Shenmue 2
Game Info
Xbox, DC
Official Website
ESRB Rating
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 smoother.

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.

- - Vane

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