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.


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.


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.