Developer: d3t, Ltd.
Release Date: 08/21/2018
Also Available On
I have a weird disposition with the entire Shenmue series. I really want to love it, but the problem is the game is so flawed and so strange that the game almost feels like a chore to complete. The first game was tolerable as it was fairly short and the age made it more forgiving, but Shenmue II has no excuse. It was on a new generation of consoles and I have literally never played a sequel in a series that was a copy and paste of the last game.
The game picks off exactly where the last one took off with Ryo heading to Hong Kong and as soon as I saw the first cutscene I sighed and rolled my eyes and did an entire facepalm. I expected the game to look fairly newer, have a new UI, better controls, and an all-new look but we got a literal engine port from the Dreamcast with just new areas to explore and a story that’s four times longer than the original (the original Xbox game had 4 discs!)
As I got off the boat I really realized it was the exact same game as Ryo controls just as poorly, the gameplay is exactly the same as the T and I buckled in for a long ride. The first third of the game has Ryo running around talking to people gathering clues, meeting a few new faces, and trying to continue to find Lan Di and avenge his father’s death. At least more story is explained and we find out what every mystery in the first game means. To be honest, the first third of the game isn’t all that bad, yes it’s more Shenmue I stuff, but it’s easy and straightforward for the most part. Once I got to the second third of the game things got tedious, frustrating, and a little annoying. This series for some reason loves having Ryo work and be miserable when it comes to progress. Twice I was stuck having to work on the most boring and tedious mini-game I have ever played to earn enough money to move on. You can earn $10 a crate by helping someone move them from one side of the room to another and it’s all about QTEs with the directional buttons. You usually never earn more than $60 as there isn’t enough time allotted for more work and gambling is usually risky and out of the question altogether. The game favors the AI more than you so you can easily blow all your cash and have to play that mini-game six or seven times over to earn it back again.
Outside of the awful mini-games, the second third of the game has Ryo running around inside buildings that are built like mazes with hallways that all look the same. It’s not as easy as using the elevator as you will have to use the stairs to go up, use that elevator to go further down, then use the stairs again to go down further. In between are Free Battles, QTE events, and the occasional boss fight. It’s so tedious and frustrating as there are little dialog quips that are in between repetitive gameplay sections that can’t be skipped and just add to what makes the entire game annoying to play.
Once you get past that third of the game the last third is the exact opposite of the rest of the game. It’s a 2-hour-long cutscene that lets you interact every so often via dialog or running down a few paths, QTEs, and more dialog. Let that sink in for a minute: A 2-hour long cutscene. All you’re doing is going through a forest and mountain pass to get to a village with a local accompanying you. This is also where most of the story unfolds and becomes more interesting.
I have a lot of things to complain about with this game and the series as a whole, but the story is still good enough to keep me trucking along and putting up with the repetitive drawn-out nonsense the game dishes out. Not to mention the several times the game crashed and my progress was set back to my last save. The game itself is just ugly to look at and looks like a slightly updated Dreamcast game in only a few ways. The gameplay style is just so dated, frustrating, and unnecessary to get the story across it wanted. I would have rather had cutscenes and just QTEs in between than these weird gameplay “ideas” thrown in. Sure the game is much larger in scope, but it’s still a linear maze of remembering street and building names and participating in fights.
Overall, Shenmue II is both beautiful and terrible at the same time. It’s a game out of time and should have either been less than the sum of its parts or just a 3D anime feature-length movie. As a game, it just doesn’t need to really exist especially being so dated even at the time of release. It suffers from all the same issues as the first game, and even as an HD port, it still doesn’t look or play well. It’s a very niche game that many gamers will not even get 1/4 through before turning it off for good. It requires an immense amount of patience, time, and forgiveness to enjoy, and sometimes that’s just too much to ask for a game.