Features// The Week In Japan: Shenmue Online

Posted 16 Sep 2008 11:28 by
SPOnG's long serving Japanese correspondent, Martin Olsen, continues his Letter from Nippon with the latest updates from the islands.

Yu Suzuki on Shenmue Online
I reckon the pages near the back of Famitsu are generally the most interesting, because that?s where Japan?s game industry celebrities are given space to talk about all kinds of crap, and they always seem to do it in high spirits. There are pictures of them drinking coffee and smiling, which is how I?ve always thought video game visionaries should be pictured. In this week?s Famitsu, Yoshiki Okamoto (ex-Capcom) interviews SEGA demigod Yu Suzuki.

We learn that Suzuki?s first car was a Nissan Sunny, for which he paid 70,000 (375 or ?472) while he was a student in Okayama. Elsewhere he jokes that because he doesn?t play games other than his own he has no ability to copy other games and therefore, because his projects always start from ?zero?, he gets ideas from talking with people who have nothing to with games ? people, he says, such as ?the proprietors of eel restaurants.?

Anyway, Okamoto does all of us a service by twice asking Suzuki about the fate of Shenmue Online. The first time, Suzuki just laughs and says, ?Come on, can?t you ask me something that I can answer??

But Okamoto?s a persistent interviewer and so as his final question he returns with, ?How is Shenmue Online coming along, then??

?I wonder if it?s OK to answer,? Suzuki says. He then confers with SEGA?s PR person who is at the scene of the conversation and finally gets back to Okamoto: ?OK, I?ll say as much as I can? Due to a situation, the project is in a ?Pending? state. But personally I?m hoping to be reunited with Shenmue Online. I haven?t given up.?

And that?s the end of the interview. Cliffhanger, eh! Unfortunately he doesn?t elaborate on the ?situation? that?s caused Shenmue Online to go into ?Pending? and he doesn?t talk about what he?s been doing during the suspension of work on Shenmue Online, so all we can do is speculate and write furious letters to SEGA?

Japanese gamers on Xbox 360
Now for something completely different: what Japanese gamers really think of the Xbox 360. This wasn?t easy to research because not one of my friends, family or acquaintances here owns an Xbox 360 (except for people who work in the games industry, and they can?t really be counted). Which, I suppose, tells you something about how much further the 360 has to go before it builds a user base of note.

So I instead turned my radar towards Xbox Live and quizzed a few good citizens of Xbox Japan while racing them. They reckoned Microsoft was doing everything reasonably possible to make the 360 successful in Japan, but they also said they understood why the Wii and PS3 are outperforming the 360 ? ?Because people really like the Sony brand and Wii and DS are part of [Japan?s] culture now,? quoth one Japanese Xbox Live user.

We also talked about game types and the sort of thing Xbox is famous for (you know, big guns and all that), and it turns out the likes of Halo 3, Forza 2, Gears Of War, PGR3 and BioShock were what attracted these apparently veteran players to the 360 in the first place. ?We really like the serious games that are for older players,? said one of them. They didn?t seem to care as much about Infinite Undiscovery, Lost Odyssey or any of the other Japanese blockbusters, but they did agree that such local produce would be important for the future of Xbox in Japan.

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Joji 17 Sep 2008 23:28
That's really interesting stuff, Martin, and nice to hear what japanese gamers think, as opposed to what we think they think. While we hear a lot about jrpgs, its good to hear japanese gamers are slowly accepting and consuming some western mature titles.

A possible return for Shenmue, that would be cool.
yellowchilli 19 Sep 2008 01:36
thats great news for us Shenmue fans then!
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Charles Raven 19 Sep 2008 15:01
Send 'furious letters' to Sega alright, but just remembering them that, while we Shenmue fans might bear with Shenmue Online if behind it is the promise (of an atempt at least) to revive the franchise and give Shenmue a proper solo continuation, what we really want is a third Shenmue that keeps the tradition of the first two games: a similiar experience that picks it all from here it lays for all these years. A Shenmue that have all those elemets that make Shenmue... Shenmue.

deleted 20 Sep 2008 16:18
Charles Raven wrote:
A Shenmue that have all those elemets that make Shenmue... Shenmue.


yeah it wont be shenmue unless i can go into a store and buy some wierd japanses fish content like food!
Joji 23 Sep 2008 22:44
Well done, Agent Olsen.

I'd still like you to keep diggin on the japanese 360 front, as its still a big blind spot for many of us gamers. While the Live bit is cool, just keep it simmering if you run into any japanese friends or random gamer/industry folk etc. With 360 selling out there, I'd love to hear their opinions. Also tell us more cool or non cool s**t about japan.

Your next mission, should you choose to accept it, is to link up with Cheapy D. Who's Cheapy D you say? Cheapy D also lives in japan, and does the Cheap Ass Gamer podcast with U.S based partner in crime Wombat (check iTunes people, its damn good and giving 1up Yours podcast a run for their money). I'd like you to do an open like interview with Cheapy D (chew the fat about games and stuff as well as living in japan maybe), or if not hook up with him at TGS if he's there (i think he will be).

If you like him enough, perhaps ask him to give his view on games and the industry, or maybe do a piece for Spong with you perhaps, or whatever.

Check out Cheap Ass (or Arse) Gamer.com. A good and useful site indeed (with Spong's blessing ofcourse).

Syn 13 Oct 2008 08:35
Does Yu Suzuki not realise that Shenmue Online is not what people want?

Shenmue fans want Shenmue 3 and not some souped up Shenmue: War of Worldcraft or wtfever it's called.
PreciousRoi 13 Oct 2008 16:14
Shenmue fans want to know where they can find some sailors.
Carlos 23 Dec 2008 03:10
Shenmue the best!!! PLease continue Shenmue!!!!!!
Giorgio 18 Mar 2009 13:55
I 'm waiting for Shemue III ! I love Shenmue!!!
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