In the late 1990’s, Yu Suzuki set out to advance video games yet again, Shenmue was originally in development for Sega’s brilliant, yet much maligned Saturn console, but focus shifted onto the next generation hardware and the numerous possibilities that it would offer them. Coining the term F.R.E.E. (Full Reactive Eyes Entertainment), Suzuki set out to deliver a level of freedom unheard of in video games, a fully realised world of day/night cycles, realistic weather, complex AI and full voice acting for even non-playable characters. A world that would simulate other aspects of reality too, from playing games to working a day job. Shenmue was never going to be something that you played, but rather lived, and in that respect, it was a glorious success.
Whilst at its core, the story is a fairly simple tale of revenge ripped straight out of a kung-fu film, but this is also part of its inherent charm and beauty, ably assisted by the incredible Virtua Fighter style combat mechanics and stunning quick time events, Shenmue set the unassailable standard by which all other open world games should be judged. RPGs have always offered character progression, it’s key to the genre,