Despite it being a commercial flop, Shenmue, for me, is one of the best games that came from the last console generation. It featured a really well thought-out story, an endearing protagonist and it actually had a purpose. Plus, it had a combat system which evolved as you played through, and probably the most important aspect, it was planned as a long series of games. What this meant, was that you'd be able to transfer your save data from one game to the next - it'd remember what moves you learnt, how much money you had, who you'd spoken to, etc. It's a concept that has since been copied rather nicely by Mass Effect, but nobody else has really tried - perhaps it's because nobody ever really plans that far ahead any more. Shenmue is probably an example of why that is too, as it never got past the second game, despite it being planned as a series that could span countless sequels.
I realise I've rambled on a bit about Shenmue, but I'm actually going to talk about Shenmue 2, because my experience with the game is, in my opinion, far more interesting. Back in those days, the video games industry was very different. The internet still hadn't caught on in the big way it has now, so information was quite scarce, and Europe was quite often shunned by publishers for the more lucrative North American market.
I'd heard some rumblings that Shenmue 2 was to be released, which I was really excited for. However, I'd also heard that it wasn't going to be released in North America - something which almost guaranteed that it would never see the light of day in Europe. I say almost, as it obviously was released in Europe, as I found to my amazement one day when I walked into my local video game store. I hadn't gone in there expecting to buy anything, I was just browsing, but I snapped up that bad boy quicker than I could even think and rushed back home to play it to death.
Upon placing it in my Dreamcast, I was initially rather puzzled. The game was fully voiced in Japanese with English subtitles - not something I was expecting or was familiar with. I did rummage through the menus, but it turned out that to save on localisation costs, they just didn't record English voice parts. It wasn't that much of a big deal though, and it actually helped me learn some more common Japanese phrases, which was nice.
So, after finding out that his nemesis Lan Di was no longer in Japan, Ryo decides to venture to Hong Kong to continue his search by finding a confidant. He gets into all kinds of mischief almost instantly though and ends up staying in one place for quite a while in order to try and find out more information about Lan Di's whereabouts and solve some mysteries while he's at it.
Unfortunately, I only got around half-way through the game, as my Dreamcast decided it didn't like reading discs any more. I tried and tried, but I kept getting stuck on a really drawn-out QTE sequence. It was disappointing, because I'd had a great time up to that point. I had a lovely duel with a Tai Chi master, I'd run my own games stool and I'd just got the point where I felt the story was going to go to a whole new level. But despite my experience being cut short, what I experienced 2 was more than enough to grant the franchise a special place in my heart. Sure, the connection between the games (save-wise) didn't work out how I'd expected, but that didn't matter. It was still a thoroughly enjoyable affair and ever since then I've been craving a Shenmue 3. It seems as though Yu Suzuki wants a Shenmue 3 as well, but Sega just won't budge.
It's odd really, considering the Yakuza franchise offers a very rather similar experience. It probably wouldn't be all that hard to make another Shenmue title if they wanted. Perhaps they just don't think there's a market for it. I know one thing though, if they did announce a proper Shenmue 3, and not some crappy MMO, I would be all over that sh*t.