liveries were in the game, but the names were not. However, Geoff was smart enough to add an editing tool in the game so you could change the names with ease. There is so much I could write on this one F1 game alone (like it’s online and modding community that still exits) that this article would go on for days and I have so much more to cover… like this game’s sequels. But I will finish by adding that this game was the one that not only got me into racing some, but also F1 as a sport much more deeply. Yeah I watched and enjoyed F1 before this, but it was all the car set-ups, track info, etc from this game thatmade me want to understand the sport more.

Two of the biggest F1 drivers in the sport of the era got in on the whole licensing thing in 1992 when they had games released bearing their names and likenesses. Nigel Mansell’s World Championship Racing saw you able to play a full F1 1992 season as the mustachioed one himself. This was much more arcade-like but still offered things like pit-stops, minor car set-ups, tyre choices and the like. Even the greatest racing driver of all time ever got in on the action with Ayrton Senna’s Super Monaco GP II from Sega, a licensed version of their long running F1 series of games. This one was based on the 1991 season and Ayrton himself even helped with the development of the game. He not only allowed the use of his likeness, but Ayrton pops up though the championship offering you driving advice and tips for each track, all of which was written by the man himself. Plus he helped with how the cars should handle and even designed two fictitious tracks for the player to drive on, Ayrton even had a few voice samples in the game too.

SENNA SUPER MONACO GP II

There really were a slew of Formula 1 games in the early nineties, they were everywhere. Titles like F1 Pole Position, F1 Hero MD, Formula One World Championship: Beyond the Limit, F-1 Sensation (which was actually fully FIA licenced), F1 Grand Prix: Nakajima Satoru, F1 Circus Special: Pole To Win to name just a few, were all released between 1990 and 1994. I just need to give special mention to F-1 Grand Prix Part III from 1994 on the SNES. One of my favourite F1 games on any console at the time as it melded a really great racing game with some light management elements, allowing you to create your own F1 team.  But 1995 saw Geoff Crammond return and vastly improve on F1 game when he released the sequel, Grand Prix 2… only this time, fully licenced by the FIA. All the races, drivers (with the exception of Ayrton Senna and Roland Ratzenberger for obvious reasons), and teams for the 1994 Formula 1 season were wonderfully recreated and the simulation feel of the previous game was exceed ten-fold.

But it wasn’t all about heart pumping racing as Grand Prix Manager and Grand Prix Manager 2 saw releases in 1995 and 1996 respectively. Two very good and solid F1 management games full of options and variables as you take your chosen F1 team onto victory over a ten year career. To be honest, the games do feature some very questionable AI and overall simplistic gameplay, not exactly in-depth for management games, but still offered some good gameplay along the way.

GP MANAGER 2

1996 saw the release of Formula 1. Perhaps one of the most important F1 games to ever be made. This was the genesis of the F1 games we have today. Formula 1 featured the most accurate representation of the sport to date at the time. Fully licenced cars and drivers, tracks designed using actual real-life data and telemetry, TV style presentation including Tag Heuer timings. It even had commentary from the legend that was Murray Walker. This wasn’t quite as simulation heavy as Geoff Crammond’s games, but it was the first F1 game to get the whole feel and presentation of the sport right.

Formula 1 as a sport already had a rich history worth exploring in the nineties, and one game broke from the norm of trying to make the most recent season the star of the game. 1998’s Grand Prix Legends took the sport back to the sixties, in particular, the 1967 Formula 1 season. The tracks were tighter, the cars didn’t have the safety features and the sport on the whole was far more dangerous an this game tried to capture that. A full on simulation of what it would’ve been like to drive and F1 car back then, Grand Prix Legends was brutally realistic, a trait that turned many gamers off and the title didn’t sell well. But it is a game sim fans look back on with fondness.

GP LEGENDS

As the nineties came to and end, the F1 games did not. F-1 World Grand Prix, Formula One 99, Monaco Grand Prix: Racing Simulation 2, Grand Prix World and Official Formula One Racing were all released in the last coupe of years of the decade. And believe me, I’ve not even covered half of the F1 games released in this decade.

The Two-Thousands

As the next century began, F1 licenses became more strict and the games began to thin out in an quality over quantity kind of way. That’s not to say there still wasn’t a good few F1 games released. Kicking things of right was that man again, Geoff Crammond, with the third of his brilliant F1 games.

Grand Prix 3 followed the 1998 season. Yes, that is two years out of date. Though it was given an update in 2001 for the 2000 season via an expansion pack. Much like Geoff Crammond’s previous F1 titles, this one once more offered a fantastic racing experience and some in-depth simulation options. Electronic Arts got in on the F1 act using their famed EA Sports (it’s in the game) label, releasing multiple titles.  F1 2000, F1 Championship Season 2000, F1 Manager, F1 2001, F1 2002 and F1 Career Challenge all offered a more acradey feel to the racing over a deep simulation. Except for F1 Manager which was obviously a management game.

F1 Championship Season-2000

Grand Prix Challenge from Infogrames was a decent attempt at an F1 title, though it strived to be more simulation-like, it never really felt like it. Williams F1 Team Driver from 2001 put you in the driver’s seat of a young driver trying to make it into F1. Starting out in  go karts before Formula 1600cc, Formula 3, and finally onto Formula 1. An interesting title that was doing things a bit different from the usual Formula 1 games a the time, but overall, it was pretty disappointing. 2002 saw Geoff Crammond release his final F1 game with Grand Prix 4. This was pretty much more of the same from Geoff, still a good F1 racer indeed. But the problem was that other games on the market were beginning to get better and better, meaning these, once standout games no longer stood-out.

Formula One Arcade

Formula One Arcade from 2001 did exactly what the title suggested. It was a much more arcade-like game wrapped up in the official F1 licence. As far away from a simulation as you could get as the races featured power-ups like speed-boots, large high-grip tyres and even shields. This was all about high-octane, OTT racing.

By 2004, F1 games started to just became yearly update affairs. Sony secured the official F1 licence back in 1996 and made plenty of games from it too. Fourteen games in total released between 1996 and 2007. Other studios made F1 games, sure, but by the mid 2000s, Sony monopolised the market. Then in 2008, Codemasters were the ones to pick up the licence, though they didn’t use it proper until the next decade. There were still a very small handful of Formula 1 games released. For instance, F1 2009 was published by Codemasters, but developed by Sumo Digital. It was in 2010 when Codemasters released and developed their first Formula 1 title.

The Twenty-Tens And Twenty-Twenties

Yup, from this decade onward, Codemasters had exclusive rights to the official F1 licence. Meaning only they could release ‘proper’ F1 games. I don’t think it’s really worth going into all of their titles as they are basically yearly updates over the previous game. From F1 2010 to the most recent F1 2020, Codmasters have given us a decade of solid F1 simulations. Their F1 games over the last ten years have been great and easily offer the best Formula 1 racing around. All fully licenced with all the tracks and drivers representative of their respective years. I reviewed the most recent game only a few weeks back too.

F1 Race Stars

Codemasters did release a little curiosity of an F1 game back in 2012 that wasn’t part of their F1 sim games. F1 Race Stars was a more kart-racing-style arcade game, Full of power-ups, weapons and crazy track layouts that included jumps and even loops. Far and away from the simulation games, F1 Race Stars was actually really good fun and it even featured the official FIA licence too. Yup, you could drive as any of the twelve teams and twenty-four drivers from the 2012 season around OTT tracks inspired by the real circuits.

Other games have offered F1-like racing in some of their games. Rockstar introduced F1-style cars and races in GTA Online and the Forza Motorsport series has also included  Formula 1 cars and tracks. As too does the Assetto Corsa franchise. Though in these cases, they are either fictional cars or historical ones due to Codemasters having exclusive rights to the current F1 season.


And so, that’s pretty much it. Formula 1 games from the dawn of the sub-genre in 1972 right up to today in 2020. From simple arcade racers to more in-depth, realistic simulations and even management titles. F1 has seen a real evolution in terms of games that has spanned six decades. As much as I love the Codemasters F1 sims, it’s a shame they have exclusivity over the licence. I’d like to see more studios making F1 games like back in the eighties and nineties. I’d like to see more variation on the sport too instead of these yearly updates. Codemasters’ own F1 Race Stars was good fun and showed you don’t have to always make 100% serious Formula 1 titles.

I’d love to see more historic F1 games. Why not relive the career of a legend like Ayrton Senna or Michael Schumacher? Start out in karts, before moving through the ranks of the  Formula Ford 1600 Championships, Formula 3 before moving into F1? There could be a real-life comparison kind of thing where the actual career of Senna/Schumacher is going on in the background and you have to try your best to match it. I’d like to see more F1 management games, a sub-genre greatly underused. I’d like to see more acradey-like games and so on, titles that push the imagination of F1 beyond the simulation genre. There’s so much scope to be had with the sport, yet all we are getting are yearly updates of (admittedly) great F1 sims and cameo roles in other driving games.

Do I Like Shenmue II?

So I guess this is a kind of sequel to my I Don’t Like Shenmue article. Quick recap, I didn’t like the game when it was originally released and I still don’t like it now. But I did buy the recent Shenmue re-release (with a few minor tweaks). While I played the first game when it was originally released, I didn’t actually finish it – I just got so damn bored and decided to spend all my time in the arcade playing Space Harrier and Hang On instead. I never bothered with Shenmue II because the first game was so damn tedious, though I heard the sequel was far better. Still, when I recently got my hands on the re-release, I told myself I would finish Shenmue this time around before moving onto the sequel. Well I’ve finally finished the first game (god damn it that was laborious) and now I’ve played the sequel…but do I like it?

Shenmue II Ryo

By and large Shenmue II is pretty much more of the same with some minor refinements, but is that enough to make it an overall better experience? Well right off the bat. You can skip cut scenes and fast forward time to meet a specific deadline, this alone makes this one infinitely better then the previous game, no more needlessly waiting around for hours or days. Straight away I noticed how the world of Shenmue II is much more lively and vibrant over it’s predecessor. There are more people around doing more activities with more buildings to explore. Everything just feels so much more “alive”. The controls are still clunky and getting Ryo to simply turn is cumbersome but they feel a lot smoother though, plus some of the buttons have been switched around which took me a while to adjust to after getting so used to Shemnue’s layout. I have only put in a few hours, maybe 6-8 but in that short time, I’ve found this sequel much more playable and interesting than the first game by far.

Yeah Ryo is still an insufferable bore to play as with zero personality. But thankfully he’s plunged into a version of Hong Kong that’s full of interesting and enjoyable characters coupled with plenty of pleasing locales to explore and play around in/with. Some of the really crappy parts of the original still remain in the sequel, the clunky controls, the boring protagonist, the difficult and sometimes awkward navigation, the annoying look mechanic. But I found the short comings of Shenmue II much easier to forgive over the first game due to how much more interesting and interactive the world is. This sequel just has so much more character and personalty. Personality goes a long way too.

OutRun

Of course being the huge OutRun fan that I am, my first port of call was to the arcade to see one of my favourite games in all its glory. Sega lost the Ferrari licence a while back (that’s why you can’t buy any OutRun games anymore) so I was curious how they would handle this in Shenmue II. Maybe they’ve removed and replaced OutRun with another Sega classic? But to my surprise as I entered the arcade, there in the middle of the floor was a sit-down OutRun cabinet sparking off childhood memories…and you can still play it too. But due to the lack of a Ferrari license, sadly there is no big red Testarossa to drive anymore. Instead the iconic Ferrari has been replaced with a generic, Ferrari-esque red sports car, no Ferrari badge or any whiff of the Italian car manufacturer anywhere. Still, Outrun within Shenmue II is still an absolute joy to play. I’m a happy gamer.

Shenmue II OutRun.jpg

I begrudgingly forced my way through Shenmue and found very little to enjoy along the way – that god damn forklift truck racing and job is still one of the most boring things I’ve ever experienced in a game. Shenmue II is a very different animal, a game I’m looking forward to spending a lot more time with and a game (unlike the first one) I’m in no hurry to reach the end of, one I want to enjoy to its fullest by soaking up everything it has to offer. Do I like Shenmue II? Oh yes, very much so.

Shenmue plays like a broken, unfinished prototype and in may ways, it is. Given the scope of the game’s designer, Yu Suzuki original ideas for Shenmue and how much it was cut or trimmed back – it is a broken, unfinished prototype. I will never understand the praise Shenmue receives, its a terrible game but an average demo at best. It was back when it was originally released and it still is now. Shenmue II is different. Yeah its a little rough around the edges and yes its slow at times but that roughness is enveloped by a really strong and playable game, one that most definitely deserves all the praise, unlike its predecessor.

Shenmue II Ryo Walk.jpg

From the first game to this sequel, I’ve been converted, Shenmue II is wonderful title and in a way, I’m glad I didn’t play the game when it was originally released as now I feel as if I’ve found a long lost treasure, a real hidden gem of a game. Now of you’ll excuse me, I have a date with an OutRun arcade cabinet…oh and apparently I’m supposed to help Ryo find his father’s killer – but there’s always time for OutRun.

I Don’t Like Shenmue

Yes me as an avid gamer and martial arts movie fan does not like one of the most beloved games to feature kung fu – ever.

I’m not saying that I don’t like Shenmue to be “cool” as if disliking something popular is the ‘in’ thing to do. Truth is I’ve never liked it. I admit that at the time, back in the Dreamcast days of 1999 that Shenmue impressed me. It looked amazing with highly detailed characters, the semi-open world you found yourself in was jaw dropping at the time with people going about their daily lives and what not, then there was the basic premise of the game – a kung fu action/adventure/RPG. This was a cocktail I wanted a taste of.

Shenmue HD Fight

But when I played the game, it left a very bitter taste in my mouth. It was kind of like seeing a McDonald’s Big Mac in a TV ad, that big fat, juicy burger looking so damn delectable with beautifully and perfectly layered crisp salad sandwiched between that golden brown toasted bun. The sauce just gently peeking out from the sides whilst being lovingly squeezed by those two beautifully tanned burger patties as the cheese gently wilted under the excitement of this orgy of food. Oh man, a Big Mac looks amazing in the ads…then you buy one and get this…

Big Mac

That is the disappointment I felt when I first played Shenmue. It just looked so damn good but when I took my first bite, all I tasted was disappointment. Like the world popular Big Mac, I just do not understand what all the fuss is about when it comes to Shenmue. How can something so bland and tasteless be so damn popular?

Maybe it was just me back then. I mean, people change over time, opinions and views shift and even drastically alter. Things you didn’t like twenty years ago can and sometimes do seem much better further down the line. So when it was announced that Shenmue would be getting a “remaster” (and I use that word in its loosest possible way), it piqued my curiosity. Maybe, just maybe the game is like a fine wine and has actually improved over almost twenty years, maybe if I were to play it today with the “improvements” made to this “remaster” – just maybe I could finally experience and enjoy what it was that impressed so many people back in 1999…maybe? So you know what? I bought the HD update of Shenmue for my Xbox One X.

Shenmue HD Cover

As I awaited the release of the game, everything I disliked about it came flooding back. The incredibly slow pace. The awkward, stiff and clunky controls. The terrible voice acting. The uninspired story. But there was a ray of hope as this update adds new features such as an improved interface, modern controls, scale-able screen resolution along with a few other minor refinements. So yeah, sounds great and as if they’ve addressed some of the awkwardness the original had. So I was looking forward to it.

I guess I’d better get the plot out of the way first. Set in Yokosuka, Japan, 1986, you play as Ryo Hazuki who tries to track down Lan Di, the man who killed his father…well that didn’t take long – neither did my rediscovering my disliking for the game.

I have to applaud Sega for doing this, for bringing back one of the most beloved games ever to a new audience and old fans alike. They’ve done a good job overall. Yeah the game engine is old and looks it too, but the graphical upgrade is great now with a shiny new 1080p resolution over its original 480p, though you can switch back to its original resolution if you wish. Plus the game now plays in 16:9 widescreen, but sadly the cut-scenes play in the original 4:3 format. The draw distance has been increased and the whole game runs very smoothly as you’d expect. For an almost twenty year old game, it looks surprisingly great.

Shenmue HD Ryo Street

But its not without its problems. Shenmue is a painfully slow game and everything seems to take an age to do. As an example: doing something as simple as picking up an item. You start the game in your room which you can explore and examine it in detail. Look at a nearby cabinet (you have to press the look button to do so first) and there’s a lamp that you auto lock onto, then you have to manually move down to the drawers. Watch the animation as you have to open every single drawer in the cabinet, then watch the animation in reverse as you close every single drawer. And then when you find something worth looking at and even picking up, there is this awkward animation as Ryo picks the item up and holds it in his hands where you can then move the item around before pressing a button to add it to your inventory. The whole thing can take a minute or two…just to pick up an item, and you’ll find yourself having to do this countless times though the game too. Let this beginning be the standard to the setting of the pace for the entire game. Everything you do is syrupy slow and cumbersome, its sleep enduing.

Now I’m not picking on Shenmue for having outdated mechanics in this modern age of gaming. One of my favorite games from last gen was Deadly Premonition… I mean I really fucking love Deadly Premonition which in many ways shares a lot of similarities with Shenmue. While they are polar opposites in terms of setting and plot, the games are easily comparable via their mechanics. They are both slow, plodding games with terrible controls. They both feature horrendous voice acting and dated graphics. But Deadly Premonition has something Shenmue lacks, personality and charm. “Isn’t that right Zach?”.

That’s not to say that Shenmue doesn’t have any fun to be found as it does. The main game may be a complete drag but its also full of little distractions to keep you occupied. You can enter shops and take part in a raffle for prizes, collect mini figures based on Sega IPs such as Sonic the Hedgehog and Virtua Fighter, hunt out and collect cassette tapes, you can get a part-time job shifting crates around a warehouse, take part in forklift truck races. And perhaps the best part of Shenmue, you can go into arcades to play games like darts and even the Sega classics Space Harrier and Hang-On just to name a few. In fact as a little confession, back when the game was originally released I never bothered to finish it as I found it so boring – yet I was hooked by all the little mini-games and distractions Shenmue throws at you. Not much has changed just shy of two decades later either.

Just as a quick aside. One of the new features is supposed to be the addition on modern controls. As the original control mechanics are atrocious, having them updated for a more modern age sounded great…but where is the option to change the controls?

Option Screen

See, that’s a pic of the main option screen with the control setting and no modern option at all. Where is the modern control option that’s supposed to be one of the new updates?

Anyway, back on topic. The world created in Shenmue is impressive from just people watching as the residents of Yokosuka go about their daily lives to the little details and fun to be had that will not affect the main game such as feeding and caring for that cute little kitten. The world feels alive, with plenty to see and do. Its not quite on par with the modern open word games of today like Grand Theft Auto V or Assassin’s Creed: Origins for example but the world contained within Shenmue is a nice place to waste some time in regardless and when you think the game is coming up to its twentieth birthday, it shows how ahead of its time it really was.

Shenmue is horrible and has aged worse than Katie Price’s face, not as rough or suffering from so many “updates” though. No I don’t like Shenmue – I didn’t much care for it back in 1999 and I care even less for it now almost two decades later. However…I’m still going to play through it and finish it. As I said before I never did bother completing the game back when it was first released and because of that, I didn’t bother with its sequel, Shenmue II. I’ve heard the sequel is a far, far better game and seeing as the recent re-release comes with both, I may as well give it a go right? But first, I’ll have to suffer the boring mess that is Shenmue. How long it’ll take me to finish Shenmue I have no idea as just as back in 99, I’m getting more enjoyment out of playing classic Sega games in the arcade than the main game – so I’ve bought an almost twenty year old game to play thirty three year old games on my less than one year old, world’s most powerful game console. Ain’t gaming strange?

Can you believe Katie Price is only forty? I thought she was in her mid fifties at least with that face…

Katie Price

Wow I just wrote an article on Shenmue and didn’t mention sailors once.

So…Shenmue III eh?

After years of waiting, years of trepidation, years of wanting…Shenmue III is finally happening.

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The second sequel to one of the most loved game series is coming, all thanks to a hugely successful kickstarter.
With a target of $2,000,000, the Shenmue III kickstarter not only hit it’s target but even surpassed it in only a few hours of being launched.
Currently sitting at $3,201,562 as I write this…and still climbing. This is living proof of how popular Shenmue really is.

But before we talk about Shenmue III, let’s have a quick refresher on what Shenmue was/is and catch up with the story so far…

Shenmue cover

Shenmue: Was the brainchild of Sega legend Yu Suzuki and the Sega AM2 development team. Released on the much loved Sega Dreamcast in 1999.
A martial arts inspired RPG with a (at the time) amazing world to explore and interact with along with some of the best character models seen.

Beginning in the winter of 1986 in Yokosuka, Kanagawa, Japan. With you taking on the role of Ryo Hazuki, who returns home and witnesses his father, Iwao Hazuki, battling with a man known as Lan Di.
Lan Di orders Iwao to hand over the “Dragon Mirror” and when Iwao refuses. Ryo intervenes after his father is felled in combat, but Ryo ends up getting injured by Lan Di. Ryo is threatened with death which prompts Iwao to reveal the location of the “Dragon Mirror” underneath a nearby cherry blossom tree.

Lan Di’s henchmen recover the mirror and Di mentions a man called Zhao Sunming, who he says was killed by Iwao in Mengcun. Lan Di and Iwao Hazuki engage in combat. Iwao Hazuki is defeated and Lan Di allows Iwao to die “like a warrior”. Lan Di then finishes the fight with a fatal blow and leaves.
Iwao dies in Ryo’s arms shortly after, which fills Ryo with the desire for vengeance. After a few days of mourning and resting up from his injuries, Ryo begins his journey to track down Lan Di to avenge his father’s death.

Ryo’s first clue is a black car that some of his neighbors saw on the day of his father’s murder.
Though his leads are thin on the ground, Ryo slowly makes progress in his investigation by interviewing people all over Yokosuka…and asking for sailors. Just as he is about to run out of leads, Ryo discovers a letter from a man named Zhu Yuanda which suggests that he should seek the aid of a certain Master Chen, who works at the New Yokosuka Harbor.
Through Master Chen Yaowen and his son Chen Guizhang, Ryo learns that a local harbor gang known as the Mad Angels is connected to Lan Di’s crime organization, the Chi You Men. Ryo also learns that the “Dragon Mirror” stolen by Lan Di is part of a set of two stone mirrors. After further investigation, Ryo locates the second mirror underneath his father’s dojo, dubbed the “Phoenix Mirror”.

So Ryo takes on a job at the New Yokosuka Harbor in order to find out more about the Mad Angels gang, and eventually he causes enough trouble that the gang kidnaps his friend and love interest, Nozomi Harasaki. Ryo rescues Nozomi, but makes a deal with the Mad Angels leader, Terry Ryan, to beat up Guizhang in exchange to take Ryo to Lan Di.
Ryo fights Guizhang in a grueling battle, but after realizing Terry betrayed him by attempting to kill them, Ryo then teams up with Guizhang to defeat the seventy strong members of the Mad Angels gang.
Upon defeat, Terry reveals to Ryo that Lan Di has left Japan for Hong Kong. With the aid of the Chen family, Ryo is arranged to take a boat to Hong Kong to track his father’s killer, Lan Di. On the day of his departure for Hong Kong, Ryo is suddenly attacked by Chai, a low ranking Chi You Men member who has been following Ryo throughout the game with the goal of acquiring the “Phoenix Mirror” to gain the favor of Lan Di. Chai injures Guizhang’s leg when Guizhang saves Ryo from getting crushed by a giant steel beam sent by Chai.
Ryo engages in a battle with Chai and bests him. Guizhang, who planned to accompany Ryo to Hong Kong, urges Ryo to go ahead without him so he could rest up and heal from his injury. Ryo is instructed by Master Chen to seek out the help of a master of the Chinese martial arts located in Wan Chai named Tao Lishao.
Ryo boards the boat alone and sails off to Hong Kong in pursuit of Lan Di, concluding the first chapter of Shenmue.

Shenmue II cover

Shenmue II: Made by the same team as the last game and relased in 2001 for the Sega Dreamcast and later ported to the Xbox.

Picking up from where Shenmue left off, Ryo arrives in Hong Kong and searches for Master Tao Lishao, as he was instructed to do by his friend, Master Chen Yaowen. After a long and difficult search, Ryo finally finds Master Tao Lishao, who as it turns out happens to be a woman named Hong Xiuying; but she is unwilling to assist Ryo in what she considers a futile quest for vengeance.
The two part ways, but Xiuying continues to watch Ryo’s progress and they continue to cross paths throughout the game. Ryo later discovers another individual, Ren Wuying, who may be able to assist him in locating Zhu Yuanda. Ren Wuying is the leader of a street gang named The Heavens. A young boy who holds Ren in high regard named Wong and an adventurous woman named Joy also befriend Ryo and assist him in his investigation.
Ren decides to assist Ryo in his quest after discovering that there are large sums of money tied up in the mysterious and ancient “Phoenix Mirror”. Ren also informs Ryo that Zhu Yuanda is hiding in Kowloon.

Ryo arrives in Kowloon and begins his quest to locate Zhu Yuanda, who is hiding there from Lan Di and the Chi You Men. Several confrontations ensue between Ryo and his allies and the dangerous Yellow Head organization, who are aiming to kidnap Zhu Yuanda on behalf of Lan Di.
Following several clues, Ryo and Ren finally find Zhu Yuanda; however, the meeting is cut short when they are ambushed by the Yellow Head leader, Dou Niu. Zhu is kidnapped but eventually Ryo discovers that Zhu Yuanda is being held at the Yellow Head Building. Ryo heads to the building to save him, along the way, Wong and Joy are captured.
Ryo saves Joy via a fight against a powerful martial artist named Baihu. Joy tells Ryo that Wong is taken to the 40th floor of the Yellow Head Building.
Ryo arrives at the rooftop of the building and discovers Lan Di hanging from the ladder of a helicopter. But before Ryo could attempt to engage with Lan Di, he discovers Dou Niu holding Wong hostage. Ryo saves Wong and engages with Dou Niu in a climactic battle with Lan Di looking on. Ryo eventually defeats Dou Niu and is able to prevent Lan Di from receiving a captured Zhu Yuanda, but Lan Di escapes.
Everyone gathers at Ren’s hideout, Zhu Yuanda reveals to Ryo that the reason Lan Di killed his father was that Lan Di believed Iwao killed his father, Zhao Sunming. It is also revealed that Lan Di’s real name is Zhao Longsun. Zhu also provides information regarding the true purpose of the “Dragon” and “Phoenix Mirrors”. The mirrors will lead to the resurrection of the Qing Dynasty.
Ryo is advised by Zhu to continue his search in Bailu Village, located in Guilin and that Lan Di is headed there as well. Ryo parts ways with Ren, Wong and Joy as he continues his journey to Guilin alone.

After shortly arriving in Guilin, Ryo encounters a young woman named Ling Shenhua. She previously appeared to Ryo through several dreams throughout the first game. As the two talk, Shenhua reveals her family is connected with the legacy of the “Dragon” and “Phoenix Mirrors”.
Shenhua leads Ryo to a quarry on the outskirts of the village to meet with her father, but he is nowhere to be found.
The game ends in a cliffhanger, with Ryo and Ling discovering a cryptic note and sword, which Ryo combines with the “Phoenix Mirror” and inadvertently sets off a device revealing a huge depiction of the two mirrors.

Shenmue III

Shenmue III: Is going to be directed by Yu Suzuki and said to pick up and resolve the cliffhanger from Shenmue II and finally finish the story the fans have been waiting 14 years to see.
Set to be relased on PC and Playstation 4 with an estimated release date of December 2017. (seems a bit “optimistic” if you ask me)

Shenmue III’s kickstarter is great news as Yu Suzuki is asking for feedback from the fans, so we could shape the way Shenmue III turns out.
Even though the target has been suppased, it’s still very much worth investing as there are still plenty of pledges available and the more money this kickstarter gains…the more can be spent on the game.

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Service Games is 75 years old! Part III

Welcome back to my retrospective look at Sega. As we approach the end of the 90’s, Sega release their final gaming console.

dreamcast

The Dreamcast was released in 1998 in Japan and came to America and Europe in 1999.
This console was the first released in the 6th generation of gaming consoles, beating the PlayStation 2, Xbox and Gamecube for a release date.
Despite this console being a fan favorite and despite the impressive opening sales and even some groundbreaking/impressive games like; Shenmue, Power Stone 2, Metropolis Street Racer, Rez and even some arcade perfect ports. Dreamcast sales just did not meet Sega’s expectations and continuing financial losses, The Dreamcast was discontinued in 2001, just 3 years after originally being launched.

Even after the demise of the Dreamcast, it’s still considered an important machine as it was the first to include a built in modem for internet support and online play.

In 2001 Sega of America officially announced they were becoming a third-party software publisher and would no longer produce hardware/gaming consoles.
By 2002, Sega had five consecutive fiscal years of net losses and were in serious debt.

Sega losses

Sega were in some serious financial trouble.
CSK founder; Isao Okawa gave Sega a $692 million private donation and even talked to Microsoft in early 2000 about a possible sale of Sega or even a merger. But the talks failed and Isao Okawa passed away shortly after in 2001.
In 2003, Sammy, one of Japan’s biggest pachinko and pachislot companies, bought 22% of the shares of Sega that CSK owned, and Sammy’s chairman; Hajime Satomi became CEO of Sega.
Later in 2004, Sammy bought a controlling share the Sega Corporation at a cost of $1.1 billion, creating the new company; Sega Sammy Holdings, an entertainment conglomerate. From then on, Sega and Sammy became subsidiaries of the aforementioned holding company, with both companies operating independently.

From 2003 onwards, Sega starting making a profit once again and even started to buy and form other companies/studios to join and help grow Sega worldwide once more.
2005 saw the forming of; Sega Racing Studio. In 2006, Sega Europe purchased Sports Interactive. While Sega of America purchased Secret Level in the same year and rebranded it to Sega Studio San Francisco. 2013 saw Sega buy Relic Entertainment.
From then on Sega have managed to maintain a good steady financial flow from it’s various studios as well as by developing and publishing games on various other machines…even allowing Sonic and Mario to team up in the Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games series. Sonic & Mario together in the same game was just not heard of in the 90’s.

sonic mario

Sega even still continued to develop arcade games despite the arcade market being all but dead seeing as consoles had by this time become even more powerful than arcade machines.

Republic

Sega Republic, an indoor theme park in Dubai opened in 2009. Where you can enjoy over 150 amusement games/rides/attractions based on Sega IPs.
Then in 2013, in joint co-operation with BBC Earth, Sega opened the first interactive nature simulation museum in Orbi Yokohama, Japan.

From 2012 – present, Sega have mainly been concentrating on the digital market. By bringing many classic Sega games as well as reboots and remakes to Xbox Live, PSN, Android and iOS. With games like After Burner Climax, OutRun 2, Crazy Taxi and many others…but still no Shenmue 1 or 2 remake or even Shenmue 3?

Sega have certainly had a rollercoaster of a 75 years going from simple coin-operated machines, to help create and popularise arcades. To poor initial home market attempts to helping restore faith in the gaming industry after the 1983 game crash. Even shaping how we would game in the future with the Dreamcast.
I don’t think there is much Sega has not done in the industry.

75 years of Sega. Love them or hate them, you can not deny they have been an important part of the gaming world.

sega pads

Thanks for reading.

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