Before GTA3 made “open world” a household term, Shenmue for the Dreamcast broke the gaming universe wide open. As Ryo, you set out to avenge your father’s death and find out why he was killed in the first place. After the obligatory opening cinemas and slow-to-start storyline, you are given free reign to take on the city as you wish. You must talk to a variety of seedy characters and witnesses to determine the best course of action and continue your investigation.
However, this is where the game takes a turn away from the rest of the pack. You are given the freedom to continue the quest as you see fit, and that includes NOT continuing your quest at all. If you want, you can head to the arcade and play faithful versions of some great classic Sega titles such as Space Harrier and Hang-On. Or if you’re more in the mood for bar games you can take on opponents in Darts, or any other of the many, many minigames. The game itself was so massive compared to anything else available that just exploring the world was a hugely satisfying experience.
If you favor more on an action-oriented experience you can enter the free-battle mode, which functions a little bit like a modified version of Virtua Fighter. Enemies will just keep coming and you can beat people up to your heart’s content.
Surprisingly, the game still holds up remarkably well in this day of “next-gen” systems. The graphics were unbelievable for the time and they still look better than 90% of Wii games on the market. The voice acting is above average in comparison to current games, and the music score rivals anything I’ve ever heard in a videogame.
If you still own a Dreamcast there’s no reason you shouldn’t have this game in your library, and even if you don’t own the system, this experience is reason enough to hunt one down. I highly suggest Shenmue to mature gamers who never got a chance to check it out, as well as younger gamers who appreciate games that have changed the industry forever.
- The Game: Shenmue
- System: Sega Dreamcast
- Release Date: JP-Dec. 29, 1999 / NA-Nov. 6, 2000 / EU-Dec. 1, 2000
- Rarity: Semi-Common
- Average Price: 10-20 USD 6-10 EUR