Bad voice acting, dialogue and repetitive can't ruin Shenmue 2, with a great story and good gameplay

User Rating: 8 | Shenmue II XBOX
Note: Unlike most of my reviews, this is sorta a retrospective review, where I'll also talk a little about Shenmue 3 and Shenmue 2 is today. The game was officially released for the Xbox, but being I played it on the Xbox 360 several differences were noticed and will be noted.

In 1999, Shenmue was released in Japan on the Sega Dreamcast; it got critical acclaim and even won the Excellence Prize for Interactive Art at the 2000 Japan Media Arts Festival. Unfortunately, the games budget was so big (70 million dollars), that in order to be profitable, every Dreamcast owner needed to buy the game, twice. This however, didn't prevent Sega from releasing a sequel in 2000. It was released for the Dreamcast in 2001 and on Xbox in 2002.

The game takes place after Shenmue. Ryo Hazuki, a Japanese boy, who's father was killed by Lan Di, and is now out for revenge. After the events of Shenmue, Ryo travelled from his home town Yokosuka, to Hong Kong, in search for Lan Di, and to seek out help from a Chinese Martial Arts Master Lishao Tao.

Safe aside for one minor thing that is a bit weird, the story is actually pretty good, it's a lot deeper than if you just read a short summary of it, the characters are likeable and they all develop throughout the story. There's a lot to it and in the end, it's just a great story with some great moments and some well developed characters. Unfortunately, the game ends on a cliffhanger and while a Shenmue 3 has been mentioned, there's no news about the game itself or if it'll ever be released, though chances are small for it's eventual release. It's also recommended to have played Shenmue 1 in order to get the most out of the story. The Xbox version comes with Shenmue: The Movie, which is all the cut-scenes from Shenmue, re-edited into a movie.


Shenmue 2 is, like it's predecessor, like a virtual world. There are all sorts of people around you, work, gambling and the likes all over the place. Mainly what you're doing in the game is this: find out where you're supposed to go, go ask people for directions, work for money, etc. Hong Kong is huge and finding around in the town is gonna be a bit hard the first time around, fortunately you can ask people for directions, some tells you the directions and some just lets you tag along. It's a good feature, but it's also a slow one, the persons you follow usually walk a bit slow and there's no feature to skip the entire trip, and if your tried of follow that person, you have to press B and you can walk away from the person, though your may still be left wondering how to get to your destination. You'll be doing a lot of running around in the game, which itself is both a good and a bad thing. It's good because you'll get to see the environments, but bad because nothing really happens in these sections, and running back and forth a lot, eventually get's on your nerves, though a handy notebook does compensate for it. Late in the game you meet a person, where she takes you to a village, but this section is so long, but it's saved by the characters and the environments.

Every once in a while, your required to do certain mini games in order to proceed. This usually requires you to move crates, move books outside to air them (yes, this is true) and a few other things. The game does a good job of explaining the controls and they work fine in themselves. However, you'll get tired of them after playing through them a few times, and sometimes you're needed to play through them a lot. A few sections of the game require you to do the same type of mini game at the start of each day, before you can do what you want. It's really annoying, though you are rewarded for doing so. You also have to do mini games in order to earn money, though there's several ways to do this. You can move crates, get other kinds of part-time jobs or you can gamble, usually by playing small games, fighting arenas and other kinds of gambling. You don't earn the best amount of money from it, but it's enough to make you go by. Problem though is, that money is really needed in the beginning to pay your rent for your room and then there's a section, late in the game, where you need a bit amount of money, it can take a while, and a bit repetitive, though the gambling and mini games are actually better than moving crates and the mandatory ones.

There are also action sections in the game. Most of them are just standard fighting sections. You have a pretty large list of moves you can perform, and you'll even get to learn some new moves. The fighting itself feels a little like playing Virtua Fighter, so it'll take a while to adjust too. When adjusted too however, the fighting works pretty well and the different movies means that the fighting is a bit deep. When learning other movies however, you need to read scrolls (which your given from different masters), or you have to learn it, yourself. This is a bit hard, as the characters in the game tells you to move back, ease your shoulders and such, but it doesn't show the button combination, so your left to figure that one out yourself. The other action sections are quick time events. Unlike what most people think, quick time events started in Dragon's Lair, but mastered and perfected in Shenmue. There are a lot of them and they work well, and for once you're not pressing random buttons. The tough part about them however, is when the game shows you a combination and you have to memorize it and type it quickly. These sections are mainly hard, because you need to be really fast to press the combination, or you'll fail.

The control in the game takes a long while to get used too. You move on the D-Pad and use the thumbsticks to move the camera, and the left trigger to zoom in. It feels a bit stiff to control and it's sometimes hard to turn. You can choose to play with the thumbsticks, but then there's no button to control the camera and it will still be hard to control. The fighting controls however work pretty well. Playing it on the Xbox 360 actually makes the controls worse, as it sometimes won't recognize the d-pad inputs, largely thanks to the stupid d-pad of the Xbox 360. The game also crashed upon me a few times on the Xbox 360 version. Finally, it should be noticed, that you can save via the inventory menu. I didn't realize this until I played the game for 5 hours straight, waiting for a save point.

The game itself is actually pretty long. You have 2 cities to explore and a forest section afterwards. It all results in around 20 hours, which is actually a pretty good length. Although when you're done with the game, you've seen everything and there's no reason to go back.


On Dreamcast, it looked good. On Xbox, it was improved, but a bit outdated. Today, the game looks a bit awful. Though the designs for the main characters are decent, the movements can be a bit stiff or robotic from times to times. But even today, the environments are actually beautiful, especially the last part of the game, which is really beautiful. It may be outdated, but it's some of the most beautiful and peaceful environments I've ever seen. Playing it on the Xbox 360 results in a few graphical bugs and the frame-rate also drops seriously in a few sections.


The voice acting is awful, characters don't sound like their trying to act, or show any emotion at all, nor is the dialogue written particularly well, though in the game's last section, the dialogue does improve. Overall, depending on whenever you care about it too much, it can ruin some moments of the story. The voice quality is also compressed for some reason. The music sounds like it's been limited for the technical aspects of the dreamcast, it sounds like it's partially made on a MIDI program sometimes, though there are some good tracks, especially the ending theme. Playing it on the Xbox 360 results in some sound glitches, where sounds disappear when entering the notebook and pause menu.


Conclusion ala 2009
Today, the game's graphics and music both looks and sounds outdated, the gameplay itself is good, while having a few problems. Chances are it'll mostly appeal to the RPG fans. The story however is pretty deep and actually pretty good. Today the game, like Shenmue 1, is highly regarded by gamers. This is because of the story and the virtual world. Sure there are games like Fallout 3, The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion and most notable Grand Theft Auto 4 that is big on scope, having a virtual world, but Shenmue is where it all started. Even today, it's still a bit impressive to look at, it really does feel like you're in a world.

The story has always been one of the most acclaimed parts of Shenmue and it's also what gamers remember most. It might sound like a action game, but it's deeper than you might think. Sadly, while Shenmue 3 has been announced around the time Shenmue 2 arrived, the current status of the game is said to be cancelled, though thousands of fans everyday fights to make sure the game sees the lights of today, and the fans aren't the only one. Gamers, who just played the games, are looking forward for a Shenmue 3. Series creator Yu Suzuki insists that: (the story will eventually be finished through games", and with the massive fan demand and Sega's trend to revive old franchises, the chance for a Shenmue 3, still exists and may be announced soon, with rumours pointing at E3 2009 in early June.

Let's return to Shenmue 2, dispite the terrible dialogue and voice acting and the repetitive game play, Shenmue 2 is actually a good game, though not as good as the first one. It will mostly appeal to the RPG/Adventure fans, the rest will be in it, just for the story, or will be turned off by it's gameplay.