I have written this post, and researched around it, as part of my efforts to create a ‘Shenmue III Character Database’ – much like the one I previously created for Shenmue II.
Of course, this project has proven far easier to develop in many ways than the one for S2, as in S3 the majority of NPC names are displayed right there on the screen! This means there is no need to chase down guidebooks or translations, as I had to with S2 (which is just as well, as given the game was released in 2019, no official guidebooks for S3 exist – in the 21 year gap between games, it has become the norm just to look it up on the internet if you get stuck)
However, the lack of official materials in regard to character profiles also makes this task harder in some respects. Specifically, in determining the names of characters who only appear in S3’s cutscenes-therefore meaning you are unable to see their names appear on-screen in normal gameplay.
This became problematic when I was trying to determine the names of the members of the Blue Spiders and the Red Snakes – the two gangs that serve as antagonists of the game.
In this post I will cover the naming of the Blue Spiders members – the Red Snakes confusion will come in a future post!
So, the Blue Spiders – this is the gang that causes trouble in Bailu Village by ransacking the homes of stonemasons, in an effort to find the Phoenix Mirror for the Chi You Men (unaware that it is in Ryo’s possession). Ryo first encounters them at the Rainbow Basin settlement in the village, but is bested by their hulking leader, unable to defeat him until he learns a specific move later in the game.
The leader’s name is not divulged at first, but once Ryo has finally defeated him towards the end of the Bailu Village section of the game, he is tied up in order to be interrogated by Ryo and Shenhua – this takes the form of an in-game conversation, so handily his name appears right there on-screen – Yanlang.
However, this still leaves the matter of the other two members working under Yanlang – their names are not divulged during the Bailu Village section of the game, and nor can you speak to them directly in Free Quest like Yanlang- they only appear in cutscenes and battles. One is a thin, bald man with a blue spider tattoo on his head, while the other is a considerably larger man with long hair:
These two do, however later reappear in Niaowu- during the ‘Story Quest’ DLC scenario (along with their leader Yanlang, who appears towards the end of this scenario). This is also when the name of the gang is revealed as being the Blue Spiders – it is not mentioned in Bailu, only being referred to as a ‘gang of thugs’ during that part of the game. Ryo first encounters these two again in an alley near Vendor Avenue:
After fighting these two and leaving them to be dealt with by Wei Yangfeng (a man seemingly working under Zhang Shuqin, but later revealed to be in league with the Blue Spiders), Ryo returns to Hotel Niaowu and speaks to Mai Junwu (another, more trustworthy associate of Zhang), who informs Ryo that the two thugs made a run for it – and he refers to them by name – Gao and Li.
Ok, great, so we now have names for these two…but the obvious question is, which one is which? The game does not make this clear at all, as this is the only time they are referred to by name in dialogue.
Not willing to give up, I posted a thread at the Shenmue Dojo forums, reaching out to more tech/hacking-savvy members and asking if there was some way of determining which was which via the filenames of their character models, or other internal data in-game.
The hacking and modding master known as LemonHaze quickly posted images of their models, which go by the file names GRA and GRB – ‘GRA’ being the thin, bald guy, and ‘GRB’ being the larger guy with long hair:
Frustratingly, these seemingly generic file names still give no indication of which is Gao and which is Li.
However, while browsing the forum, I came across a post from sometime prior by fellow member Sappharad that made reference to an internal file in the game’s trial version called ‘CharaProfile.txt’, that listed the names of each character in the game. I reached out to LemonHaze again and asked if he would be able to send this file from the final game (assuming it still existed in the final version), in order to see if this shed any light on the Gao and Li debacle.
LemonHaze very kindly sent me the .txt file, which is indeed a list of character names, seemingly partly associated with voice lines in the game, as among the character names are Gui Zhang, Nozomi etc, who are not seen in-game but heard via the phone calls you can make in Hotel Niaowu.
After searching through this file, I noticed two character names that did not seem to correspond to any NPC’s you can talk to directly in Free Quest mode:
Therefore, it would appear these two character names are indeed referring to the two Blue Spiders members.
Given the character model names, GRA and GRB, I think we can reasonably assume that this .txt file is following the same logic/order as the character models. Working with this assumption, we can identify these two characters as follows:
Gao’s given name is admittedly a little questionable, given that it is all in lower case in the .txt file for some strange reason- but at the very least we can confirm that Gao is his family name.
So to summarise – from a little detective work we can reasonably determine that Li is the thin, bald guy, while Gao is the larger guy with long hair – what a tangled web it turned out to be to figure this out!
Stay tuned for a follow-up post where I figure out who is who in the Red Snakes!
Also be sure to check out the latest on LemonHaze’s current project, the amazing looking ‘Shenmue Dragon and Phoenix Collection’!