Shenmue (1999), produced by Toshihiro Nagoshi and directed by Yu Suzuki, is a SEGA action adventure beat-em-up game which takes place in 1986 Japan in Yokosuka. The story follows a teenage martial artist Ryo Hazuki in his search to claim revenge for his father who was robbed of the “Dragon Mirror”, a stone artifact that was buried right outside his family’s dojo. The game shows foundational and fundamental similarities towards a future project that producer Toshihiro Nagoshi would try and push called Yakuza.
The game’s developer and creator Yu Suzuki was an arcade game designer who, after testing and creating the gameplay systems for fighting, talking, and the 3rd person camera, set out to create Shenmue for the SEGA Dreamcast. This game was revolutionary in terms of gameplay and genre, with the company even titling the genre “full reactive eyes entertainment”or “FREE”. This game was a success for the company and would later have two sequels released, with Suzuki saying the games were only 40% of the story.
With lead designer Eigo Kasahara, programmer Keiji Okayasu, and artist Masanori Ohe, the development of (at the time) the most realistic depiction of an actual town or place in a game was able to be realized. These three also would pioneer the mechanics and world building elements that would later be implemented into SEGA’s arguably biggest IP, Yakuza. Shenmue was praised for its graphics at the time and would later go on to be credited with the creation of quick time events (moments in game where a player must press a controller input before the time runs out) and the open world, being able to interact with non-playable characters and learn more about the world.