As the second part of the bundled Shenmue 1 & 2 ‘remastered’ package, Sega’s Shenmue 2 has been long-awaited and fans of the cult hit have been jumping for joy at its release. Taking place immediately after the events of Shenmue 1, Shenmue 2 continues Ryo’s journey as he hits the shores of a brave new world full of intrigue, adventure, and a host of new minigames. More so than in the first title, Shenmue 2’s upgraded visuals are far more noticeable (and appreciated), but the real winner is in the dubbing. The original release, in some regions, was Japanese dubbed with English subtitles, whereas the rereleased port contains the English audio. These (and a number of other) quality of life improvements make Shenmue 2 feel a far more complete and immersive gameplay experience.
Right from the get-go it is easy to tell that not only is Shenmue 2 better looking, but it also sounds *MUCH* better. However… Saying that the game sounds better than Shenmue 1 is not saying much at all, given how bloody poor the audio sounded. Thinking about Shenmue 1’s audio makes me angry, especially given that the actual tracks are pretty rock solid. Shenmue 2, like its predecessor, has an absolutely amazing soundtrack and with the better quality audio the mix between stunning music and poor voice-over audio has been lessened, so it is not nearly as jarring, though there is still a muffled aspect to it, the voiceover is still better. It sounds, too, that the voice actors had matured a bit between Shenmue 1’s release and Shenmue 2’s release, as it feels less like the actors are simply reading a script and more like they are an actual part of the script.
Did I mention the music? Because the music is bloody fantastic. I would most certainly purchase it on vinyl (as that is a current trend in gaming music, and one I hope does not go away).
The upgraded visuals also provide some bloom effects as lighting is far nicer than in the original release, even adding lensflares and sine extra tasty shadows. The higher resolution textures really pop and though the models and animations are a bit wooden by today’s standards, would be a downright knockout to titles released even as late as 4 or 5 years ago. Given the visual upgrade that Shenmue 2 has received, I absolutely cannot wait for Shenmue 3’s eventual release. Though … I will *not* be looking forward to all the bloody Quicktime Events. I seriously hate them, though in Shenmue 2’s defense, since it performs quite a bit better than Shenmue 1, they are not nearly as problematic.
Perhaps due to the lighting and texture upgrades, but Shenmue 2 feels “brighter” than the dark, grungy atmosphere of Shenmue 1. While you may spend a number of hours (or more like a ton of hours) in dark alleyways and under the cover of night, the more open alleys / areas in Shenmue 2 seem to take a bit away from the “grunge” feel that was prevalent in the first game. Where alleyways were narrow and rough around the edges in Shenmue 1, they are now more open and airy, less oppressive (even though the realistic locale in Shenmue 2 is indeed more narrowly packed than the locations in the first title). A large part of what I found most inviting in Shenmue 1 was how uninviting it actually felt whereas with Shenmue 2’s more open atmospheres feel a little to “warm and fuzzy.” However that does not detract from how *alive* the game feels at times. Granted the larger spaces seem less packed with NPCs, they still felt far more alive than many games, certainly more so than any that were released in 2002.