1) Making Shenmue
If Suzuki's career will only be remembered for one game, it's this. Shenmue's brilliance is as documented as its abrupt ending, and with Suzuki's step-down it now looks even more likely it will never be concluded. Lan Di has gotten away with murder (literally) and even the crap-looking but fan-beckoning MMO Shenmue Online has been put on indefinite hold.
Above: The arcade, where some of Suzuki's early works are playable
Shenmue should have been Sega and Suzuki's finest hour. A $70 million development budget, the most realistic and detailed game world ever (at the time but even now still impressive) and a cast of genuinely memorable characters.
The story is compelling, the routines of the NPCs so good you can follow them around for a whole day to see what they do. The weather in the game is exactly what the weather was like in real-life Japan in 1986. The game also introduced QTE events to the world (OK, so even the greatest make mistakes) and featured fully voiced characters throughout the game. It was phenomenal.
Above: We excitedly translated the kana only to find it says 'Shenmue'
But it demands time and patience to get into - the only reason we can think of that it didn't quite do the business at retail. Mind you, it's said that every Dreamcast owner would have had to have bought the game TWICE in order for it to break even, let alone turn a profit. We know loss-leaders can work in business, but sadly Suzuki's best work was not enough to save the Dreamcast from an early death. Shenmue II did appear on Xbox, but it's not the sort of thing you can come to halfway through, even with the summary DVD that came with it.
To its fans, we would suggest being happy for having Parts 1 and 2 that were made. For Fukuhara-san, for the little kitten, the Game YOU arcade and that motorbike ride with Nozomi. We will never forget.
So have we heard the last from the great man of Sega? The last game he directed was the currently arcade-only Sega Race TV (which we're still itching to play as it looks ace). Sadly, that 'AM Plus' division has only released games in Japan so far, so a western console conversion of any of their work seems unlikely.
But so long as he remains at Sega in any capacity, even if it's just Coffee Machine Replenishment Executive, we'll still hold out some hope for Shenmue III. Yes, we know.
06 April, 2009
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