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.Ad: