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On a November day when the snow turned to rain, Ryu Hazuki arrives home just in time to see his father killed by Lan Di, a man Ryu's father obviously knew very well. Ryu attempts to stop Lan Di but is effortlessly beaten to within an inch of his life. After recovering from his injuries Ryu sets out to track down his father's murderer, as well as uncover his family's secrets and the mystery of the Phoenix and Dragon mirrors that Lan Di seeks.

Shenmue is a hybrid game that incorporates elements of life simulation, adventure, and fighting with light role-playing. The game is set in a 3D environment that can be freely explored by the player. Much of the gameplay involves talking to Ryu's friends and the various people around town, hoping to find hints or clues that lead to the next step in the story. Any details Ryu learns are written down in his notebook for future review. Ryu can buy items from stores or try his luck with capsule toy machines, but most items that can be bought have no purpose outside of filling his inventory. Ryu can also visit an arcade and play accurate versions of Hang-On and Space Harrier, as well as games like darts and pool.

Ryu is a trained martial artist, and while a true martial artist knows it is better to avoid a fight, sometimes it is still necessary. Ryu can train his moves, either by repeatedly doing them while training or by sparring with his friend Fuku-san, which constitutes the role-playing element of the game. The fighting system is similar to that of the Virtua Fighter series, although with toned-down air juggling. Ryu's training also gives him heightened reflexes, and sometimes during a cutscene the player will have only a moment to press a button (displayed onscreen) to get Ryu out of danger. Failing an input prompt is not always fatal, but whether Ryu survives or not depends on the danger he was in.

Included with the game is the Shenmue Passport disc. On this disc, players can receive tutorials about various aspects of the game like mini-games or the battle system, watch cutscenes they've already seen in the game, and listen to music from the game. This disc also includes the option to go online to a special site where players can review worldwide mini-game rankings, get hints for the game from Nozomi, review game maps of Yokosuka, trade uncommon items found in the game for even rarer items only available on the passport, and visit the official homepage. This service went offline along with the rest of SegaNet, and all online features are currently impossible to access.


Shenmue Dreamcast Too slow, sucka!
Shenmue Dreamcast Hang On arcade version. Note the "Shenmue" sign added.
Shenmue Dreamcast The game features a day-to-night cycle.
Shenmue Dreamcast Find gambling parlors and try your luck at slots.

Promo Images

Shenmue Screenshot
Shenmue Concept Art
Shenmue Concept Art
Shenmue Screenshot

Alternate Titles

  • "莎木 第一章 橫須賀" -- Chinese spelling (traditional)
  • "シェンムー 一章:横須賀" -- Japanese spelling
  • "Virtua Fighter RPG" -- Working title
  • "Shenmue: Isshō - Yokosuka" -- Full Japanese title
  • "Project Berkley" -- Second working title

Part of the Following Groups

User Reviews

Graphical showcase concealing an average game Unicorn Lynx (181446) 3 Stars3 Stars3 Stars3 Stars3 Stars
An amazing, incomparable experience. Pure genius. AkibaTechno (254) 5 Stars5 Stars5 Stars5 Stars5 Stars
Hello, My Name Is Ryo Hazuki, You Killed My Father Prepare To Die MasterMegid (902) 4.71 Stars4.71 Stars4.71 Stars4.71 Stars4.71 Stars
A work of Art (Capital A intentional) Tom Blackwell (8) 4.67 Stars4.67 Stars4.67 Stars4.67 Stars4.67 Stars
One of the best games ever made. Sycada (191) 4.43 Stars4.43 Stars4.43 Stars4.43 Stars4.43 Stars
The soda-buying simulator Vance (101) 2.29 Stars2.29 Stars2.29 Stars2.29 Stars2.29 Stars
The only reason you need to buy a Dreamcast. Courtland Funke (54) 3.86 Stars3.86 Stars3.86 Stars3.86 Stars3.86 Stars
One of the most realistic games iv'e ever played Goteki45 (352) 5 Stars5 Stars5 Stars5 Stars5 Stars

Critic Reviews

Cincinnati Enquirer Nov 15, 2000 4 Stars4 Stars4 Stars4 Stars 100
GamesFirst! Nov 23, 2000 5 Stars5 Stars5 Stars5 Stars5 Stars 100
Gamezone (Germany) Apr 27, 2001 9.5 out of 10 95 Dec 13, 2001 9.1 out of 10 91
GamePro (US) Nov 24, 2000 4.5 out of 5 90
Bordersdown 2000 9 out of 10 90
Gamekult Nov 20, 2000 8 out of 10 80
Gamezilla Jan 07, 2001 80 out of 100 80
GameSpot Jan 11, 2000 7.8 out of 10 78
RPGFan Jun 22, 2002 68 out of 100 68


Topic # Posts Last Post
I don't think this is a simulation game 1 White Snail (122)
Jan 03, 2021
Clear Game Save 3 GNJMSTR (174)
Jul 03, 2009


1001 Video Games

Shemue appears in the book 1001 Video Games You Must Play Before You Die by General Editor Tony Mott.


In the 2008 Guinness World Records Gamer's Edition, the Dreamcast version of Shenmue is listed as the most expensive game ever to develop at $70 million.


Shenmue started development on the SEGA Saturn. The Dreamcast and Xbox versions of Shenmue II both contain a video of scenes from the Saturn prototype, accessible when you beat the game and save your file. The scenes are impressive given the limited power of the Saturn. The working title was Virtua Fighter RPG and the protagonist Ryo was in fact based on Akira from the Virtua Fighter series.

The game was supposed to be quite longer than what it ended up to be. The game progressed further into Hong Kong and even had flashback sequences were you got to play as young Ryo. Due to time constraints and market pressure the decision was made to cut the game at the point were Ryo sets sail to Hong Kong, however lots of the mentioned sequences were already produced and included in Shenmue 2.


The game takes place in the mid-80s on a definite timeline, but the weather is inaccurate. There is an unlockable mode to play with the actual historical weather for that period of time.


During promotions at Tokyo of the original Dreamcast version Sega used displays featuring real forklifts (as used in the harbour scenes) holding TV's displaying previews of the game.

Mini games

Shenmue features the ability to play Space Harrier and Hang-On, the original 80's arcade games made by Sega. Both games were also created and designed by Yu Suzuki.


Although the game takes places in the 1980´s, Ryo Hazuki has a Sega Saturn hidden under his TV set. Said console was not available in Japan until late November of 1994, but like the references to Sonic, Virtua Fighter and Virtua Racing games, these things have no effect in the game and where included to please Sega fans.

Soundtrack on vinyl LP

In summer 2015, a remastered recordings of the Shenmue soundtrack are released on vinyl LP by Data Discs. The recording contains 13 tracks from the game by the composers Takenobu Mitsuyoshi, Ryuji Iuchi, Osamu Murata and Yuzo Koshiro. The remastering was done by Shawn Hatfield (Audible Oddities). (Sources: Data Discs product description, LP at Discogs)


  • GameSpy
    • 2000 – Dreamcast Game of the Year
Information also contributed by Chris Chidester; David Mackenzie, J. Michael Bottorff, Juan Pablo Bouquet, Karthik KANE, Lain Crowley, Jo, tangledcontrolpads and Vance

Related Web Sites

  • Shenmue Dojo (The biggest Shenmue fansite online with videos, music, artwork and everything else related to this great series.)
  • The Hazuki Dojo (A fansite that contains videos, fan fiction, downloadable material and all kinds of information for the dedicated Shenmue fan.)
  • The Shenmue Legend (Everything you could want from a dedicated Shenmue site plus more. All the info, on all Shenmue topics, no matter how obscure.)
Grant McLellan (622) added Shenmue (Dreamcast) on Mar 29, 2001
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