SHENMUE 1 & 2
Places where sailors hang out
Sitting at the top of my CV are some entries that cause any potential employer to raise eyebrows: forklift driver, lucky hit salesman, professional duck racer. It’s true these are only jobs I did virtually through Ryo Hazuki – they’re all jobs he takes on while he works to track down his father’s killer – but in a way I feel like I actually did them.
Trawling the streets of Asian towns in Yokosuka, and then Hong Kong, feels like part of my own story. The lack of signposting within the games forces you to follow leads, really interact with the people you meet, and pay attention to the meticulous detail that was unheard of when the first two Shenmue games released.
Unfortunately, time has progressed since the golden years of 1999 and 2001, and this package of both games for PS4 hasn’t done much to de-age them. Textures have been scaled up to look nicer on a big screen, the UI has been reworked, and very minor tweaks have been made to the controls, but for the most part these games are preserved just as they were. 1 The best change is a menu toggle that allows you to switch from English to the original Japanese voice acting. The English line delivery is as hammy as it ever was, and sounds like it was recorded in a spare cupboard in Sega HQ, but it’s still the ultimate nostalgia choice.
Some aspects, like the tanky controls, definitely feel tired these days. But there’s still an undeniable charm to this low-key adventure that focuses on investigation rather than too many fights. There’s still nothing else quite like it, 2 and this package makes it easier than ever to miss out no longer. Oscar Taylor-Kent
FOOTNOTES1 There’s a reason it’s titled Shenmue I & II, without any sort of ‘Remastered’ in there. 2 The Yakuza series is arguably the much more fighty natural evolution to Shenmue’s schtick.