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Shenmue is Out - Big Deal

January 8, 2000

Finally, after all the hype, after all the delays, and after all the anticipation, Shenmue has been released in Japan. For more than a year, even since the rumors that Yu Susuki was making a "Virtua Fighter RPG," I was interested in that title. This anticipation grew even more when Sega made the press conference where Yu Susuki introduced Shenmue to the world. At that point I got the feeling that Shenmue was something different and very ambitious. From then on, it was just looking at screenshots, movies, reports, and the comments from the people who went to the trade shows, hoping to get a glimpse of the game. All along, praying that the game were actually good, instead of just another game that didn't live up to its expectations. Especially after playing Final Fantasy VII and not liking it as much as I thought I would.

When Sega announced that Shenmue was going to be released on December 29, I felt both relieved and worried. Relieved because the game was actually done, and worried because I thought "maybe it was rushed."

An unexpected turn of events was when Weekly Famitzu, the Japanese magazine, gave Shenmue the score of 33. While not a bad score, it was still less that what I expected, which was a 37 or above. I thought "maybe the game is not that good." Then I thought "who cares about reviewers anyway?" You know, it's a catch-22. If a game everybody want gets good reviews, everyone says "I knew it!" But if that game does not get good reviews, people say "What do these game critics know about games?"

Finally, the hands-on reports began to appear on the Internet. And I noticed that they seemed to fall into two categories. There are people who are amazed by the game, saying that it is truly revolutionary, that it lived up to all the hype, and who were taken away by the graphics and the scope of the game (the amount of detail and things to do). And there were the people who said that Shenmue was boring, and that even thought the graphics were excellent, all you could do was walk around.

The more reviews I read, the more I realized a few things: First, there will always be Sony and Nintendo fan boys who will much rather dismiss other people's games, rather than admit that a competitor's product can actually be good. Also, the people who get bored with the game are the people who don't understand Japanese. People who do speak it say that the plot is very good, and that they cannot put the game down.

That was what made everything fall into place. Shenmue is a text-intensive game (like most RPGs), so if you don't know Japanese, you won't know what to do. Hey, come to think of it, even though I know English, I usually don't know what to do at least once on every English-language RPG I play.

Therefore, the best thing to do right now is to be patient until Sega of America translates the game. If you play the Japanese version now, it will seem like a technology and graphics demo, nothing more. Just relax and let Sega take their time. And give thanks to God that Sega didn't pass on this title because there was "no market for it."

Now, when is Zombie Revenge coming out?


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