When I bought the Shenmue I&II pack, my intention was to play them just before Shenmue III came out. Only, I didn’t start II right after I because III had been delayed. Fast forward a bit and the actual release of Shenmue III is suddenly almost here, and I hadn’t started II! So I did that.
As I mentioned when I played Shenmue I around this time last year, I didn’t remember Shenmue II as well as the first game, and when I came to play it, I was right. I recalled the bit where you get off the boat, some of the Hong Kong harbour, having to find the Four Wude (but none of the detail in doing so), being chased by Dou Niu at some point in Kowloon, and a very, very long walk with Shenhua. I didn’t remember Wong, Ren or Xiuying, all of whom play massive parts in the game. I didn’t remember the street fights and the scout in Kowloon. I had totally forgotten about how you meet Shenhua and that you end up at her house, and – somehow – I forgot the hilarious tape you listen to from the wiretapper. I’d also forgotten, spoilers, about Shenhua’s powers.
Compared to the first game, there are a lot of improvements. Maps for each area are portable and overlaid, you can wait until the right time (most of the time), and the graphics are much improved. The latter point may be because this is a port of the Xbox version rather than the Dreamcast, however. The audio sounds less muffled too, perhaps for the same reason. It’s a bigger game as well, both in terms of scope (with three main, very different, locations) and length (it’s nearly twice as long). There appears to be a lot more in the way of QTEs, however, and some of them, such as the plank walking one, are pretty brutal. Having a sequence of complicated ones after the long slog to fight Dou Niu, only have to fight him again if you miss any one of them, is especially cruel.
But, it’s a great game. For all the repeating floors in the Kowloon buildings, and the never ending “Shenhua?”/”Nani?” conversation, and the worse-than-forklifts book airing section, it’s a gripping tale and I can’t wait to get into Shenmue III now. Please don’t let me and my £270 pledge down, Suzuki-san.