| paleface [sys=DC; cat=Adventure; loc=NA] |
|I was thinking of putting Shenmue and Shenmue II on my short list of games to play here in the near future, but after a reorientation with a friend of my old save file, near the start of the game, I'm pretty much off the idea.|
I'd stopped after hitting a bug on one of the game's hunt and find quests. I can't remember now what it was, but I think it was something to do with having to find someone, and he didn't show, or showed but I couldn't talk to him, or something. There's a lot of waiting around in Shenmue, because your young martial artist hero, out to avenge his father's slaying or something like that, passes the days in "real time," where an hour of simulated game time goes by every two and a half minutes or so. During the day and evening you wander town talking to people, and if you finally find the right person, they'll say go over to [vague directions] and look around there. Swell. Sometimes, though, the person or thing or whatever you're looking for is only there at a certain time of day, so you have to wait around.
While you could pass the time wandering around town talking to people, that gets old pretty fast, because the voice acting is uniformly horrible (really, how can it have been this bad?), and because it is only very, very rarely that any of them have anything to say. Most of the conversations, which are completely linear, with full voice narration, but for some reason require you to keep pressing a button, are totally inane.
You could also go hang out and play a simulated old Sega game in an arcade (Hang On, Space Harrier), or engage in little "Quick Time Event" minigames where you have to press a pad direction or button when it flashes onscreen. Much of Shenmue's "action" consists of these QTE moments, and they are really not that cool; hit the wrong button, or not fast enough, and you just have to wade through the sequence from the beginning.
Sometimes you get into fights, which work sort of like Virtua Fighter (see entry 329), which was made by the same people, only the camera is bad, and the control is much more limited. I got into one fight in my re-initiation, against five guys, and I couldn't seem to control which one of them I engaged, and often couldn't really tell what was going on around me; fortunately, button mashing cleared them out with absolutely no trouble; not what you would call a good fight by any means.
The camera is usually hooked pretty tightly behind your head. You can sort of pan it around with the analog stick, but slowly, painfully, and not in any really useful way--except that in order to read "signs" on buildings, you have to twitch the camera to get their English subtitle to show up for you.
This is critical, because everywhere in the drab little starting town looks pretty much the same, there's no map to refer to, and nobody gives you precise directions. So most of your "play" time consists of wandering or waiting around this really boring little town. The buildings and side streets are very narrow, and moving through them is not fun, because they look drab, pedestrians are apt to fade in right in front of you (and never have anything useful to say--usually they insult you), and because your character moves like a frozen elephant: he simply cannot turn in place (except for spinning 180, which you usually *don't* want him to do, but which he will always do when you simply try to take a step backwards to get a better view or angle), but has to do these walking-in-circles movements where he bumps into everything, the camera meanders around, and you end up in a different position, probably unable to see the thing you were trying to turn to see. Great.
Graphically speaking, the game might have looked good for the time, maybe, if people were unused to "wandering around town" types of 3D games, but the bluh textures and non-lighting look really yucko. Your character is about the stiffest person ever seen. Character models are blocky with blurry textures, except for the heads, which look quite good, mostly. The interface is a completely mishmash of nasty-looking things; really, it's a pain to look at; the one nice thing about it is that usually it's pretty minimal.
So my re-initiation went something like this (probably a lot out of order--it was sort of confusing/mind-numbing):
- Come up in my bedroom. This is where you have to go to save, so this is where you always start.
- I don't remember the layout of the house, so I bumble around through narrow doors and useless rooms for a while. I find the lady who runs the place (mom?), who says not to stay out late. She *always* says this, as I find out later.
- Finally find the exit, which was in fact right next to my room, only I missed it because of the bumbling and circle-turning.
- Get out into the outdoors and check my "notebook." In comically large "handwriting," it says I have to find a guy named Charlie.
- Wander around the suburbs and encounter a guy who doesn't want to talk because he's too sleepy.
- A lady at a dead end, I think it was, tells me that the guy is with a company with [some name] in [some place]. Or something like that.
- Still lost in the (actually very small) suburb area, find a woman who says she has no idea where the company is. Then when I have to press the button several more times, she suddenly says that she told me to stay away from there. Now she's mad.
- Wander around and finally get into down. A guy wants change for a soda, and a "yes/no" type of interface pops up. I move the d-pad, thinking I'll highlight "yes"; unfortunately, the input it takes is just the pad movement, not a move-to-highlight and then press-button-to-confirm type of thing; I suppose this is much more efficient, but it's also very unintuitive, and unforgiving. So I ended up telling the guy in some obviously fake way that I couldn't help him, and he left depressed. Then I bought a soda for myself, and the character automatically drinks it *right there.* I was hoping he'd throw the can at the guy I dissed, but no luck.
- Wander around town. A lot. Back and forth. It all looks the same. Talking to people who tell me things that aren't any help, and are really badly read. Gradually my notebook fills in with various half-sentences, scattered randomly around the pages; strangely, none of them really tell me where I can find this company.
- Finally, I happen to click on a door out of frustration/boredome. It's the company. It was right next to the guy who I dissed out of a soda.
- Guys in the cramped company eventually tell me that the guy I'm looking for hangs out outside of a jacket shop.
- Wander around town again. Find (painfully) three jacket shops in this very small town. Finally at the third one, the third thing the guy says when prompted is that Charlie stopped by at 7:00 pm before, and sounds like he might again. Great. I only have to wait a few hours.
- Pass the time in the arcade down the street. There's a guy there who meets Charlie's description *exactly*, but I can't really talk to him. Baffling.
- Go back to the third jacket store when it's about time. Wait. Wait more. Nothing happens. Jacket guy says the same thing as before.
- Go back down the street to the arcade. Suddenly the game loads up a scene where this other guy approaches me. He seems to know Charlie. Leads me down the street automatically, where I'm jumped by five or so guys.
- Mash buttons. Checking the move list afterwards, it looks like I actually had a lot of Virtua Fighter type moves. Didn't seem to matter, because I couldn't really see the scene well due to the camera, and the guys went down easy anyway.
- Scene where my character twists one of the guys' arms. He doesn't know anything. My character becomes obsessed with his tattoo, asks where he got it. Someplace far away. But there's another tattoo parlor in town. WELL THIS MUST BE IT. Um?
- Obsessed with the tattoo thing, I now have to go back through town asking the same inane people where to find a tattoo parlor. Most are clueless. Eventually it's mentioned that it's in what sounds like another part of town.
- My character says it's getting late, and I should get to bed early tonight. Turns out there's no reason for this.
- Anyway, next morning, wander back toward town. Suburb lady says the place I'm supposed to find is actually an apartment complex back in town.
- Wander into down. Various hints, somewhat contradictory, as to where the apartment complex is. Wander up and down hinted areas: nothing.
- Process of elimination/frustration tells me this one place I've passed repeatedly must be the place, even though I checked all the doors painstakingly.
- Finally waggling the camera just the right way brings up a subtitle for the place: it's the one. (Funny how one guy in town told me that I couldn't miss the "big sign" for the joint. Maybe that worked better in the original Japanese, because the (small and dim) sign for the place is in Japanese.)
- Painful jiggling of the camera at one of the doors finally brings the business hours (there are businesses in apartments now?) into vague light: opens in two hours.
- Stand in the (simulated) rain for five (real) minutes.
- Go into the business. It's the tattoo parlor. Short scene while the guys I beat up before clear out.
- QTE triggers. Have to press three different inputs in succession. Keep whiffing it as each arbitrary new one appears while I'm also trying to watch the scene (I really hate this gameplay style, and unfortunately it's everywhere now). Fail each of the three once; fourth replace gets it.
- Scene where my character thuggishly threatens the guy. He gives in and tells me to meet him tomorrow afternoon at [some place]. Sigh and turn off the game.