“There were just way too many issues.”
“As a developer on the original games, the last thing I wanted for the re-release [of Shenmue I & II] is for them to be worse than the originals,” Sega’s Eigo Kasahara said during Tech Japan’s Tokyo Game Show 2018 live stream.
Sadly, that is pretty much what happened with the Western release of Shenmue I & II. The game released for PS4/Xbox One/PC (Steam) on August 21 in North America and Europe, and while it received generally favorable reviews and positive fan feedback, the port was far from perfect. Sega released a day-one-patch, but Shenmue I & II still suffered from numerous bugs, including sound and graphics glitches, cutscenes not playing correctly, swapped button issues, training progress not being saved and much more.
Sega Europe has been asking early adopters of the game to notify them of bugs on Twitter. “As with any game release, you may encounter some bugs,” the tweet says. Maybe to some extent, but I find it hard to think of any other recent release with more bugs than Shenmue I & II. The bug thread on fansite Shenmue Dojo’s forum is 37 pages long, with 83 bugs reported for the PS4 version alone as of September 10. These are all bugs that were not present in the original Dreamcast and Xbox versions. Sega is releasing new patches at a steady pace, but it still has a long way to go.
I’ve been putting up a fight with the overseas studio that developed it, insisting that they fix everything. If they tell me they can’t fix something, I tell them to fix it anyway.
As someone based in Japan, I was a bit disappointed when I first heard that the Japanese version would release on November 22, more than three months after the Western version. But after playing a European copy of the re-release, I can see why Sega Japan could have made that decision. I feel sorry for Kasahara, a man who shows pride in having worked on one of the most influential games of its time.
Kasahara told me that development on Shenmue originally started in 1994. It took Yu Suzuki and his 200-strong team more than five years to complete the martial-arts epic, which is today remembered as a pioneering title for the open-world genre.
As the planning director, Kasahara was a key member of the original development team. 20 years later, director Suzuki is long gone (working on Shenmue III at his own studio) and Kasahara is now the main spokesperson for the series at Sega. During TGS 2018, Kasahara appeared on stage events and answered interviews about a game he made back in the 1990s.
The Shenmue I & II re-release was a project pitched by Sega Europe, and developed by British studio D3T. Kasahara is involved as the localization producer, trying to make the Japanese version as true to the originals as possible, but progress has not been as smooth as he might have hoped.
When we asked about the current situation of the Western release and the bugs that came with it, Kasahara did not hesitate to show his frustrations. “There were just way too many issues,” he said sternly.
“I’ve been putting up a fight with the overseas studio that developed it, insisting that they fix everything. If they tell me they can’t fix something, I tell them to fix it anyway.”
Kasahara says that he will continue his “fight” with D3T until the game reaches the state where the only bugs left are those that were already in the original.
Esra Krabbe is an editor at Tech Japan. At TGS 2018, Sega officially awarded him the title of “Shenmue Respect Champion” during a live stage event. Follow him on Twitter.