Shenmue I & II

Game review by
David Chapman, Common Sense Media
Shenmue I & II Game Poster Image
Classic franchise returns with retro tale of revenge.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this game.

Positive Messages

While the game features many side missions to accomplish different goals, every step is meant to bring Ryo closer to fulfilling his vendetta.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Although Ryo is a heroic character, occasionally helping people in need, most of his actions are driven by a desire for revenge. Similarly, most of the supporting cast is driven by their own personal desires instead of positive motivations.

Ease of Play

Features a wide range of activities, most of which are fairly easy to control. The combat system is robust, with flexibility that can take time to figure out how to best use your fighting skills. There are some moments when the controls show a bit of age, feeling a bit more clunky.

Violence

There's a fair amount of combat, but it's restricted to hand-to-hand martial arts fights. Characters grunt and groan when hit, but there's no blood or gore.

Sex

Some female characters are shown in low-cut outfits. Pinup girl posters scattered around the city.

Language

Occasional use of profanity in dialogue, such as the word "a--hole."

Consumerism

The game is an updated version of the first two Shenmue games, originally released on the Dreamcast in the early '00s. These games have been re-released in large part to build interest in the pending release of the new Shenmue III game, the first new entry in the franchise in nearly two decades.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Various characters are shown smoking and drinking, with some appearing intoxicated.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Shenmue I & II is an updated re-release of the original games in Sega's Shenmue action/adventure franchise for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Windows-based PCs. Players' main goal is personal revenge, but they can take all kinds of side quests along the way with a variety of tasks, including gambling on slot machines, playing arcade games, and even racing ducks. Violence is a regular occurrence, particularly by martial arts-style hand-to-hand combat, but there's no blood or gore. Some characters in the game also use occasional profanity like "a--hole," and are also shown drinking alcohol or smoking cigarettes, with some characters shown intoxicated.

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What's it about?

SHENMUE I & II is an updated re-release of the Dreamcast classics Shenmue and Shenmue II, bringing enhanced graphics and controls, as well as an improved user interface and both English and Japanese voice-over options. The Shenmue saga tells the story of Ryo Hazuki, a young martial artist forced to watch the death of his father and mentor at the hands of a mysterious man known only as Lan Di. Over the course of two epic stories, Ryo's quest for revenge takes him from the docks of Yokosuka to the streets of Hong Kong. Vengeance doesn't come cheap though, and Ryo needs to earn a living while tracking down leads to Lan Di's location. Whether that's working the docks, taking a chance on the slots, racing ducks, or just taking it easy at the arcade with some Sega classics, Ryo's got a life to live. Explore every back alley and business in the sprawling cityscapes to learn the secrets that led to the death of Ryo's father and uncover a deeper conspiracy lurking in the shadows.

Is it any good?

With so many big video games out on the market trying to grab players' interest, it's hard to remember the foundation on which these modern blockbusters were built. But before the big city sandbox of Grand Theft Auto III or the reflex-testing quick time events of God of War, there was Sega's open-world adventure, Shenmue. Now players get to revisit Ryo's tale of revenge with Shenmue I & II, a re-release updated for today's hardware. The game's been enhanced with updated graphics, a few tweaks to the controls and user interface, and Japanese and English voice-overs. But does it still measure up after all these years?

Although the visuals have been updated in Shenmue I & II, the simple truth is that the game's still showing its age. The colors and details may be much sharper and pop more now than they ever did on the Dreamcast, but the models and animations aren't much different than they were back in the day and aren't pushing any technical limits. While the controls have been tweaked, they're still a bit clunky and awkward in spots, particularly in certain side missions. In spite of these issues, somehow Shenmue I & II still manages to hold tight to the quirky charm that's made the franchise a cult favorite all these years. It's still easy to get lost in the daily grind of work and play: You'll want to pull in one more shift at the docks or try to get in one more game of Out Run or After Burner in the arcade. It's like a detailed life simulator, but with a much more exciting life than you probably live now. After all, most of us don't get into martial arts battles against street gangs on a regular basis. With both games packed together, there's no shortage of content to go through. In fact, moving almost seamlessly from the first game to the second feels like turning the page on an epic adventure.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about violence in video games. Is the impact of the violence in Shenmue I & II affected by the lack of blood and gore shown in the hand-to-hand martial arts fights? Would it have a larger impact if the combat looked more graphic?

  • How do classic games like the Shenmue series stack up compared to more modern games? What are some of the features that newer games owe to their predecessors in the genre?

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