Does anyone remember the Dreamcast classic Shenmue? Of course you do! Shenmue is an unassailable and legendary videogame. But for those two people that never played it, Shenmue followed the story of young Ryo Hazuki and his quest to avenge the murder of his father. Ryo’s epic quest included such awe-inspiring tasks as asking people questions, feeding a cat, hanging around the local game arcade and working part-time at a forklift depot.
Hey… Who said the life of a hero always has to be glamorous? Ryo, of course, made up for his mundane existence by beating seven shades of shit out of anyone who looked at him funny. Two bullies annoying a kid by taking his soccer ball? BAM! Two broken noses! A bar full of burly sailors who dare to tease minors by serving them milk? Not on Ryo’s watch, motherfucker! BAM BAM BAM! Or how about 30 angry bikers outside their clubhouse? Not a problem for our Ryo, whose ass is so bad that you could go blind just looking at it. BAAAAM! Take that you big burly sailors and leather clad bikers!
When good ol’ homophobic Ryo isn’t busy demolishing a gay rights parade, you’ll actually find some deep emotion dwelling within this game. It’s full of truly poignant moments like his friend Fuk-san’s tear-jerking piggy-bank donation. Ryo’s scenes with his girlfriend Nozomi also ache with gentle catharsis, despite the fact that Ryo always treats her like an irritable asshole (something I get after a kebab). C’mon.. She’s gagging for it, Ryo! FOR GOD’S SAKE MAN!! All these touching moments are made far more amazing when you consider the voice acting of the English dub. It’s… fucking… awful. I think Ryo might actually be voiced by Microsoft Pendown (aka Stephen Hawkin).
Still, the plank-like acting aside, Shenmue is an awesome game. It’s QTE sections were the first of their kind and damn impressive. The plot was unique and made far more sense than modern day crapola like Heavy Rain. The fighting was a solid pastiche of Virtua Fighter and the graphics were absolutely phenomenal… So phenomenal, in fact, that the development of Shenmue pretty much bankrupted Sega. To break even on the title, every Dreamcast owner in the world would’ve had to have bought the game twice. They didn’t (bastards!) and creator Yu Suzuki was demoted from chief game designer to chief toilet cleaner. A sequel was made a few years later (the imaginatively titled Shenmue II) and was all kinds of awesome. Unfortunately, with the franchise still not recouping it’s monolithic cost and Sega pulling out of the console race, Shenmue was indefinitely shelved (leaving it’s plot agonizingly uncompleted).
Since then, the Yakuza series has taken up where Shenmue left off and has made a success of itself. But we’re all still wondering; will Shenmue III ever see the light of day? Most have given up hope but Sega have reportedly been thinking about releasing the two previous games as HD downloadable titles. If that’s true, then who knows? Maybe Ryo might just claw his way back from limbo hell yet.