A Fantastic Linear Game
by justin on November 19, 2000 (edited on November 21, 2000)
* * * * * * * * * 9/10

Pros: Deep
Cons: Narrow

Stop The Press! justin's Review:
Shenmue is a mindblowing game. For the thoroughness with which the Shenmue story is told, it earns itself a prominent place in the history of gaming.

They've built a town, a harbor, a family, a social network. It's an incredible thing to be a part of the world of Shenmue - to guide a young man as he feeds a cat, plays darts, and tries to deal with losing his father.

The game is wildly varied - there's an alarmingly fun forklifting box-stacking game, a folklift formula 1, motorcycle racing, much 3D fighting, and a few classic Sega arcade games emulated within Shenmue. Each of these russian-doll games is fun too, suprisingly. Playing through the storyarc becomes more vivid, because you have to perform some of the daily chores, and it gives the simple little games deeper meaning - I'm not just an idiot on a fast motorcycle, I'm an idiot on a fast motorcycle trying to save my girl!

But in the end, there's that haunting feeling that you're still on a game hamster wheel. While you accumulate goods, fight the battles and drive the forklift, you're never really changing your character or affecting the outcome of the story.

For example, there's all these moments where some crazy stuff happens and you have to make a snap judgement and press a certain button. If you screw up, the game has you try and try again until you get it right! So on one hand you're glad you can replay it, on the other hand, you come to feel like there's only one path through the game, and the game grabs your shoulders and points you down that path when you start to wander too far.

Another example - you can journey through this populated town talking to all sorts of different people. The realism of the graphics and the particularities of the people makes it resonate well. But you can never choose what to say! Midway through your girlfriend Nozomi starts feeling detached from you, and no matter how you the player feel, you've got to act out Ryo Hazuki's tough guy act. No nookie for Hazuki!

So it's an incredible experience, like reading a rich novel, not playing through a flexible RPG or adventure where you build your own type of character. I suppose it would have been too hard to program a game of that complexity, offering the player rich choices. So instead what we have is a beautiful linear game, that will probably blow your mind.

Experience it in a few weekends of intense play. Then shelve it and eagerly await the sequel.

Greatest Gaming Moment:
Whupping a huge bunch of Mad Angel thugs on dock 17 without having to replay.

Time Played: 20-100 hours

justin Recommends Shenmue to:
· Casual Gamer
· Hardcore Gamer

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Shenmue: A Mixed Bag Of Brilliance And Bugs (Previous Review)
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