Years of the Dreamcast Part 3: Shenmue

Click here to read Part 1 and Part 2

After watching the Shenmue trailer on my Dreamcast’s demo disc, and after seeing the outrage that the cancellation of Shenmue 2 received, I decided to pick Suzuki’s epic up. The actual game wouldn’t win me over so easily, though. Shenmue was unlike anything I had ever played. It was slow and rigid. The character couldn’t jump or do anything particularly interesting. What kept me coming back was the world and the story. It was unlike anything I had ever seen before. The cinematics put Sonic Adventure to shame. The storyline was almost like a movie.

The world was full of little touches, and I couldn’t help but get a warm, bubbly feeling every time I discovered something new, such as the first time I found the bathroom in the Hazuki household!  But eventually, my interest in the game began to wane. It was too slow, the storyline began to grow uninteresting,  and Charlie turned out to be a dead end… I stopped playing for a while. If it hadn’t been on the Dreamcast, I might never have come back. This was a Dreamcast masterpiece though, and I became determined to see it through. After about a month I pressed on. It was about then that the game picked up. I got the letter, found Master Chen, I found the Pheonix mirror, and the game suddenly became a lot more interesting.

Shenmue was the first slow, methodical adventure game that I had ever played, as well as being the first one I had enjoyed. It served as a gateway game to RPGs like Skies of Arcadia and adventure games like Metroid Prime, both of which now rank in my favorite games of all time. It taught me that gaming could be about more than action. It could be an experience.

A few months later, in April, I would get Shenmue 2. GameStop and EB games were both selling copies imported from Europe at the time due to the game’s high demand. I bought the game, and would spend much of the summer trying to beat it. For me, the Dreamcast version of Shenmue 2 holds the odd distinction of being the game that just kicked my ass. Not really because it was hard, but because the game gave me so many opportunities to fail. In the space of just a few hours, and at one point in front of my sisters friends, I lost an optional wrestling match, failed horribly at lucky hit, and lost several in story battles and QTEs in a row. I’ll admit that I don’t quite remember what these battles were, since this was back in 2002. All I do know is Li Shao Tao saved me by the end of it, and I felt a little depressed from losing so many things without the option to retry them.

Looking back, the experience was fitting. Ryo Hazuki wasn’t in his home town of Yokosuka anymore. He was traveling abroad, diving into the seedy underbelly of the Hong Kong criminal underworld. It only makes sense that this world would be far more hostile, far more unforgiving and offer far more chance for failure. It was at this point that I stopped playing Shenmue 2 on the Dreamcast. I wouldn’t pick the game up again until I bought it for Xbox, though I wouldn’t finally complete the game until 2005.

The moment I beat Shenmue on the Dreamcast was the moment I graduated from being a Sonic fan to a SEGA fan. For the first time I had beaten a game that relied far more on puzzle solving and exploration than action. My taste for what SEGA had to offer would only grow from here.


13 responses to “Years of the Dreamcast Part 3: Shenmue

  1. DCbrotha says:

    SHENMUE is “thee” CLASSIC game of all time! Incredible Brilliant Game!

  2. TheTruth says:

    Lol graduated from a sonicfan to a SEGAfan. Yeah in your dreams buddy. You are an imposter SEGA fan and know jack. A real SEGAfan is a fan from his youthful years as a kid, only then are you a legitimate SEGAfan. Someone who grew up with quality games from any SEGA game to the sonic classics. Your articles are enough to take that from.

  3. TheTruth says:

    That you are a faker. You wish to be something you cannot ever become mate 8)

  4. -nSega54- says:

    I never found either Shenmue game to be boring. Each has its small bits of frustration, like hunting for the sailors in part 1 or the leaf catching in Shenmue II, but the games were to me 2 of the most exciting I had ever played. And it wasn’t because there was constantly action going on, there wasn’t. And that’s what’s so crazy and unique about those games. They weren’t for everybody, but those of who “got it” really got it.

  5. George says:

    TheTruth, a fan is someone that legitimately enjoys SEGA’s games. It doesn’t matter if they started gaming a week ago or 25 years ago. A fan is a fan. I’m tired of people’s elitist attitude. The SEGA community is small, instead of hating and acting snotty, we should embrace other SEGA fans. Even if they only like a few key SEGA titles. That is whats so great about SEGA, they are a diverse company.

    Unlike Nintendo who has 8 key franchises, SEGA spans platforms and genres. Less hate, more love.

  6. Arc Christelle says:

    I cosign with George here. A true elitist knows it isn’t about history, but love, respect, and appreciation. Just to be stuck on something because of your childhood reminds me of Sonic fans who love Archie comics and whine about how modern Sonic’s aren’t better than classics. [btw I actually do like the modern ones more -after Unleashed- It shows progress and improvement)

  7. segaismysavior says:

    I played Shenmue when it first came out, though I didn’t beat it then myself. Since my Dreamcast was shared with my college roommates, I got to watch 2 of them finish it before I had a chance.

    It wasn’t until 2004 that I sat down again with it and played to the end. Finally finishing the game has a lot to do with me picking up an Xbox around that time, so I could jump into the sequel (which I got a new copy of for $5). That game I never finished my first go either, cause I didn’t think it was ever gonna end!

    Eventually in 2008 I sat down with the sequel on Xbox360 and played it during my spring break (of my second series of college years). That was one hell of a fun week! Only problem was the d-pad on the controller held me up on a few QTEs thanks to it’s delightful imprecision.

    Shenmue is not a game. It’s a commitment.

  8. -nSega54- says:

    I’ve always liked bigger games like RPGs and Zelda so Shenmue really doesn’t feel like much of an endeavor at all for me personally. Its 8-15 hours of gameplay doesn’t feel nearly as big as the 40+ hour games I often play.

    Skies of Arcadia was probably 5 times as big as Shenmue. *That gamee* I thought was a commitment.

  9. nuckles87 says:

    lol, thanks George. That kind of elitism doesn’t really make since to me. I can’t be a SEGA fan because I didn’t play loads of hardcore SEGA games when I was seven years old?

    SEGA has played a huge role in my tastes and gaming hobby. Far more then any other company. Whether you think it or not, I AM a SEGA fan, regardless of what I played when I first got my Genesis.

    @ nSEGA

    lol, I was very narrow minded in my more casual gamer days. To me, gaming equaled platformers. I didn’t know or care what an RPG or adventure game was. If it didn’t require constant movement and input, I didn’t even really consider it a game. I didn’t really play games to be engrossed, I played games for the excitement of it, something I kind of needed because I am deftly afraid of heights and can’t really get an adrenaline rush from a roller coaster.

    So for me, playing and enjoying Shenmue was something of a break through, that opened up loads of genres to me. I probably wouldn’t be much of a gamer today if it wasn’t for it, and by extension the Dreamcast.

  10. TaroYamada says:

    @FollowerofTheTruth, sense*

    If you’re gonna hate you should at least proofread.

  11. @FollowerofTheTruth & The Truth: any more insulting comments will be marked as spam. Stop trolling. This little mission you’re on to “expose” SEGA fans is just wrong.

  12. Hans says:


    “Does anyone darechallange my imperial fleet?”…. mean anything to you? No? Never played a Sega pinball machine in the 70s? Guess you’re not a real SEGA fan then.

    In all seriousness though get over yourself and your elitist tripe.

    Personally I have fond childhood memories of playing many a Sega game in the arcades and at friends houses through the nineties, but was a poor kid and could only pick one console per generation (usually toward the end of each), and I chose Nintendo. As such I wouldn’t really call myself a fan back in the day. Now that I have the money I’ve been going back to play some of the wonderful games I missed out on and have been having at blast. I would definitely say that Im a fan – even though there is still much to play.

    @nuckles87 Nice article, I played through Shenmue for the first time this year and it was truly a mind blowing experience. I have Shenmue 2 for my DC waiting to be played. I played the first half hour but stopped for a couple of reasons. Firstly it didn’t grab me as quickly as the first one and secondly, once it does I’m probably going to power through it and then feel hollow when theres no more. Im sure Its a fantastic game, and I will probably play it before the year is through. But for now it sits on my shelf to remind me that the is more to that world, and I’m a little scare to change that.

  13. nuckles87 says:


    lol, yeah, more or less. I loved that stuff. I remember when I was rummaging through the living room, one of those rooms I never really bothered with through much of the game because there was nothing of importance in there, and there was a god damned Saturn under the television! So cool.

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