Apologies it being so long since the last post! Real life has gotten in the way as of late, but be assured there are many ideas for posts in the pipeline. Of course, since my last post, the announcement of Shenmue HD came, at long last – truly a cause for celebration. These are very good times for Shenmue fans, what with the imminent Shenmue III, and, now, finally, the re-release of the first two games after fans pleading Sega for so long. The third game has now been delayed (again) to 2019, but this should certainly tide us over until then.
Anyway – this post concerns a somewhat confusing situation regarding a certain black-suited member of the Chi You Men. This post is my effort to try and make sense of it, and figure out if two seemingly-identical looking characters featuring in the first two games really are the same person or not…
So as most of you will know, in the opening scene of Shenmue I, as Lan Di arrives at the Hazuki Dojo he is accompanied by two henchman in black suits. In the context of the first game, these two do not have names – they are merely known as ‘Men in Black Suit A’ and ‘Men in Black Suit B’, as seen in the official character profiles (from the Passport disc and both the Prima and Versus Book strategy guides – and also transcribed on Shenmue Dojo):
It is primarily ‘Man in Black Suit B’ who we will be looking at in this post, as he is the one that later reappears in Shenmue II. Or…does he? This is where confusion sets in, and where things get a little complicated, so bear with me while I try to explain what this ‘Men in Black Mix-Up’ is all about.
Now, in the second game, Ryo’s search for Zhu Yuanda ultimately leads him to making contact with his associate, Zhang. However their meeting is interrupted by the Yellow Heads, who run off into the White Dynasty Qr, intending to take Zhang away to get information on Zhu. This leads into the memorable QTE sequence where Ryo fights his way through the market stands to get past the Yellow Heads and rescue Zhang. Once he catches up with the members who have a hold of Zhang, it seems a familiar face is with them as well – and he appears to make a displeased grunt as he seemingly recognises Ryo!
It makes sense that a Chi You Men member would be present, as the Yellow Head are assisting them to look for Zhu, as we learn later. It would appear he has been assigned to the search in Wan Chai. (though it does seem to contradict the idea that he is ‘always by Lan Di’s side like a shadow’) He is of course, effortlessly dispatched by Xiuying, along with the Yellow Heads, showing that she is truly a skilled martial artist to be able to best someone with such ‘evident strength’. One would perhaps question if it truly is ‘Man in Black Suit B’ at all…hmm…well, we’ll come to that…
This guy is later seen again in the climactic scene atop the Yellow Head Building. He is the one who is about to hand over Zhu to Lan Di as he waits from the helicopter above. He even seems to smugly smirk at Ryo…
The fact he is with Lan Di seems to fit with the idea the Shenmue I profile presents that he is ‘always by Lan Di’s side’. However, his strength that same profile mentions is somewhat called into question by the fact that Ren, of all people, is very easily able to knock him down (though I suppose you could argue holding an old man over your shoulder at the time does limit your ability to fight back somewhat)
So, I hear you ask, does this guy get a name in Shenmue II? Why yes, he does! This character’s name is Yue Zhou (Zhou is the family name, and Yue is the given name, so you may also see his name westernised as ‘Zhou Yue’ – this is all explained in this handy post about the Zhu Yuanda/Yuanda Zhu confusion).
Birth Date: 11th January, 1961
Zodiac Sign: Capricorn
Blood Type: A
You may have noticed a slight problem here – his stats don’t line up with ‘Man in Black Suit B’s at all! This is despite seeming to look exactly like him and apparently recognising Ryo in the context of the cutscenes he appears in. He has a completely different birth date, age, zodiac sign and blood type. The height and weight appear to roughly check out however:
The (fan-created) Shenmue Wiki page for this character even points out the confusion – though is it really as simple as fans ‘mistaking’ him for Man in Black Suit B? They do seem to look exactly alike, after all. The page for MIB-B even states that their appearance is ‘identical’. Its only after we look at the profile of another Chi You Men black suit that a possible mix-up becomes apparent (there are 25 Chi You Men members besides Lan Di that appear in Shenmue II in all, all with names this time):
Birth Date: 25th February, 1955
Zodiac Sign: Pisces
Blood Type: O
Wait, what? Why does this guy have the same stats as Man in Black Suit B?? This really is extremely bizarre, and leads me to believe that at some point during the team developing these character profiles, that there was a mix-up at some point and these stats were truly meant for Yue Zhou, i.e. the one that looks exactly like Man in Black Suit B. Suggesting perhaps that the stats which Yue Zhou ended up with were intended for Lu Qian. Confused yet?
It gets even stranger when you discover another of the black suits has the same stats as Man in Black Suit A! This is despite Cheng Chang Yun clearly being a completely different character and looking nothing like him. (unless he had major plastic surgery between games?) Unlike MIB-B, there are no characters in Shenmue II who look like MIB-A, making this even more baffling –
Cheng Chang Yun
Birth Date: 12th November, 1957
Zodiac Sign: Scorpio
Blood Type: B
So what happened here? Well despite the two profiles telling us otherwise, it would seem that Man in Black Suit B from Shenmue I and Yue Zhou from Shenmue II do indeed look identical, and appear to share the same character model. MIB-B’s profile stats ended up being given to another character who looks completely different, which simply cannot be a coincidence – suggesting the profiles were switched accidentally. As for MIB-A’s profile stats being assigned to another character, despite no one even resembling him in Shenmue II at all, well that one just adds even further confusion.
While I did mention Yue Zhou seeming to recognise Ryo in the White Dynasty Qr. scene, this perhaps raises another question – if he is in fact Man in Black Suit B, why doesn’t Ryo visibly react to this? You’d think if he’d remember one of the black suits accompanying Lan Di, and therefore demand from them his whereabouts. It does seem odd that we get a close up of Yue Zhou grunting at Ryo’s persistence, though…
So a TL:DR version:
- A character who looks just like Man in Black Suit B appears in Shenmue II, named Yue Zhou
- However, his birth date, age, zodiac sign, blood type etc do not match to MIB-B’s
- An entirely separate character, Lu Qian, has Man in Black Suit B’s exact stats (birth date/age etc).
- To add futher confusion, another character, Cheng Chang Yun, has the same stats as Man in Black Suit A – who only appears in Shenmue I. Chang Yun is clearly a different character, and no one resembling MIB-A appears in S2 at all.
But to surmise: unless anyone who worked on Shenmue II ever confirms that two characters who look exactly alike are not meant to be separate individuals, and that it was an honest mistake, we are left with an annoying anomaly where we have to accept them as separate characters. There is evidence to suggest they are one and the same, but no concrete confirmation, sadly.
Having said that, this is not the only example of character models being duplicated, but still given differing names and profiles. Stay tuned for future posts on that sticky subject!