Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Combine the Franchise Challenge: Shenmue and Yakuza.

April 3, 2021 by  
Filed under Ent., Opinion, Tech/Internet, Weekly Columns

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(ThyBlackMan.com) It’s always odd when a developer makes a few games that are similar to each other under the same publisher. The same general genre, some of the same developers on the team—hell, even the same art style. Let’s look at a Yakuza and Shenmue and see how they could’ve been in the same franchise.

Yakuza and Shenmue

Before Yu Suzuki left Sega, he developed the Virtua Fighter, Shenmue, Space Harrier, Out Run, Daytona USA, and Virtua Cop to name a few. He’s been around for years and did a ton for Sega.

Yakuza was something of a spiritual successor to Shenmue from the story standpoint but featured much more action. There are few periods of the first two Yakuza games that featured the player doing a lot of nothing.

While it wasn’t intended to be a spiritual successor, the development team featured talents from some of Yu Suzuki’s previous titles. Now that Shenmue is in the hands of Suzuki, we probably won’t see that odd, timeline jeopardizing crossover.

Shenmue and Yakuza - 2021

Let’s Make Them Canon Anyway

The thing is: a crossover could work. Neither series is too outlandish or unrealistic that it would break the other series’ universe and both series are heavy on timelines. Shenmue could’ve easily been a prequel to the events of the first Yakuza game.

Now, the problem here is that Shenmue’s story wasn’t finished when Yakuza game out. If there was an effort to tie both series to the same universe, it would have to come from an appearance by Shenmue’s Ryo Hazuki in a Yakuza game or this odd pre-Yakuza crossover where Kazuma just so happens to be in China.

Even then, what happened between the events of Shenmue III and the Yakuza series that makes all of this fit? I’d say it would have to be a unified threat but that’s still depending on Shenmue’s story making it out of the 80s.

Storyline-wise, Kazuma Kiryu goes to prison at 27—or in 1995. The first game in the series takes place in 2005. Most of Shenmue takes place in 1986 and 1987, each game is part of this extremely slow crawl quest for vengeance.

Not only that, Lan Di is just one of four people who want the Phoenix Mirror. There just doesn’t seem like there’s a period where the two characters would meet without concluding Shenmue’s story.

Would This Game Go Over?

Well, it depends. Shenmue has always had a spot in retro gamers’ hearts but the third entry in the series—which came after many years—was met with mixed reactions.

Honestly, if Sega had continued making Shenmue games and made those exclusive to Xbox and Yakuza exclusive to PlayStation for few years, the story would’ve moved ahead.

Hell, it could’ve seen a much-needed time skip just to have the series run alongside each other before an eventual convergence when Sega started making both games for all major consoles and PC.

Of course, Sega could’ve just as easily made Shenmue for PlayStation only to kind of accompany Yakuza. That would’ve only highlighted the similarities in the series and ramped up a push for a crossover.

That’s where this concept would’ve gone over well: at the crossover. Depending on where Ryo ends up between 1995-2005 storyline-wise, he could’ve easily been a character in Yakuza.

Considering his recklessness but lawful demeanor, I wouldn’t be surprised if he was a cop in that game. If the events of Shenmue took a bad turn, he could’ve ended up in the underworld as a yakuza member or an underground fighter.

The possibilities are endless but it’s all endless on Shenmue’s side. Yakuza isn’t offering any surprises because it moved along at a great, consistent pace for almost 20 years now.

Why Mention A Crossover?

Ultimately, the main reason these two series should be a part of the same franchise is the similarity in gameplay and characters.

Outside of both characters being the same age—they would be 52 by now—there’s nothing that points to the series being related.

What we have here is two games that were once under the same publisher that never crossed over when there was a chance to do so. If Sega had said “We really like Ryo from Shenmue, let’s put him in Yakuza” Sega would’ve found a way to make him fit.

It’s just like if Capcom wanted to it could make Dino Crisis, Resident Evil, and Dead Rising fit.

Actually, that’s an easier example because RE’s evil Umbrella Corporation is always on something odd and sinister. I wouldn’t be surprised if they revived dinosaurs for some reason.

Personally, I think the more “fan speculation” reasons of similar-looking protagonists who are of the same age is a decent reason to explore where this concept could work.

Even though Shenmue was on a console that failed, it was a very popular game and did well on said console (Dreamcast). There was little reason for it not to be continued.

We can’t forget that the story was never concluded. There have been three games and Ryo still hasn’t killed Lan Di and gotten revenge for his father and there are three others aligned with Lan Di.

That story is never going to end.

Staff Writer; M. Swift

This talented writer is also a podcast host, and comic book fan who loves all things old school. One may also find him on Twitter at; metalswift.

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