Yeah, what Kiba said :nice!:
I definitely think that there hasn't been another game world as delicately crafted as Shenmue's was. When people rag on Shenmue they always mention how stiff and flat Ryo is and so on. But I really don't think there's another open game world crafted with a such a sensitive eye. As Kiba mentions, it's the only game whose open world actually feels believable and familiar somehow despite being set in a different decade and country from most of us. The rude school girl's smoking cigarette's, the neighbourhood bullies, the kids playing football, the creepy guy smoking cigarettes in the park while watching the kids play ( :P ), and the fact Ryo only gets an allowance (unless he gets a job) and has a curfue. It's familiar to us all. Shenmue's Yokosuka felt like a genuine place, in equal measures charming and mundane, and not at all "gamey" (indeed, Shenmue just generally speaking isn't very "gamey"). But what Shenmue's real stroke of genius is, is the way it played the mundane off of the mystical. You just know know there's something mystical and extraordinary just below the surface, Ryo has cryptic dreams while scratching at the surface of a deep and possibly magical conspiracy involving Jade mirrors. But unlike other adventure games, that doesn't mean Ryo can just forget about reality, oh no, if he wants to fly to Hong Kong to catch his father's killer, then he's just gonna have to get a 9 to 5 and deal with the monotony of hard work. But the mundane and the monotony doesn't take away from the mystique of the game, it only serves to make mystical feel more real, more real than in other game I've ever played. And the moments the game does occasionally let you catch a real glimpse of the secret world of triads, magic and martial arts, are some of the most rewarding moments to be found in any video game as far as I am concerned.
But Shenmue was an immensely ambitious game, it's a world away from the instant gratification of modern gaming. Not only did Shenmue create a truly believable, familiar and sometimes mundane word. But it absolutely refused to treat the gamers like a child. It's clear even in the name "Shenmue". None of us knew what the hell it even meant until the very end of the second game! Same with Shenhua, she's on the box of the first game, she's in the opening cutscene, she's in Ryo's dreams, so we know she's the main heroine, but she's not really in the first game at all. Yu Suzuki makes us practically complete two huge games and play for who knows how many hours, before he finally introduces us to our mysterious leading lady. And then....the TV metaphorically cuts off and here we are a decade later still knowing so little about her. But what other game has weaved such an ambitious, rich and delicate yarn to string us along with? I was shocked when it I realised that Ryo really wasn't going to catch Lan Di and resolve things neatly by the end of the first game, and that instead he had to travel to an entirely new country and world away from what we knew in Doubita.
There's so much that makes these games special. No game has even depicted the far east with such a fine eye, riffing off of both the reality, and those special mystical qualities that have always made that part of world so intriguing for many, and the game achieves a near perfect balance.
It's for all these reasons I think Shenmue can appeal to people who might not typically be gamers.
Oh man, sorry, I've evidently gone into gushing mode :oops: