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Shenmue (Dreamcast) artwork

Shenmue (Dreamcast) review


"In the vast universe of gaming, there are some titles that are about as shallow as a children's swimming pool at a YMCA. And on the other hand, there are titles that are so vast that the Pacific Ocean wouldn't even match in comparison. Shenmue for the Sega Dreamcast is just that deep."



In the vast universe of gaming, there are some titles that are about as shallow as a children's swimming pool at a YMCA. And on the other hand, there are titles that are so vast that the Pacific Ocean wouldn't even match in comparison. Shenmue for the Sega Dreamcast is just that deep.

When I first booted up Shenmue, my mind was really racing through the multiple expectations that myself and the rest of the anxious gaming public had been considering. ''Is it just one big free for all, roam-where-you-want, kind of action/RPG?'' ''Can the gameplay be rivaled by anything to this date?'' Even though this experience was about a year ago, at the time, many people thoroughly questioned what kind of game it would play like, and the above questions are perfect examples of what people wondered all about. Soon after starting-up my Dreamcast, all of those mysterious questions were soon answered over an addictive and enjoyable period of two weeks.

Shenmue starts off with a cinema showing the background of Ryo and his father's unfortunate fate at the hands of the dark Lan Di. Once the gameplay begins, you are inside Ryo's house, only a minor piece of the detailed world around you. At first, I just walked all around the house, examining anything I could and simply admiring the gorgeous detail. This is only the beginning.

The story spans over numerous chapters, and this game being the very first of them all. What Shenmue is all about is finding information pointing to the next step in your quest of avenging your father's demise, hunting down his murderer, and eventually getting even with him. This chapter of the immersive epic barely scratches the surface of the entire mystery. Anyway, enough about the story, that's up to you to play through and enjoy for yourself.

Throughout the world of Shenmue, there are many things you can simply walk up to and interact with. The arcade, for one, allows you to use your yen to disperse amongst the gaming machines provided. When you choose to do so, you're thrown into one of many 80's Sega classics. From a game of darts to hopping into a motorcycle racer, it's really quite interesting (and fun!) to parade around the arcade and waste your money on, especially when trying to pass the time in-game. On the streets, you can find little toy dispenser machines containing popular Sega game characters. Virtua Fighter, Sonic, etc. Collect 'em all!

Character interaction spans from being an extremely enjoyable event to utterly tedious and boring at times. When you are seeking out answers to new information gained and entered into your journal (a little yellow pad that Ryo keeps to jot down tid bits of suspicious findings/events), you're required to walk around the town and interact with other citizens in order to gain the desired answers of your quest. At times, the conversations can be rather shallow, and sometimes, simply funny as hell to watch, considering the bland dialogue that you can occasionally run into. But for the most part, interacting with friends and other citizens turns out being pretty addicting.

Shenmue's control scheme is actually quite a unique one, at that. While the D-Pad guides you around, the A button is the primary action button while roaming around and activating certain allowed actions. The R Trigger is the real catch: holding this down will put you into Ryo's first-person perspective, giving you the ability to examine (and take, most of the time) just about anything you can glance at. When using this option, the D-Pad moves Ryo's view from targeting one specific object to another. This ability is quite needed in order to make your way through the game. Fights are one of the best parts about Shenmue simply because of the fighting game approach that was implemented into the controls during battle. D-Pad motions mixed together with button taps, this game practically has a fighting game in itself.

The visuals in Shenmue, despite being a year old, are actually still particularly impressive, especially being on a console with dated hardware. The detail in the world around you is rather deep, from multiple other citizens on screen at one time to the many buildings in a row on the sidestreets. Although, I found myself playing at a slowed framerate at times due to the constant crowds of people wandering through the detailed town. Yet overall, Shenmue does quite impressively in this factor of the game.

The realism factor in the audio portion is one of the best parts of Shenmue, especially the stunning ambience. Honking horns, conversations between other people, and other regular sounds you'll hear in a city are found throughout Shenmue. The seemingly fitting oriental music constantly plays and never wears old as you work your way through the game. The sounds of Shenmue are incredible, to say the least.

If you decide to try Shenmue, what you'll find is a moving, detailed, epic with a world of goodness to be found. Overall, this game grabbed me, shook me, and left me wanting more. And if you're an Xbox owner (or plan on being one sometime soon), you will definitely end up receiving more to this story with the exclusive Shenmue 2 (which was cancelled for Dreamcast at the stage of nearly being released). But for now, enjoy the incredible beginning to the story of Yu Suzuki's masterpiece.

Rating: ?/10

metaliknight's avatar
Community review by metaliknight (Date unavailable)

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