Background to the article: as part of the build-up to the release of Shenmue, and following on the heels of the Shenmue Premiere event that had been held the previous month in Yokohama, the Japanese Dreamcast Magazine ("DoriMaga") published this 16-page special report covering various aspects about what could be expected with the as-yet unreleased Shenmue.
The feature consists of these parts:
Part 1. Shenmue Premiere Event (this post)
Part 2. The World of Shenmue (here)
Part 3. The Hero and Other Characters (future post)
Part 4. It's Magic! Special Effects and Production (future post)
Part 5. Interview with Yu Suzuki (future post)
1. Project Berkley article translation (Nov 1998)
2. Shenmue Premiere Event video (short version, English subtitles)
PART 1: Shenmue Premiere Event, 20 Dec 1998
Special Report! Two Hours of Quivering Emotion
Yu Suzuki Finally Removes the Veil from his Latest Release.
Ever since the title of the game was announced, Yu Suzuki's latest game Shenmue has been wrapped in a shroud of secrecy. It is of a mind-boggling scale and employs graphics of the highest quality which are rendered completely in real time. Together these define a new genre: FREE. Our super magazine feature is a must-read!
Shenmue: Heating Things Up in Yokohama!!
On Sunday December 20th, a day blessed with fine cloudless weather with a maximum temperature of 13 degrees Celsius, a stream of fans arrived from early in the morning to attend the Premiere Event for Yu Suzuki's latest creation, Shenmue, hosted at Pacifico Yokohama. The event, held 3 times in total over a day that was filled with excitement and applause, was a huge success.
The densely-packed two hours flew by in an instant. It included an orchestral performance, eye-popping images and demo gameplay on actual consoles, and left the attendees quivering with emotion. The event drew together all the attractions of Shenmue. We followed proceedings from before the start of the presentation, so let us share with you a taste of that atmosphere.
Left: The line of attendees who arrived early in the morning grew before our very eyes. The person at the front of the line had been there since 6AM. Right: A "handshake event" was held, featuring former Managing Director Yukawa & Hiroshi Fujioka.
The bustling first-floor lobby was decorated in Christmas colors, with photo sticker booths and merchandise for sale. Top officials from SEGA also gathered here!
Opening with a 30-minute, Four-movement Orchestral Performance!!
Premiere Event: Scene 1
The attendees were shown one after another into the scenically-situated Pacifico Yokohama event center. At the bell announcing the start of the performance, an image with the word "RPG?" was displayed on-screen for 1 minute 20 seconds, as previously seen at last autumn's Tokyo Game Show and elsewhere. After that, the main theme of Shenmue quietly began to play. Most amazing to the attendees must have been the length of the orchestral performance - fully thirty minutes. The orchestra was situated in front of the first row of seating, and played all four soothing movements of the Shenmue theme. Accompanied by a harmony of light and images, it drew the listeners into the world of Shenmue. Already the attendees were captivated by this opening, which set it far apart from a mere game event. Following this, the two event presenters made their entrance together with Yu Suzuki!
Left: A large number of developers and guests, as well as SEGA employees, wait impatiently for the curtain to rise. Attendees filled the seating to the third floor. Right: The orchestral performance lasted for a whole thirty minutes! However the soothing Shenmue composition made you lose sense of time.
Reiko Chiba and Shigeaki Saegusa in MC roles!!
Left: Taking on the role of MC for this event was Reiko Chiba. Being an expert gamer, she also made insightful comments. Center: Composer Shigeaki Saegusa also took the stage. Not long ago, he resigned as an external director of SEGA due to his many other commitments. He was superb as master of ceremonies. Right: Fulfilling Yu Suzuki's promise to show "plenty of images", more than 70 minutes' worth of Shenmue material was shown, together with detailed commentary. The entire audience was overwhelmed.
Everything you need to know about Shenmue original merchandise!!
There is already a rich line-up of Shenmue related items. We'll reveal the splendid take-home goodies that are on everyone's lips, as well as the merchandise in the sales area!
This is the Shenmue merchandise that was available in the sales area. Fittingly for the season, calendars were popular sellers, but there were also some gorgeous limited-edition items. And the quality of the official brochure must be seen to be believed.
From the top left: calendar (2500 yen), original print signed by Yu Suzuki (limited batch, 50,000 yen), poster (4 types, 1500 yen each), notepad (300 yen each), mouse pad (600 yen each), figurine (expected price 2000 yen each, on sale from March 1st), plastic folder (350 yen), telephone card (1000 yen), premiere event limited-edition ball-point pen (limit of 1000 pens, 2000 yen each), ball-point pen (200 yen), CD single (price to be determined), mug (800 yen). From January 18th (Monday) this merchandise will be on sale at places like SEGA Freaks Akihabara branch, SEGA Freaks Fuse branch, Joypolis (Tokyo / Shinjuku / Yokohama / Fukuoka branches).
These splendid items were handed out for free to attendees of the premiere event. You too can receive them (excluding the Christmas card) by attending any of the events to be held in 5 cities across the country. Also we have a special give-away of 10 sets to DoriMaga readers!
1. 3-fold pamphlet: the background color sets it apart from the official brochure that was on sale, being a different color. Perfect for showing it off! 2. Music CD. The CD contains 2 songs: the main theme and Shenhua's theme. 3. Tattoo stickers: these include the Shenmue logo, the game title and emblems. 4. Christmas card. This was included only at the Yokohama event, and was a Christmas card of Shenhua. 5. Notepad: a handy notepad. The game title (in Roman characters) is written on each page. 6. Shenhua figurine: the prize item must be this Shenhua figurine. Height 15cm. 7. T-shirt: A black T-shirt with the Shenmue title at the front, and Phoenix emblem at the back.
Premiere Event: Scene 2
Live demonstration on a Dreamcast!!
After showing in succession a Making Of Shenmue video, an eye-opening clip introducing the characters, and images and commentary about Magic Weather, the venue heated up further. Toward the middle of the event, actual gameplay was demonstrated on Dreamcast consoles, including Quick Timer Events and a gambling scene. Each scene had been prepared separately on one of 4 Dreamcasts and various aspects were demonstrated. Following that, a video was shown with a message from Bajiquan master Lian Zhi Wu.
During the demo play, a QTE chase scene, a battle, and a gambling scene were exhibited as well as Magic Weather. Game designer Mr Okayasu also made an appearance.
Live streaming to the internet!
Live internet streaming was set up for each of the three events held on the day, and they were broadcast to the world. Dreamcast users were able to view an abridged "newsflash" edition.
Mr Oshii, who attended the second event. "I wasn't interested in the computer graphics, but I'm glad I was able to meet a girl like Shenhua", he commented.
Premiere Event: Scene 3
Actors for the main characters also took the stage!
As the presentation neared the end, the actors for each of the Shenmue characters took the stage and addressed the audience.
Hiroshi Fujioka was the last to enter the stage. "I'm greatly moved", he proclaimed.
Character: Ryo Hazuki (Masaya Matsukaze)
"I had a heap of lines, so it was tough", says Matuskaze, who plays Ryo. Shenmue is fully voiced!
Character: Shenhua Ling (Hazuki Ishigaki)
Ishigaki, who plays Shenhua, already has quite a fan following. Her slightly ditzy (?) personality went down well with the attendees!
Character: Wuying Ren (Takumi Hagiwara)
Yu Suzuki spoke favorably of Hagiwara, commenting "He performs the role of Ren elsewhere, just by being himself". He's cool, but underneath a fine young man?
Character: Iwao Hazuki (Hiroshi Fujioka)
Fujioka had considerable stage presence. His smart, suited figure made a striking impression.
Premiere Event: Scene 4:
Director Yukawa will be participating in further premiere events nationally in 5 of the largest cities throughout the New Year!!
"Shenmue is amazing. It will sell well and I will return as managing director", laughed the former Managing Director Yukawa, who was last to be introduced. Going forward, he will also be making appearances throughout the country.
The two-hour presentation reached its finale in the blink of an eye. At the end, videos shown included an extraordinary scene of ducking and weaving through a forest - unbelievably, the graphics were rendered in real time! With attendees feeling extremely satisfied, the event began to wind up. The guests who were introduced together with Director Yukawa differ at each of the three event showings: at the second one was Mamoru Oshii, a grandmaster of the anime world, and CG creator Daizaburo Harada; at the third was actress Kaoru Sugita made an appearance. I wonder if the attendees felt a bit lucky?
For those people who weren't able to attend, the same presentation will be held in various cities in the New Year, so if you are a Dreamcast owner then you should definitely go. We'll be covering them in a future edition!
Shenmue: presentations coming soon to 5 large cities!!
Two showings will be held at each venue. First: 1PM - 3PM. Second: 4PM - 6PM.
Jan 9, 1999 (Sat): Osaka Welfare Hall, Osaka [2500 people per event]
Jan 10 (Sun): Fukuoka Sun Palace, Fukuoka [2500 people per event]
Jan 15 (Fri): Hokkaido Welfare Hall, Sapporo [2500 people per event]
Jan 16 (Sat): Sendai International Center, Sendai [1000 people per event]
Jan 17 (Sun): Aichi Labor Hall, Nagoya [1500 people per event]
It's Time to Reveal the Truth of Shenmue!
Part 2: The World and Areas of Shenmue
Following our report in Part 1 on the Premiere Event, we will look at all the things about Shenmue that have until now been covered with a veil of mystery - taking each in order, one at a time. "What I wanted to make is a single, real world" -- we look at this surprising concept and examine a number of the latest Dreamcast images backing it up. It's now time to reveal the world that Yu Suzuki has spent three years creating.
The world of Shenmue, of which a large number of images were shown at the Premiere Event. The fact that even these represent only a small part of the huge world is nothing more than remarkable.
Part 3: The Hero and Other Characters
His name is Ryo Hazuki -- the main character, who travels Shenmue's astonishing world and space as the player's alter ego, is a completely new character who has been made especially for the game. We look at the characters, so full of charm, and the actors behind them... Watch out for the full-scale action modelling that brings the characters to life without any use of video clips.
The hero of Shenmue, Ryo Hazuki, who was revealed for the first time at the Premiere Event venue, along with this poster. The movie scene which brought this illustration to life left a vivid impression!
Part 4: It's Magic! Special Effects and Production
Two types of "magic" have been cast on the huge but finely-detailed world: "Time Control" and "Magic Weather". The introduction of these two new technologies gives the world of Shenmue an unprecedented realism. This means that even for the same room or place, every player will see something different!
"Magic" has been cast on Shenmue to make you feel as if you are there. We delve into the secrets.
Part 5: Interview with Yu Suzuki
On a certain day in December, an urgent press event was held just for members of the magazine industry, in order to uncover all the mysteries surrounding Shenmue, from its concept to its origins. We look at a number of new facts that were revealed which have not been spoken about at the Premiere Event, as well as a message from Chinese Bajiquan grand master Lian Zhi Wu.
We'll cover the themes of Shenmue, including its main catch-phrase "Keep friends, those you love, close to you", and reveal new facts for the first time. In this last part, Yu Suzuki speaks!