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(Re)discovering Shenmue

Discussion in 'General Sega Discussion' started by Black Squirrel, Feb 5, 2023.

  1. Black Squirrel

    Black Squirrel

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    Not yet looked into this too deeply but

    [​IMG]

    AM2 of CRI 2001 New Lineup Movie Collection exists. It was free demo disc customers received when pre-ordering Fighting Vipers 2 through Dreamcast Direct between 24th November 2000 and 11th January 2001. It took me longer than it should have to find out those details.

    Given the disc is dated 2001, it must have taken a few weeks to ship to customers, and as Fighting Vipers 2 released on the 18th January, I'd like to think it arrived in the first couple of weeks of January. But who knows.



    There's some thrilling Shenmue II footage with Ryo walking through the forests of Guilin. Given this was at least nine months before launch, maybe it was wrong to expect more... if you were completely unaware of the development history up until this point.

    A good chunk of Shenmue II was shown in late 1998 and early 1999 before the games were split in two. There seems to have been a conscious effort, at least in the beginning, to not show those old scenes in Shenmue II marketing. As such, Joy turns up a lot, as does Fangmei, and we get exciting scenes of buildings in some of the trailers. It doesn't last forever - they like that introductory shot of Kowloon, but it is interesting to see.
     
  2. Black Squirrel

    Black Squirrel

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    At the 2014 Game Developer's Conference, Yu Suzuki gave a presentation on Shenmue's development. The footage is all over YouTube and the like, but I've uploaded the original version from the GDC vault, so you can enjoy looking at slightly dodgy PowerPoint presentations in 720p:

    https://retrocdn.net/File:GDC2014_ClassicGamePostmortemShenmue_Presentation.mp4

    Sometimes they upload the actual slides of a presentation, but this was not one of those times. The key points were mirrored on Sega Retro - the write-up could probably be better, but ehh, that's a recurring theme for Shenmue coverage. Good chunks of the game have been documented, but they're spread across multiple wikis, blogs and whatever - there's no central location keeping it altogether.

    Obviously I'm banking on Sega Retro becoming that central location because I'm psychotic, but copy-editing 20 years of research is time consuming and I'm easily distracted.

    One thing I would like to know though - TCRF has renders, but they don't have sources. Some of this stuff apparently comes from development kits - I have no idea how to deal with those in a neat way, but there's talk about Shenmue press kits, and uh... I'd like to see those. I've uploaded quite a few press kits over the years, usually Western third-party discs from events like E3 or ECTS. Japanese press discs are a rare breed and could be much more interesting.


    I'm also conscious that there are files accessible by reading the GD-ROMs in a PC. The only thing stopping me mirroring those is that it's a massive faff - Shenmue is a four-disc game and ideally I'd want to cross-references the different versions.


    p.s. I don't usually pay much attention to GDC, so there might be other Sega-related presentations over there
     
  3. JaxTH

    JaxTH

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    Jack shit.
    There are.
     
  4. Andeh

    Andeh

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    This video has me reeling, knowing it's years before the first even came out. I know they already had a ton of the story stuff mapped out from the Saturn footage that exists but seeing how much of it they were showing off that early on has me thinking there has to be some stuff from what would have been Shenmue III in a prototype somewhere. I'm thinking there's a lot of it, actually.

    There's a LOT of stuff in this thread that I've never seen or known about before, and I've been on Shenmue Dojo (not super active) for years.
     
  5. Black Squirrel

    Black Squirrel

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    Also nabbed the highest quality versions of these nine prototype Shenmue II screenshots:

    [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]
    Shenmue II/Development

    This came from ''Muecas'', an official Shenmue fan site thing in 2002. Often the versions you see online are compressed, watermarked and generally awful.

    Also, these are not screenshots from Shenmue III. We know this because... it's been confirmed this is Shenmue II - content scrapped because it was either out of place, offered nothing of value, or they ran out of time. Some of the assets still exist in the final game, but aren't used (though you could devote your entire life scavenging for unused Shenmue things).


    So were any Shenmue III screenshots actually released to the public? Prior to the 2019 version... no. In fact I'm not even sure if Shenmue III was officially announced - its existence was just implied because the story wasn't finished.

    A "Shenmue III" project almost certainly existed at some point, (and maybe some of its roots can be traced back to Sega Saturn development), but I'd be surprised if there was anything substantial to show. It's really more of a question of time than anything else - it's cute to think AM2 were working on 11 chapters of Shenmue simultaneously, but realistically once the game had been divided, it was probably all hands on deck to get a product out of the door. No time to mess around with imaginary future products - you work on Shenmue I, then its Western localisation, then Shenmue II, then the Xbox port.

    And once that's all done, time to pay the bills - go make Virtua Fighter 4 and OutRun 2, or whatever. Interviews and reports from 2003/2004/2005 sound as if a theoretical Shenmue III would either just be a movie or handled by another AM2 director, and while the founding of DigitalRex was rumoured to be a vehicle for the game, it... uh... wasn't. Or it was a secret that didn't go anywhere.


    The "new" Shenmue III took a fair bit of time to develop, and while sure, it was a small studio with a limited budget, if there were detailed plans and assets and code available, you'd expect things to go a little bit faster at the concept stage. My gut feeling is there were a lot of gaps to fill.
     
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  6. Andeh

    Andeh

    Derp herp. Oldbie
    Those were the screens I was thinking of. Maybe someday we'll get our hands on a build with that stuff in it.
     
  7. Black Squirrel

    Black Squirrel

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    Shenmue II's development history is a lot less interesting, because unlike Shenmue I, by the time AM2 started showing it off, the game was planned out and the scope set in stone. Obviously it had been a known quantity as far back as early 1999, but "Shenmue II", as a "genuine video game we're going to release", wasn't revealed until January 2001. That demo disc above acted as a teaser for a few Dreamcast Direct customers (again, probably in the first couple of weeks of the year), but the gaming masses would have to wait until the 20th.

    [​IMG]

    So Shenmue: The Movie is a thing. There's talk about it being a project commissioned to claw back some of the lost development funds, but with such a limited release (a whole five showings in January) I can't see how it would have managed that. It's essentially the first game, minus all the gameplay, stuck on a big screen. Oh yes, spoilers: it's an actual movie, not just a bonus Xbox disc.

    Fun fact: even in Japan this film use English dialogue (with Japanese subtitles). It's the same English cast as the Western version of the game (which was released a couple of months prior), but there are a few additions to the script here and there, and cruicially the audio's not compressed to hell. There's a suggestion that the visuals were updated in some way to take advantage of the big screen - I'm not convinced, but you can't really tell with the DVD rips.

    It's the ending that matters, because as the credits roll, there's footage of Shenmue II. This trailer also came out the same time, which might have been shown alongside the main event:


    (RE: Joy, Fangmei and buildings... and horrible slowdown)

    This was also included in Dorimaga GD Vol. 10 on 9th February, and apparently even one of the Dream On demo discs in Europe (but I'm too lazy to check that).


    The Shenmue website would then spend the next x months drip-feeding information. There was an "AM2 Summer Festival" over August 2001 (with Shenmue the Movie getting more showings), and the game launched in September 2001, just as planned. Boring!


    The fact parts of Shenmue II had been shown back in 1998 didn't go unnoticed by the gaming press, but this wasn't surprising - the first Shenmue is subtitled "Ichishou Yokosuka" (literally CHAPTER 1: YOKOSUKA) in Japan, so it stands to reason a second chapter not in Yokosuka always existed. I'm not entirely sure this was conveyed as such in the West (at least at first). While there were originally plans to combine the two into one product for overseas audiences, I'm not sure if the press releases were ever amended to suggest there would be sequels. It only became obvious that there must be once people played the game.


    Shenmue: The Movie was never shown in the West when it was new, but was bundled with the Xbox version of Shenmue II as an extra. Old logic suggested that hey, Sega made this DVD to help Xbox fans with the backstory, but it honestly seems it was a happy coincidence - Sega just happened to have a movie-fied version of the first game, in English, that they could use for this purpose. And it just so happened that they hadn't attempted to release it as a stand-alone product (like it was in Japan), so weren't going to run into licensing troubles, or something.

    In reality Shenmue: The Movie pre-dates the Xbox console's launch, nevermind the its port of Shenmue II. Hell it pre-dates the point where Sega left the hardware business.
     
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