[PlayStation 4] Shenmue I and II Review
Shenmue III is making its way to the PlayStation 4 next year, and to make the wait a bit easier, Sega has decided to release HD ports of the first two games in the series. Are you ready to dive in? Then come check out our Shenmue I and II review!
The first game begins with a cut-scene that shows Ryo Hazuki arriving home to find that something is very wrong. A strange man is questioning his father in the dojo, asking for the location of a mirror. The man is strong and very fast, and he ends up avoiding all attacks from Ryo’s father while dealing with a series of blows that sends him to the floor. When Ryo tries to retaliate, he too is sent to the floor with a single hit. The man then threatens Ryo’s life by lifting him from this neck before throwing him down to the floor. The henchmen end up finding the mirror, leaving the dojo without saying anything else. Ryo’s father, unfortunately, does not survive the episode, and this sets up the game’s premise: Ryo must avenge his father’s death, no matter what. The man who is responsible for your father’s death is named Lan Di…
Before you can start to play this adventure, you’ll first need to understand how to control the game. You will move around with the left analog stick and can zoom into objects of interest with the L2 button. Once you’ve locked onto an object of interest, you’ll be able to press the X button to interact with it by performing an action – picking it up, opening something, etc. You can also rotate things you grab by moving the left analog stick to get a better look at said object.
What makes this game very interesting is that with every action you take you will spend some in-game time, which will, in turn, move the time of the day ahead for a bit. There are some things that can only be done within a certain time of the day, so you will need to plan each of your days accordingly to be able to maximize what you can do before it is time to go to bed. If for some reason, you ever find some downtime you need to kill, I suggest that you use it to train or to work on some of the miscellaneous objectives you can complete on top of the main quest. You could, for example, search for the scrolls from which you can learn new moves to improve your fighting.
As for the fighting, you have a nice variety of moves at your disposal that sometimes make it feel as if the game has placed you inside of a Virtua Fighter match. You can punch opponents with different types of attacks, use your elbows to deal some extra damage, use both hands for a special and painful strike, use your legs to kick them down, put your knees to good use, grab and throw them over your shoulder or slamming them hard onto the ground, and more. It’s a very diverse system that is put to good use, and you’ll need to learn how to use each of these attacks if you want to defeat your opponents, especially when you’re up against more than one of them.
Something that Shenmue popularized, but certainly didn’t invent, is the QTE, or Quick Timer Events – nowadays these are known as Quick Time Events. These events ask you to press a button or direction by quickly flashing it on screen, and you have a short window of opportunity to press it before failing. There are several QTE in Shenmue, and if you don’t act fast, you’ll end up failing most of them. We’re now used to seeing QTE in games, especially in adventure releases from Telltale Games, but back when this game released, it was certainly a very new thing to try in a video game.
Along with the main story quests and the side quests, you can also dive into an arcade to play a game of Space Harrier or Hang-On, either at the arcade for 100 yen per play, or by finding the two games as Sega Saturn discs you can play in the Sega Saturn found at Ryo’s house. There’s also a jukebox you can use to play a song for 100 yen, a game of darts that also costs 100 yen, a QTE arcade machine where you can press the Square, X and Circle buttons to hit the targets that rise, which costs 100 yen (notice a pattern?), and more.
The Options menu offers you a chance to change the game’s language between English and the original Japanese. You can also go into the graphics sub-menu to select if you want the HD rendering on or if you would like to turn it off to emulate the game’s original resolution. There are also options to turn the Bloom post effect on or off, changing the display contrast, changing the aspect ratio between 4:3 and 16:9, moving the UI display area, and selecting if you want to auto-jump between sections of the game – an option that greatly speeds things up but which can make you skip some of the interactions you’d get from walking from point A to point B, which could affect some of the missable trophies in the game.
Speaking of that, Shenmue on PlayStation 4 includes a full trophy list with a Platinum trophy waiting for you at the end, but you do need to be working on several of them from the moment you start the game! There are 28 trophies in total, split into six Bronze, a whopping eighteen Silver, and four Gold trophies, but out of this lot there are eighteen missable trophies in total! Seven of them can be obtained within the first hour of the game, so if you miss those, starting a new run for some trophy clean up won’t be as hard on you, but the others you’ll need to be careful about, especially the ones for finding collectable toys (for the aptly named Gacha Catcha set of trophies), as well as the ones for learning combat moves and playing classic games.
Shenmue II is a game that we didn’t get to enjoy on the Sega Dreamcast in North America back in the day since that version was only available in Japan and Europe. The sequel was released on the original Xbox in North America and Europe, but since I didn’t own one, this is the first time I’ve had a chance to play the second part in the trilogy. The game picks up where the first one left off, as Ryo continues to try and track down Lan Di, the man who killed his father. Ryo will continue his journey, reaching new locations and interacting with new characters that will, hopefully, have the information he needs.
If you’ve completed the first game, you can load your save to import it into Shenmue II so that you have access to all the money, items and skills that you have learned from the first quest, which is a nice bonus since it helps to connect both games, rewarding players who made the most of their time in Yokosuka. The game improves on what the first game did, expanding on the flow and the overall experience. Along with the arcade machines from its prequel, the sequel adds the excellent OutRun as well as After Burner II, which is definitely a nice bonus.
The sequel is also bigger than the first game in the trilogy, giving you a larger variety of locations and areas to visit. Graphics are also better than what we got in Shenmue, which makes sense since after working on a project of the scope of Shenmue, Yu Suzuki and his team had the experience they needed to give us an adventure. It could be said that Shenmue II is roughly 50% bigger than the first Shenmue game, which means that between both games you’re looking at spending at least 40+ hours before you have seen the whole story – add a dozen hours on top if you end up doing everything the game has to offer.
Shenmue II also has a full trophy list with a Platinum trophy. Once again there are several trophies tied to learning new combat skills for Ryo, and there are other trophies for interacting with NPC in different ways. You should also take on all four arcade games included in Shenmue II (the two new ones and the two from the first Shenmue which are also included in the sequel). There are a couple of trophies you should keep an eye on since they ask that you take on and win a handful of arm wrestling matches. It’s overall a good list that is made a bit easier for the fact that in this sequel you can go to a particular time of the day instead of having to dilly-dally through most of your in-game day.
Shenmue I and II on PlayStation 4 is a great way to enjoy two classics from the Dreamcast era that many players probably never got a chance to play back in the day. You get both games for only $29.99, giving you a ton of content to enjoy – probably over 50 hours between both games if you want to 100% them -, as well as two full trophy lists with a pair of Platinum trophies, making this of great value to trophy hunters.
This Shenmue I and II review is based on a PlayStation 4 copy provided by Sega.