s henmue I & II
Our first chance to play the stuff of Dreamcast dreams on home turf—will it hold up? Phil Iwaniuk
First, let’s clear the air and make the not-at-all bitter jokes about Shenmue
III never coming out, or it’ll be all we can think about for the whole preview: It’s a strong contender for 2027’s game of the year awards, and rumor has it that it’ll be beaten to the shelves by its own remaster. Feel free to roll around holding your sides for a bit, we’ll wait.
Right, onto the rather more immediate business of the first two games being made available on Xbox One later this year. In the first game’s case, it’ll be the first time it’s ever been playable on Xbox hardware, and is thus a first chance to discover why the game carries such a formidable reputation 19 years after release while holding an Xbox pad.
Sega’s calling this release the definitive version of both games, which are updated for modern resolutions, feature a new UI, and let you choose between Japanese and English audio. There’s a choice of control schemes, too, so this shouldn’t feel as cumbersome as giving 20-year-old games a whirl often does. It’s easy to forget how far we’ve come in 20 years when it comes to basic ease of use. Seriously, how did people ever get by with Resident
Evil’s infamous tank controls? Thank goodness that remaster offered a newer control set too.
The exact release date has yet to be specified, which leads us to think that Sega’s lining it up to tie in with
Shenmue III’s arrival, also currently slated for an unspecified ‘late 2018’. While Sega itself isn’t connected to the third game, appetites will be greater for these first two when the next one’s imminent, so wait and see if the two releases don’t buddy up fairly closely.
“It shouldn’t feel as cumbersome as giving old games a whirl often does”
Why should you care about a pair of dusty old Dreamcast games? One of which, admittedly, was ported to Xbox in 2002? Well, Shenmue did the open world gaming thing before it was cool. And not only that, it did it in such an esoteric fashion, paying particular attention to the minutiae of everyday life in a way we just hadn’t seen depicted in games before. There are high-octane moments in which Ryu’s martial arts skills are called upon, but there are also long and curiously entertaining passages when you’re just operating a forklift truck. Because that’s your job. Buses run on timetables, characters have routines governed by the time of day, and you can lose an hour to a challenging arm-wrestling mini-game if you’re not careful. That— ahem— other black box (cue pantomime boos) is welcome to the threequel: We’re getting the games that built the series’ reputation.
After a hard day operating a forklift, Ryu unwinds by… er, racing forklifts.