Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Which do I value more, Shenmue or Shenmue II?

Spoiler: I value Shenmue more than Shenmue II and will follow with a brief explanation as to why, but I am also interested in what y'all have to say about, especially if you dissent.WHen I've gone and looked about in discussion threads on Shenmue 500k and so on, nearly all of the talk regarding past games tend to center around Shenmue II and I wonder if that is recency bias (so to speak) or if there is something else at play.

Also, thanks to Alimn who for some unknown reason mentioned the Hazuki Dojo when he was receiving some award for Shenmue excellence or something like that and thus got me thinking I had better work on some actual Shenmue content here despite all of the other nonsense going on.

With the aid of some uh, interesting to say the least rewards being added, the Kickstarter has sputtered back to life with almost $1m being tacked on to total collected in the last week. With just over a week left to run, $5m looks like it should now be achievable. Over the life of the project, $10m is a realistic target with subscriptions and other forms of donations though considering the nature of some of those rewards I can't help but feel he may as well as just gone and got the money from a private developer. I think I will hold off to see if there are any more developments before diving in on the rewards, so look for that in a couple of weeks.

As for the headline, what I was originally considering writing was 'which do I love more' but then I was watching an episode of ABC's The Bachelorette where a guy named Joe with a massive forehead told Kaitlyn the Bachelorette, a woman he had at that point spent maybe half an hour to forty-five minutes tops of alone time with total that he was 'falling in love with her' and it completely turned me off using the word love for at least the next month.

Speaking purely in terms of a gameplay experience, I have always valued Shenmue far higher than Shenmue II. I haven't been back to either in a couple of years now. I'm not convinced either of my Dreamcasts is up to the task anymore so I'm hoping either for those pesky HD remakes to surface or I will have to start looking into emulation. But my thoughts on these two games are the same as they ever were.

It's not complicated. I love (guess that didn't last) Shenmue so much because it feels like home. When I'm walking around Dobuita and Sakuragaoka I am steeped in it all, the history of the town growing up, Ryo's favorite shops and restaurants in town and his friends who all except one know him well enough to give him space as he works through his (our) emotions following 'the incident'.That touch of genius carried within that little self-contained world where you truly live, breathe and feel as Ryo does is something I have never experienced in any other game.

By the time Ryo reaches Aberdeen in Shenmue II, it's already a vastly different, very alien world. It's difficult to find your way around, you know none of the people and it seems as though everyone is out to get you. It's in fact the whole point but that feeling has been lost and it is why I don't put Shenmue II on a pedestal the way I do its predecessor. Is it technically a better game? You could certainly say so. But it's not the same.

in the intervening fourteen years, I feel like I've played several other games that reminded me in their own little ways of Shenmue II. Perhaps not with the same astonishing depth of individuality but games such as Assassin's Creed II, Grand Theft Auto IV and Yakuza 3 have had similar exploratory freedom and narrative pathos but none can touch the sentiment raised by Shenmue.

In a way, this makes me quite hopeful for how Shenmue III will unfold. Taking place as it does in three small villages, it sounds as though it will have roughly the same breadth of world as Shenmue situated presumably in a place with people that Ling Shenhua knows well with a lot of history and relationships of her own to explore. The opportunity to shape your connection with her and possibly even take control of her movements is certainly something I'll maintain a keen interest in. Even then I don't think it will ever quite surpass the benchmark - there can only be one - But only time will tell.

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