Discovering Shenmue (Part 2 of 2)

community_dojo1
An older incarnation of the Shenmue Dojo site (thanks to teamyu.net for the pic)

(Read Part 1 here)

As I stated at the end of Part 1, Shenmue II felt like where the saga’s story was truly beginning, the hints that it was more than a simple revenge story becoming a lot more apparent. As Ren might say – things were ‘getting interesting’…

What a shame, then, that the future of the series was left achingly uncertain after the sequel’s release (and the story left dangling on an intriguing yet infuriating cliffhanger). However, before (and some during) the years of lost hope and frustrations, I was able to enjoy the online fandom and community that had sprung forth from these games. The year was 2002 – I was a mere 15 years old, still at school, the responsibilities of work and bills a long way off yet, free time still plentiful. Shortly after I had completed Shenmue II, our family finally had full access to the internet (back in the ‘glory’ days of dial-up and not being able to use the phone at the same time), allowing me to discover the website and forum known as Shenmue Dojo – still around to this very day. Sure, I had a limited exposure to the world wide web by using the Dreamcast’s connection and browser before then – but this was when we were finally able to access it on our chunky old PC, with a far less fiddly interface. At any rate – I discovered the Dojo in early 2002 and soon became a member of the forums, posting every single day, eager and excited to discuss the series with other similarly obsessed fans. (not to sound too much like a whinging old man, but I do somewhat miss those simpler, pre social-media days of the internet; there was something a lot more exciting and engaging about it…) My handle was initially Neo-randomstringofnumbers (or something to that effect),  before I later changed to the rather simpler username of ‘Miles Prower’ (in reference to my favourite character in the Sonic the Hedgehog series) – apparently I wasn’t able or couldn’t be bothered to come up with a witty or clever Shenmue-related name…regardless, the Dojo was one of the first message boards I ever joined, and I have extremely fond memories of the place.

oldryo_2
The old ‘Sega Saturn’ model of Ryo, discovered and implemented back into the game by LanDC.

I made several friends there, many of which I still chat and engage with now, and we must have discussed every single aspect of the series to death and back again. We shared scenes and rare conversations that many of us had not even encountered during our playthroughs (another magical thing about the series – you will always discover something new each time, no matter how small), discussed various storyline theories and possibilities, and of course the more technically-minded among us shared their modifications and hacks of the games; I am thinking in particular of LanDC, a truly legendary name in the fandom, who also discovered various glitches and tricks, some of which are still frequently used in speedruns of the games to this day. I myself was even crazy enough to take it upon myself to put together a Shenmue II Character Database, through exhaustive work cataloguing and enlisting others help to translate information that had previously been relegated to Japanese strategy guides. While I put it together, as you can see in the Special Thanks section it really was a community effort, and I have never felt more honoured to be a part of a fandom than I have than with this one. The Dojo will always have a special place in my heart.

Bailuvillage
A cut area from Shenmue II, that may or may not end up being in III…

As the years wore on and we ourselves grew older, one question achingly lingered – where was Shenmue III? Years passed without any word from Sega, the series seemingly not continuing on the Xbox as we all thought it might after the port of the second game. The games had been very expensive to make, of course, and clearly the money had not been made back from the sales; as much as we hated to admit it, they were commercial failures, the latter released on an already dying console, and Sega already admitting defeat by bowing out of the hardware game. A spin-off MMORPG, Shenmue Online, was announced, but then quietly cancelled. A mobile game was also released, Shenmue City, and Ryo made cameos in games such as Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing and its sequel, but a continuation of the series still did not materialise. We still carried something of a faint flicker of hope, that someday the series could continue in some form; but I must admit as time went on I found myself accepting that it probably wouldn’t. I grew into an adult, I became more cynical – university and later, work claimed most of my free time – it seemed silly to pine for a continuation of a series I had played to death and obsessed over in my teenage years. But it just seemed so unfair – the overall saga was, after all, only just getting started, the story taking a notable shift at the second game’s closing moments. The fact that Yu Suzuki’s grand vision had been so cruelly cut short truly was crushing…

Shenmue-III-E3-2015

Imagine all of our collective shock then, when Shenmue III was unexpectedly unveiled in the summer of 2015! I remember being giddy with excitement upon first clapping eyes upon that reveal trailer – it was around 3am in the UK when I saw it, and I found myself leaping out of bed and not quite sure how to react, stammering half-sentences and childish giggles of joy. Shenmue was back! The story really would go on. Ryo and Shenhua would finally get themselves out of that bloody cave, and we would know what happened next. I duly donated funds to the Kickstarter immediately, still not quite believing that this was happening. The fan demand and campaigns throughout the painful silence had quite clearly paid off. The fact that us as fans had helped in some way to make this happen really made me emotional (and still does), and I hope that anyone who has played these games understands just why I am that passionate about them, and have subsequently felt the need to arrange and express this in words (or at least attempt to). Honestly, I feel like I probably have a whole book in me about Shenmue – people would read that, right?

As I listen to my intricately-assembled soundtrack from both games on shuffle as I put the finishing touches to this post, I hope I have been adequately able to express my love for the series, and hope you enjoy my future posts while we wait for the ever-closer Shenmue III. And anyone who has thought about checking out the series and still hasn’t – please do so! You’ll need to track down a working Dreamcast and/or Xbox of course, but the effort is worth it – or you could hold out for the day Sega finally decides it might actually be a good idea to re-release them in HD…

Stuart / Miles

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2 thoughts on “Discovering Shenmue (Part 2 of 2)

  1. Awesome post again Stu! Brings us up to speed to where we are at now…and man I was totally the same as you it’s scary haha…the Dojo was such an exciting place to visit daily, and I spent countless hours going back and forth between topics, leaving a reply, and refreshing the page in hope of someone quoting me or replying as such! Those similar times were definitely better than this instant media outlet we have right now. Man I can’t believe it’s been 2 and a half years already since Shenmue 3 was announced! Emotion burst out of me that night that had been held inside since like 2002 haha, haven’t felt like that over anything before!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! And I’m glad someone agrees about those simpler internet days – maybe that can be recaptured a little bit at the Dojo forums once S3 is out (though I will be staying away from the internet altogether during my first playthrough!) And yeah, it’s crazy that it has been 2 years already. I just rewatched that announcement and reveal trailer, and may have had a tear (or three) in my eye…

      Like

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