Shenmue Online (쉔무 온라인) – Windows (unreleased)
After the release of Shenmue II, the franchise went into the dark. No one really knew if Ryo Hazuki would ever be seen again… until 2004, when Sega announced that they were working with the Korena developer JCE to create an MMORPG based on the Shenmue saga. A trailer was released and the hopes of many raised again. Yet, the decision of making an online game seemed a little odd, because it would abandon the story of Ryo and instead focus on factional gang wars in Hong Kong. There were several announcements afterward, but ultimately, it was cancelled during the summer of 2007.
Shenmue Gai (シェンムー街) – Mobile (2011)
Every once in a while, it seems as if Sega likes to build up the hopes of Shenmue fans waiting for the third episode, just to crush them again. The latest WTF news around the franchise was “Shenmue World” (as it has become known in English, although “Gai” in the original title means “street” or “town”), a social networking mobile game developed by Sunsoft in cooperation with Yu Suzuki’s company YS net.
Shenmue Gai won’t finish Ryo Hazuki’s story, either, instead it focuses entirely on the virtual life aspects of the series. The players basically take the role of errand boys for the Hazuki residence, with Ryo as their boss. Fighting scenes are a must, although they are menu-based like the rest of the game. The graphics are really slapdash looking, randomly throwing together screenshots from both Shenmue games, the character art from Shenmue Online and new assets in yet another different style.
Real Life Accuracy
Since Shenmue is based on closely replicating reality, one has to wonder how much of it is really true to life. Of course, a lot has changed – Shenmue takes place in the mid ’80s – but some parts are still remarkably similar. Yokosuka is a suburb of Tokyo and mostly known for its naval base. Dobuita-dori is also a real street in Yokosuka. It’s a commercial district and looks remarkably similar to the one in the game. It is pretty strange that Ryo has to take a bus to Yokosuka Harbor, considering that the real harbor is practically right across the street in real life. However, the neighboring areas of Sakuragaoka and Yamanose are fictional.
Hong Kong has changed quite a bit since the 80s, especially since the British relinquished their rule in 1997. Given that, very little of the Hong Kong in Shenmue II resembles reality. There is no White Dynasty Quarter or South Carmain Quarter or anything like that. There is a Golden Shopping Mall, although it’s a very tightly packed indoor flea market type area specializing in computer goods. It’s also on the Kowloon Peninsula, rather than Hong Kong Island proper. Most of the areas in Hong Kong, such as Wan Chai and Aberdeen, are depicted as being rather poor, but in present day Hong Kong, it’s a huge business district filled with gorgeous buildings. Man Mo Temple is real, although it’s significantly smaller in real life, and nowadays is more of a tourist trap. It’s certainly not on top of a hill like in the game. The surrounding area is actually reasonably similar, although most of the streets in Shen Mue II are pedestrian-only, while there’s automobile traffic in real life.
The Kowloon Walled City was completely demolished in the early ’90s, mostly because it was a squalid haven of crime and disease. Today, there’s simply a park where it used to be. It also wasn’t located on top of a hill like it was in the game, but rather it was close to the old airport, which has also since been shut down.
Guilin is also a real location in China, although it’s not quite as cut off from the outside world as Shenmue would lead you to believe.
Yu Suzuki and company really left the gaming world hanging with Shenmue – it may not have been nearly as successful as Sega had intended, but it still garnered plenty of fans from around the world, especially in the USA and Europe. There have been hints of stuff that was dropped from the games or planned for sequels. Initially, the second chapter of the game was to take place on a boat, and Ryo would have yet another encounter with Chai. This whole chapter is vaguely alluded to at the start of the first game, when a mother thanks Ryo for being so kind to her daughter aboard the ship. In the original plans, there were more people you’d meet throughout the game that recognized Ryo from the ship. One of the short comics unlocked in the Xbox version briefly deals with this chapter.
Some data was uncovered from Shenmue II concerning a removed area, the Miao Village in China. This would’ve most likely taken place in the last chapter along with the Guilin section. Some screenshots of this area have been leaked.
There have also been a few characters that never appeared, such as a female crime boss named Niao Sun, one of the four leaders of the Chi You Men. One of the Shenmue comic shorts shows her interacting with Xiuying’s brother Ziming, whose plot thread is likewise left hanging due to the non-conclusion of the series.
Finally, some videos depict Shenhua as throwing a spiritual energy burst similar to a Hadoken. Combined with the ending of Shenmue II, it seemed that the series was changing directions towards the supernatural.
Shenmue in general seems to have done better in the USA and Europe. There are any number of reasons for this, but this is likely because it offers an extraordinarily detailed glimpse into another culture, its geography and its people. The world of Shenmue is obviously more foreign to Westerners than it its to the native Japanese, and as such, it might not be quite as appealing. It’s remarkable, however, that years after Shenmue‘s release, the game’s environments are still some of the best to come out of any video game ever.
The BBC video game show Videogaiden actually started to get together a campaign for a Shenmue III, but the official response from Sega was, as always, that they didn’t have anything currently planned.
A successful Kickstarter sent Shenmue III into development after many years of waiting, though it hasn’t been released yet. The interest generated ensured the release of ports of the first two games on modern consoles, at least.