Shenmue is a game developed by Sega-AM2, released in 1999 for the Sega Dreamcast. A sequel, Shenmue II, was later released in 2001 also for the Dreamcast and then later for the Xbox. Shenmue was originally meant to have more titles ranging from 4-7 over which the complicated story would be told, yet due to disappointing sales, Sega's withdrawal from the console market and the high production costs needed to make Shenmue games fans had to make do with only two games.
Essentially a 3D adventure game, the first installment placed the protagonist in a rather small town with complete freedom, and the second had him in a truly massive sprawling city to explore. The series made use of a weather system which as the name implies would change the weather; some days it'll rain, others it'll snow, or it'll be bright and sunny or cloudy and overcast. The days would pass and the seasons would change; if the player really wanted to, he could wait until spring (the game is set during winter). All the NPCs (each with a unique desgin) had their own lives too; in many other games, characters would simply walk in a certain pattern or stand there all day, while in Shenmue people came out of their houses around 9am, went shopping, chatted with their friends, headed to the bar at night and then walked home. If it was raining they had raincoats, and add to this that the characters had more than one stock phrase all voiced in English (in the first game; the second game had Japanese voice overs and English subs - until the Xbox port)!
The game probably also popularized the Quick Time Event. Shenmue made it big (Dragon's Lair did it first), and on top of that, in most QTEs, if you didn't press the button in time, the story would keep going just slightly differently. There were also random encounters with people, conversations, fights and the like, so no people ever played the same game. Also, the player could play Yu Suzuki's earlier games in a video game, could collect little toys, and he could even look after a small kitten... basically, anything the player wanted to do within the world. In the second game, Ryo could gamble, take part in fights, and get part time jobs to get money.
Of course, Shenmue wasn't all about walking around asking people about the day the snow turned to rain and if they had seen a black car; there was fighting too. Based of the Virtua Fighter engine, Ryo would enter a free fight where he would either fight a group of people or one worthy opponent. You could learn new moves, and practice them to become more powerful.
The game's story begins when Iwao Hazuki is killed by the Lan Di after refusing to give up the location of the Dragon Mirror (a mysterious jade engraved item). Ryo, Iwao's son and the player's character, goes out on a quest to get revenge on Lan Di. As it turns out, Lan Di is part of a very powerful crime organization, the Chiyoumen, and has connections with the Mad Angels, a group of bikers that hang around in the docks of Yokozuka. Ryo meets up with Master Chen who then reveals there is a second mirror which Lan Di is also looking for, the Phoenix Mirror, which just happens to be hidden under the dojo in Ryo's house. After finding the mirror, Ryo then proceeds to beat up the Mad Angels and learns that Lan Di headed towards Hong Kong. The first game ends with Ryo getting on a boat to Hong Kong.
The second game attempts to cram much more of the story in, clear in the knowledge they wouldn't release as many games as planned. Ryo ends up in Hong Kong and searches for Master Lishao Tao, the only link left to Lan Di. On his search, he meets and befriends gang leader Ren and sexy martial arts expert Xiuying. He learns that the Chiyoumen have connections in Kowloon with the crime organization Yellowheads. After defeating the massive army of gang members and fighting his way all the way to the top of their headquarters (with help from Ren), he defeats Dou Niu, just in time to see Lan Di fly off in a helicopter. The last section of the game takes place in Guilin where Ryo meets the very important character Ling Shenhua who leads Ryo to the place where the jade for the mirrors was mined. The second and currently last game leaves us with many unanswered questions and a cliffhanger.
At E3 in June, 2015, Yu Suzuki announced a Kickstarter campaign to crowdfund Shenmue III. It proceeded to set a record, reaching its $2,000,000 goal in under 8 hours. It is set to release in 2018 for PlayStation 4 and PC.
- Aborted Arc: We still have 11 or so chapters to go... anyone? *tumbleweed rolls by*
- Badass: Ryo, Ren and Lan Di most prominently. Xiuying likewise, though she's not one to flaunt her badassery.
- Badass Biker: Ryo, when he dashes to the harbor on his friend's motorcycle after Nozomi is kidnapped.
- Battle Butler
- Betting Minigame: Would you like to play a game of Lucky Hit?!
- Bottomless Bladder: You follow Ryo pretty much every minute of every day, and he never hits the bathroom, even if you spend every yen he has on pop machines.
- Bumbling Sidekick: Fuku-san, God bless his dumb little heart.
- Chaste Hero: You can practically hear the stuck clockwork in Ryo's head anytime an attractive girl hits on him.
- Cool Old Lady
- Cosmic Keystone: Apparently there are two mirrors, the Dragon Mirror and the Phoenix Mirror, which, when together, grant their holder unbelievable power.
- Cycle of Revenge
- Damsel in Distress: Nozomi near the end of Chapter 1.
- Died in Your Arms Tonight: Ryo's dad.
- Duel to the Death
- Dull Surprise: Ryo, all too often.
- Everythings Cuter With Kittens: Very famously, the first game lets you help raise an abandoned kitten.
- Evolving Attack
- Fiery Redhead: Joy.
- Funny Foreigner: Tom, the owner of the hot dog trailer in Dobuita.
- Game Within a Game: Space Harrier and Hang-On in the first; the second had those two with After Burner II and Out Run.
- Genre Busting: Aside from being one of the earliest examples of a modern Wide Open Sandbox game, it also touted Adventure Game mechanics and Visual Novel aesthetics, Quick Time Event action sequences, beat'em-up mechanics inspired by Virtua Fighter, and plenty of interactive minigames to keep you busy. It was revolutionary enough to be labelled as its very own genre by creator Yu Suzuki: Full Reactive Eyes Entertainment, or F.R.E.E..
- Insurmountable Waist-Height Fence
- Lady of War: Xiuying could be a poster girl for this trope. She effortlessly avoids Ryo's attacks, then puts him in his place with a bare minimum of force... all while wearing a stunningly elegant Chinese Dress.
- Mobstacle Course: Many QTE chases have you dodging around civilians in order to catch up.
- Non-Lethal KO: Ryo has yet to definitvely kill any of his opponents, and the only way for him to die in the first game is via the Nonstandard Game Over mentioned below. There are, however, several QTEs and one free battle in Shenmue II that can indeed be fatal to Ryo even if the game just lets you take as many Mulligans as you have to.
- Nonstandard Game Over: You have until April 14th to finish the first game. When April 15th rolls around, Big Bad Lan Di reappears in the dojo and kills Ryo the same way he killed Ryo's father.
- Similarly, failing to progress to the next chapter in the second game in a reasonable amount of time would result in a game over as Lan Di's trail went cold.
- Old Master: Several, in fact.
- Present Day Past: The game puts you between the end of 1986 and the start of 1987; however, you will find Sega-themed trappings from the early and mid-90s pretty frequently (the Sega Saturn, Virtua Fighter, Sonic the Hedgehog and others).
- Press X to Not Die: One of the earliest to make use of the QTEs, and a good user on that. In fact, you could say that Shenmue is The Godfather of the mid cutscene QTE (It even coined the actual term!).
- And yet, in Shenmue II, it managed to sneak in a subversion; when learning the Wude principle of Dan, DO NOT press A.
- Real Place Background: Yokosuka is filled with the memories Yu Suzuki had when he was living there.
- Role Reprisal: Masaya Matsukaze returns as Ryo for the third installment. Corey Marshall, who voiced Ryo in the English dub, has also been confirmed to reprise his role for the third game.
- Run, Don't Walk
- Schizo-Tech: Ryo owns a Sega Saturn. The game is set during The Eighties.
- Screaming Warrior
- Scripted Event
- She's a Man In Japan: Yuan in Shenmue II.
- Shout-Out: German punk band "Schrottgrenze" wrote the song "Nozomis Lieder" (from the lyrics it's clear Nozomi Harasaki is meant).
- Snow Means Death: It's snowing on the day Iwao Hazuki is murdered.
- Stalking Mission
- Stock Yuck: Young Ryu doesn't like carrots.
- Stout Strength: Dou Niu, Lan Di's Dragon in Shenmue II.
- Stupidity Is the Only Option
- Talk to Everyone: The game cannot further emphasize the importance of interacting with the world: in this game, the NPCs have a lot of things to say, and these things themselves change as the plot moves on too. Plus, some characters like the hilarious Goro, Tom the hot dog stand vendor and the cute Nozomi are quite pleasant to chat with!
- Unskilled but Strong: Dou Niu's knowledge of martial arts is basically limited to just slamming his fists into his victims. He makes up for it by being built like a Gorilla.
- Wax On, Wax Off: Ryo learns techniques from a myriad of masters, but almost none in the game actually simply give him straightforward lessons.
- What Are You Looking At?: Shenmue is very guilty of this, having people that stare at walls for no apparent reason.
- Wide Open Sandbox: Shenmue was possibly the first 3D sandbox game, to the point that Sega gave it its own genre: FREE, short for Fully Reactive Eyes Environment.