Last summer Shenmue parts I and II were finally rereleased on the PS4 and XBox after years of demand for a remaster. Until now, they’d been unavailable on anything besides the Dreamcast and the original XBox. Having them back (and in HD) was a long-overdue move, but could it have been better?
It may sound like asking too much, given how many years of begging it took to just get these games out again. But Sega originally planned to remake the graphics of Shenmue I and II entirely from the ground up. And if you played the HD version recently, you’d know why: early polygon games look horrendous today, especially when they attempt to be as “realistic” as Shenmue.
Eurogamer broke the news and published video footage proving it. A Shenmue remake was actually in development all the way until late 2017. It got far enough to produce several fully rendered versions of the first few areas, as well as some “placeholder” NPCs populating them. Eurogamer hasn’t learned the reason for the cancellation, but they speculate “time constraints” forced them to switch plans. Both the remake and the remastered original were created by the same team.
One unanswered question is how far the Shenmue remake was intended to go. As timeless as Shenmue’s charm is, there are parts of it that haven’t aged well besides the graphics. The controls, for example, are clunky by modern standards and the camera is miserable to work with. Would the remake have been just a new coat of paint, or a complete overhaul?
We’ll never truly know, but at least a new generation can play this game, even if they may not be able to take the blocky visuals seriously.