WeView Retro Verdict: Shenmue

The results are in on this week’s WeView Retro, and they’re perhaps a touch surprising, with a few of you weighing in on the Dreamcast’s opus without the glowing praise that some might expect.

Our very own Dave Irwin was the first to hit the keyboard, and definitely found it hard to overlook one of the game’s major bugs, awarding it a Watch A Let’s Play verdict:

I enjoyed it for what it was, but I have a massive problem with the game breaking bugs that forced me into a continuous loop of doing the forklift race over and over with no way out. As such, a decade and a half on, I am still pretty salty about the whole thing. Bit like those sailors really.

Next up was philbert8 who also didn’t click with the game and thought that its graphics, which were cutting edge at the time, have aged badly, registering another Watch A Let’s Play result:

I had this. I still have my Dreamcast, I don’t have this. I can’t remember what I wanted from it, whatever it was I didn’t get it, a shame as I spent some big bucks on it at the time. It looks too good for its time, but it looks bad now… Like someone tried to make the game today with no special skills.

It is a shame that while so many of the Dreamcast’s games had such strong art directions that have stood the test of time, a game such as Shenmue that pushed the technical boundaries has obviously lost some of its allure by such an early attempt to create a representation of real life.

Mark Lee was next, and was thankfully a lot more positive about Shenmue than the previous contributors, though he also believes that the graphics haven’t aged well:

The graphics were stunning and I wanted to just savour every little detail of the world, speaking to every person I walked past and seeing what I could interact with. I’m not ashamed to say that I spent a lot of my time buying cans of soda just to try and win a little toy.

I played through it again recently and enjoyed my time with it, although I really don’t think it has aged well at all. I think if you played it and loved it the first time then you are happy to go back to it, but newcomers to the game may not appreciate it in the same way the fans do. Nevertheless, it is something which should at least be experienced.

Registering a Should Play verdict, Mark also added that “Shenmue was the first game which really showed me what a game could do,” which is high praise indeed.

Our final response came from Tef, who cited just how forward-thinking a game Shenmue was, but again that it hadn’t aged well, needing an HD remake to be more palatable for modern audiences:

I think Shenmue, while revolutionary, will be difficult for many to revisit without a remaster on modern platforms. It was an outstanding exercise in world creation, cemented the Quick Time Event as a gameplay device for delivering cinematic moments and so on, but had some really slow pacing, endless tracking back and forth and various other little gameplay quirks that meant that, while a phenomenal achievement, I don’t feel it will have stood the test of time.

With Tef also granting it a Watch A Let’s Play rating, Shenmue’s final result is Watch A Let’s Play with four votes, while a solitary vote for Should Play will perhaps pique one or two reader’s interest in checking it out. If Sega decide to release a remaster of the first two games to coincide with the release of the forthcoming sequel, this would be the perfect way to experience the game, but in the meantime, it seems like you’ll be best served just catching up on the story via Youtube or another reputable video outlet.