HIGH Offered an unprecedented level of detail for its time.
LOW The ludicrous maze-like layout of the Yellow Head Building.
WTF The absolutely bonkers left turn Shenmue II takes in its final moments.
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While I didn't grow up in a culture like Ryo's (or Gene's), I have lived in places with many similarities. I can definitely relate to elements in the game that are signatures of non-Western cultures, and appreciate their genuineness. Gene's comment stating "This is a foreign game with foreign concepts" has legitimacy and weight, and it would be wise to keep this in mind before entering the world of Shenmue II.
I grew up in a collectivist society, which stresses community effort and family over the dog-eat-dog individualist philosophy. Both terms are extremely generalized and say little about each culture, but there are subtle things that are the key in determining which is which. I never had much use for directions or street names. Growing up on the small island of Guam, directions were given by indicating landmarks of everyday things, like a tree, blue trimmings on a house or strange looking stones. We had street names, just like they do in Shenmue and its Xbox sequel, but apparently the entire community found that they were more of an inconvenience.
Sega seems to have a theme going lately consisting of games which are extremely original and challenging on many levels, yet strangely, they aren't very much fun to play. Seaman was the first game in the recent trend, and Shenmue is definitely another.
So does the final release of Shenmue live up to all the hype of being the most expensive game ever made and deliver Dreamcast owners onto the promised land of gaming bliss? The answer is yes and no. Shenmue is the Bill Clinton of videogames; extremely ambitious, arguably successful, and yet undoubtedly flawed.