And so, on a quiet night, the streetlamps frosty amidst the falling snow, the locals warm and cozy inside their apartments up above the city streets, the town of Dobuita continues to sleep….
Shenmue has been lying dormant for an unspeakably long time, with not even a hint of a resolution in sight. Money, enough to have gone a long way towards funding a 3rd installment, was instead carelessly tossed off to to a Texas-based developer named Gearbox Software rather than into the hands of Yu Suzuki. After all these years, is it finally time to accept that SEGA will never allow their fanbase to continue the series that holds so much of their nostalgic gaming memories?
I’d given up hope long ago that Shenmue III would be released. But that doesn’t mean I can’t still appreciate all the great memories it offered, memories which, even over a decade later, still linger. This week’s Tuesday Tunes will highlight a couple of my favorite songs from the Shenmue games’ legendary soundtracks, so sit back and take a listen.
And the mysteries of the night take their hold
One of the coolest and most immersive features about the Shenmue games was that the world seemed like an entirely different place once the sun set. Once 7:00 PM came around, a cinematic specific to whatever area you happened to be in at the time would occur, giving you the opportunity to watch as the location transitioned into its evening glow. The original Shenmue featured a gentle and mysterious melody when this happened, one which fit perfectly with the somewhat darker corners of its nighttime world: a world where you never really knew what could be awaiting around every turn.
Welcome to Kowloon
In keeping with the night theme, Shenmue II took things a step further, changing the music entirely once the sun fell, giving almost every area in the game its own distinctive daytime and nighttime atmosphere. One of the most memorable moments for me in the sequel was getting to explore the bustling Dragon Street at night and hearing this cool little track take over the soundscape. One of my favorites and truly nothing else like it.
A melancholy journey
But now I’ll cut back to the original Shenmue for a moment. Though the two games very much felt like they were a part of the same series, there were many key differences separating them, something also apparent in their music. Shenmue I, taking place in the immediate aftermath of Iwao’s murder, featured a more subdued and somber soundtrack. This song always stood out to me.
An unintended end
This track from Shenmue II has a hint of sadness as well, though not in the way the developers had likely intended; this is the music that played when walking through Guilin’s Cloud Bird Trail, one of the final areas in the game and, as we of course know now, one of the final areas we may ever get to explore in Shenmue’s universe. Musically though it goes out on a high note, as I’m a sucker for almost anything with a piano.
A tearful goodbye
I’ll wrap this up with cutscene music, one from each game. The Shenmue games featured two of the best soundtracks I’ve ever heard, but the music wasn’t just amazing while you were controlling your character. The cinematics were backed by some incredible tunes as well, and none could have provided a better backdrop for Ryo’s goodbye to Nozomi than this track.
There was a scene in Shenmue II’s final act where Ryo stood at the edge of a cliff, looking out at the river below as an eagle soared overhead. The scene had little narrative purpose except to demonstrate the (at the time) showstopping visuals, but it worked. The music played a big role in that, coming on to create a scene nothing short of epic.
Hope you enjoyed the journey and thanks for reading/listening! Feel free to sound off in the comments below.Ad: