Sega’s final home console, the Sega Dreamcast launched September 9th, 1999 (9/9/99) in North America. The console received much critical praise, and is still one of the most beloved game consoles, despite its short 3 year life. There are multitude of reasons why the Dreamcast, and ultimately the Sega of old ended the way they did. That is not the focus of this piece- not to examine its martyr like demise, but to celebrate a true game console, that lived and died with a fantastic library at its side. It’s no coincidence that my first look at video game collecting here on A Gaming Genesis is about the Sega Dreamcast, its ultimately my favorite video game console of all time, as well home to my loftiest goal as a game collector. What could such a lofty goal be? To own a complete copy of every NTSC (North America) Dreamcast game released. There were approximately 250 games released for the Dreamcast in North America, it’s not a small number, but it’s doable, especially when compared to other consoles, like the Nintendo Gamecube, which despite poor sales, still had upwards of 600+ games released! There were also 17 titles released in the “Sega All-Stars” line of re-releases. Essentially a greatest hits line, they featured an orange spine, and orange on the box art, versus the white / black of other games. I plan to get those as well.
While owning every North American Dreamcast game is the biggest goal for Dreamcast collecting, it won’t end there. I would also love to add PAL (Europe) exclusives games into the mix, thankfully, there aren’t many games that were only released in PAL territories for the Dreamcast. As for Japanese releases, there’s no way I will own them all. The Dreamcast was supported massively in Japan, with officially licensed games coming out until around 2008, 7 years after the console was discontinued. Granted there were not a ton being released, but it gets far to pricey for my tastes and I’ll probably just end up collecting the “must own” Japanese games. Which brings me to the last set of Dreamcast games I want to talk about. As I mentioned earlier, licensed games were being released for the system long after production of the console ended, but even still, in 2015 homebrew and indie titles, as well as fan ports of arcade games are still being released for the Dreamcast. While I would love to own all these, due to the low key nature of these games, I’ve yet to find a definitive list, so I’ll ultimately end up just picking up some of these, the star of my collection will be the complete US library anyway, which will include all US Dreamcast Magazine demo discs, Dreamcast Generator demo discs, and Web Browser software discs.
With the talk of what I want to collect for the Dreamcast out of the way, I guess I should talk about the “why” of it. It’s hard to explain. I did say earlier that the Dreamcast is my favorite console of all time, as well as having a stellar (yet small) library. In all honesty, I would say the Dreamcast has the best ratio of “good games” to “bad games” out of any console released. All in all, I think my love of the system and its library make me want to do it. I am a champion of the Dreamcast, I always have been and always will be, I share it with friends, and recommend it to new gamers and people who may have missed out on it. The system is cheap, and most of the games are cheap too, sure it has a few pricey games, like Project Justice, and Cannon Spike but overall, it’s a cheap and easy system to collect for. I think the biggest reason is that I just want to celebrate that such a great console was released, with such an amazing library of games. I want to celebrate, to show my love to everyone and show just how much the Dreamcast means to me as a gamer. Maybe owning a complete US collection isn’t the best way to show my love for it, but it will be a good starting point. Perhaps one day after I own every US game I will then review every US game! It’s hard to say, or commit to such a lofty goal and such a long term plan, but it’s something I would like to try to do at the very least!
So where does my collection stand currently? I talk of such lofty goals that I must have made some kind of notable progress right? As of the writing of this article, I own about 50 complete Dreamcast games. It’s my largest library of any console (though the PS3 is close, at around 40). I have been buying the games alphabetically using a nice checklist compiled by fans (modified by myself, to note which games had Sega All-Stars re-releases. I own no PAL, Japanese, or Homebrew games. So my collection is still in its infancy, though I do own a number of more sought after titles, like Skies of Arcadia, and Shenmue. I’m not actively seeking the games out though, typically, I just buy games when I find them, but I have on occasion splurged some extra money into buying 5 or 10 games in one sitting from eBay. So that’s that. A small look at my goals for collecting on the Dreamcast, why I want to do it, and where my collection stands so far. If you’ve never played the Dreamcast, I highly recommend you do. It’s got a fantastic library, and features a ton of great games that won’t break the bank, and will offer you hours of fun, classic Sega Gameplay- you’ll quickly see why its my, and so many others favorite console of all time. It’s thinking.
Shenmue has one of the largest cult followings in video game history. Despite disappointing sells with both games, the games have remained incredibly popular throughout the gaming world. A decade has passed since Shenmue II was released for the Sega Dreamcast (in Japan and Europe), and the 10th anniversary approaches of the XBOX release of Shenmue II in North America. Shenmue III is one of the most common requests from Sega fans- a quick look at some comments on Sega’s Facebook page reveals many people commenting and begging for a continuation of the Shenmue franchise- with no word from Sega and only small glimmers of hope from Shenmue Creator- Yu Suzuki who left Sega and now claims he could get the rights to the franchise to make Shenmue III.
With the announcement of Jet Set Radio HD releasing this summer a Sega employee teased the possibility of Shenmue HD– saying it was the most requested but that he couldn’t confirm or deny if they were in fact working on it. Shortly after that the internet exploded with rumors of a key Sega insider who claims that Shenmue HD as well as Shenmue II HD have both already been completed for about a year and Sega has been merely biding their time to release the games onto modern platforms. However if you look at comments for the aforementioned articles fans are not happy- and this I don’t understand.
A quick look has some fans angry with Sega essentially saying “We don’t care about I and II just make III!!” and “I already have I and II why should I buy them again?” or “I can just play them on my Dreamcast.” It seems to me people simply don’t understand what Sega’s plan is. Look at it from Sega’s point of view- they spent a lot of money on Shenmue already- and both were financial (though not critical) failures. To make a completely new game with no correct gauge of interest- could possibly create another major financial loss for the still unstable Sega.
It doesn’t matter how many thousands of people say they will buy Shenmue III. At the end of the day actions do in fact speak louder than words- for Sega- putting in only a small amount of money to port and upgrade the first two Shenmue games is a much small financial risk and will also be a great way to gauge fan interest. So essentially the more fans who purchase HD releases of Shenmue I and II who be helping Sega put funds together for Shenmue III making the dream more alive than ever before. If these re-releases sell poorly, Sega would see that there is no interest in Shenmue III and would essentially kill it forever.
Personally, I would purchase Shenmue HD in a heartbeat from the Playstation Network. The two games combined could be a massive download (potentially upwards of over 10GB) and I would love a physical release. If Europe would get a physical release of Shenmue HD I would import that as well. Perhaps with the explosion of the internet since Shenmue’s downfall and the massive cult status the games have amassed- these possible HD releases will propel Shenmue to the financial success it ultimately and should be. I look forward to the day of continuing Ryo Hazuki’s journey for revenge it is one of the greatest game stories to have existed- if you haven’t played it- you’re missing out.
Note: This review was originally written February 5th, 2011 for the Average Gamers Show blog.
You are Ryo Hazuki, son of a famed martial artist Iwao Hazuki, you live a quiet life in 1980s Japan, in the town called Yokosuka. You are in high school, and things are heating up with a girl named Nozomi. Everything changes one day, when a mysterious Chinese man named Lan Di shows up, and murders your father, and begin an epic quest to get your revenge. This. Is. Shenmue.
Shenmue is the brain child of famed Sega employee Yu Suzuki. The game started out on the Sega Saturn, and would go through many changes, before landing on our doorstep as the “Shenmue” we know and love on the Sega Dreamcast. The game is largely a cult classic, and even has a sequel, Shenmue II which ends itself on a cliffhanger. Due to poor sales- the franchise has not been continued and Shenmue III has become one of the most requested games of all time, and 10 years later, very little is known about what Shenmue III holds for us.
Shenmue is a game that is hard to define as simply in one genre, it is largely a sandbox game, there is a lot of action, adventure, and a few small RPG elements. Yu Suzuki called the game “FREE” an acronym meaning “Full Reactive Eyes Entertainment”. There are five main areas of the game, the large Hazuki residence, which comprises the Hazuki home, and Hazuki dojo, it’s larger than it seems. Next there is Yamanose, which is a small area with a few homes, and a shrine that is home to a kitten (which you take care of as part of a side-story). The next area is Sakuragaoka, which is slightly larger. There are more people here, vending machines, Sakura Park, and a construction site. Dobuita is the main town area of the game. There are many kinds of shops, and activities including: Bars, Restaurants, an Arcade, thrift stores, tobacco shops, most of which are relatively useless but are fun to explore. The final area is the harbor, which houses nefarious characters, and where you land a job (and do surprisingly little work)
Most of the story progression happens as you wander through the various areas talking to largely clueless people to try and piece together why Lan Di wanted to kill your father and how you can locate him. While the game did not innovate a lot of the features it has, did popularize them, and bring to them to the mainstream audience. Shenmue was one of the first games, to have different dialog trees, events, and actions that could only be gotten depending on the weather, day, or time. For example, a man in the park will teach your karate moves, but only if it is not raining, and only if it is in the morning. The game popularized random weather as well, no two games have the same weather on the same day, and not even a different save file will have the same weather! During Christmas time, the town of Dobuita plays Christmas music, and men dress up like Santa Claus in the town. The game also uses a time feature, you wake up at 8:30 every morning, and stores open and close at different times, and you can go to bed after 8pm- however you will automatically return to the Hazuki home shortly after 11pm. One of the biggest things Shenmue popularized is the “QTE”, or Quick-Time Event, where during a cutscene you are prompted for a button press in order to complete the scene. For example, during a chase scene, someone may knock something into your path, and you must quickly press the correct button to avoid the hazard, this was later popularized with games like God of War on the Playstation 2.
The game is truly a massive place that is also very immersive. The graphics and detail put into the world is astonishing, it’s no wonder the game uses three GD-Roms (and a 4th disc, which contains extras- this equates to a little over 1 DVD and not to mention it has very low quality audio sampling in the voices- if it were in CD quality it could easily be a DVD9 size game). You can pick up and examine all kinds of objects in the world, you can purchase things from the stores, and use your cassette player to listen to the cassettes you have found (be sure to replace the batteries) the world is a very vivid place. However, when there are many people on screen, there is some slowdown (especially during the Harbor sections). The music is always very fitting- most notably the music that plays during the Forklift races. Overall the soundtrack has a very 1950s – 1960s Hollywood-esque orchestrated feeling that suits the game very well. The story of the game is absolutely amazing, and leaves you wanting more all the time. I would play for five hours at a time, and not want to quit, the end leaves you craving the second game even more.
Shenmue offers many reasons to replay the game. There are many things to collect, such as Cassettes, Photographs, Martial Arts Moves, Toy Capsules and various other items. You also have a notebook which you fill up by talking to people all over, trying to play through the game with a complete notebook will add a lot of time to your game. The arcade offers many opportunities to try and break your high scores and win prizes- during its heyday- you could use the 4th Shenmue Passport disc to share your scores at the arcade with an online leaderboard!. Upon completion of the game you unlock a new weather option, which simulates the real weather for Yokosuka, Japan in 1986. There was a feature planned for the US release of Shenmue II, that all of your items, moves, and yen would transfer to your Shenmue II game. However, since the Dreamcast version was never released is the US this trick only works in the PAL and Japanese releases of the game.
Overall the game is an amazing gaming experience that needs to be experienced by every gamer. It has some flaws, most notably some slowdown in crowded areas, and sometimes the game can be slow (in terms of time and pacing) but the positives far outweigh the negatives. Shenmue has one of the most loyal fanbases in video game history. More than ten years after the release of Shenmue II, fans are still waiting for Shenmue III in one form or another, maybe one day our dream will be fulfilled. As for Shenmue, the game is truly a most own for any fan of video games, and it is one experience I will never forget, I look forward to playing Shenmue II.