The Hazuki Diaries Part One – December 3, 1986

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I had a lot of fun documenting my replay of Phantasy Star Online Ver. 2 on the Dreamcast, so I decided to do it again, but this time with Shenmue! I’m calling it “The Hazuki Diaries” and it’s going to follow the same format of as the Phantasy Star Offline project. I still don’t have a capture card, so all the screens will be taken with my iPhone 4, BUT I recently purchased a VGA cable for my Dreamcast, so the visual quality should be a bit better.

I feel like Shenmue was on my radar since the late-90s when it began showing up in western game magazines as “Virtua Fighter RPG.” I was a day-one Dreamcast owner and I followed the development very closely- from early screens to hands-on impressions to the 10-out-of-10 Official Dreamcast Magazine review, all the way up to the point when I arrived at a Target fifteen minutes before they opened on November 8, 2000 to purchase the game.

Once I had my copy, I found myself completely immersed in Ryo’s world. It felt amazing to explore 1980’s Japan, a land and era I could previously only dream of. When I wasn’t wandering the virtual (Virtua?) streets of Yokusuka, I was sitting in coffee shops with friends discussing (and quoting) the game.

Since that November, I’ve probably started (but not necessarily always finished) Shenmue three or four times (it was my official “winter break” game for a few years). It’s one that I still care a great deal about today, and like many, want to see the series continue/conclude.

Without any further ado, lets travel back to December of 1986, where something is amiss at the Hazuki Dojo…

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Starting this replay with a more critical eye, what struck me most in the opening cutscene was the impressive cinematography on display. In the cuts between Iwao Hazuki’s confrontation with Lan Di and Ryo’s entrance into the dojo, the visual storytelling here is top-notch. Ryo’s flashback nightmare following his father’s murder is haunting, and really builds up Lan Di as a menacing antagonist. While the character models haven’t aged extremely well, the delivery is definitely in the top tier of video game storytelling of the era, right up there with Metal Gear Solid and Final Fantasy. The voice acting, while at times stilted (and almost always poorly-synced), is still above-average in the fledgling pool of fully-voiced console games circa-2000.

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Once I gained control of Ryo, I did what I do every time I play Shenmue– meticulously explore the Hazuki residence.

I started, naturally, with Ryo’s bedroom.

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His dresser was just filled with boring stuff like socks…

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But in his desk there were cooler things, like Master System-branded notebooks, a portable tape player…

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…And Shenmue music tapes to play on it!

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There were also photos, from happier times.

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After exiting Ryo’s room, Ine-san gives him his allowance…

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I found some cool <TIME PARADOX> Sega things, like Virtua Fighter posters…

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…And a Saturn!

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I learned a martial arts technique by reading a scroll found atop a karate gi in a wicker basket…

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…And found a VERY JAPANESE toilet in the restroom.

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I went outside and checked out the koi pond…

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And finally, I questioned a very distraught Fuku-san.

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14 years later and I am still just floored by the sheer amount of detail in the game. For a game world as large as Shenmue’s, I can’t help but be amazed by all the little touches, such as the deliberate and thoughtful item placement in the Hazuki Residence. The game does an incredible job making the characters within the world feel like they’re real people living out real lives, not just functional NPCs. I’ll expand on that concept more in future entries, because it’s impressive and important, and it all begins in the Hazuki Residence…

Next Entry: Kitties! Kids! Hang-On!

Read The Hazuki Diaries Part Two here!

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3 Responses to The Hazuki Diaries Part One – December 3, 1986

  1. Pingback: The Hazuki Diaries Part Two – I’ll Find Lan Di, Just Hang-On | Blue Skies Daily

  2. Pingback: The Hazuki Diaries Part Three – Kickin’ Ass and Feedin’ Cats | Blue Skies Daily

  3. Pingback: The Hazuki Diaries Part Four – Let’s Get Sweaty | Blue Skies Daily

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