With the release of the Shenmue I & II collection nearly upon us, it’ll be the last time that the original Dreamcast classics (and OG Xbox) can be considered solely exclusive.
Obviously, it’s no cause for concern, in that we’ll still get to play these classics on the original systems. And in our eyes, it’s how they were truly meant to be played.
However, in opening up the series to the modern gamer, this release is a vital opportunity. One that could arguably make or break future prospects for the Shenmue series.
But how will this extra availability of both games, affect price rises for retro gamers? We know all too well, that after the 2015 Shenmue III E3 announcement and the later 15th anniversary of the SEGA Dreamcast, that prices for Shenmue collectibles absolutely sky-rocketed on online sites, like eBay.
You could optimistically hope that the prices could maybe fall slightly, with more access to the series now available via different consoles. But perhaps that is mislaid optimism towards some of the online seller community.
Now with regards to the Shenmue I & II collection, the graphics look lovely and crisp and it’s been given a real lick of paint to update it to a new generation of gamers. There are a few slight causes for concern, but nothing major. Firstly, certain advertising has been cut out in-game.
This means all the vending machines and could mean the actual Timex watch and the clock that Ryo uses also. Though we can point out, Coca Cola and the like was only in the Japanese versions, it’ll still bother some from an authenticity factor.
Secondly and we’ll try and be broader. it’s little tinkering on things like the notepad font and the lack of fog details in the opening cutscene.
Little things like the fog details and stunningly realised intricacies of the weather effects, at least in my mind, were real signs of quality that went above the norm. Indeed the weather system in Shenmue’s world, was it’s “fingerprint”. So it’s a real shame to see a marked change on that evidence.
Finally, there’s news that there will be a patch needed to fix a few issues like bugs in-game. That applies to all pre-release promotional copies and the soon to be released ones. This said patch will be readily available upon the game’s release and at least, this will fix anything that would irk some, such as sound loss or glitches.
On the positive side, there are many to look forward to. Loading times have been drastically cut and the game has been sharpened up nicely in the graphical department. The addition of a choice of Western or Japanese voices, gives a good array of options to the gamer.
Indeed, if you never played Shenmue II with Western voices and the original in Japanese voices with Western subs, this is now possible. This I feel is the real game changer with the release, at least for fans of the originals. For me, I feel it contributes to making this collection a real must have.
The newly designed menu interface, looks smart and modern in style, so should appeal to the new market of player. There are a few in-game changes to the background, such as the practise and 70 man battles screens. All relatively nice touches that don’t detract from the game.
Most of what we have seen is well in keeping with the game and stays loyal to that heritage. The inclusion of a double sided poster comes as a lovely collectible and the artwork carrying across from case to game, all fits with what you would expect from Shenmue.
Although the few ‘snags’ may irk some hardcore Shenmue fans, in terms of financial cost and trying to appeal to a broader fanbase, perhaps some could argue it’s needed? At the end of the day, the originals will still always be there, even if to reacquire, they may cost the price of a four bedroom house within a few years.
The HD collection is important and will be a good way to gage the actual reality of fan interest, as opposed to just the online world.
Giving a choice and availability to many gamers who wouldn’t be able to afford or find older options to play the series, makes this a more than worthwhile release. In fact a vital opportunity the series needs to capitalize on.
Shenmue I & II new separately online for the Dreamcast, can set you back well in excess of £200 – it has been known. Similar expensive rates apply to the original Xbox version bought in new or mint condition, though not as bad. But they’re all well in excess of what they originally cost, if you try and purchase them this way.
So making the Shenmue series genuinely affordable and accessible to the modern gamer, is what will really make this release a success, however well or not well received it actually is.
Getting the Shenmue series back in the limelight is a massive factor, in truly keeping the series alive. And keeping Shenmue in the gaming consciousness and being talked and known about, is a huge step to helping it thrive.
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