Also on: PC, Xbox One
At long last Sega finally brought the HD port of Shenmue I & II that we’ve all been waiting for! And even though it’s been a long time coming, we couldn’t help but dive deep back into the series to enjoy every moment. The only problem is that the remastered game came out with some issues which weren’t in the original, so Sega quickly announced an upcoming patch to fix things like broken cutscenes, problems transferring save data, audio issues, and everything else and we decided to wait and see. For some reason it seems like a good amount of ports these days are rushed onto a platform and then have to be patched over and over to get them in shape, so did Sega deliver?
Well after delays on the patches and then finally being able to check it out in the middle of a heavy release season, it looks like the port is back in decent shape and much more like I remember the game back on Dreamcast. There are still some bugs in it but nothing like missing an entire cutscene that you have to then go watch on YouTube just to catch up. I mean why even play the game? These are more like graphics glitches that you’ll laugh at and won’t interfere with the game.
So now that we consider it a safer proposal to jump on the remaster, it’s worth letting you know what Shenmue is all about in case you’re new to the series. You play as Ryo who is out to avenge the death of his father. The game is set in December of a 1980’s Japan and has a special feeling of that era that you won’t find in any other game. Shenmue is known for its attention to detail and cinematic presentation which still holds up to this day, and the same goes for Shenmue II which continues Ryo’s adventure from where events in the first game leave off.
You’ll spend your time in the game by talking with NPCs to learn information and find clues that will help Ryo in his quest. This is typical of an RPG but the game feels like it always has one or two people who can tell you something helpful instead of just one key person. So it’s touches like these that make it feel more like a living breathing world than just a game. It also helps that you get lots of side activities to do and that the game is structured in a way that resembles real life, meaning that you will be relying on these diversions to pass time while you wait for the day to complete or have to take on a job that you’ll spend most of the day working for money.
This is considered by many to be the game’s strong point but it’s also the thing that people will call weak and boring if they don’t like Shenmue. So it also has a reputation for being a divisive game that is loved or hated, but if you’re interested in a game with an intriguing story and characters that plays more like Animal Crossing than say God of War then this game is probably for you. Well with a little Virtua Fighter thrown in for the combat. And hm, well, maybe a little God of War with the QTEs in Shenmue. It’s kinda hard to say what Shenmue is really like but if you don’t like the “slice of life” style of play you might want to pass. Either way at $30 for both games together it’s not much to risk and the rewards have a great potential.
In terms of presentation the game can be played in 4:3 or 16:9 aspect ratio with the visuals allowing for settings such as HD assets and bloom to be turned on or off manually. This is great and I found myself replaying the game in 4:3 since to me that feels right, but I also like that the bloom in Shenmue II can finally be disabled from what I played on Xbox back in the day. We were able to check the game out on PS4 and PC and found performance to be basically the same on both platforms with no noticeable differences and the PC port to work on a wide range of specs.
All the original audio is here for better or worse but these assets are around two decades old so you’re signing up for an HD port that can only be updated to an extent. You can however change the audio from Japanese or English which is a welcome addition. In the question of whether they could have gone further, the answer is always yes, but as an HD port it brings over everything basically untouched and while some might want more assets and options, I’m not complaining. Maybe someday we’ll see a true HD remake but for now that’s not what this version is about.
The other thing that is carried over are the controls, which have a minor update in allowing you to use the right analog stick for camera but it’s no surprise the game will still play just like the original. I thought that playing on PC with the Xbox One controller felt more like the original experience on Dreamcast, but after a little bit of time on the PS4 gamepad you won’t notice a big difference.
At this point it’s fair to say the HD port of Shenmue I & II is in better shape than its release and would now be considered acceptable to play. Save data transfer and cutscenes were a big problem, and major bugs seem to be patched out. Both games are here in all their glory and probably the best way to spend your time with Ryo as he follows his journey. Veterans will be happy with the ability to play on modern platforms and newcomers finally have a chance to experience what Shenmue has to offer while Yu Suzuki is hard at work on Shenmue 3.
Sega provided us with a Shenmue I & II PS4 and PC code for review purposes.