Shenmue I & II (PC) Review

By Ofisil 09.10.2018 4

Review for Shenmue I & II on PC

Shenmue and its sequel had an impressively larger than life scope, as they attempted to create a fully immersive, realistic world, and mix it with an exciting, narrative-driven, and martial arts-fuelled, adventure. Have they succeeded? Well, the immense love that fans still have for them speaks for itself - but it was mostly a cult love, as the final product was actually a commercial failure, which in turn left the upcoming Shenmue III in development hell; a title that will eventually become a reality due to crowdfunding. As the perfect appetiser, SEGA decided to - slightly - remaster the first two games, and offer them in one package... which, unfortunately, is more concerned with being a faithful port, rather than a polished job that would make a game that hasn't aged that well actually enjoyable in 2018.

Shenmue I & II follows young Japanese Ryo Hazuki, who sets out to find the one who killed his father - and while the plot was a standard tale of revenge, the game itself was anything but. This is, without any exaggeration, the reason why many modern, open-world action-adventures are the way they are. Apart from the introduction of things like QTEs and other mechanics that gamers now take for granted, its main charm was its emphasis in realism. Ryo will start his quest in a place that, in terms of size, can't compete with the likes of an Assassin's Creed, Far Cry, or Grand Theft Auto.

Size, however, was never SEGA's intention. This tiny corner of Yokosuka has NPCs following their own routines, with shops having opening and closing times, a day/night cycle, a weather system, and so on. In many ways, Shenmue's magic isn't the whole avenge-your-papa and do-Kung-Fu-while-at-it element, but the way it acts as a life simulator... but that makes it a game for a selected few, as most will find this purposely mundane microcosm to be insanely boring. The worst thing, however, is how this mundane bit is handled in terms of actual gameplay.

Screenshot for Shenmue I & II on PC

Both "episodes" are your basic adventure games, where you talk with people and gather clues, which act as the breadcrumbs that lead to end. Your initial attempt to find your father's murderer, for example, will lead you from NPC to NPC... to NPC. The thing with NPCs in here, though, is that they have a life to live, thus they won't always be available to talk to. What can be done, then? Well, besides waiting, it's possible to wander around and talk with people, find a job, gamble, or use some of your allowance to play SEGA arcade hits, such as Hang-On and Space Harrier.

This focus in immersion definitely not devoid of fun, but it's also another reason why Shenmue won't appeal to everybody. The main problem, however, is that, engrossing or not, this just isn't fun anymore. Being able to search every drawer, gather money in various ways, experience some quick-time-action bits, and, generally, explore a living, breathing world, was revolutionary back in the days of Dreamcast, but not anymore. In other words, Shenmue and its, admittedly, far better second half, are not mundane just in terms of setting but as actual games...

Screenshot for Shenmue I & II on PC

One could argue that an adventure so old should not be judged by today's standards, but that doesn't make any sense, because you will be playing it now, not 'then.' For those interested in a faithful port, this is probably the best (and only) way to play Shenmue and its sequel on a modern system - and, as the cherry on top, both titles have been slightly updated, and, therefore, are better... right? Right?! Unfortunately, the answer is no. In the end, liking a game or not is a subjective thing, but how well it acts as a piece of software is not.

For starters, there are plenty of bugs - just a small minority of them game-breaking (and most have been fixed during the process of this review), but that doesn't mean that these can't be annoying; the voice acting is many times way out of sync, with the (hilariously bad) English dub sounding as if it's badly compressed or something; and as for the visual upgrade, it's a sloppy HD facelift, with some textures truly ending up better, while others being even blurrier, with the end result being a world filled with characters with "flawless" faces and hair, and washed out attire.

Screenshot for Shenmue I & II on PC

The biggest problem, though, is that the first title in the collection still has the atrocious controls of the original, which are a weird mix of tank-controls and the modern control scheme of third-person games. This turns the simple act of moving, or pointing and "clicking" in the very first room, into an annoying chore, and once you get out in the open... oh, dear Amaterasu! Ryo controls like one of the most problematic (and slow) vehicles in existence, breaking your nerves in the process, and even when doing the simplest of tasks.

A final note, which is probably more of a personal issue, is that this is one of those rare occurrences where yours truly has gotten a heavy case of "videogame nausea." It's hard to understand why that happened, but whether that's due to the wonky movement of the camera when in first-person mode or because of the frequent frame-rate plunges, this is definitely something that should be taken into consideration, even if you are not one that has that problem when playing a game, as it can really ruin the experience (and your purchase) if so.

Screenshot for Shenmue I & II on PC

Cubed3 Rating

4/10
Rated 4 out of 10

Subpar

If looking for a simple port, as well as a bundle of the Shenmue duology, you are in for a treat, despite the fact that the enhancements of this version are underwhelming. Those expecting an action-adventure that is as good as it is popular, though, get ready for a rude awakening, because, nostalgia, and pioneering innovations aside, this just isn't fun anymore.

Developer

D3T

Publisher

SEGA

Genre

Real Time RPG

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  4/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

Comments

These games have a special place in my heart, and I happily backed Shenmue 3 with a fairly hefty sum of cash, but I can't disagree they just don't hold up today. I'm extremely disappointed SEGA took such a lazy route when remastering these games. They didn't deserve the kind of bug-filled shitty treatment they got. They had all the time in the world to bring these games to modern systems, and in the end, it was a quick jobbie with very little care put in, with frustratingly bad controls, compressed audio, and little QOL improvements that the first game definitely needed (i.e. time skip).

Second game is a lot more fun than the first, but man, the forced minigames like the book airing really emphasise how padded out the overall games are in many parts. I wish there were more opportunities to fight as well - all those moves at Ryo's disposal, and he rarely gets a chance to put them to the test. In the end, you mostly just end up spamming the same moves.

Still in my fave games list since I have so many great memories growing up with Shenmue, but SEGA really should have done more in bringing these to the modern age.

The Shenmue 1+2 ports were handled by the same company that did the recent Mega Drive Collection for PS4/XB1/Switch.

When I heard that this re-release had serious issues, I was disappointed, but not surprised.

( Edited 09.10.2018 23:22 by Gabriel PVJ Jones )

these games could have used some QOL enhancements. subtle things like faster animations and the option to jump ahead in time.

To be honest I never found the Shenmue games that great, while I respect it's legacy for the Dreamcast I personally could never get the momentum to play the game. It was just overly slow back then and I can imagine it's pacing is still as slow in 2018.

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