The following is a transcript of an interview with Yu Suzuki on Nico Nico Douga, July 12. This was posted on Shenmuedojo by user SquallAdv:
Y: Yu Suzuki
J: Here’s Yu Suzuki-san, I think he doesn’t need introductions. We are still surprised for Shenmue 3 announcement.
Y: Yeah… We waited for 14 years and are very, very excited. Years passed by, and it doesn’t matter where I go, it was always the same, where’s Shenmue 3, Shenmue 3… And I just recently watched a video from the grateful fans all over the world; it was really moving for me, it’s difficult to explain with words.
J: Shenmue was a true revolution for the time, but nowadays it will probably be more difficult to surprise gamers like you did all this years ago right? Please tell us about your origins as a game designer.
Y: At first I didn’t want to become a game designer you know, I wanted to be musician, even dentist… But especially musician, I was very interested in music stuff back then, since very early school days. I even had interest on foreign languages (not Asian languages, written in horizontal, like English). Then I went to different interviews, one of those interviews was in SEGA for programmer stuff, I thought it was very interesting and then I decided that’s what I wanted to do with my life (game designer).
J: So let’s check this slide with different games Yu Suzuki-san created over the years. So incredible names come out, Outrun, Virtua Racing… and so on. We can see back then a lot of them were arcade games right? (like the ones you can find inside Game You/Shenmue Arcade Center)
Y: Yes, back then arcades were very successful, a lot of them were later adapted to consoles and even to Shenmue, including the boxing one.
J: Yeah… Shenmue Arcade Center was truly incredible; we could play games like Outrun, etc., what were you thinking for creating something like that?
Y: Well, back then arcades in Japan had a very negative image on the society, like the kind of dark place where delinquents would meet, bike gangsters and bad guys smoking… I wanted to change that, and at the same time create a new style of gaming. I wanted arcades to be considered like treasures, like Disneyland.
I: Well, you created something truly wonderful! It was a place even girls could enjoy… (Kicked from NicoNico, don’t know if he was referring to real Arcade Centers or Game You)
Y: (…) the evolution of game engines, CG, pseudo-3D sprite-scaling with games like Hang On or Virtua Racing, and then real 3D boards!, full 3D games like Virtua Fighter, back then it was something unbelievable you know. When we were studying on school we were always thinking how awesome it would be to have 3D games. Hang On was kind of 3D, pseudo simulated 3D, and then we created different patterns using different 3D effects, it was very curious, for some time we were creating fully 3D games inside our heads, but the final product was pseudo-3D, not real 3D. Games like Virtua Racing used indirect 3D effects, then for Virtua Fighter we created polygons full contact, full 3D games at last.
J: And all of this starting from scratch right?
Y: Yeah, back then everything was like that, from scratch, we created everything starting from 0, there was no other way.
J: Then with Shenmue you created not only a stage or racing track but a full 3D city to explore.
Y: Normally at first you have to design your initial planning for the game, so you think about the human body, and if it’s a soccer game 11 players per team, and things like that. But with Shenmue we had to think from the beginning on creating a full living city. That was something I wanted to achieve from a long time ago.
J: A game that feels like a full experience right? You created a new genre by the time, it was called FREE, some kind of special RPG style genre?
Y: Well, yes it was an RPG, but I don’t like to call Shenmue like that, it was something completely new, an adventure you needed to experience by yourself. So we decided to call it like that, FREE, a new genre to help people easily understand Shenmue was something completely new, nothing like they knew by then.
J: Let’s talk about Shenmue 3, meetings, reasons, the timing needed to make Shenmue 3 come true…
Y: It’s been already 14 years since Shenmue 2, it was a really long journey. Wherever I go it was always the same, Shenmue 3, Shenmue 3… Then by march/april, is Shenmue 3 finally coming? They wanted Shenmue much more than any other of my previous games, like Virtua Fighter, and I really thought one million possibilities to make it true, there were a lot of things to deal with, budget problems, licensing problems with SEGA, etc. After continuously thinking for 14 years then I decided to make it via Kickstarter, that way we could get the budget we needed via crowdfunding and finally create Shenmue 3.
J: I see (sorry). And fans from all around the world joined forces to become this project a reality. During E3 Shenmue 3 announcement there were some unbelievable reactions don’t you think?
Y: Yes, I couldn’t see that reactions LIVE because I was waiting behind the main stage, and before Shenmue 3 there were some awesome games announcements like Final Fantasy VII, I could hear really big reactions so I was very nervous about Shenmue and how the people would react. But then, it happened, I remember screams all over the place… after Shenmue music started it was like an explosion… It was too much for me, I couldn’t bear it and started to cry backstage.
J: I could imagine Yu’s happiness just by looking at those emotions from all over the world.
Y: Indeed, it was truly awesome. Also, a lot of Shenmue fans from a lot of countries learned a lot from Japan and even started to study japanese and eventually moved to Japan thanks to playing the game. Specially Shenmue II using japanese voices and english subtitles helped foreigners to learn at least some well repeated japanese phrases and expressions. I even know some incredible stories, folks who dreamed to get married in Japan with someone like Nozomi, and eventually they did it! It makes me really happy to hear stories like that.
I: Congratulations for all you’ve achieved during your life Yu Suzuki-san. Now please tell me, what was Shenmue I and II original staff reactions after Shenmue 3 announcement on E3?
Y: They sent me LINE messages like ‘congratulations!!’ or things like that, some of them are living abroad, and they were super excited and relieved for the good news. Also, like I said before recently I saw a 20 minutes video with Shenmue fans from all over the world thanking me for making Shenmue 3, I was very moved by their feelings, it was incredible.
J: It’s unbelievable don’t you think Yu Suzuki-san? What a game can achieve…
Y: Indeed. Maybe it is something you can’t make outside of videogames. It is more than just good graphics or sounds, inside the game you create some kind of bond between the story and the spirit of the player, I think that’s awesome.
J: Let’s talk about the real condition of cities like Yokosuka. Kind of nostalgic feeling don’t you think? How things have changed all over Japan since 1986. Now we have incredible places like Mirai Kan, etc.
Y: Yes, Japan changed in a lot of ways. And let’s not forget Japanese and Asian people have very different beliefs and traditions than the ones from foreigner countries. Probably those differences also helped foreign fans to learn to love Shenmue, trying to understand a country so much different than theirs. Also, internet and technology helped a lot to unify the world and making it easy to understand those differences. Going back to Yokosuka and old Japan, for example if you go back in time 80 years, there are not so many records, and (…) Yokohama and ‘Yoko’ Kanji (??) (Kicked from NicoNico)
J: And you can immortalize the atmosphere of those years inside the game right?
Y: Yes, using 3D and techniques like motion capture we tried to capture and recreate that atmosphere from old times the best we can.
J: No doubt you did it. I think you can really feel the japanese Showa era (1926-1989) inside Shenmue. Please tell us more about your relations with producers and staff before the Shenmue 3 announcement.
(From now on NicoNico started to kick me a lot, not using a premium account + too many viewers…)
Y: With Hirai-san we are wine friends (laughs), and always ended talking about Shenmue no matter the situation. We wanted to make Shenmue 3 from the beginning, and we know now it’s a life time opportunity to finally continue this project and making it come true after all these years.
J: And you reunited all the original Shenmue staff. That’s incredible, I think only someone like Yu-san could achieve something like that. Now, please tell us more about crowdfunding and Kickstarter. Aside from Ys Net almost all the Shenmue 3 budget will be thanks to the fans effort right? Let’s check how it works (slide, lot of explanations, credit card system, different stretch goals, etc.).
Y: There’s still 1 Monaco dinner left (laughs). We are now approaching 5m, and the funds amount will impact directly on the final game. But I want to make the best game possible with the budget we reach. I want to thank every one of you who helped Shenmue 3 coming this far. Shenmue 3 is now true thanks to all of you who never stopped believing and supporting Shenmue. We are creating three big areas inside Shenmue 3 and a lot of features based on our budget. We really want to create an open world game, but that really depends directly on the final budget. We need 10 millions to make it, I know it’s very difficult, but I’m very grateful with Shenmue fans, and now I really believe in miracles, I believe we can make it, together.
J: Also let me add this Yu Suzuki-san, please, try to involve your friends in the project, a lot of people around the world still don’t know about Shenmue 3 on Kickstarter. Yu-san needs 10 million to create the game he has been dreaming since the beginning, so let’s all together make it true. I already pledged! Let’s help him create the Shenmue 3 he dreams of! C’mon, now is our chance!, we are the fans, we are united, we can make this come true (yes, he was really excited at this point of the interview, you can really tell he’s also a big Shenmue fan =) ) Oh, sorry, I think I speaked a little too much. (…) Please tell us more about the game concept; there will be real time system right? And the story? Will it begin just after Shenhua & Ryo event at the cave?
Y: Thank you very much. Yes, Shenhua & Ryo have a very powerful objective in common related to Shenhua’s father past. Finally we can focus on Shenhua’s story and her past, something Shenmue fans were waiting since the original Shenmue. Some things are still being decided right now, but I want to start the game in the beautiful mountains of Guilin in China, and deepen into the relation between Shenhua & Ryo, the free selection system, and the character perspective system. (Kicked from NicoNico) Inside these 3 areas one of them is Baisha, and then Chobu, where I want to make some kind of China sandbox game inside Shenmue 3, an area full of events, quests and possibilities, a sandbox with Shenmue charm, that’s what I’m aiming for. (…) There is a sandbox image like something complicated… This is not the case for Shenmue. If you go back into Shenmue I or Shenmue II the battle system was not a timing technical game like Virtua Fighter, and the player can go through the story with simple mini events like QTE, it’s a game everybody can plan and enjoy. Sandbox? Seems difficult, complicated… But everybody can enjoy Shenmue 3!
J: What about character perspective system?
Y: We can choose our character thanks to the characters system on Shenmue 3, and it’s not only the character, the routes we can follow are also different, and the personality of different characters and their gender will make us choose between different options. At some point you will think “Yeah! That would probably be a man’s choice!”, or the opposite if you’re using a female character. That’s the charming point of this system.
J: So interesting! So many characters and possibilities… Oh, and now Ryo can jump right?
Y: Yeah, and climb mountains.
J: Please tell us more about forklifts (laughs).
Y: Forklifts (laughs). Yeah, everybody asks for it. You know, in the top 3 the most wanted things by Shenmue fans would be, 1st: Story related things, 2nd, Open World doubts, 3rd, forklifts (laughs), in that order. Even I can’t fully understand why it’s so popular! I’m thinking different ways to make them appear on Shenmue 3, but with the present Shenmue 3 scale is not easy to implement. Maybe in Chobu… Chobu is a port town, but it’s still too small to think about forklifts, maybe if we get more budget we can make it true.
J: Something like 5 more millions?
Y: Yes (laughs). I also want to include an Arcade Game Center from 1988, with SEGA games inside, and one of them could be a forklift arcade game invention, I’m also thinking crazy ideas like that (laughs).
J: Awesome! Let’s check some fans questions… Masaya Matsukaze return, yes… (keeps checking…)
Y: (Yu checks fan questions by himself) Chai returning to the game? Yes! Chai appers in Shenmue 3! (laughs).
(Kicked from NicoNico)
Y: One justice (…) Five… (???), a lot of objectives. (Yu then explains more detailed information for Japanese fans about the Kickstarter system, different rewards, the special place in Baisha with Shenmue fans photos, NPC fan based characters that got kicked by Ryo and stuff). (…) I also want to say that people who never got into Shenmue I and II will still be able to fully enjoy Shenmue III, for example using flashbacks to advance in the story, everyone will be able to understand what’s happening and progress into the wonderful world of Shenmue. And this is also very important, we can call Ine-san with Telecom card! (Yu check some comments…), no, she’s not dead! (laughs), but maybe her voice will be a little different. Also, remember that instead of Nozomi you can choose to be with Ine-san or Fuku-san for the gashapon reward! (laughs)
J: Can’t wait for Shenmue 3…
Y: We are doing our best to release the final game by the end of 2017. Finally, let me say Ryo’s aspect will fully change, including his jacket. And please, tell your friends and people you know about Shenmue 3, let’s make the best game together! I’m counting with you, always, thank you very much!