Game Corner [Bite-Size]: Shenmue (Xbox One)

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So, thanks to Xbox Game Pass, I finally got the chance to play the cult favourite role-playing videogame Shenmue (SEGA AM2/Ys Net, 1999/2019), which has been lauded as one of the Dreamcast’s most prolific titles and has a dedicated fanbase who have been called for HD remakes and a third entry for years.

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Sorry to say that this is my only exposure to Shenmue until recently…

Once I saw that the game was available, I figured I’d give it a download and see if it was worth all the hype and fuss I’d heard about it. The closest I’d come to playing the game was playing as the series protagonist, Ryo Hazuki, in Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing (Sumo Digital, 2010) so I was pretty interested to see if the title was worthy of its reputation.

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Ryo’s father has been murdered and only he can find the culprit!

Now, I’m massively swamped with videogames and movies to work through at the moment, so I glossed over the introduction and opening cutscenes but I gather (from what I’ve heard and the game itself that Ryo’s none-too-happy because some mysterious guys killed his father right in front of him so he sets out to bring them to justice.

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The game looks lovely but the characters sound dreadful…

Probably as a result of the Xbox One version being more of a HD port than a straight-up remake, the game has a few issues with the quality of its voice acting; I normally don’t really moan about this as I enjoy stilted, daft voice acting but everyone in Shenmue sounds muffled and distorted, as though the voices didn’t get a nice HD filter like the charming blocky graphics.

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Ryo controls like a robot, for the most part.

That’s not a knock on the aesthetics; I love how polished it looks even though the engine has just been given a fresh coat of paint and I have no issues with the look of the game but the controls…that’s a different story. It took me a while to figure out how to get Ryo to do anything other than a stiff, robotic walk but finding the run button didn’t really help much as Ryo suddenly flew about like he was ice skating!

Seriously, I don’t normally like to rag on a game’s controls of camera but Shenmue has really stiff, awkward controls that make controlling Ryo and navigating the fairly bustling townscape a hell of a chore. The camera is also a headache, wildly swooping all over the place and making it difficult to point Ryo in the right direction.

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It’s not a big town but I still got a bit lost because everything looks the same!

Ryo has a little notebook, which is respect and admire, which tells him what he has to do and where he needs to go and keeps track of his progress and missions but it’s not actually that helpful at telling you where you need to go. I was tasked with going to someone’s house to find clues but literally every single house I went to was empty and I had no idea where to go or what to do.

I did meet a little girl and pet her kitten, though.

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Unfortunately, the cute kitty didn’t convince me to play much further.

Honestly, it was a very quick play but I can’t say I was massively impressed or encouraged to play on. I could use a guide to get further into the game but, judging by how bad the controls and camera are, I dread engaging in combat or trying to tackle more complicated tasks.

ShenmueConclusion
Did I give up too soon? Does the game get better?

In the end, I don’t see myself coming back to Shenmue any time soon unless I manage to clear my backlog but what do you think? Did I give up too early? Are you a big Shenmue fan? Sound off below and try and convince me to push on.

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