I was always a Sega kid, but in my impetuous, arcade-focused youth I bounced off the Dreamcast’s Shenmue games. Part everyday life sim, part fighting game, all martial arts soap opera. With today’s launch – and first-time PC debut – of the first two games, remastered for modern systems, perhaps I’m now better equipped to appreciate their offbeat and sedate charms. If nothing else, it would be best to catch up on the first two before long-awaited sequel Shenmue 3 arrives on August 27th next year.
I’m interested in seeing how modern audiences react to the Shenmue series. While they perhaps fit in better with today’s slower open-world games, they’re an idiosyncratic duo. You’ll spend as much time aimlessly wandering the streets and passing the time through minigames (some just for fun, some to earn a bit more spending money) as you spend on protagonist Ryo’s quest to avenge his father’s murder. Similar to the Yakuza games (arguably Shenmue’s successors) there’s also the opportunity to play some period-authentic 80s Sega arcade games.
While D3T (who handled the remastering) appear to have done a decent job bringing Shenmue 1 & 2 to PC, the game remains capped to a Dreamcast-authentic 30fps. One major improvement is the option to switch audio language. While some swear by it for its goofy charm, the English voice acting in Shenmue is mostly awful, so being able to switch out for the subtitled Japanese original track is a major perk, in my opinion. There’s also basic control remapping, but a modern gamepad seems advisable here no matter what.
The biggest visual change (outside of just looking sharper and being expanded to widescreen) is a generally warmer look to everything. The colour palette of the game looks sunnier, and some new bloom lighting effects make things feel brighter still. It’s a good look for Shenmue, as it finds a new home on PC.