Yu Suzuki is scheduled to give a postmortem of Shenmue at the next Game Developers Conference in March. PlayStation 4 mastermind Mark Cerny will be translating for Suzuki. These postmortems are normally fascinating: developers cut like a flaming hot sword through the typical piles of marketing bullshit and speak really candidly about why they made the decisions they did. It’s the sort of insight almost never offered before a game actually comes out.
What’s really interesting about the Shenmue postmortem in general is how nicely it slots alongside the ongoing reevaluation of the Dreamcast. Shenmue was intended as the system’s crowning achievement but it was a coldly divisive game, demanding hours and hours of patience from players who were only starting to move out of the 16-bit universe. The system itself famously crashed hard and forced Sega out of the hardware game permanently.
But maybe they were just dropping the mic? Shenmue‘s open world and unyielding mechanics have aged nicely in critics’ memories, as have before-their-time online efforts like Phantasy Star Online and Quake III Arena. Even oddities like Seaman and Segagaga have developed cult followings. (And do not even get me started on Virtua Tennis, still the best sports game ever made.) Edge recently named it the tenth greatest console of all time, and Zoya Street’s excellent Dreamcast Worlds (which you can buy in this StoryBundle! [plug]) dives even deeper into its legacy. For all its failures, the system has sort of turned into a console version of the Pixies, if not the Velvet Underground. Not everyone had a Dreamcast, but it seems like everyone who did became a developer.