A work of Art (Capital A intentional)
This game is full of firsts. Let me count the ways:
1. It's the first dubbed game I have ever played where I didn't feel compelled to assemble an elite cadre of ninja to hunt down and punish the voice actors for their crimes. It's bad, but oddly fitting. Ryo's speech is stiff and stilted, but so's he. His mom's voice is grating yet forgettable, and so's she. In fact throughout the whole game Ryo is either ignoring his mother, or trying to wheedle cash out of her. If the CAPalert guy did video games, he'd have a heyday with this one.
2. This is the first game I have ever played where I can honestly say I was engaged and enthralled driving a forklift around all day. Granted, it's the first one that's ever tried, but that's beside the point.
3. It's also the first one in which I got my throat sliced by a small gang of japanese schoolgirls. Why this doesn't happen in more games, perhaps I'll never understand.
Though I loved the idea of upgrading Ryo's moves on a daily basis, I found the system confusing. I never found out whether your moves improve through practice or through that menu you get every night. I assume it's a combination of the two.
The Bottom Line
Most important, of course, is the reality of this game. I rented it, and had to play it for three days straight to beat it in time to return it. Upon quitting, I found myself constantly comparing reality to the game engine. At times, I found Shenmue to be superior. If that doesn't justify purchasing it, I don't know what does.