For a period of months after its release, I confess having been utterly fascinated by Cosmic Smash, an epitome among SEGA arcade titles that fortunately found its way to the home system in a pixel perfect conversion. This craze, if we may call it as such, drove me to the creation of a flash website (during the days when I still ventured myself into that) where I placed a few track excerpts in the Gallery section. Stylish, refreshing, obstinately simple and devoid of any superfluous options or game modes, Cosmic Smash’s patent intensity derives in good measure from its enticing soundtrack.
Thanks to the people at Go-Go-OST, a growing blog specializing in very specific game soundtracks, the original music has been snatched from the game disc into a convenient high-quality MP3 format. It felt exceptionally well to return to the game once more, which is why I kindly ask all visitors to drop by the blog in return for their considerate gesture and explore their unique collection. I personally recommend a very opportune Hideki Naganuma Collection featuring superbly pulsing themes from Jet Set Radio and Sonic Rush.
Presenting Shenmue Gai, or the fall of the Shenmue prestige
Excellence often comes at the expense of ignominy, a rule which seems to apply just as easily to video games as it does to the various fields of artistic creation. In my travels through the ages of videogames past I’ve witnessed much anguish as I verified that the passage of time had left so many a precious stone left unturned, mistaken for mere pebbles covered by soil. As an exercise, the retrieving of ageless wonders has validated the existence of different publications that actively feed on these rediscoveries, given the obvious inclusion of this my fragmented journal in the lowest stratum of this group. The mention of a word like Shenmue, however, is not fit for a category of truly abandoned videoludic memories: its sound echoing so often in ordinary discussions and debates regarding these matters. The recurrent reassessment of Suzuki’s game, often coupled with the innermost appeal that the open narrative might one day reach a conclusion, has placed the game in an even more uncomfortable position than the average unsung title: flawed as it may be, Shenmue is an unavoidable mishap in the maturation of videogames from a once quirky and forgivable nature into the attaining of higher purposes not yet understood nor revered from the standpoint of the common lay gamer.
On this very day, the official announcement pertaining a newly developed title bearing the name of that two-episode series took place as hinted by the plausible news already circulating the internet for over a month. The dreaded delusion turned palpable and readily available worldwide via USTREAM: Yu Suzuki - what Jupiter - has descended upon us mere mortals of the evolving digital age, so he could announce his next endeavor. After (how) many years (?) of absolute retreat and silence, during the which his voice would undoubtedly instill change or peace of mind unto us all. No true sequel of Shenmue could be announced; this day we know that much to be factual. Instead, the absent Suzuki returned with a concept which seems to undermine the very principles with which he elevated his decade-long effort, returning to a degree of futility to which even most of his coin-op action Suzuki Works escaped.
As it turns out, Shenmue City is to become a Social Network Software built with Mobage town cellphone service and Yahoo! Mobage service for personal computers in mind (as certified by earlier news, which at least contributed in mitigating the disappointment factor). Willing players all across Japan who may desire to take part of the adventure will assume the role of a fellow student of the stoic hero, Hazuki Ryo, during the course of the events portrayed in the first Shenmue episode. In the simplified interface version of Yokosuka, they may be taking assignments and employ martial art techniques under a neatly arranged structure of “mission search”, “event” and “kung-fu” options readily available from the menu. When the procedure is repeated enough times, the player is allowed to build his own dojo where he may challenge other players for battles; collecting figurines is also a possibility together with the acquisition of a player-dedicated space in the “Game Center You”. Additionally, the resuscitated Suzuki expects adherents to make much use of the inter-player messaging service, trading impressions or merely taunting one another. For some brief moments, as these features were being unveiled during the conference, many may have conjured in their minds the sight of a vapid version of the abandoned Shenmue Online blueprint, now on the threshold of being delivered.
Contrary to even the wildest of predictions, Shenmue is now associated with the respectable Chunsoft brand, as well as DeNA and apparently SEGA, whose participation in this gathering is in part due to matters of IP rights. As if the sight of a blue logo wasn’t enough, Suzuki also revived another myth in the form of the actor Hiroshi Fujioka, a face forever associated with the wounded company on cause of a celebrated Sugata Sanshiro burlesque, if not for having bestowed his voice to the character of Iwao Hazuki (the deceased father of Ryo). This press release culminated with a moment granted to journalists who naturally made inquiries regarding the feasibility of a veritable Shenmue sequel, to which the designer answered he could make no pledges. In all, the prevailing sensation is that Suzuki is inclined towards the creation of a conclusion to the series, originally composed of 16 episodes but said to have been abbreviated into 11, most of which were already covered with Shenmue and Shenmue II. Notwithstanding, it’s not certain whether this hypothetical segue will assume the form of a game proper.
Such developments are prone to inflate the expectations among the followers of the Dreamcast titles who had, meanwhile, conformed with the idea that the narrative of their favorite game might forever remain ongoing. While it’s understandable that such a powerful story begs to be completed, for the cliffhanger finale of Shenmue II was perhaps too cruel to bear, it can’t be denied that there’s an enormous responsibility implied in this feat - and one requiring a tremendously tactful approach so that the true destiny of Ryo may be fulfilled as originally intended. Inasmuch as this announcement may have been welcomed by desperate followers, the ambition of a prosperous outcome itself may blind the sight of the actual circumstances: the few respectable ways in which the series could begin anew do lack reasonable likelihood due to the insupportable magnitude of such a production; and the existing alternatives are manifestly insufficient to dignify the memory of what may arguably be the most intrepid game creation of all.
During this weekend, Japanese game players from Osaka had the rare chance to meet some of the latest offers proposed by national game-creation studios and, even, a few ones from North-American developers as was the misplaced case of EA. As if the debate concerning a possible crisis in the field of game creation in Japan wasn’t enough to worry any supporter of time-honored traditional methods, we now see an otherwise Nippon-only fair space being guiltlessly invaded by North-American giants as Microsoft ( with the famed Kinect ) and Electronic Arts.
To an extent, this did not influence the presentation of interesting titles being developed at the moment by studios that have not yet been charmed by the popular byproducts from across the Pacific. From the different new projects presented during the fair, all special attention goes to Zettai Zetsumei Toshi 4 whose 10-minute demo was entirely playable and already laying claim on its 3D pledge. Additionally, Sola to Robo was also present and caused some rather positive reactions from players, as did Virtual-On - which, of course, was at an advantage due to the twin arcade sticks with which it could be played. Chunsoft was also present with its new assured DS hit Zombidaisuki, which always reminds me of what Mother 2 would look like were it invaded by the foul walking dead. And finally, as expected, Kenka Banchou 5 was presented almost in the quality of a finished product, together with DanganRonpa, the game that stirred the Spike corner. Sony ended up monopolizing most of the attentions with its fully playable build of Gran Turismo 5, one of the most anticipated games from Japan this year; but also reinvigorated the Saru Getchu series with a questionable new Move-based episode.