One of the most widely renowned games ever in Shenmue

God alone knows what part this woman plays in the whole affair – she basically just appears in the intro sequence. Mysterious. If you’re a Sega loyalist or even just a computer games fan in general, it’s likely that you already know a fair bit about young Ryo Hazuki and his quest to avenge his father’s death. If you don’t, well – where have you been? Previews and screenshots have been popping up online and in mags for months now, as Shenmue goes for ‘most anticipated title’ honours. What, you want a plot outline?

Well, OK then, but this is absolutely the last time. You are Ryo Hazuki, and you live with your father Iwao, mother-figure/home help Ine-san, and your Dad’s only student, Fuku-san. Your Dad teaches a family style of jujitsu, which makes it all the more surprising when you come home one day to find some Chinese bloke kicking his arse. The man demands that Iwao give him the Dragon Mirror, whatever that is, but when he gets it he kills Dad anyway. Bastard. From here on in it’s your task to explore your local surroundings, looking for clues that will lead you to your father’s murder. You wake up every day at 8:30 sharp, pick up the 100 yen daily allowance Ine-san has kindly left for you, and head out into the astonishingly detailed world of Japan, 1986. Every so often some thug will chance his luck, and you get the chance to take him apart with surgical precision.

Nice. The plot is surprisingly linear considering how much emphasis has been placed on the free form nature of the game. There are indeed literally hundreds of independent Non Player Characters (NPCs) wandering about, opening their shops, chatting to you and each other, and generally being autonomous to an almost scary degree. However, at any one point in the game you will always ask exactly the same question of everyone you meet (« Did you see a black car the night of my father’s death? »), and usually get an almost identical response. Source:

Sooner or later you’ll hit upon the right person, who’ll give you the next plot point, and then you ask about that until you find someone with appropriate information. All the people you speak to are beautifully detailed, particularly the faces which are bursting with character, but unfortunately it sounds like the same man and woman have voiced every single one of them, just putting on odd accents. Not good. Equally, if you don’t talk to every single person at every single plot point, you’ll have some disturbingly large gaps in that ubiquitous notebook of yours.

Oh yeah, and the control system’s clumsy. But wait! Why are we being so hard on it if it’s supposed to be so gosh-darned great? Well, despite the negative points, it’s probably the most addictive game you’ll play all year. Whatever that secret factor in games is that makes you think « just a little while longer… » is present here in spades. The ground-breaking graphics aside, it’s the realistic story-line that will keep you up ’til the wee hours. As huge as Shenmue is, it’s also the equivalent of the first movie in a trilogy. Oh yes, there’s plenty more to come…