SEGA Tunes: Shenmue’s Original Soundtrack

When Shenmue was being hyped by SEGA as the next big step in gaming immersion, Yu Suzuki often liked to classify the game in its own genre, “Full Reactive Eyes Entertainment” or FREE. These days we tend to either call it an RPG or an adventure game, but even back then the phrase didn’t really work because it ignored one of Shenmue’s best qualities: its utterly marvelous, epic, emotional, cinematic, beautiful soundtrack. For Shenmue Week Tuesday Tunes will be doing something new: instead of posting one or two tracks, we’re posting the entire soundtrack.

The above video was put together by Shenmue Dojo. Aside from being a marvelous way to listen to the entire Shenmue soundtrack, this video was also the first request Tuesday Tunes ever received. Someone from Shenmue Dojo really wanted us to highlight it, but I knew we couldn’t just do it for any occasion. It may have taken awhile, dude, but you finally got your wish. Now please, join us as we take a musical journey through part one of Yu Suzuki’s magnum opus!

Pretty much anyone who works in any video related industry will tell you that music is vital for making an impact on the viewer. Many of the best trailers and moments in television and movies were made by their usage of music. Video games are no different. Shenmue is a game that relies heavily on its soundtrack to make an emotional connection with the player. Despite its often terrible, mostly awkward voice acting Shenmue is still a game highly regarded for its characters, world and story, and this is thanks in no small part to the soundtrack doing a lot of the heavy lifting. Where otherwise Ryo and Nozomi may have just been having an awkwardly acted conversation we instead have an impactful and emotional scene because we have Nozomi’s Confession playing in the background. Who cares if Ryo has all the emotion of a Vulcan with a stick up his ass? Just listen to that! You’ll have to be a Vulcan to not feel a tinge of sadness while listening to that.

Of course, the highlight of the Shenmue soundtrack is easily its theme, “Sedge Tree” by Takenobu Mitsuyoshi, the same man who composed the soundtracks for Daytona USA, Burning Rangers, Virtua Fighter 2, Virtua Racing, and Fighters Megamix among other games. Sedge Tree is easily one of the most breathtaking tracks in the game, conveying a sense of beauty and scope that defines the Shenmue series. It was one of several tracks featured in Dreamcast Magazine’s Shenmue trailer, which played a huge role in selling me on the game.

There’s more to Shenmue then Sedge Tree, though. A game like this needs to convey a wide variety of emotions, which it does so very well. You want to listen something heart wrenching? Check out Tears of Separation. If you want to follow that up with something more optimistic and adventurous, you can go ahead and listen to Departure. Maybe you want to mix it up with something upbeat and jazzy, like Flower Girl? Then after all that, you can wash it all down with Wish…, a beautiful piece of Japanese soul music performed by Isayama Mio.

Shenmue’s soundtrack doesn’t always hit it out of the park, but when it does it really does. I had to listen to the entire two hour soundtrack in order to write this article, and I have to say that the quality is surprisingly solid throughout. I usually find myself growing bored while listening to most complete soundtracks, but Shenmue managed to keep my attention throughout. That is no small feat and speaks to the quality of this game’s music. Even though we’ve technically featured the entire Shenmue soundtrack on Tuesday Tunes as of this week, rest assured that we’ll still be featuring many of these songs individually at some point in the future, as they are each worth a Tuesday Tunes in their own right.

Finally, I thought I’d leave you guys with something short, in case you don’t have the time to sample the entire soundtrack today. Shenmue 2 had a pretty stellar soundtrack itself, and The Morning Fog’s Wave is definitely one of the highlights. This is a track that rivals, if not surpasses, Sedge Tree in its scope and beauty, sounding more like something out of a big budget Hollywood movie then a game. If any song from the Shenmue franchise finds its way to your MP3 player today, I hope it’s this one.

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