The discovery of new Shenmue 2 Dreamcast prototypes continues!
If the Dreamcast was no more, it was not dead yet, since one of the console’s best titles was released at the end of Sega’s 128 bits system’s life, Shenmue 2!
A true life simulation, the possibilities in this game were immense. It was the first time that the player felt so free in a game, so free that he could go around in circles for hours contemplating the rich and detailed universe that Yū Suzuki proposed in his video game work!
Shenmue has become a myth for everything it represents. A cost of 47 million dollars (Shenmue 1 and 2), the end of the "manufacturer" era for Sega, an unfinished saga... and a game that was simply exceptional, because it was ahead of its time and shook up everything shook up everyone’s expectations.
Originally, Shenmue I and Shenmue II were intended to be a single game. The scale of development and Sega's need to offer a Killer-App (a game that justifies the purchase of a console on its own) on Dreamcast as soon as possible forced Yū Suzuki and his team to release the first Shenmue Chapter One: Yokosuka in late 1999. It was in September 2001, after a long wait, that longtime fans of the license were able to discover the continuation of young Ryo Hazuki’s adventures.
The development of Shenmue started in 1995 with a technical demo called "The Old Man and the Peach Tree". Initially planned for Saturn, it will be moved to Dreamcast in 1997. The AM2 programmers thought that it would be very easy to fit all the code into a GD-ROM. But it turned out to be a real headache. At one point, the game required 20 times more space than the Dreamcast could offer.
The name of the hero, Ryo Hazuki, was decided only late. In fact, the team chose this name just before the game's announcement conference. The day before, Eigo Kasahara (Creative Producer) received a call from Yū Suzuki inviting him to visit the offices of AM2’s boss. When he arrived there, he found himself facing a board with two names: Ryo Hazuki and Ryo Kamizaki. It is finally the first one who was chosen.
Still looking for the terrible and enigmatic murderer of his father, Ryo Hazuki took the liner that would lead him to Hong Kong. This is where the story of this second episode began...
In this city of 7 million people, you had to search for clues and crucial information, by questioning passers-by (NPCs) going about their business, to unravel this dark story of assassination. The freedom of action facilitated the immersion in this epic tinged with mystery and spiced up with merciless street fights.
The game also led the player, through Ryo's eyes, to visit the citadel of Kownloon before ending in a climax in the green plains of Guilin, still in China. The story of Shenmue II ended with the meeting with Shenhua which was not a coincidence. They were destined to meet. The importance of this young Chinese girl from the village of Bailu will finally be revealed in Shenmue 3, 17 years later!!!
The Japanese prototype (June 07, 2001)
It is important to know that the comparison of the files was made with the Japanese commercial version or with the beta of Shenmue II used during the event called "Game Jam". To study the differences of the build visible to the naked eye, the American Unreleased version of Shenmue 2 was of great help. You will find below the following Shenmue 2 prototype (everything is linked):
American Unreleased version of Shenmue 2 Dreamcast: This American prototype was close to being finalized. It includes two Debug Menus which are explained, in detail, in this article. The FLAG and STEP systems are also examined with the writing of an instruction manual to use them.
Japanese Game Jam version of Shenmue 2 Dreamcast: This early prototype of Shenmue II has been thoroughly documented and analyzed in this article. The dissimilarities are numerous. Surprising discoveries were made such as the remaining text dialogues of the Miao village (map cut during the development of the title) and the modeling of Yū Suzuki, in person, in the game. New Debug features also make their appearance.
Ready for an epic adventure?
By performing a content analysis of the prototype, the build was created on May 31, 2001 at 15:27:29. By relying on the last modification of the files with the GD-ROM Explorer tool, the date is June 7th 2001 at 16:49:52. This Japanese prototype of Shenmue 2 would have been burned about 1 month before the final Japanese version being July 16, 2001 at 07:21:16.
The executable of the prototype, the 1_READ, is the largest known to date. It is 100 kb larger than the Shenmue 2 Game Jam and 9 kb larger than the final version of the game.
The Debug Menu 2 (the in-game one) has disappeared in this prototype version, although it is active in an almost final European build that will also be presented below.
A hidden website, where?
The prototype allows to load saves from the japanese commercial version.
Between the Game Jam version of Shenmue 2 and this one, the developers have cleaned up the files related to the dialogues of the Miao village, although there are still some left (like for OSY, the priest).
The "EVENT" directory is empty when it should contain 3 files ending with .EV3.
The NPCs have gone crazy!
The hidden website, which can be consulted by inserting the GD-Rom in the CD-Rom drive of a computer, will be modified until the release of the game on the Japanese territory, for example with a word in hiragana transformed into kanji, and the typography in capital letters changing.
The daily life of the NPCs was not yet perfectly settled. For example, by going to the General Store on Queen St, Ryo can create a non-player character traffic jam.
When playing the prototype on a real Dreamcast, the game slows down more often than usual.
A bag Made In Missing textures
It's not time to sleep!!!
The old look of Bear Norton
The game suffers from minor brightness problems. Elements on the screen are sometimes darker, other times brighter than on the commercial version. This is mainly felt on the skin of individuals.
Let there be light and there was light!
Shenmue is known for its bugs and glitches that can occur when you least expect it. This prototype is no exception to the rule with, sometimes, textures not loading (maybe due to the emulator).
The boat, during the introduction sequence, takes a slightly unusual trajectory. This anomaly, which is also found in the Game Jam build, had escaped us.
Hong Kong here I come!
Normally, after a well-deserved night's sleep, the game allows the player to resume at the place where he was the day before. The prototype does not display the message that allows you to choose between teleporting to the last place you visited yesterday or resuming from here.
Bear Norton's model (NPC) is still the same design as he was in the Game Jam prototype (which is different from the final). So must have been a very last minute change!
As for the look of some NPCs, some location entries still have the same name as in the Game Jam beta and not the name of the final version. The changes were made late in the development of Shenmue II. For example, the misspelling of "Happines" for "Happines Buddhist Altar Shop" has still not been corrected to "Happiness".
Some issues in the Shenmue 2 Game Jam prototype are still there, they have not been solved yet. Therefore, they have not been documented in the analysis of this new beta of June 7th 2001. Only the specific features of this prototype, the most important ones or those forgotten in the Game Jam build have been mentioned above.
You can download this japanese build of Shenmue 2 Dreamcast disc 1 below:
Important: Only disc 1, out of the 4, was found.
The European prototype (Oct 03, 2001)
The date of this PAL prototype of Shenmue II is October 3, 2001 at 13:43:17. This European build of Yū Suzuki's game was made 21 days before the final PAL version being October 24, 2001 at 17:13:45.
Scanning of disc number 4 was unsuccessful, the executable was damaged. Fortunately, the 1ST_READs are the same for all GD-Roms. It could finally be repaired.
The differences are few. It is certainly only a matter of code optimization.
The Debug Menu 2, the one accessible in game with a controller plugged in the D port of the console, is present in this prototype.
A new feature in Debug Menu 2 has appeared. When activated, in the upper right corner of the screen, several letters may appear. Here is, by deduction, their hypothetical meaning:
N = When the game is in 50Hz mode
X = When the game is in 60Hz mode
V = When the game is in VGA mode
P = At the TV setting screen
You can download this European build of Shenmue 2 Dreamcast below:
Shenmue 2 Pal (Oct 03, 2001 Prototype) Disc 1
Shenmue 2 Pal (Oct 03, 2001 Prototype) Disc 2
Shenmue 2 Pal (Oct 03, 2001 Prototype) Disc 3
Shenmue 2 Pal (Oct 03, 2001 Prototype) Disc 4
I am not able to share the ISO of this prototype, maybe in the future. I can however talk about it and show you some photos.
Special thanks to:
LemonHaze of the "Shenmue: Dragon & Phoenix Collection" project for the meticulous digging and the long Reverse Engineering work undertaken.
Jérome Firon for the correction of the French text.
Vince for the correction of the English text.
Prototype related to Shenmue: Unreleased US version de Shenmue 2 (Sep 14, 2001 prototype) - Shenmue Face Demo (Jul 19, 1999 Dreamcast prototype) - Shenmue II Game Jam ((Apr 11,2001 Dreamcast prototype) - Shenmue 2 JP (June 07, 2001 Dreamcast prototype) - Shenmue 2 PAL (Oct 03, 2001 Dreamcast prototype