Shenmue II - Review

Ryo Hazuki Returns

By: Antonio Andres

Review Breakdown
   Battle System 7
   Interface 6
   Music/Sound 10
   Originality 10
   Plot 9
   Localization 7
   Replay Value 2
   Visuals 7
   Difficulty Easy to Medium
   Time to Complete

10-30 Hours


Shenmue II

   Back in 2000, I saw a commercial on TV being run by SEGA for a new game called Shenmue where a guy was claiming to be Ryo Hazuki and spouting out random phrases. Not having a Dreamcast I quickly dismissed the commercial. A couple of months later, my best friend told me I had to play this game so he gave me his Dreamcast and the game Shenmue. After a night of playing non-stop, I began telling people I was Ryo Hazuki. And thus my gaming adventure began. Now 2 years later, I'm able to finally play the sequel for the Xbox: Shenmue II. And thus my gaming adventure continues...

   Shenmue II starts right where Shenmue ended, with Ryo Hazuki, the games hero, on a boat to Hong Kong searching for Lan Di, the man who murdered his father. The Shenmue story is told over several chapters, Shenmue was chapter 1 and thus Shenmue II is chapters 2 thru 4. In the sequel, Ryo runs around town looking for a man named Yuanda Zhu, who can tell you more about Lan Di. You eventually meet people, like the kung fu master Xiuying and the gang leader Ren, who help you out as you learn more about the game, like the true identity of Lan Di and what Shenmue is. All of this is done with dramatic, climactic, and cinematic perfection, since it feels like your playing a movie.

   The battle system for Shenmue II is like a dumbed-down version of Virtua Fighter. This is really the lowest point of the game. Unlike in the original Shenmue, the sequel takes a step backwards offering no way to train your moves, make your moves stronger and making you spar with either extremely weak opponents or martial art masters you can't even touch. Not to mention you can go through the whole game with a punch, dodge, punch, dodge strategy making the elaborate moves you gain in your adventure practically useless. Apart from the occasional QTE (Quick-Time Event), fighting is very stale and repetitive.

You actually meet her this time.
You actually meet her this time.  

   The game's controls are easy to learn and easy to get used to, if you have the S-Type controller for the Xbox that is. Expect hitting buttons you didn't mean to and getting serious blisters with any other controller. The menus are the same as the originals and are easy to use and understand.

   Music is where the game shines. The music for this series is unbelievable. Hours after playing I'm still humming the theme song. Each place and moment has its own appropriate theme and each one is amazing in its own right. The sound is also amazing. The voice acting however, is usually acceptable but sometimes you would want to punch Ryo in the face.

   Shenmue II is probably the most original RPG out there. Problem is it's all been done with Shenmue. Apart from fighting, Shenmue II does little to enhance, it just multiplies. It took everything that was good from Shenmue and doubled it here, not that it's a bad thing but a little more of the new stuff would have been nice.

The name is Hazuki  Ryo Hazuki.
The name is Hazuki Ryo Hazuki.  

   Shenmue II's graphics are a great improvement over the Dreamcast version. But the game is on an Xbox, and by Xbox standards, the game still looks like it belongs on the Dreamcast. Also, the character models have stale and static movements, unless it's a cinema scene, where the characters move with such precision and grace, you feel like you are watching real people

Shenmue II isn't overly difficult to play, since it has to cater to an audience new to the series. However, with the large amount of surprise QTE's and some real cheap fights, the game can get a little difficult. But, since you can now save wherever in the game, you can simply save before a tough battle and hit the restart button if you lose or the fight doesn't go your way.

While the original Shenmue lasted a good 10 hours, Shenmue II lasts twice as long. However, those new this type of game will take a while. You may be pressing reset a lot. This may also happen to the gamer that must do EVERYTHING in the game, even though there aren't as many side quests as the original. The hours may also stack up if you get addicted to one of the many mini games. From Afterburner II to Lucky hit, you can gamble and waste money and time like never before.

You meet her as well.
You meet her as well.  

In Japan, Shenmue is a great success. Here in the states, however, it doesn't do as well as good old Yu Suzuki (game master who created Shenmue, as well as the Virtua Fighter series) would hope. This is in part one of the reasons it took 2 years to release the sequel on Xbox instead of just releasing it here months after the Japanese got it for Dreamcast. Despite dismal sales, the Shenmue games are still awesome.

Overall, despite some flaws, I still couldn't stop playing Shenmue II. Its enthralling story and surprising plot twists kept me guessing and wondering what would happen next. It is a must have for Shenmue fans, a must have for RPG fans, and at least a rental for anyone else. Believe me you'll be hooked.

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