Following from where Shenmue left off, the third chapter of the Shenmue saga (The second chapter is released as a side story manga) begins with Ryo arriving in Hong Kong and searches for Master Tao Lishao, as he was instructed to do by his friend, Master Chen Yaowen. This mysterious and elusive individual is Ryo’s only possible link to the whereabouts of Zhu Yuanda, a martial arts expert who sent Iwao Hazuki a letter which arrived too late warning of his impending murder at the hands of Lan Di. After a difficult search, Ryo finally meets Master Tao Lishao, a woman named Hong Xiuying; but she is unwilling to assist him in what she considers a futile quest for vengeance against Lan Di. The two part ways, although Xiuying continues to monitor Ryo’s progress and they continue to meet on occasion. Through his continued search, Ryo discovers another individual, Ren Wuying, who may be able to assist him in locating Zhu Yuanda. Ren Wuying is the leader of a gang named The Heavens, who engage in a variety of illegal activities. A young boy who holds Ren in high regard named Wong and an adventurous and free-spirited woman named Joy also befriend and assist Ryo in his journey. After initially attempting to wile Ryo, Ren decides to assist him in his quest after discovering that there are large sums of money tied up in the mysterious and ancient Phoenix Mirror. Ren also informs Ryo that Zhu Yuanda is hiding in Kowloon, making it Ryo’s next point of destination.
At the start of the fourth chapter, Ryo arrives in Kowloon and starts his quest to locate Zhu Yuanda, who is hiding there from Lan Di and the Chi You Men. At this juncture, several confrontations ensue between Ryo and his allies and the dangerous Yellow Head organization, who are aiming to kidnap Zhu Yuanda on behalf of Lan Di. After following several clues, Ryo and Ren finally find Zhu Yuanda; however, the meeting is cut short when they are ambushed by the Yellow Head leader, Dou Niu, and Zhu is kidnapped in the resulting encounter. Eventually, Ryo and his allies discover that Zhu Yuanda is being held at the Yellow Head Building and they go in to infiltrate the building to save him. Along the way, Wong and Joy were captured. Ryo saves Joy through his victory against a powerful martial artist named Baihu. Joy tells Ryo that Wong is taken to the 40th floor of the Yellow Head Building. Ryo arrives at the rooftop of the building and discovers Lan Di hanging from the rope ladder of a helicopter in the air above the building. Before Ryo could even attempt to engage with Lan Di, he discovers Dou Niu holding Wong hostage. Ryo saves Wong and engages with Dou Niu in a climactic battle with Lan Di looking on. Ryo defeats Dou Niu and is able to prevent Lan Di from receiving a captured Zhu Yuanda as originally planned but Lan Di escapes. Gathered at Ren’s hideout, Zhu Yuanda reveals to Ryo that the reason Lan Di killed Iwao Hazuki was that Lan Di believed Iwao killed his father, Zhao Sunming and reveals that Lan Di’s real name is Zhao Longsun. Zhu also provides crucial information regarding the true purpose of the Dragon and Phoenix Mirrors—the mirrors will lead to the resurrection of the Qing Dynasty. Ryo is advised to continue his search in Bailu Village, in remote Guilin. He parts ways with Ren, Wong and Joy, continuing his journey and heading for the same destination as Lan Di.
Shenmue II – Ending Scene
The fifth chapter begins with Ryo arriving in Guilin. After shortly arriving there, Ryo encounters a young woman named Ling Shenhua. She previously appeared to Ryo through several dreams throughout the first chapter of the series. As the two converse, it is revealed that Shenhua’s family is connected with the legacy of the dragon and phoenix mirrors. Shenhua leads Ryo to a stone quarry on the outskirts of the village to meet with her father, but he is nowhere to be found. The game ends in a cliffhanger, with the pair discovering a cryptic note and sword, which Ryo combines with the Phoenix Mirror and inadvertently sets off a device revealing a huge depiction of the two mirrors, marking the end of the fifth chapter of the Shenmue saga.
Shenmue II features gameplay similar to that of its predecessor, Shenmue; however, there are many additions and changes, and many fans consider it to be a completely different experience.
One marked difference in this installment of the game series is the abundance of action sequences, mostly relying heavily on the use of cinematic QTE events in lieu of free battles (whereas the first installment had a fair balance of the two). In Shenmue, there was often a certain character who Ryo had to talk to in order to advance the story line; in Shenmue II, often many characters will be able to help Ryo reach his destination, allowing the game to progress at a much quicker pace, and there’s often only one solution, while in the first title there were several different paths Ryo could have gone down as far as his investigation was concerned. Despite Shenmue II’s more linear nature, however, there are still moments of non-linear plot progression; for example, at several points Ryo must make a hidden sign at certain restaurants, and depending on which restaurant the player chooses, different events will occur. Occasionally a QTE will make use of this as well; in the first Shenmue, failure of a QTE meant the player would simply be allowed to retry it, whereas in Shenmue II, although rare occurrences, there are QTEs which result in a branching story path. Shenmue II also features a “question system” where the player can choose from a variety of different questions to ask non-playable-characters. Money plays a much bigger role in Shenmue II as well; unlike the first game, where Ryo was given money at the start of each day, Shenmue II requires the player to find a part time job or to gamble in order to earn cash. Shenmue II also boasts a bigger selection of playable retro arcade games than its predecessor. Hidden cutscenes, however, which took place when a player happened to be on a certain street at a certain time on the correct day, have largely been sacrificed from this sequel.
Differences between the Xbox and Dreamcast versions
When the U.S. Xbox version was released in 2002, it brought some changes and enhancements to the original with it. The most significant difference is the inclusion of a full English dub, with Corey Marshall reprising his role as Ryo Hazuki (芭月 涼 Hazuki Ryō) from the first game. There are two new gameplay features – a Snapshot mode to take pictures of gameplay or cutscenes to store on the Xbox’s hard disk and Filters to alter the color filters used on the entire screen. The graphics were improved by the Xbox’s more advanced hardware (bloom lighting during the night hours, better looking water, among other features), the lengths of the load times were slightly reduced, Dolby Digital 5.1 support was added for the game’s cutscenes, and the frame rate now ran at a much more consistent 30 frames per second with less loss in characters on-screen (the Dreamcast version used an aggressive character LOD that caused pedestrians to fade in and out of plain view in very crowded scenes). This was all done without many sacrifices to the original game design, with only one instance (the Worker’s Pier,) of noticeable pedestrian reduction from the Dreamcast version. The Xbox version also used Quincunx Anti-Aliasing (like many Xbox games) and although the technique reduced “jaggies” associated with aliasing, fans are generally split down the middle as to whether this and the new nighttime bloom lighting effects hurt the image quality in the Xbox version of the game giving it a somewhat “blurry” or “washed out” look.
There are also many other graphical differences, mostly involving the signs on buildings, labels on jukeboxes, signs on gates, etc. having been changed or simplified from the Dreamcast version.
Also added was a mode to view the player’s snapshots and six side stories that could be unlocked by taking an in-game snapshot of certain characters. These side stories took the form of manga and four of them expand on areas of the story that the main game touches on, while the remaining two contain bonus art.
The original Dreamcast version came on four GD-ROMs, and Japanese version came packed with a Virtua Fighter 4 Passport which allowed gamers to connect to the Virtua Fighter.net as well as a Virtua Fighter 4 History Disc which contained a special interview with Yu Suzuki and an overview of the history of the Virtua Fighter series. This package was not included with the European version. The Xbox version came on one DVD and came bundled with Shenmue: The Movie on a separate DVD for play on a standard DVD player. The film is composed entirely of scenes from the first game.
One feature the Xbox version lost was the ability to import a save file from a completed Shenmue game, allowing the player to bring items and money collected in the first game to the second. However, since the player could not import his or her inventory, the Xbox port started the player off with (nearly) every item obtainable in the first game, including a majority of the capsule toys and other collectibles, though the cassettes (amongst a select few other items that can be re-obtained in this installment) are mysteriously missing. This is identical to starting the Dreamcast version without a cleared Shenmue save file.
When the Xbox version reached Europe, Microsoft chose not to utilize Sega’s European localization, choosing instead to do a straight conversion from the North American release. Because of this, the European Xbox release only supports English, whereas the EU Dreamcast release features support for multiple languages.
Source: Shenmue II