THE TOP STORY
Sega is re-releasing its cult martial arts adventure SHENMUE on PC
Shenmue is coming to PC.
The first –a martial arts revenge story that was, at the time, the most expensive videogame ever made – has only ever been playable on Dreamcast. It’s the reason I still have one under my TV, long after the console’s demise. But soon you’ll be able to play it and its sequel on PC, thanks to a long overdue re-release by Sega.
The game tells the story of Ryo Hazuki, a teenager living in Japan in the ’80s who swears revenge on the man who killed his father. It’s part-fighting game, part-RPG, and set in a richly detailed world. It’s also a weird, idiosyncratic game, and has been dividing critics since its release in 1999. Depending on who you ask, it’s either a masterpiece or a mess. I fall into the former camp.
Sega says the re-release will “stay true to the originals, but with modernised features including a fully scalable screen resolution, a choice of modern or classic controls, an updated interface, and the option to enjoy either the original Japanese or English voiceovers”. The promise of modernised controls is particularly exciting, as even the most fervent Shenmue fan will acknowledge that it’s an absolute pig to handle.
This marks the first time western players will be able to easily experience the original voiceover, and not the famously robotic, stilted English voice acting. But, to be honest, the hilariously amateurish acting has become a much-loved part of the series’ peculiar charm.
Depending on who you ask, it’s either a masterpiece or a mess
The first game is set in the city of Yokosuka, where Ryo searches for clues about the man who killed his father, and why he did it. It’s a wonderfully atmospheric setting, including a busy shopping district with an arcade full of classic Sega games you can play, and a dock where Ryo gets a job as a forklift driver, which you actually have to do, every day.
The sequel takes Ryo to Hong Kong, which has a very different, busier feel to the sleepy, rain-soaked streets of Yokosuka and admittedly isn’t as good as the original. But it’s still great to have both games on PC, playable at resolutions greater than the Dreamcast’s paltry 720x480 pixels. And judging by the screenshots, the game has aged surprisingly well.
Shenmue was a commercial failure and struggled to make back its then-record-breaking $50 million budget. But now the series has another chance at glory on PC with this HD remaster, not to mention an independentlydeveloped third game, which will see creator Yu Suzuki finally adding to the saga that he started all those years ago. No date for the HD version has been set yet, but expect it to be around the time Shenmue III is released at the end of this year.
Shenmue is a sprawling epic, originally intended to span many sequels.
ABOVE, TOP: There are a huge number of martial arts moves to learn, and you will need them.
ABOVE, BOTTOM: Ryo is a sulky, revenge-obsessed teen with a really cool jacket.