Thursday, March 18, 2010

Shenmue Is 10 Years Old

On November 6th of this year, Shenmue (Sega, Dreamcast) will be ten years old — at least to gamers here in North America. The game was released in Japan in 1999 so technically Shenmue is already ten years old. Hard to believe.

The reason I even bring this up is due mainly to Sega's recent release of Yakuza 3 for the PlayStation 3. Yakuza 3 has me thinking a lot about Shenmue and just how great and special that game was for its time. Yu Suzuki introduced a lot of fresh ideas and he created the first game world you could feel as if you were actually living in. Not only were the graphics better than any other console game at that time, the gameplay was incredibly unique.

Shenmue on Dreamcast (Sega, 2000)

Yakuza 3 on PlayStation 3 (Sega, 2010)

I am not afraid to admit, Shenmue was not perfect. But even if you factor in some of the game's missteps — the lengthy cut scenes and terrible English voice dubbing to name two glaring examples — it was truly an amazing piece of work and way ahead of its time, thanks to one man: Sega's Yu Suzuki.

During my time at GameWeek I sat down to interview Yu Suzuki. It was one of the most memorable experiences of my life. Through his interpreter, Suzuki-san answered many questions I had regarding the state of Dreamcast, the creation of games, and the video game industry as a whole. It was almost an out-of-body experience to be sitting at a table with such a well respected game development icon and one of my personal idols. At the end of the interview, Suzuki-san joyfully signed my copy of Shenmue.

Yup, that was ten years ago. As part of my tribute to Yu Suzuki and his magnum opus, I am planning to post the interview, in its entirety, very soon.

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