Shenmue – Remastered – Review

To be clear, Shenmue is one of my all-time favourite games.  A title that it’s had for the better part of 20 years.

This isn’t a review of the game, rather a review of the remaster that was released a couple of weeks ago.

By modern standards, Shenmue isn’t a masterpiece, and I’d certainly struggle to appreciate it as a new player getting on-board in 2018.  But by the standards of the days in which it was released, it was unparalleled in my mind. 

 

Rose-tinted glasses

The biggest fear here, is that I’ve been remembering Shenmue incorrectly.  It happens so often when you use that powerful filter called time, doesn’t it?

Well, I guess the quality of the remaster here is evident because it is EXACTLY as I remember it.  Up-scaled on a graphical front, it has definitely aged, but with a HD sheen.

Sure some of the faces look awful, and the textures are a bit rough here and there, but all in all, it makes me feel like I’m playing the game exactly as I remember it.  How on earth is that possible?

It handles the same, which, again, by modern standards is pretty terrible.  But without that clunkiness, would it still be Shenmue?

Creating a remaster must be tough.  How do you strike the balance between giving people what they remember and modernising it for current generation consoles and fidelities?  That, tied-in with the impact of nostalgia from 20 years’ worth of fandom.  It’s a risky play.

Sometimes people don’t know what they want.  Asking for Shenmue to be remastered could quite easily have lead to massive disappointment.  Luckily, to me, it’s perfect.

 

Looks like Shenmue, sounds like Shenmue……

Graphically, the balance has been struck wonderfully.  It isn’t a complete overhaul, rather, a touch-up.  Although those black bars on the screen when watching clips haven’t gone away (I guess to get the same clip meant working with the same constraints?).

Audio on the other hand……..well……it sounds like a 20 year-old game.

Little did I realise how spoiled we all are these days with incredible sound design and high-fidelity audio.

The dialogue and voice acting is pretty sketchy.  In my head, it was much smoother and more realistic.  In reality, we’ve got what we had before.

It isn’t a bad thing though.  The charm of the whole game is in the delivery of all of the individual elements. 

The music is the same, and putting a jukebox record on in the arcade is a real nostalgia hit.  I actually love it.

Environment sounds are a little rough around the edges, with some very obvious footsteps and changes to the sounds in on different floors.  Again, not good by modern standards, but a required part of delivering the true experience.

 

One other thing.  I remember Shenmue being a huge world, with different parts that required a long walk to get to.  I recall being especially frustrated when I needed to get to Dobuita for a specific time, and felt like it was going to take an age to get there (I don’t like being late, even in games!).

This is not an issue at all…….By modern standards, the map/areas are tiny and a couple of minutes will see you walk from one end to the other.

What a difference all these years has made, eh?

 

Care and attention

The only real thing you’d take away from any of this is that I love Shenmue.  However, a bad remaster would be enough to upset a massive amount of people, myself included.

Nostalgia is a powerful tool, and great for making sales.  It’s a double-edged sword, though.  Get it wrong and you can turn-away a massive amount of people and leave a bitter taste in their mouths.

On display here is the capturing of everything that makes Shenmue, Shenmue, with a sprinkling of modernisation (saving when/where you want, fast-travel, slicker presentation).

It’s like playing the game as you remember it, and that’s no mean feat!

Add to the fact that it comes with Shenmue 2, as well (I need to write about that seperately), and it’s less than £25.  It’s an absolute bargain and a real treat for Shenmue fans.

If you’re wanting to get into it, this is the best version to give it a go on, but be warned, it still feels like a 20 year-old game.  If you’re prepared to deal with that, then you’re in for a treat.  I wish I could have my first time again!

 

Overall….

This is tough, because I’d already rate Shenmue as ‘exceptional’, and my clear gushing about it here shows that I’m not really impartial or unbiased.

As I stated before, though.  This is Shenmue as I remember it, and that means I don’t have to see the reality of it from back in the day.  All the while I get to live through it again.

Could they have re-built it from scratch? Yeah.  Would it still be Shenmue if they did? I don’t think so (obviously I can’t say that for certain….).

This remaster is exceptional because it retains everything that makes Shenmue feel like Shenmue, both good and bad.  I feel like I’m playing it on my Dreamcast, even though I’m playing it on an Xbox One.  What an achievement!

Awesome awesome work, and a real treat to be tracking down Lan Di again.

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