On recent evidence of the Shenmue Remaster project, it begs the question, were SEGA right to not go ahead with the Remaster project?
The original article from Digital Foundry and Eurogamer can be found here: https://www.eurogamer.net/articles/digitalfoundry-2018-segas-cancelled-shenmue-remake
We’re going to take the controversial route and say yes, SEGA were 100% correct in the route that they took. No to little involvement from the series’ creator and visionary, Yu Suzuki, would’ve been an incredibly bad move. One which would’ve potentially split a whole chunk of the fanbase. It would’ve attracted newcomers for sure, but would’ve greatly divided the die-hard fans.
It can also be said, that the Shenmue I & II collection that we did get, achieved the same thing essentially. It opened up the series to newcomers, but had the advantage of not being the massive financial or artistic risk, that the potential remaster was.
Without doubt, it made perfect financial sense to release the collection that they did and the differing between remaster or not, thus explains any issues that were to come with the later release. In that the team, had their resources stretched way too far and were likely rushing towards a deadline.
While not being an excuse for releasing “below par ports” or a “glitchy mess” as some fans have said, it does perfectly explain why there so many problems. Just my opinion, but I think SEGA should’ve waited longer to release a more refined product and one less easy to point the finger at. Less patches and quick fixes would’ve been needed and fans would’ve been understanding if the reasons were laid out.
The HD remaster ironically enough, seemed to be the complete opposite of being rushed to market. So it’s a real shame, that SEGA has been accused of this, when you can clearly see that there were real efforts beforehand, to bring something truly groundbreaking to the table. But with regards to the HD remaster, whereas the environments looked very nicely done, the sheer scale and task looked too big possibly, for those working on it. And while it did indeed look nice, it’s clear that much work was still needed and that refining the character models would’ve presented a major problem.
So it’s no real surprise that panic set in and SEGA ditched the remaster and went with the collection we have today. It was definitely the right decision, but they should’ve just given themselves more time, something which YS NET wisely did with Shenmue III. From my point of view, sometimes being more polished can ruin or detract from the original vibes that the series had. Some fans even liked the BETA versions of Shenmue more for example, like the ones with heavy snowfall. These would later be much edited for more hyper realism.
I think it’s constantly underestimated, the truly huge numbers of people that were required within the first two games. It’s one of the key departures with Shenmue III, that a relatively smaller team is helping to develop it. Look at the ending credits of both Shenmue and Shenmue II and it’ll perfectly illustrate my point. There were hundreds if not thousands of staff, involved in making the games.
I’d argue in fact, that Shenmue was the first video game to have that sheer level of production akin to a film. Even comprising of an orchestra, something unheard of in a game of that era. So in this respect, to try and “remaster” the originals, without many of the team who were responsible, would be way too big a risk to take. You have to admire SEGA for even going there and maybe that shows a revival within the company, that they are once again prepared to think about taking those big risks again. If we relate the point to cinema and bring up the legendary John Carpenter and Halloween (1978).
The 2018 Halloween remake initially, was going to kill Doctor Loomis off.
A popular main character and a massive departure from what the original creator of the series, John Carpenter would’ve done. It would’ve been horrible and upset many fans, including myself. Thankfully, John Carpenter, seemed to have massive input on the project and stopped these drastic changes from happening.
Now my point being, without Yu Suzuki’s direct involvement, I’m not saying they’d kill off a much loved character, but rather maybe make changes that would upset a lot of the original fanbase. And that would be very damaging, maybe irrecoverable. Without the direction of vision from the ones who were responsible for the originals, any remake would be treading water.
To simplify, Suzuki would be needed with a Remaster, to guide the team in the right direction and achieve the same vibes that the original had. Without him, you could have a “perfect” looking game, but it would for sure be missing something. My personal view would be, that I would love to see SEGA return to this Shenmue Remaster project.
It has real potential and the update in the graphics department would arguably appeal to the new generation of gamers better. BUT, it would need to have the DIRECT involvement from Yu Suzuki and YS Net first. However, it is still a fascinating insight and one which shows that perhaps the Shenmue series isn’t as unloved as many thought. Shenmue has always been seen as a financial risk, maybe unfairly so. After all, the original achieved over a million sales on a classic but failing console. And later releases were inhibited in sales, by a decreasing market and confused fanbase.
It does though pose the question, why not bring Yu Suzuki back on board, if SEGA were keen to Remaster or help the series?
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