SEGA have managed to put a half-grinning half-slack-jawed look of amazement on my face more than most gaming companies. First was sticking my head inside the quadrophonic monster that was a sit-down Astron Belt. A few years later it was seeing a psychedelic-hydraulic Space Harrier. It carried on with Virtua Racing and Daytona USA.
In 1999 I found myself staring agog at an on-foot chase through the streets of a Japanese town on some TV news piece (see top video). When I found out that was going to be on SEGA's Dreamcast, I knew I'd be getting both as soon as Shenmue came out.
The game was grippingly beautiful, creating a world impossible to visit in the "real-world" of 1986 Japan. The games within a game were wonderful especially one-switch darts, although I remember the on-line score-boards making my efforts feel pretty feeble. I just love the detail of life, freedom and adventure in Shenmue. My all time favourite video game.
It's not a perfect game, but nothing so big was ever likely to be. The voice acting takes some getting used to. It's somewhat "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" in delivery. Sometimes the tasks are numbingly tedious, such as having to hold down a job shifting crates. Ryo could be a bit of a dick sometimes which you often had no control over. It's all part of the winning charm.
Shenmue II came at the end of the Dreamcast's life when Sony's Playstation 2 had killed it off largely on the back of the Playstation reputation and a DVD player. I remember doubting if Shenmue II would ever come out, then being amazed and overjoyed when it was suddenly announced on the Game website.
The story left Japan and took me into Hong Kong and China. Disc 4 took my breath away for the beauty and set-pieces. It left on a cliff-hanger promising more and a chance to avenge Ryo's murdered father. Then nothing. For 14 years. Until today. :)