Thursday, 4 September 2014

Shenmue 2 review

Shenmue II is more than just a game,it's a spiritual journey that will make people think philosophically about Taoist ideologies such as how the differences between 'right' and 'wrong' are not always clear-cut and sometimes no solution to a problem is 100% right or wrong and sometimes it's necessary to do something which is considered 'bad' or 'evil' in order to stop a bigger evil and it teaches the importance of finding inner-peace(I'll explain about that later)and it's a wonderful and entertaining adventure through Hong Kong and mainland China and you'll experience very different atmospheres whether it's the Asian style street markets or Taoist temples or beautiful seaside city locals or densely urbanized/comercialized areas and rural China.Most importantly,the main character named Ryo,whom is a Japanese man is chasing after the man who killed his father,which happened in the original Shenmue in Japan and Ryo has tracked him and followed him to Hong Kong and the story has an important mystery to it because you'll be searching for pieces of what's called a phoenix mirror which will reveal the location of ancient treasure.

The cast of characters is fairly likable in their own indivdiual way,Ryo is easy to empathize with as it seems he's always trying to make haste with his effort to find the man named Lan Di whom is the man who killed Ryo's father and it seems as if Ryo doesn't have time nor cares about anything else.There's also Joy whom is a cute,flirtacious Asian woman who shows up on a motorcycle occasionally to flirt with,heckle but also help Ryo's cause and she has connections with a gang leader named Ren who actually accompanies Ryo on much of Ryo's journey because even though he doesn't even like Ryo,he's after the treasure because he loves money and Ryo needs all the help he can get having to go against so many gang members so Ryo accepts his help even though Ren is an arrogant,selfish jerk.There's also the street kid named Wong(but I won't spoil that part for you)and Master Lishao Tao whom is a beautiful,martial arts master who teaches the spiritual and physical sides to martial arts and Taoist values.There's also images of a teenaged girl whom Ryo has been seeing in his dreams.

To give examples of the spiritual side to the game,at the Taoist temple Ryo will be shown how if he can't do simple tasks such as catching a leaf that's slowly falling from a tree,how can he block a fast,powerful martial arts attack that could kill him? Which shows the importance of finding inner-peace first before trying to become a martial arts master and MINOR SPOILER Master Lishao Tao explains to Ryo revenge is the wrong path and will lead to destruction but she knows Ryo will go after Lan Di nonetheless so she decides to teach him the physical side to martial arts despite Ryo planning to use them for the wrong reasons since she doesn't want Ryo to get killed and because his evil actions are being used against a far greater evil END OF MINOR SPOILERS

In rural mainland China,Ryo will travel to areas with mountains and forest and a village MINOR SPOILER that's so issolated that many of the people in that village haven't seen much modern technology or have even heard of Japan! And they live a very traditional lifestyle and do things such as collecting water from a well,and hunting animals for food. END OF MINOR SPOILERS and this was such as peaceful and amazing experience for me because it tries to show the different ways people live in a more simpler,peaceful side to living.

As for the gameplay,often you will travel from place to place and try to find clues to Lan Di's whereabouts and of course there is combat is it's kinda like a beat em up style with Virtua Fighter style moves.Although most of the weaker enemies can be beaten by spamming simplistic moves,some of the bosses require you to use special moves and good timing and strategy and doing the QTE's correctly(some bosses can do an instant KO move on you if you don't do the QTE's correctly)so it makes the boss fights unpredictable and exciting because even if it looks like you're going to win easily you can never be sure of anything and some of the bosses will test your reflexes and make you outthink them and think of which special moves to use to your advantage.For people who don't know,QTE's are Quick Time Events that require you to press certain buttons and D-Pad movements at certain times when you're trying to avoid an instant KO move or when you're trying to dodge objects or chasing somebody or being chased or for other situations
.Not doing the QTE's correctly for non-combat situations can lead to instant game over situations so the game always keeps you on your toes despite sometimes having a bit of a gap between action segments.The chase segments are fun because people will try to push objects in your path or other obstacles will be in your way and you'll need to use the QTE commands to dodge obstacles.There's gameplay that involve searching a room or listening to recordings and following people without being detected.The gameplay is varied nicely and it never felt boring for me and even though sometimes there's a fair amount of time in-between segments with fast-paced gameplay the story captivated me from start to finish.

I'll also like to mention the QTE system made the Shenmue series special because the Shenmue series came out years before God of War and people talk about how God of War was so great because it used a QTE system but I think the way Shenmue 1 and 2 uses QTE's is more creative and exciting compared to hoW God of War games use them.

Shenmue II has a big,open sandbox style environments.You can go exploring the streets filled with markets and stores to explore,inside apartment buildings with many rooms you can enter and look at people's personal items or you can knock on the door of people's apartment rooms and they'll answer the door and have something unqiue or interesting to say and you can gamble and there's lots of gambling mini games and you can do street fighting or play video games at the arcade which include some SEGA classics such as Afterburner II and Outrun.You can also get a job and do work that involves using the QTE system for mini games.
You can talk to people on the street and they will have an interesting story to tell you or information about what you need to know.
The city environments have nice diversity between residential,commerical,industrial.I love the paved area with the water fountain near the seaport and how the Taosit temple looks so peaceful because it's surrounded by lots of trees and there's little Asian style shops and markets everywhere and the commerical areas have mini marts some commerical stores are bigger and look like they sell a lot more stock.Hong Kong and Kowloon have a nice 1980's feel since the story is set in the 1980's

The game uses a day/night system and the city looks beatiful lite up at night and has random weather and in rural China  you'll see insects glowing above the lake at night!
Like I've mentioned in rural China you'll see beautiful scenery of mountains,fores,caves,lakes,wild animals and old-style villages.

When you walk through the street markets you will hear lovely traditional Chinese music playing.In the city,the music can be quite fast paced to suit the busy environment and in the Taoist temple the music is so peaceful and it's the same in rural China.

Truthfully I've only played the PAL Xbox version of Shenmue II which has only the English dubbed language available,I'm not sure what languages the other versions of Shenmue 2 have available and I've tried doing a bit of research on this issue but I've found conflicting information but I will say I think English language is fitting for the game since it hasn't been officially confirmed if Ryo can speak Cantonese/Mandarin(he couldn't read a letter that was in one of the Chinese languages(I forgot which one) but some Japanese people say they can understand some of the Cantonese and Mandarin languages when they're spoken).

Overall,I think Shenmue II is a game that should be played if you want a spritual and meaningful journey and can handle going periods without much combat.I won't give a score of Shenmue II because I'm biased but like I've said play it if you want a spiritual and meaningful journey and love Asian cultures.Also,a CGI movie for the story of the first Shenmue game is included with the Xbox version of Shenmue II(at least with the PAL Xbox version anyways).

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