Stepping Back Nearly Nineteen Years – Shenmue 1 & 2 (PS4 Review)

Back in 1999, we saw the rise of the first Shenmue game on the Dreamcast, which now has a reputation for being one of the most sought-after retro games on one of the most sought-after retro consoles. Along with the usual Sonic titles of course.

So let me set the scene. On the day the snow turned to rain, a black car came racing through a quiet little town, startling locals; but something more sinister was at hand, for the inhabitants of the car where there for a purpose. They were after a mirror in possession of the Hazuki family and we ain’t talking about these guys being a bunch of removal men, although they get the job done at removing what they came for, with a great cost. Our protagonist Ryo, after days of dealing with the shock, emerges from his room and wants revenge for what happened, and now starts the long detective part, exploring the local town, piecing together the events of “that day” outside of his fathers’ dojo.

Along the journey meeting, some very interesting characters always keep yourself on guard and ready for rapid button prompts, should you need to practice this you could always go play a few games in the arcade.

After nearly nineteen years, the game has been remastered but not rebuilt fully. This remaster has an original feel to it, everything from the voice and soundtrack down to the fact that the graphics just look a little crisper without everything being redrawn. This, I feel, is more of a nod to the original release than a “we need to make this better” and why would it need to be better? The game not only has its own legs, it can run its own track with a speed that even Usain Bolt would be proud of.

This game made huge ripples in an already huge and growing pond, setting the way for many games we see and love today, with the open world and the gameplay style with the prompts still seen in games today. Another good example of this is the game Until Dawn, where a missed button prompt can change things, but, then again, so can a successful button press when the best thing to do is just let it go.

The game had many people asking over the years for a number three or a re-release, but with the first two games never really making back the money they put into them, Shenmue lll was put on the back burner and in a “development hell” that lasted over a decade. During E3 2015 Yu Suzuki announced a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign for Shenmue lll. With the cult following, the game has it smashed the two million dollar goal in just over nine minutes, becoming the fastest and highest funded video game project in Kickstarter history earning $6.3 million, this being said, the game is set for release in 2019 on PlayStation and Windows.

How I felt playing the games was really no different from the first time I ever played them many years ago. The instant addition of nostalgia as the sounds and visuals taking me back to 1999 and early 2000, this even made me want to find out where my old Dreamcast console is, just to play the other games from this time in my life, as it is in the house somewhere, packed away. But like I said earlier in the review, the game really hasn’t changed much.

This makes me actually love it more than if it had a full remaster with new updated graphics and a sound overhaul, as it brings back a time where games were much more personal, whereas the games of today are pushing more to the online multiplayer world, not that there’s anything overly wrong with this, just sometimes you like to escape to your own world and this game seems more of a reality than some of the games presented after to us.

Shenmue reminds us that our protagonist is not the centre of the world they are in, not everyone wants to speak to you and people even these pixels in a game have their own little life. With baited breath, I will be waiting for Shenmue III. Maybe we shall see a follow up to see if the game lives up to the big shoes it has to fill, least we can say the man in charge is still the same unlike a lot of other game franchises, but only time will tell.