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“How to end Shenmue” by Blazehedgehog

Came across this conversation discussing Shenmue and I feel it has some interesting points. Thoughts?


Anonymous asked:

if it were up to you, how would you end the story of shenmue? would you tell it through anime, manga, game(oof), book, or something else? would you try to follow yuzuki's original vision of 15 long chapters, or just simplify the story to get to the point? would you go for the obvious ending of ryo not letting revenge cloud his judgement, or do something unexpected? who would you have live and who would die? this is assuming we ignore shenmue 3 by the way.

blazehedgehog answered:

This is spoiling part of the unproduced Shenmue video I wrote a few years ago, but I don’t think Shenmue is a story that can be told in any other format than a video game. I know that Shenmue has a lot of cutscenes in it, so it feels pretty easy to lump it in to the same camp as something like a Hideo Kojima game, or a Naughty Dog game, or whatever, where they are trying to make movies that have gameplay.

But Shenmue isn’t like that. Shenmue is written to be a video game. That’s the point. It is trying to build a connection with the player by making a game that dares to be boring on purpose.

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I haven’t played Shenmue 3 yet (soon, hopefully), but I imagine the overall story of Shenmue will actually turn out to be very simple. Shenmue 2 was already moving in the direction of this being a very standard kung-fu action movie story. I predict the whole plot will be that Ryo seeks revenge, trains up to become a deadly fighter, but learns that revenge is bad actually, and has a chance to end a cycle of violence that has been perpetrated for generations.

The simplicity of that story is nothing without the long, winding road Shenmue will take to get there. Like I said, the point is that it’s boring, because it’s trying to use the routine of life to form a bond, in kind of a weird sort of “Are you bored? Ryo’s bored, too” way. The game’s whole marketing was centered around this idea that

. The ultimate in immersion, because for once, it wasn’t a game about non-stop action and fantasy. It was a game about all the boring stuff most stories never usually show.

If you take out all the boring stuff and simplify things then you’re just left with a very basic, boilerplate story. That story only has impact if you’re hypnotized by Shenmue’s deliberately mundane structure. It has to be long and boring and have a million unimportant characters and tiny subplots because it’s supposed to be this grueling saga where you’re with Ryo every inch of every step from beginning to end, even if it's during moments that are totally meaningless. Because those moments are what life is. Shenmue is sort of like Yu Suzuki trying to cram an action game in to the structure of Animal Crossing.

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That way, when you come back to Yokosuka near the end of the story, and Ryo checks up on Ine-san, you see how much everything has changed. Tom’s Hot Dog Cart isn’t there anymore. The theater that was being renovated has been finished and is now a place you can go to recap previous episodes of the Shenmue story. Ine-san has died of old age, and Fuku-san has taken over the Hazuki dojo, and he owes some local thugs a lot of money. And you have this moment of “I have been away from home for so many years that I don’t even recognize this place anymore.” Because it’s true. You’re different, Ryo is different, and the home you shared is different.

That feeling is (or would be) the perfect encapsulation of what Shenmue was trying to do.


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