Ryo’s big adventure. Review

Shenmue Info


  • N/A


  • 1 - 1


  • Sega


  • N/A

Release Date

  • 12/31/1969
  • Out Now


  • DreamCast


Ryo’s big adventure.

Have you ever had one of those days where you wake up and just don’t feel like

yourself? That’s exactly what happened to me a few days ago. I rolled out of bed

only to notice a bandage on my face and the Dragon

of my hair. Things got even stranger when I grabbed a fresh pair

of boxers only to notice the name “Ryo” written on the tag. Suddenly, it all came

back to me. I am Ryo Hazuki. My father was murdered and it’s up to me to avenge

him. I must seek out the killer and deliver him a message…

If it wasn’t for my considerate co-workers, I might have permanently forgotten

my true identity. I am an editor for the esteemed Game Revolution and

the last few days was only a game.

That “game” was Shenmue, and it indeed took over my life. Luckily, I

have survived to tell the tale. From famed game designer Yu Suzuki comes a masterpiece

of video gaming, and although it isn’t perfect, it marks a revolutionary step

in video game design.

The year is 1986. The place is Yokosuka, Japan. Players take on the role of

Ryo Hazuki in a quest to solve the mystery of his father’s murder and extract

vengeance on the killers.

Shenmue is basically an adventure game that borrows aspects from RPGs,

fighters, and even racers. Much of the game is spent exploring Ryo’s world and

following clues to find his dad’s killer. A lot of detective work is involved,

and since all the rituals of daily life (working, sleeping, etc.) still carry

on, the game’s slow progress can be a test of patience.

Often, Ryo must meet specific people at certain times and places. Missing these

events could lead to the loss of a valuable clue. Fortunately, not every single

clue is needed to solve the mystery. Also, if some key event is missed, the

game will automatically rewind itself to a point where players can have a second


The world Ryo inhabits imitates real life to a near perfect degree. You can

interact with almost everything in the game. Want to go through all the kitchen

drawers? No problem. Thirsty? You’d better decide on what type of soda you like.

Feel like playing some arcade games? Head over to the You’s Arcade, strap yourself

in, and play a pair of Sega classics. The amount of detail wrapped up into Suzuki-san’s

masterpiece is simply amazing.

The RPG aspect of Shenmue involves gaining items as well as building

up your character’s traits. As a martial artist, Ryo needs to hone his skills

for battles to come. Players choose what course his studies will take and advance

specific statistics for each move Ryo learns. They can even discover new techniques

for Ryo by exploring the right places.

The real world is not a friendly place, and the world in Shenmue is

no different. Fighting often takes on a Virtua

style of play and pits Ryo against some shady characters. With a

huge library of possible moves and combinations, Shenmue’s free fighting

bits almost feel like a true fighting game. It’s only missing this one thing.

In addition to the real-time fighting, Shenmue incorporates timed events

a la Dragon’s Lair. A scripted action appears and players must push a

certain button at the right instance. Since it’s only occasional and doesn’t

take up the bulk of the gameplay, this type of play adds a fresh feel and more


Not satisfied yet? There’s still more.

Vehicles exist in the world of Shenmue and there will be occasions when

Ryo must test his driving skill. Whether it be a forklift or motorcycle, you’d

best be ready to show off some serious speed. Racing in Shenmue, who

knew? Again, most every genre here is covered.

The control takes some getting used to. Moving around isn’t as intuitive as

you’d hope, as the standard camera seems a bit too low. But after a while it

becomes a non-issue.

The amazing level of detail wouldn’t be the same without life-like graphics,

and in this, Shenmue does not disappoint. Arguably one of the most graphically

advanced console titles to date, this game’s got all the graphical flavor you

could want. Textures are spot-on and characters have unique facial animations

that help bring them to life right before your eyes. Weather changes also occur

in order to match the game’s clock and calendar. It’s all here – every little

juicy detail.

Additionally, the game brings new meaning to the word "cinematic."

The transition from gameplay to cut-scene is seamless, as almost every cut-scene

is rendered flawlessly in-engine. You never break from the story to watch some

flashy FMV. At times, it feels like you’re playing a movie.

Ambient sounds are also done very well. Birds chirping, wind blowing, cars

passing; it’s unbelievable how much detail is in here. However, the voice-acting

demon that has plagued many a console adventure game has struck again. With

a multi-million dollar budget, you would think that the so-called “voice talent

coordinators” would be able to find some decent voice talent. Gamers everywhere

are sick of hearing the producer’s father’s brother’s nephew’s cousin’s former

roommates do the voice acting. Almost any bum

could have done a better job.

The only other gripe I have with this game is that it doesn’t really end.

Like the first book in an epic fantasy series, Shenmue leaves you wanting

more. It’s pretty disappointing to reach the end of a game only to find out

that it’s not the actual end of the game. Also, the next chapter will

most likely take its time in making an appearance and will add to the cost for

the entire experience. Still, I logged close to 40 hours of game time, and I

certainly didn’t explore every nook and cranny.

The initial reactions I’ve seen for Shenmue have been mixed. Some love

it and some hate it, but pretty much everyone can agree that it’s a departure

from the norm. The important thing to keep in mind about Shenmue is that

it’s an adventure game. The pacing can get slow and often you’ll spend a great

deal of time wandering around talking to people. This is not a good game for

the impatient, quick-twitch action junkie.

But it’s a great game for everyone else. While Shenmue may not initially

appeal to the mass gaming audience, it sure as hell appeals to me. This is truly

a game that everyone needs to experience at least once. All it requires is patience,

so keep this in mind.


Revolutionary level of detail
Superb graphics
Very cinematic
Varying types of gameplay
Whaddya mean it's not real?
Slow going
Poor voice acting