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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 X Box. 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 (Dragons 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.
Contains examples of the following tropes:
- 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
- Battle Butler
- Betting Minigame: Would you like to play a game of Lucky Hit?!
- Bottomless Bladder
- 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.
- Chris Carter Effect: Potential fans may have been turned off when hearing the first Shenmue game consisted of the first of what was expected to be SIXTEEN chapters. It turned out that Suzuki-san didn't intend to do sixteen separate games; Shenmue II covers Chapter 2 through 5 (the boat ride, Hong Kong, Kowloon and Guilin, the chapters in the series divided based on location), and Chapter 2 took place entirely off-screen.
- Cool Old Lady
- Cosmic Keystone
- Cycle of Revenge
- Died in Your Arms Tonight: Ryo's dad.
- Distressed Damsel: Nozomi near the end of Chapter 1.
- 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.
- 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.
- Game Within a Game: Space Harrier and Hang-On in the first; the second had those two with After Burner II and Out Run.
- Insurmountable Waist-Height Fence
- Killer App: For the Dreamcast, tied with the first Soul Calibur.
- 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
- No Export for You: The second one was never released on Dreamcast in North America. The Xbox release was a year later. Many die hard fans imported even though it was expensive and required a special disc that could cancel regional lockout. It was still cheaper than buying an Xbox which had just been released.
- 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.
- Real Place Background
- Run, Don't Walk
- Present Day Past
- Press X to Not Die: Godfather of the mid cutscene QTE
- And yet, in Shenmue II, it managed to sneak in a subversion; when learning the Wude principle of Dan, DO NOT press A.
- 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
- Shallow Parody: Compare the number of smartass jokes "about that day" and "looking for sailors," to the percentage of the game that revolves around either of those things.
- Sidetracked by the Gold Saucer: "I am Ryo Hazuki. I will avenge my father's death... Right after I play with this kitten! And drink this soda! And play with these toys!"
- Stock Yuck: Young Ryu doesn't like carrots.
- Snow Means Death: It's snowing on the day Iwao Hazuki is murdered.
- Stalking Mission
- Stout Strength: Dou Niu, Lan Di's Dragon in Shenmue II.
- Stupidity Is the Only Option
- Talk to Everyone
- 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
- 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.