Back when the Dreamcast ruled my life I was pretty much already known as a highly ranked nerd who spent his summer vacations gaming. Classics like Gunstar Heroes
for the Sega, and Zombies Ate My Neighbors
for the SNES had already set a lifelong impression in my life. However, it wasn't until November 16th, 1999 that my gaming experiences reached a new level. I remember ditching school with my older brother to go to the local "Funcoland" (now a Gamestop) and finding it packed with people waiting for the same miracle I was waiting for. We all waited for 4 hours until finally the store clerk opened up 4 boxes while hollering, "This is what you've all been waiting for!" followed by a roar of applause and screams from all the girlfriend-less, stubby men like myself. Shenmue
Going home and popping that sucker in, ignoring the obnoxious loud fan sounds of the Dreamcast, and stuffing my face as quickly as I could before the opening cinema started, the anticipation was nuts. Finally, after starting a new game and checking to see if any cutesy little animations appeared in my D-casts memory card, the opening cinema began! Ryo Hazuki (strange resemblance to my brother by the way) quickly rushed to his home/dojo where he witnessed his father being beaten by a badass wearing Chinese attire asking for the "Dragon Mirror". It was there that I was introduced to Lan Di, the evildoer of the game. After witnessing the groundbreaking realistic graphics, voice overs, and alluring unoriginal storyline, the game began.
This is where my memories of the game really revolve. Running around interacting with every single character in town which all had there own unique personality was amazing. I fell in love with every single character, especially the love interest Nazomi Harasaki. Cute-ass Asian videogame "B". To this day I still remember the awesome characters like Tom Johnson, the Jamaican Rasta who owns a hot dog truck and you always found dancing in the middle of the crowded town shops with his reggae playing boombox beside him. Anyway, this is where most reviewers and fans also were immediately turned off. Apparently running around day by day in videogame time, which was ridiculously realistic by the way, caused the game to pace really slow, and made it unbearably boring to almost all fans. But really, this game was ridiculously good, I didn't give a Sonic figurines' ass what they said about it. I loved it. Meeting every single character was epic. Everyday they had something new to say that would lead to little side missions, or be part of the storyline. The thing about this game is, in order to make certain progress, you had to go to certain places at certain times. Example, one of the most famous parts of the game is where you have to find some sailors. By asking around you'll find out sailors usually hang out at bars. Which bar you ask? Well, that's when you have to hit up every bar in town at night when they're open. And that's IF you don't get side tracked by the town arcade which had a playable Space Harrier
. You could've bought food, cassette tapes, little toy figurines, call people up, practice your fighting, raise a cat, almost anything you imagine doing, you could've done.
The fighting in the game I remember being Virtual Fighter-esqe. Nice tight controls and many moves to learn, discover, and master. The storyline of the game is where it really shined. I played this game over at least 10 times since I bought it in 99. I fell in love with the town and every single character. The QTE (Quick Time Event) that we see in God of War
and other modern masterpieces was invented back with Dragon Lair
, but this game is what introduced it to modern gaming in a whole new way. The fact that this game was so lifelike is what made it epic. Hell, at one point of the game you even had a job as a fork-lift operator. Fucking sick right?!
Bottom line, if you have a Dreamcast, find this game now. I never had an original Xbox to play the sequel, but I would still love to take this one out and play it even today. The story and game was so deep and really, this is the game that got me addicted to gaming (and ended my social life completely back in middle school too.