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Shenmue (series)

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Title: Shenmue (series)  
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Subject: Shenmue City, Shenmue, After Burner, Out Run, Adventure game
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Shenmue (series)

Genres Action-adventure
Interactive cinema
Life simulation
Social simulation
Developers Sega AM2
Ys Net
Publishers Sega
Microsoft Games Studios
Sony Computer Entertainment
Creators Yu Suzuki
Platforms Dreamcast
Microsoft Windows
PlayStation 4
First release Shenmue
December 29, 1999
Latest release Shenmue II
March 21, 2003
Official website

Shenmue (シェンムー Shenmū) is an open-world action-adventure video game series created, produced and directed by Yu Suzuki. Shenmue and Shenmue II were developed by Sega AM2 and published by Sega for Dreamcast on December 29, 1999, and September 6, 2001 respectively. Set in 1980s Japan and China, the story follows the teenage martial artist Ryo Hazuki as he seeks revenge for the murder of his father; Suzuki plans the series to span eleven chapters over at least four games.[1] The game is considered to be an epic adventure with movie-like cinematography[2] and plot elements that include drama, mystery, romance, suspense and action. In June 2015, Suzuki announced that his company, YS Net had received the licensing rights for Shenmue III from Sega and launched a crowdfunding campaign to develop the game for Microsoft Windows and PlayStation 4.[3]


The Shenmue series was made up originally of at least 16 chapters.[4][5] However, during a Shenmue City press conference, Suzuki said that the Shenmue series will consist of 11 chapters.[6] Shenmue was released as an exclusive for Dreamcast, it covered the first chapter, while Shenmue II was released for Dreamcast and Xbox, it covers chapters 3, 4, and 5. The interlinking chapter, on the boat was cut but was later released as a manga spin-off titled "Shenmue: Side Story" (originally published in the Japanese publication, Dorimaga).

In 2003, Sega-AM2 announced that remaining chapters of the Shenmue series would be included in Shenmue III.[7] But, because of poor sales of Shenmue II (Shenmue II sold around 400,000 units, a weak number compared to more than one million units of the previous installment[8]), Sega decided to stop the project.[9]

On June 15, 2015, during E3 2015, Yu Suzuki launched a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign seeking to fund Shenmue III, it is set to be released on Microsoft Windows and PlayStation 4 with an estimated release date of December 2017.[10][11] Within 1 hour and 40 minutes of its announcement, Shenmue III became the fastest game to ever reach $1 million on Kickstarter, and the second fastest Kickstarter campaign to ever reach $1 million after the Pebble Time smart watch.[12] The amount of traffic generated by Shenmue III caused the Kickstarter website to temporarily shut down for several minutes.[13] Shenmue III exceeded its initial $2 million target in under eight hours,[14][15] setting the record for the fastest game to reach $2 million on Kickstarter.[16]


The creator of the series, Yu Suzuki presented a Shenmue postmortem revealing many detailed development stages that has led up to the creation of the Shenmue series.[17] Development for the project began when Suzuki took a trip to China in 1993, where he learnt about martial arts and scouted locations.[18] Suzuki created a Sega Saturn prototype named 'The Old Man and The Peach Tree' that was set during 1950s China with the story following a man who wanted to find a martial artist named Master Ryu. 'The Old Man and The Peach Tree' would be the basic foundation for Virtua Fighter RPG, which in turn later became the basis for Shenmue saga.[17] The Ryo character was originally Virtua Fighter character Akira.[19] As the game's development progressed, the characters became original and the storyline moved away from its Virtua Fighter roots.[20]

Initially, Shenmue was planned as a killer application for the beleaguered Sega Saturn.[21][22] Although it was very powerful for its time, the Saturn was also notoriously difficult to work with and progress was painstakingly slow.[23] Yu Suzuki has stated how gruelingly difficult it was to get the most from the Saturn, but that he is very proud of the visual quality he was able to achieve on the 32-bit system. The project started on Saturn as a mix between Virtua Fighter and a role-playing game,[24] but following the console's commercial collapse internationally,[25] the project, on which AM2 worked for almost two years,[26] was halted. However, Sega was already beginning work on a brand-new console (which during the early stages of its development was called the Katana, later renamed to its commercial name "Dreamcast") and work on Shenmue quickly resumed, with the new system as its format.[27]

While Shenmue was in development, the game was known as Project Berkley.[28] In 1998, tech demos from the game were being used by Sega to show what the Dreamcast was capable of producing. Many of these sequences were used in the final version of the game.[29] Shenmue was one of the first video games to incorporate development techniques that had previously been primarily used for film.[30] The voice acting in Shenmue was ground-breaking as it was one of the first large scale games to include real voices for every single non-playable character in the game world and not just resorting to text transcriptions, as was common in video games at the time. Furthermore, this extensive audio script was recorded in both Japanese and English. 3D Clay models of the major characters character were built as reference material for animators creating the final in-game versions of the character model.[31] The game also includes a cinematic musical score, which featured a full size orchestra. The main composers were Takenobu Mitsuyoshi and Yuzo Koshiro.[32][33]


The franchise borrows gameplay elements from several different genres.[34] It consist of open-world 3D environments interspersed with brawler battles and quick time events. They include elements of role-playing and life simulation games such as a day-and-night system, variable weather effects, non-player characters with their own daily schedules, and interactive elements such as vending machines, arcades, and minigames.[35]


Each game in this series, the player will explore chapters which leads to progress the narrative. Often, these leads will be gained by talking to local people who can provide important clues. If the player so desires, they can explore the area simply for fun without progressing the game's narrative. Furthermore, talking to a variety of local people, though it will not progress the narrative, can greatly enhance the player's understanding of the plot and/or gameplay mechanics. There are also several side-quests for players to engage in throughout the series.[36] These will not affect the main narrative, but might provide the protagonist with useful items or further develop characters and storyline for the player. Items collected and martial arts skills leveled up in the first game could be imported into the sequel after completing the game.


The Shenmue series is notable for its use of "QTE" in action sequences.[37] During quick time event (QTE) sequences, a button will flash on screen briefly and the player must press the relevant button or combination of buttons to trigger the particular actions. Fights against opponents can take place in QTE form as frequently as in Free Fight form. In addition to battles, QTE sequences are used for various other scenarios. Furthermore, an advanced type of QTE has been introduced in Shenmue II that allow pressing combination of buttons in a sequence. As the game progresses, the reaction speeds required of the player become quicker and the button combinations become more complex. The player's success or failure in these scenes can affect the flow of gameplay as well as the current cutscene.


The Battle system in the Shenmue saga is rendered entirely in 3D and it's heavily inspired by fighting game Virtua Fighter.[38] The player can engage in combat with a single enemy as well as many with many opponents at the same time. The free battle gameplay is considered to be one of the most interactive elements in the series.[39] The player has an ability to practice martial art techniques, either alone or with a friendly opponent, which will help to increase the player's familiarity with the battle system. Another type of interactivity with battle system is the ability to learn new fighting moves. There are several senior martial artists throughout the series, and they offer to teach new skills. The player has the choice to accept or decline these offers. Another method for learning new techniques involves Martial Arts Scroll Rolls. These antique instructional scrolls can be found, or purchased, at various locations in the games.


Aggregate review scores
As of July 18, 2015.
Game GameRankings Metacritic
Shenmue (DC) 89.34%[40] -
Shenmue II (DC) 89.63%[41]
(Xbox) 82.26%[42]
(DC) 88[43]
(Xbox) 80[44]
Shenmue III (PC) -[45]
(PS4) -[46]
(PC) -[47]
(PS4) -[48]

The franchise has received mostly positive reviews but despite strong sales, the games did not recoup their development cost and are considered commercial failures.[49] The Shenmue series attracted a cult following, appearing in several "greatest video games of all time" lists.[50][51][52]


In 2004, Shenmue Online was announced.[53] It was a side-story Massively multiplayer online role-playing game for the PC. As its name suggests, it was an online world of Shenmue. This game was set to be released only in China and Korea. Since 2006, news about Shenmue Online has slowly declined and reports of its cancellation have appeared on Destructoid[54] and Wired News.[55]

In 2010, a new entry in the Shenmue series was announced to be released for the PC and mobile phones in Japan. Much like Shenmue Online, Shenmue City is not a sequel, but rather a social games service for Yahoo! Mobage service.[56] However, it was shut down at the beginning of 2012 due to lack of interest.


In 2012, Insert Coin Clothing released hoodies based on Ryo Hazuki's jacket as well as T-shirts with the image of a tiger that appears on the back of Ryo's jacket. The hoodies and T-shirts are licensed by SEGA. The hoodies are currently sold out.[57] However, the T-shirts are still available for purchase.[58]

On December 25, 2012, First 4 Figures announced Ryo Hazuki as the first figure in their "Sega All Stars" line up. The figure comes in two editions: An exclusive edition with the Phoenix mirror as the base and the regular edition with a piece of street of Yokosuka as the base. The editions were available for pre-order on April 30, 2013. Within a week of its pre-order release, the exclusive edition quickly sold out. The figures were released in late 2013. The regular edition is still available for purchase.[59]

In 2014, Japanese clothing store, Hardcore Chocolate, released a Shenmue T-shirt featuring Ryo Hazuki, Lan Di, Chai, and the little orphaned kitten from Shenmue.[60]

On April 25, 2014, Insert Coin Clothing announced on their Facebook page that a new range with Sonic The Hedgehog and Shenmue is on the way which includes two 3/4 sleeve tees, an all-new dress and a jacket based on Ryo Hazuki's jacket.[61]

Several soundtracks related to the series have also been released. A promotional album entitled Shenmue Juke Box was packaged with the limited edition of the original game in Japan and North America, containing ten select tracks from the in-game cassette tapes.[62] In 1999, the arrange album Shenmue Orchestra Version was released as a tie-in to the game. The music was performed by the Kanagawa Philharmonic Orchestra with professional erhu player Jia Peng-Fang.[63] An official soundtrack for the first game was additionally released in 2000.[64] In May 2015, it was announced that the newly formed London-based video game music record label Data Discs would be releasing the music of Shenmue in addition to Streets of Rage on vinyl in three separate colored editions. The release is set for September 2015, making it the first soundtrack release of the series in 15 years.[65]

Other appearances

Ryo Hazuki is a playable character in Sega's mascot racer Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing. This was confirmed by Sega on October 7, 2009. Ryo rides Naoyuki's motorbike and his special move features him driving a forklift, referencing his job at the Yokosuka Harbor.[66]

In 2012, Steve Lycett, executive producer of Sumo Digital, encouraged a fan-made poll on the SEGA Forums to determine which three SEGA characters the fans would like to see in Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed as DLC (Downloadable Content). Out of the 28 SEGA characters chosen by the forum, Ryo Hazuki had the majority vote ranking 1st, while Hatsune Miku ranked 2nd, and Segata Sanshiro ranked 3rd.[67] The status of these potential DLC characters was unknown until mid-December 2013, when Ryo was spotted in a Yogscast livesteam of the game, further fueling the rumor that he would be appearing as DLC.[68] On January 1, 2014, SEGA announced that Ryo will appear in the iOS and Android versions of Sonic & All Stars Racing Transformed which was released on January 2.[69] On January 14, Ryo became available for purchase as DLC on Steam for the PC version of Sonic and All Stars Racing Transformed. In this game, Ryo rides an arcade-themed vehicle that switches between OutRun, Hang-On, and Space Harrier arcade cabinets depending on its form.[70]

Ryo also appears as a solo unit in the tactical role-playing game Project X Zone 2.


  1. ^ Shenmue creator: Story has 11 chapters, ideally '4 or 5 games' in the series
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  3. ^ Yu Suzuki Discusses Shenmue III And How His Dream Project Became A Reality
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External links

  • Official website
  • Official Shenmue III Kickstarter page
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