In my opinion, one of the most underrated games on the Sega Dreamcast was SHENMUE. With the media, the game was pretty much a success, but for some reason, gamers didn't flock to it. The game offered something that we hadn't seen before: an engrossing storyline, gorgeous graphics and the chance to "live" in a Japanese town. Now, a few years later, Sega has finally released the sequel to SHENMUE, this time on the Xbox.
SHENMUE II did come out for the Sega Dreamcast in Japan and Europe, but Sega decided to pull the plug on the system before the game got over here stateside. I can say I was irate when I found out the game wasn't going to be released on the Dreamcast here, and only on the Xbox. I went out and ordered a European copy of the game.
But now that SHENMUE II is here, will gamers learn to love the series?
The game picks off exactly where the first game left off. You play as Ryo Hazuki, a teenager who is off to find his father's murdered and avenge his death. At the end of the first game you are on a boat heading to Hong Kong to search for the killer there, and SHENMUE II picks up at a Hong Kong harbor. I'll leave for you to find out what happens next, as I don't want to ruin any of the surprises.
I will say I was kind of disappointed with the graphics. For the Dreamcast, the game looks spectacular. But now on the Xbox, the game doesn't look as good. I was kind of hoping for a bit of an engine overhaul since the game was on a more powerful system, but it looks about the same (except for Ryo, who looks to have been newly rendered). Don't get me wrong, it has great graphics. I just thought that it would look better now that it is on the Xbox.
Gameplay is more of the same if you've played the original game. Since the Xbox controller is similar to the Dreamcast one, you shouldn't have any problems getting the buttons down quickly. You still have your notebook and your inventory. One of the new additions to the Xbox version of the game is the ability to take pictures within the game. You can take pictures by pressing a button, and then view them in your inventory. While it isn't much, I guess it makes the game more realistic; if I were in Hong Kong, I'd take pictures too.
The combat engine is about like it was in the first game. If you've played VIRTUA FIGHTER then you know what I mean. For the most part, you have all of the moves you learned in the first game, and you'll learn even more in this one.
The thing I liked about the first SHENMUE the most was the feeling of being in a town. You could walk around, talk to people, buy drinks; it almost seemed real. But I was really blown away with how much there is to do in SHENMUE II. You must remember you're no longer in a small Japanese village. You're in Hong Kong now, a city bustling with activity. There are so many people to talk to, and so many things to do. You can get a job, you can arm-wrestle, you can sell stuff at pawn shops, you can gamble, all the while on the trail of your father's killer. Since time plays a factor in the game, you have to find hotels at night to stay at; you'll even have to meet people at certain times so you have to keep track of time. If you loved being absorbed into the first game, you'll be sucked in by this one.
Now, the game isn't perfect, especially in the sound department. You know, I'm sure Sega realizes that SHENMUE is a pretty big property, so why won't they hire decent voice actors? Ryo's voice isn't that bad, and I'm used to his from the first game. But a lot of people you walk up to and talk to sound like they've either been beaten to death, have had their balls squeezed by Mr. T, or just are mentally retarded. Come on Sega, I'll do the voice-acting for 50 characters in the next game if you plan on hiring the same people for that one.
Also, the game does come with a full-length movie that retells the events of the first SHENMUE. It basically takes the cut-scenes from the first one and mixes them with updated fight sequences, but it is really fun to watch and a nice addition to the game.
If you want an absorbing game that has everything you could want, I would recommend buying SHENMUE II. But you really have to be able to devote tons of time to the game. It is really a long game, a lot longer than the first game. But, believe me, the game is worth it.