Shenmue (Dreamcast)  1999


Advanced open world game - simulating aspects of real life through the game, such as the day-night-sleep system, real time variable weather effects (unheard of in a game of this kind at the time), simulation of various interactive elements such as vending machines, arcades, and convenience stores, first modern Quick Time Event


Gameplay video

pictures from manual


pictures from strategy guide

Sega Dreamcast
Sega Dreamcast console

Earliest Magazine preview - Games Master (1999)

Magazine preview - (Arcade) (2000-01)

Magazine review - (Arcade) (2000-02)

Magazine review- Electronic Gaming Monthly (1999)

Magazine preview - Computer and videogames (1999)

Magazine review - Computer and videogames (2000)

Magazine review - Computer and videogames (2001)

1) Featured first "game inside the game" - full versions of Sega arcade games Space Harrier and Hang-On (both originally programmed by Shenmue creator and director, Yu Suzuki) (Later this feature appeared in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas).
2) Shenmue's director Yu Suzuki is credited with coining the phrase "Quick Time Event", which were included in the game as to provide "a fusion of gameplay and movie" and create cinematic experience to the player. (First game with that function was Dragon's Lair (1983). The game's manual called them "quick timer events", but the phrase became popularized as "quick time events" since its release. Since this period, several other games on modern console and game systems have included QTEs or similar mechanics, including popular action games such as Resident Evil 4.)
3) It was the most expensive video game at the time- it actually cost $47 million to develop, which is equivalent to $67 million in 2015. it was world record until Grand Theft Auto 4 (2008) - $100 million.
4) Weather system: Shenmue incorporates a system to produce the game's in-universe weather conditions. Named the Magic Weather System, it is one of the most important elements responsible for creating the game's universe. For every day that the player progresses through, weather conditions are randomly generated. Conditions vary from rain, to snow, to overcast skies to sunny and several other variations. Furthermore, weather can change throughout the day - for example, a rainy morning followed by an overcast afternoon and evening. The weather has direct impact on how the game looks - on a rainy day, people are walking around with umbrellas, and on a snowy day, the street is covered with snow. (Later this feature appeared in Grand Theft Auto 3),
5) Shenmue was called Virtua Fighter RPG in the early stages of development and features a Virtua Fighter-like fighting system and in-game Virtua Fighter memorabilia (such as capsule machine toys of the characters). Suzuki (developer of both games) has said numerous times that he used the series' main character, Akira Yuki, as the main influence in the main character Ryo Hazuki. Throughout the game and its sequel, there are several characters whose appearances and fighting styles closely match those of the Virtua Fighter series.
6) Initially, Shenmue was planned as a killer application for the Sega Saturn. Although it was very powerful for its time, the Saturn was also notoriously difficult to work with and progress was painstakingly slow. Yu Suzuki has stated how gruelingly difficult it was to get the most from the Saturn, but that he is very proud of the visual quality he was able to achieve on the 32-bit system. The project started on Saturn as a mix between Virtua Fighter and a role-playing game, but following the console's commercial collapse internationally, the project, on which AM2 worked for almost two years,was halted. However, Sega was already beginning work on a brand-new console (which during the early stages of its development was called the Katana, later renamed to its commercial name "Dreamcast") and work on Shenmue quickly resumed, with the new system as its format. "Katana" brand cigarettes can be found throughout the game, as homage to the former name.
7) The voice acting in Shenmue was ground-breaking as it was one of the first large scale games to include real voices for every single non-playable character in the game world and not just resorting to text transcriptions, as was common in video games at the time.
8) IGN  praised the game for the "solid" gameplay and graphics, the "huge" and "realistic virtual world" that "has never been realized till now," the "immense environments" where "you are free to roam almost every where," the "gripping storyline," and some "of the best music, if not the best," they "heard." They noted "it's impossible to do all the things you want to do in this game on your first run" and concluded it "is one of the few games where you will want to play it again".
9) Gaming Target, which gave the game a perfect score of 10 out of 10, described Shenmue's visuals as the "greatest in-game graphics that have ever been seen for a console".
10) RPG Fan, wrote that Shenmue "is truly a benchmark game. The world and its complexity is flawless, easily the most impressive, real, and interactive world I've ever seen."
11) The Sega Saturn version included the plot of both the first and second games at the very least, and although the full extent may never be known, a significant portion of the budget quoted for Shenmue was used on resources for future chapters, and the characters, plot and environments/gameplay of at least the entire second game existed in rough form before the first game was released.
12) The game's large interactive environments, wealth of options, level of detail and the scope of its urban open world exploration has been compared to later open world games Grand Theft Auto 3 and its sequels.
13) On April 30, 2013, M! Games, the leading game magazine in Germany, announced on their website,, that it will hold a tournament poll called "Bundesspielewahl 2013" (which translates "Federal Games Election" 2013) on the site to determine "The #1 Ultimate Best Game of All Time" with 128 video games competing, including Shenmue. From May to September, Shenmue beat Super Mario 64 in the final match to become the Bundesspielewahl 2013 tournament winner.
14) Yu Suzuki originally wrote Shenmue with 16 chapters and originally intended to have the series span 4-5 games. However, with only moderate success achieved with Shenmue (Chapter 1), Shenmue 2 contained chapters 3-5 in one game and some parts of the intended game were cut out. The time Ryo spends on the ship traveling from Japan to Hong Kong was meant to be part of the game (Chapter 2).

15)  Altought there is more modern (free roam) style open world games existed in 1998 (Mizzurna Falls), Shenmue is a far more graphically advanced.

16) Shenmue used motion capture for all characters.

17) Emulated in: NullDC. Windows version was released in 2019.

18) In the Beta version of the game you can ride fully functional bike, first in open world games (it was deleted) (see picture below). Bikes feautured first only in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas (2004).

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