Earlier this year, we got a return of the Shenmue franchise with the debut of Shenmue I & II for consoles and PC, which certainly suited our retro needs. But based on a new report from Eurogamer, we could’ve gotten something far superior than just re-releases -- we were this close to getting remasters.
From what we can see in a video posted by Digital Foundry (which you can see above), Sega was actually hard at work on HD versions of both Shenmue and its sequel, promising at one point to bring the games to life like never before. And as you can see from said video, the differences between old and new are like night and day.
The development for both games was in the works for quite some time. But, according to the Eurogamer piece, the plug was pulled on the projects mainly due to development delays and budget constraints, forcing Sega to go with the re-releases of the original games instead. “We only have a rough idea of what happened and we can’t presume to understand all of the business reasons behind Sega’s change in direction, but the bottom line is that in common with other unfinished and cancelled projects, the work-in-progress video we received adds a further dimension to the history of one of gaming’s most celebrated franchises,” the author notes.
There are several improvements that were set to be made with each game, including “significant improvements to the rendering” in the city and characters, along with proper shadow maps, and flat textured objects getting full-on 3D renders. Non-playable characters would’ve also seen a push forward in design as well. It still shows as a work in progress that was barely even half done (if that), but it could’ve been something more had the team continued to work on it.
That said, perhaps Sega just wasn’t ready for the risk. The higher cost for the project probably could’ve been a problem had the game not sold as well as intended. And there’s no way the publisher could’ve priced it low had it gone the full re-rendering route, probably instead going for $59.99 -- a price that not all Shenmue fans would’ve been crazy about.
Still, it’s nuts to imagine what would’ve happened if these games had been finished to completion, as they could’ve taken us places we never could’ve imagined.
All the same, you can enjoy the Shenmue collection now for Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PC.