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Platform

Xbox

 

Genre

Adventure

 

Publisher

Sega / Microsoft

 

Developer

AM2

 

ESRB

T (Teen)

 

Released

Q4 2002

 

 

- Presentation should be the new standard for adventure games
- Good fun
- Once you get into it, hard to put down
- Book feel with integrated puzzles
- Includes classic titles Outrun, Afterburner II, Hang On and Space Harrier – WOOHOO!

 

 

- Linear style hits you over the head to keep you on the right track
- Fighting and action scenes are in short supply for action lovers

 

 

Review: Shenmue II (Dreamcast)

Review: Shenmue (Dreamcast)

Review: Heavy Rain (PS3)

 

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Shenmue II

Score: 8.9 / 10

 

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As a diehard PC adventure fan, after playing Shenmue II (SII) I was left pondering a huge question. Namely, why the hell haven’t we seen adventure games take cues from SII? It’s the natural progression! My mind continues to play over the possibilities. What would a Larry game look like? What about King’s Quest? How about a Day of the Tentacle sequel? When I think about it, it just plain hurts, especially since SII appeared outside North America on the Dreamcast almost 2 years ago (if I'm not mistaken)! Before this turns into a rant about the quasi-death of the Adventure genre, I’ll start the review.

SII drops you into the shoes and cool hair of Ryo Hazuki as he arrives in Hong Kong from Japan to track down his father’s killer, Lan Di, and learn more about the

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mystery of the Phoenix mirror. (For the complete background check the included Shenmue movie strung together from the first game’s various cutscenes and general exploration – or the digest version on the game disc.) And from there you have free roam to find Ryo’s father’s killer, running down leads, taking odd jobs for some quick cash, visiting pawn shops, interacting with the populace, and,

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generally, fulfilling your quest for vengeance. It’s not as free-roam as Morrowind and the story hits you on the head often to keep Ryo on the right track, but it’s undeniably interesting and fun to play, if somewhat quirky.

Keyword there is “quirky.” SII has an undeniable Japanese sensibility. I fully realized this as I was beating senseless some innocent tree in my effort to better understand a martial arts concept. Then I noticed it in other areas. Ryo has a tendency to repeat things as questions – information that other characters state as fact – like he can’t quite believe what he’s hearing. Nearly everyone you talk to can lead you to the destination you seek as long as you have the patience required to walk slowly behind them. (Does no one jog in Hong Kong?) Everything operates in “real-time” so these slow tours can be aggravating at times. (Tip: Learn each area and pay attention to the maps!)

 

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I put real-time in quotes because it’s accelerated for gameplay purposes, but there is a day/night cycle to take into account. (And even the change of seasons.) As such, the story moves at a constant, though at times plodding, pace as you work your way from A to B.

The story, although a bit hackneyed, and possibly clichéd, is great. I’ll admit that it hooked me. Like Syberia (PC) with its integrated puzzles, SII has a certain novel feel to it – a book that’s worth reading multiple times – and as such it’s a little hard to review the game without giving away most of the plot and the surprises. Approaching the presentation aspects is a little easier.

Graphics are bright and easy to look at – actually they reminded me of Wreckless’s (XB) crowded streets only with better-looking people. (Forget the whole Dreamcast Xbox graphics debate -- if it looks good, it looks good. I don't care if the graphics are "a couple of years old.") The fighting portions are rendered along the lines of Sega’s Virtua Fighter series, which isn’t a surprise considering AM2 worked on both SII and the Virtua Fighter series. Most of the game uses the 3rd Person mode, with Ryo on-screen at all times and full range to look around the city and soak in the details (using a combination of the analog sticks and directional pad). Scripted scenes abound to drive the story forward… basically SII is good-looking game and it’s hard for me to nit-pick.

 

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Controlling Ryo can take a bit of practice as most of the buttons on the controller are used. But after a while it becomes natural – switching to inventory, looking one way and walking another, running, interacting with NPC’s, etc. – but the fighting sequences can a take bit more to master. Fighting veterans will be in their element (but might also be disappointed with the low frequency of fisticuffs) but for the neophyte there is plenty of challenge, even with the handy list of available moves, especially when taking on more than one enemy. (SII is a mix of genres but mostly it can be classified as an Adventure. There are fighting elements, aspects reminiscent of the Zelda series, and even twitch challenges that nod toward the classic laser disc-based Dragon’s Lair. But these are merely complimentary to the Adventure component.)

Even if you’re not so stoked about SII – unlikely – it’s worth the price just to have access to Afterburner 2, Outrun, Hang On, and Space Harrier, a few of Sega’s classic games that I spent a great deal of time when they first came out. Besides some welcome feel-good nostalgia, the games underscore the leaps and bounds videogames have made in just the last 10 years. (There are other mini-games but I didn’t spend much time with them.)

Bottom line is that Shenmue II is a great, rollicking adventure with some integrated action and worth your time if you’re in the “Adventure Games are Dead and I Miss Them” camp. Fans of the first game shouldn’t be disappointed with Shenmue II either – I sure wasn’t and I’ve never played the original!

- Omni
(December 1, 2002)

 

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