Shenmue II (Xbox) review
" The original Shenmue was a pretty big hit for a Dreamcast game, considering the lack of owners, so naturally a sequel was highly anticipated. American gamers got a nasty shock though, when they found out Shenmue 2 would be coming out only in Europe, and Japan for the Dreamcast, instead they had to wait until the Xbox. Unfortunately, in all the time it took to get here, it's still basically a Dreamcast port, and Dreamcast graphics really don't measure up to the Xbox(seriously). While the bad gr..."
The original Shenmue was a pretty big hit for a Dreamcast game, considering the lack of owners, so naturally a sequel was highly anticipated. American gamers got a nasty shock though, when they found out Shenmue 2 would be coming out only in Europe, and Japan for the Dreamcast, instead they had to wait until the Xbox. Unfortunately, in all the time it took to get here, it's still basically a Dreamcast port, and Dreamcast graphics really don't measure up to the Xbox(seriously). While the bad graphics probably scared off quite a few from buying the game, if you give it a chance, all that won't matter so much because of superb gameplay.
This is one of the few games out there that actually mixes a lot of genres, to create an ultimately satisfying experience. For the most part is somewhat of an Action/RPG, with puzzle solving, exploration, and the fact that the more you use your moves in fights, the stronger they become. The fighting system is a downgraded version of Virtua Fighter, but is still a lot of fun. Unfortunately, in the end you don't get to fight nearly enough. Shenmue 2 also throws in a variety of mini-games, one of the best being QTEs. In a QTE, it's like watching a FMV, but at certain parts a button shows up for you to press, and different things will happen depending on if you push it in time. For example, in the first QTE you are chasing after a boy, if you keep messing up in the QTE eventually the boy will get away, and you will have to find him again. There are also a lot of extra little mini-games thrown in. There is four old Sega arcade classics you can find, as well as darts, and you can collect little toys to earn money too.
These mini-games are an example of how the gameplay ends up being a nice mix of linear, and non-linear. You will always have a specific goal in the game that you have to do, but there are many things you can do while completing your objectives. At one point in the game you must learn about a certain ''code'' type thing for Karate, the game doesn't force you to do this right away though, you can go off and gamble, play some mini-games, collect toys, or just explore, and then do the main quest thing whenever you feel like it. This non-linearity is one of the reasons the game manages to stay fresh throughout.
Another great thing about this game is the difficulty, it is definitely not to hard, except for some of the ending fights, but it isn't a cakewalk either, as some of the masteries, and fights take a decent amount of skill. You will never find yourself bored, or frustrated throughout the course of the game.
Shenmue 2 is one of the few games on the Xbox to use mainly the D-pad for walking. This feels extremely awkward at first, but you get used to it(this was most likely done because of QTEs) otherwise everything else feel perfect. The A,B,X, and Y buttons just bring up menus, or do actions(there is a nice little helper thing at the bottom of the screen that tells you what buttons does what, and the fighting controls fit nicely as well.
The game does have one somewhat big flaw though, the money system. There are a couple of times in this game when you must raise $500. It doesn't sound like to big of a deal, but the job you have to perform isn't fun at all. It's just moving crates, with a boring little QTE. The most I've ever made is $60 on it, but it's almost a requirement to do if you want to earn the money you need, because every other way to earn money involves risk of some sort, and the toys you can collect don't earn you as much money as you may end up spending on them. Luckily this is only a few times, but I know of some people who just kind of fell out of the game because of how boring the game's job is.
One of the things that can manage to push you through any frustrating times you may experience though is the amazing story. Shenmue 2 continues the tale of Shenmue with Ryo going after the man who killed his father. In order to follow the story you'll need to have some background on Shenmue. Luckily the game not only has a short video to catch you up on the story, but it also has a DVD movie, that is actually fairly entertaining.
The actual story of revenge isn't that great, but the stuff going on during the journey is what's cool. Many things will come between Ryo, and his goal, and there are plenty of plot twists to keep the story moving. The ending is to the game is also pretty good. It ends as somewhat of a cliffhanger, as you will be left with several questions, but all these should be answered in the next game... hopefully.
The reason I say hopefully is because there may not be a Shenmue III, because the game just hasn't sold well. One of the reasons for this could be the graphics and sound. The main characters like Ryo, and Joy don't look so bad, but everyone else just looks pretty bad. You can live with them, but they are not good. This is made even worse with the voice acting. Luckily they gave all the main characters decent voice acting, but a lot of other people in this game sound really bad. You will come across people with some just horribly disfigured voices. With a game with the cinematic type appeal of Shenmue 2, they really should've spent more time with the graphics, and sound.
The graphics have a few redeeming points though. The environments don't look that great, but they are pretty big, and varied. Also, the character models may look bad, but there are a lot of them. They don't repeat everywhere like some games with a lot of characters (KOTOR).
As bad as the graphics and sound is though, it doesn't tear away from the terrific gameplay, and there is a lot of this great gameplay as well, with I'd say about 30 hours if you rush through it. You will probably want to milk the game by checking out all the buildings, and playing the mini-games and such which could bring you to over 50 hours of gameplay. There is plenty of motivation to continue playing the game ever when you beat the game too. First off there are a lot of unlockable mini-games and such, including the four arcade games which can provide you with lots of fun.
Also you may want to just replay the game again for fun. The way the story is, you'll notice some things if you play through a second time, and you may want to try doing some things differently the second time through, like gambling more for example.
Shenmue 2 is easily one of the most enjoyable games I have ever played, despite it's flaws with the money system, and despite it's bad graphics, and sound. If you can look past the graphics and sound you are in for a treat, unfortunately many people can't seem to do that, so you may be best off renting the game before buying.
Community review by icehawk (February 06, 2004)
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