“I’m locked up here… Please save me!” — Yukiko’s voice
Today was one of those days.
Yu couldn’t run away from his calling any longer. He needed to save Yukiko. In pursuing that calling, he, Chie, and Yosuke, made it to the sixth floor before burning out.
So let’s talk a little bit about Shenmue.
Full disclosure: I haven’t actually played that much Shenmue. A couple hours of the first game, tops. But if there were any time to talk about Shenmue, it would be now. Back on 4/22, I spoke briefly about that Final Fantasy VII remake, and failed to mention that immediately following it was the announcement of a Shenmue 3 Kickstarter campaign. It was a five-minute chunk of delirious wish fulfillment.
If you were to trace the genealogy of Persona 4, then Shenmue would definitely be one of its parents. For the uninitiated, it’s a low-key adventure game from 1999, set in a modest Japanese town. Here’s the hook: a dedication to mundanity in gameplay that its director, Yu Suzuki, dubbed “FREE (Full Reactive Eyes Entertainment).”
Yes, there’s a top-level narrative about avenging your father’s death. But that was never what fascinated me about Shenmue — it was always about the details. The way you had to remember phone numbers you scribbled in your journal. The way you had to watch the main character slowly drink every last drop of soda in his can. The arcade, where you could boot up an emulated version of Space Harrier, and just, you know, play it.
There’s a strain of that running through Persona 4, though it’s far more streamlined. Can you imagine Yu’s day-to-day without the boring parts? School? Basketball practice? Pointless late-night trips to the shrine? Choices like these don’t make for great marketing bullet points, but they add immense amounts of character to both games in question.
It just goes to show that a video game, like any other piece of art, has the potential to grow beyond its roots. The modern indie scene explosion has given us even more games, a lot of them even weirder than Shenmue. This is worth celebrating. Action games are a dime a dozen, but a game that can challenge my expectations? Make me feel things like frustration, boredom, and revulsion, all on purpose? That’s where the real future of creativity in this industry lies, I think.
One of these days, I’ll go back and play those Shenmue games. I’ll play Shenmue 3. I’ll try to support games that follow their own paths. Even if they fail, the game somebody else is inspired to make from that failure might be incredible. It’s an exciting time to care about video games! Get excited!
Oh, and on the morning of 4/24, Kou called up Yu and asked if he wanted to hang out. Yu broke his heart. Maybe when there’s more time. xoxo