Opening with cold-blooded murder, this game relentlessly pushes your emotional boundaries, as you are taken on a journey of wonder, mystery, and vengeance. Released in 1999, #Shenmue was a #Sega Dreamcast exclusive from the same team that brought us Sega Rally and Virtua Fighter and was also produced and directed by games designer Yu Suzuki, the same chap responsible for programming the original Space Harrier, Outrun and Hang-on.
Maintaining and average 89% on Game Rankings, Shenmue received the "Excellence Prize for Interactive Art", at the 2000 Japan Media Arts Festival, and was voted "Console Game of the Year" by Game industry News. However, despite the rave reviews and seemingly obvious success, sales simply couldn't justify its staggering budget, which has been estimated to have been between $47 million - $70 million - unheard of at the time, rendering Shenmue, arguably the most highly revered 'flop' in gaming history.
During the first scene of the game, we are introduced to Ryo, who is returning home, only to find his father locked in a desperate conflict with our antagonist, Lan-Di. Unfortunately, Lan-Di proves too powerful for both men and slays Ryo's father with a deadly blow. Taking place in Japan, you play the part of Ryo, with the object of the game being to track down Lan-Di, who is trying to flee to the mainland, and avenge your father's death.
There's an accomplished cast of nasties, who just keep getting nastier; some wield knives, others swords, but all of them are lethal. The gameplay becomes tougher at a consistent rate, with combat evolving the further you progress. You'll gradually master your gamepad skills in the quick time events which will help you defeat later enemies. The game contains numerous 'learning knockout combos', where demonstrating a good defence is just as important as the attack!
As you get the hang of the controls, you will find yourself being subtly drawn in; it's surprisingly addictive - this is only compounded by the 3D animated world your character inhabits, which happens to be aesthetically stunning. Unlike many games of the era, there is no time limit, and it does not have 'levels' in the traditional sense, it's more of a linear quest, broken up by challenges, intermediate explorations, and encounters - both good and bad.
This is how RPG's should be! A game before it's time; realism like this was hard to come by until Shenmue. It flows graciously and captures the mystery and magic of all good adventures. There's nothing like roaming the streets of Dobuita, Japan and cleaning out the scum. Shenmue is an epic one-player adventure, that looks sensational, sounds incredible, and is highly gripping. If this game was released today, for the first time, and pit against modern first raters like The Last of Us and Tomb Raider, I am convinced it would be equally as awe inspiring. This DC masterpiece was released nearly fifteen years ago, but as far as I'm concerned, it still rules supreme!