Yu Suzuki gives Dreamcast owners something to live for. - by digitaltaco
When Yu Suzuki, the man leading Sega's AM2 development team responsible for series such as Virtua Fighter and arcade classics like Outrun, announced that his team would be working on a totally revolutionary new title for the Dreamcast, everybody listened. Project Berkeley as it was then known, became Shenmue. And the rest, as they say, is history.
Though revolutionary, Shenmue was released to mixed reviews from critics and gamers alike. Many disliked the slow flow of the game, and thought it aimed too high. The fact that every line was spoken was amazing. But the fact that every line seemed so stale was not. How many times did Ryo Hazuki, the game's star, really need to ask about the day that his father died? But those that did stick it out, yours truly included, were treated to what turned out to be one of the most comprehensive, fulfilling, and emotional game experiences ever. The ending was left open for the promised sequels and left gamers thirsting for more. And now, work is being completed on said sequel. But what has been changed this time around?
"Umm, hi Joy. Do you remember what happened on that day?"
This would be a bad place to get into a fight.
Most of the changes to Shenmue II will affect the pacing of the game. Players will no longer be forced to talk to every person inhabiting the game world in order to make the story advance. But those that do take the time to explore and chat with the NPCs will find the game more fulfilling, as they will actually see much more of the game world that way. In Shenmue, players often had to sit and wait until a certain time on a given day for an event to happen. Shenmue II will give the player the option to sit and wait or skip the waiting time altogether. These facts alone should speed up gameplay significantly for those who thought the first game was a little slow and let players who "liked it the way it was" to continue playing the same way.
The ability to speed up gameplay should have a positive effect on the game simply because there is a larger narrative to be told in shenmue II. The original title spanned only the first chapter of Suzuki's comprhensive 16 chapter tale, while it's sequel will include chapters two through six. With larger environments and more people running around the game world, you can expect that the amount of things required to see the whole game will have increased dramatically from the previous game. As such, a few new tools will be at your disposal to help you navigate and get the information you want from NPCs. At the beginning of each of the major areas in Shenmue II, you'l be able to purchase a map which will show every major location in said area. Also, you now be able to ask different selectable questions to NPCs, rather than not being able to choose at all. This should allow players to get the information they need much faster than before.
Shenmue II features context sensitive button mapping like that seen in the Nintendo 64 game, The Legend of Zelda: The Ocarina of Time. Located at the bottom of the screen, a mapping of the four face buttons on the Dreamcast controller can be seen. If there is a way to manipulate an object in the environment or a person in it, then an icon reflecting that action will be mapped to one of the controller buttons. Players will be able to intereact with their environments much more than in the first game.
Hey look! Another cute girl from Shenmue II.
Quick-timer events have returned in Shenmue II.
And expect those environments to be much more detailed and diverse than in Shenmue. Now in China, Ryo will travel through four large areas all with very different environments. He will begin his adventure in the wharf at Aberdeen and eventually make his way to the three other stages. The island of Guilin, one of his stops, is filled with lush greenery and large rocky cliffs and mountains unlike anything seen in the previous title. He will also hit the city streets of Wan Chai and the depths of Kowloon, known for it's large towers. The environments promise to be larger, more detailed and hence, more beautiful than ever before. Expect the game to be pushing your Dreamcast to its limit when running Suzuki's latest masterwork.
Most of the action in the first game came in the form of real-time fighting sequences and Dragon's Lair-like Quick-Timer Events. Thankfully, both will return in the new game, but even they will receive quite a makeover. The fighting system will include a slew of new moves to perfect, so be prepared to hone your fighting game skills. To keep the game pace moving, you can expect more fights than ever before, so I hope Ryo packed some bandages. Quick-Timer events will occur more often as well, and this time around, you'll aften be given more than one course of action to take. In the first game, a button or directional arrow would flash onscreen telling you what to press. Now, there may be two three commands onscreen at once, now making it more difficult and more interesting when a QTE occurs.
Ryo will still have to watch his bank account in Shenmue II, and without Ine-san forking over a daily allowance, Ryo's gonna have to find a new way to make money. This will be done by getting a part-time job, gambling, or selling off those items you found in the first game to pawn shops located in the new game world. Actually, it is more likely that you'll be doing a little bit of each of these things as you progress further and further into the game.
If you enjoyed Shenmue you're in for a real treat when Shenmue II is released later this year. Everthing about the game is larger, more detailed, and just better overall than the first game. The newly implemented systems should give players the option to play through it quickly or take their time and see it all. And as Shenmue II will probably be the last game in the series on the Dreamcast, you can expect that Suzuki-san will send our beloved console out with a bang. So start saving those pennies, kids. This one is one you won't want to miss. Shenmue II is currently scheduled for a December 4th, 2001 release.
The Official Shenmue Website - Your source for Shenmue news straight from the creators.
Sega.com - The only truly reliable source for news and the release date of the American release of Shenmue II.
PlanetDreamcast's Shenmue Review - See how we rated the original Shenmue.
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