4 more GD-ROMs or 1 DVD of gaming bliss. The artwork sucks on the Xbox cover.

 

I love it when the sequels are better than the originals, especially when I love the originals. Shenmue 2 certainly does not disappoint! The game is MUCH larger than the first one and in fact it was necessary to provide maps to help keep the player from getting lost. And that’s still possible even with the maps! You even go to 3 completely different places in this game. Shenmue 2 covers chapters 2-4 of the 16-chapter Shenmue saga. Some people like to say that chapter 2 happened on the boat before the game starts. Nope. The game begins on chapter 2 marked in the notebook. Unless the game itself is, you know, WRONG! Sega really outdid themselves with this game and really pushed the limits of the Dreamcast. Unfortunately Microsoft gave Sega a ton of money NOT to release the game in the US and instead make a version of the game for the Xbox which Microsoft themselves released here. Oh well, at least the Microsoft folks are/were Shenmue fans! Either way, you’re in for a great game!

The Xbox version is softer, but overall both versions look pretty much the same.

 

Story: 9.5/10
I give the story a 9.5 and not a 10 mainly because it has not been completed. It really leaves you hanging. But it’s still damned good. Ryo starts his journey in China. Ryo doesn’t know a lick of Chinese, so fortunately all of China quickly became fluent in Japanese (or English in the Xbox version) to better accommodate Ryo when he arrives. That was mighty nice of everybody. There’s one point in the game where Joy says something in Chinese and Ryo clearly does not understand, so my theory about everyone learning Ryo’s language is 100% correct and verified by leading scientists. Ryo wanders around the giant city of Wan Chai and eventually heads off to the much more sinister Kowloon. Here he has to wander around old buildings and get in street fights. Then he’s off to Guilin for further adventures. Lots o’ fun is packed in here. It’s not necessary to have played through Shenmue 1 first, but it certainly helps and gives you a better emotional bond with the story. But don’t fret as a “digest movie” full of Shenmue 1 spoilers is included so you know what’s going on. The Xbox version comes with the poorly edited “Shenmue the Movie” to explain the first game. Just try not to get confused by all of the Chinese names you are presented with. They are much harder for Americans to remember than “Jim” or “Bob” or “Ben Affleck”.

If you haven’t played the game before, you can easily get lost since the game area is so freakin’ HUGE! Well it was for the time. It’s no GTA 5, but c’mon!

 

Graphics: 10/10
I’d say that this is probably the limits or thereabouts of the Dreamcast’s graphics abilities. They’re actually much more detailed than the first Shenmue and there are a lot more people and animated things on the screen at once. I can’t stress the level of detail in the Shenmue games… you just have to stop and smell the polygonal roses to truly appreciate everything there is. The Xbox version eliminates the occasional slowdown that’s in the Dreamcast version and adds some anti-aliasing, creating a softer look to everything. The Xbox version also adds a warm glow to things during the evening and night scenes. But otherwise the graphics are pretty much identical. Both versions support 480p and neither run in widescreen.

The street fighting in this game is surprisingly fun and easy to get into once you master your moves.

 

Sound: 9/10
Once again you have tons of fantastic music and lots of voices. The Dreamcast version is voiced in Japanese, but doesn’t sound *quite* as compressed as Shenmue 1 did. The Xbox voices sound very clear, but they come out of only the left and right channels instead of the center channel where they belong in the 5.1 mix. Speaking of 5.1, a few of the cut scenes on the Xbox version take advantage of the better sound. As expected, the Xbox version is voiced is English and uses many of the same semi-talented voice actors from the first Shenmue. At least this time it sounds like they got actual children to do the voices of most of the kids. The Dreamcast version has one lady who must have smoked 20 packs a day for 40 years, as she sounds deep and gravelly in her speech. It’s hilarious! Did I mention that most of the music is great? It is.

If you ask directions people will walk you to your destination.
And they walk sloooow. They don’t even engage in small talk!

 

Gameplay: 10/10
There’s just so much to do in Shenmue 2 that you may have a hard time sticking to what you’re SUPPOSED to be doing. There are tons of diversions here, from Lucky Hit (sounds like something a pot-lover would play) to arcade games like Space Harrier, Out Run, After Burner and Hang-On. It is really interesting where you find Hang-On. The sound emulation of these arcade games is still off and Out Run no longer has a Ferrari. The Xbox version of Space Harrier is messed up. It controls very poorly. There are also 1 and 2 round street fights that you can participate in, more free battles, QTE’s during battles, balancing acts, the list goes on.

The game itself is awesome without the diversions. You still have to work to make money. Your job this time is moving crates with the local moron. Instead of just picking up the crate and moving it across the room (for whatever reason is beyond me), your partner feels the need to zig zag all over the place causing you to drop it, slowing you down. Congo, who helps you move crates in Kowloon, is a real piece of work. The game is a bit harder and less forgiving this time around, with QTE’s ending some battles. Miss a button and you have to re-fight the entire battle. Mess up on a regular QTE and get set back further than you’d think you would.

The fight with the final boss Don Niu is awesome. When I finally won, my thumb was shaking and nearly numb. After such an intense battle, disc 4 is really a breath of fresh air. It’s very relaxing and you can let your thumb heal for the most part. You get to know Shenhua and that is even fun. This time you can even play any minigame or fight you’ve already encountered in the Shenmue Collection right from the title screen! The Xbox differences are that you can take a screenshot and save it to the hard drive at almost any time. You can also change the colors of the screen, but that’s a useless feature that some people actually enjoy. Other than that the Xbox version runs a bit more smoothly than the Dreamcast version and loads quicker as well. I don’t want to spoil it too much, but this is one hell of a game!

Ryo finally meets up with Lan Di, who is hanging from the helicopter.

 

Wrap up:
Like Shenmue 1, I started replaying through this right away once I beat it even though it’s over twice as long as the first. The only difference is that I’ve only been through Shenmue 1 five times completely, and Shenmue 2 eight times. Freakin’ awesome. Please Sega, bring us a nice, long Shenmue 3 and let us know how it all ends!

 

Overall Score: 10/10