What do you need to know about Shenmue?

August 21, 2018 is a big day for people who love Japanese games. A classic has made a comeback. Shenmue I & II headed to the PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC, giving people a chance to learn about the fight between Ryo Hazuki and Lan Di. Which should be quite helpful, considering a third entry is in development. But what if someone are entirely new to Shenmue? What do you need to know about the series? Let’s learn about the games together!

What is Shenmue?

The simple answer is that Shenmue is a series of action-adventure games that set a trend. A young man, Ryo Hazuki, sees a man named Lan Di come to his family’s dojo. Lan Di takes a relic, known as the dragon mirror and kills Ryo’s father. Ryo must then find the mirror’s partner, then leave Japan to head to China to chase after Lan Di and find a young woman he has seen in his dreams. It is basically a revenge story that has greater and grander implications.

The more complex answer is that the Shenmue series set a trend. It combined daily activities with an overarching quest. Ryo would be able to do normal activities, like drive a forklift for work, race chickens or visit an arcade, while trying to discover Lan Di’s motives and save the day. It had a day and night cycle. It was also one of the first games to introduce the modern quick time event mechanic to games, where players press buttons during a cinematic sequence to complete actions.

The original Shenmue was a Dreamcast exclusive. It debuted on the system in 1999 in Japan, before heading to North America and Europe a year later. A sequel followed in 2001. Interestingly enough, the Dreamcast version of Shenmue II only appeared in Japan and Europe, with the Xbox version showing up in North America and Europe shortly after.

How does Shenmue I & II improve upon the original games?

Convenience is a big part of it. You get a remastered version of the games playable on current platforms. It is in in HD, running at 30fps with widescreen support and post-processing effects. It should generally look and run well.

Shenmue I & II also has some new additions that improve both games’ quality of life. The controls are better, with a modern option seemingly allowing people to opt out of tank controls. You have the option of English or Japanese voice acting. Especially handy is a save-anywhere system. Also, having both games together will make it easier to carry over your save from the first game to the second.

What’s going on with Shenmue III?

It is still in development! The official website is regularly updated with information from Ys Net and Neilo. Shenmue III will feature Ryo and Shenhua starting off on a joined journey together. As a reminder, Shenhua is the young woman who has appeared on the covers of the games, but never really made an impact until the second installment.

It has experienced many delays, however, so prepare to be patient. Shenmue III originally had a tentative December 2017 release window. Its first delay was to the second half of 2018. Most recently, it was given an August 27, 2019 release date.

Are there any other Shenmue games I should know about?

Yes, there are actually two other Shenmue games! Except, you can’t actually play them. Neither of the games exist anymore.

The first of these now defunct games was Shenmue Online. It was supposed to be a MMORPG. Beta phases were even planned for Korea and China. However, it was hit with development woes. Sega and JC Entertainment were supposed to be creating it, but the latter dropped out. Gameplay videos and screenshots were released in 2005 and 2006, but a finished product never appeared.

On the other hand, we have a Shenmue-spinoff that actually existed. Shenmue City appeared on phones in Japan. This was a social game where people would live in Yokosuka, Japan, Ryo’s hometown, and basically explore the city and become a stronger fighter. Little is known about it, because it did not exactly enjoy the longest lifespan. It launched in December 2010, then died at the end of 2011.

Questions? Comments? Talk to us on Twitter or Facebook!