| The Good
Huge living world to explore and work in
Lots of mini-games to play
| The Bad
Controls are stiff
Horrid voice acting
Graphics are barely improved from Dreamcast version
Shenmue 2 picks up the story from the original Dreamcast
title as Ryo travels to avenge the murder of his father. Brainchild
of Yu Suzuki (Virtua Fighter), this game series was
less about being categorized as one genre, whether it be role
playing or fighting, and more about telling a story in a fully
explorable world. For those who didn't play the original game,
you'll be pleased to find out that a DVD covering the story
of the first game has been included to make it easier to get
into. Though Shenmue 2 starts off as a self-contained
episode, it helps to have an idea as to Ryo's history.
While the main story is linear and runs from one story-activated
sequence to the next, the surrounding world is open for exploration.
If you feel like shopping or playing one of the mini-games
(arm wrestling and a dart board can be found a few minutes
into the game) for hours on end, you can. The main story will
always be waiting there for you when you return.
Once you get back on the main story, you'll find the gameplay
throws a variety of things at you. One of the game's focus
is the fighting system, which comes into effect at certain
points of the game. Don't expect to throw punches at any pedestrian
on the street. You'll get into fights as the story dictates.
The fighting system is easy to get into and has a wide enough
variety to allow the player to handle their foes well. Along
with fighting, there are the occasional Quick Time Event,
where the play needs to hit a series of buttons as they flash
on the screen. And during the context of the main story, you'll
have to perform a mini-game, like moving crates at the docks.
Most of the time, though, you'll find yourself talking with
people to further the story and to get directions to the next
location you need to get to. Of course, to do continue to
do as you please in Hong Kong, you're going to need money,
which means finding stopping to do odd jobs during the game
at some point.
Graphics-wise, this game doesn't get much of a face-lift
from the Dreamcast version. That's not to say it's ugly because
a lot of attention has been given towards creating a fully
detailed, interactive world. Facial models are, in general,
pretty well done. Some of the faces look a little awkward,
but for the most part everyone looks good. On the other hand,
body models could benefit from a higher polygon count and
the joints often look awkward during cutscenes. There is some
nice lighting and at times, the game really looks great. The
only thing I wish was better about the 3D world was some better
texture maps, as many of the ones used look blurry and low-res.
Audio-wise, Shenmue 2 is a mixed bag. The musical
score is finely done and sets a great tone that captures the
location and story well. Sound effects are spot on and help
draw the player into the game's world. But, the major sore
spot in the audio department is the hideously delivered voice
acting in this game. It feels as though it was pulled from
a poorly dubbed 70's era Godzilla flick. Not even Ryo is voiced
convincingly enough to make me believe the voice actor was
getting paid anything more than minimum wage.
I'll be honest with you - I really wish Sega-AM2 had utilized
the Xbox controller a lot better. No matter how you change
the controls in options menu, Ryo still controls stiffly.
Up moves him forward, while left and right turn him. Pushing
back turns him around, so there's no easy way just to take
a step back. I wish that Sega-AM2 had tried to make use of
the dual analog sticks in tandem to make the controls a lot
Shenmue 2 is one of those games that you're either
going to love or hate based on the concept alone. Neither
the graphics, voice-overs nor control scheme are going to
affect your enjoyment as much as being able to enjoy the concept
of the game. If you enjoyed the first game, you probably already
own Shenmue 2. For everyone else even remotely interested
in the concept, give the game a rent to test the waters.