Yu Suzuki looked back on his career, spoke about game ideas like a Space Harrier VR and answered questions from developers including Suda 51.
Yu Suzuki was one of the many prestigious guests at the 20th edition of Japan Expo in Paris’ suburbs. Holding a one-hour long panel on the third day of the event, Yu Suzuki retraced his career and revealed new details on Shenmue 3.
Yu Suzuki started the panel by going back to his childhood days and how he grew up in a very rural part of Japan, with nothing much to play with. Most of the kids would play by trying to make the hardest soil balls possible, with Yu Suzuki finding different techniques like mixing certain types of soil and heating it, spending hours to find good soils. Later on, his parents started buying him Lego models, but they were always upset with his way of playing. Instead of simply building the models following the manuals, he’d instead try to build huge spaceships or vehicles. Once, he made a Lego figure by exactly following the manual, to please his parents, and broke it down right after to reuse the parts. Later on, he’d even use small motors and other electric parts to animate the figures.
Sharing with us two family pictures, Yu Suzuki explained how his parents were musicians, and how strict they were with his musical education. His mother would force him to follow piano lessons and only taught him classic music-related skills, while all he wanted was to listen and play rock songs. The rural area + sixties/seventies era combo made his parents have very adamant ideas against non-classical music, thinking “only dangerous delinquents play electric guitar”. In the end, he wanted one so much that he made his own electric guitar.
Next, Yu Suzuki spoke about his middle school and high school days, and how he decided his career. Back then, he realized that work is always a daunting and exhausting task regardless of your profession, so he might as well pick something that’ll allow him to have enough free time for his hobbies. The first thing he thought about was becoming a teacher because then he’d have winter and summer vacations. When filling career choice forms at school especially, he would pick things that sounded cool. He set up on becoming a programmer, before even knowing what kind of work it is exactly, because “the pro part sounds cool and the grammer part sounds like glamour so I thought it’d make me popular with the ladies”. After his studies, the main reason he joined Sega over others is that Sega guaranteed 2 rest days a week.
At Sega, Yu Suzuki would completely immerse himself in a subject before making a game on it. He visited air bases for developing Afterburner and studied fighters. When making OutRun, he’d go to race circuits and learn everything about Ferraris, down to the angle of the Prancing Horse. He also went on a tour of Europe, France included, and shared with us a hilarious story. When eating at France’s restaurants, he’d always ask for “the menu”, only to be served random food. He didn’t know that “menu” in French is a synonym for “today special”, and realized a few restaurants later how he should be asking for “la carte” instead. But then, even after getting the menu, he couldn’t read anything and would randomly order, with varying results.
Yu Suzuki also recounted how he went to the Shaolin Temple for Virtua Fighter and Shenmue’s development. He wished to learn about the differences in each Kung Fu styles and met with the masters at the Temple. He was particularly interested in the Praying Mantis fist, which was so fast they couldn’t manage to properly capture the moves on camera, and how Kung Fu masters counterattack. To get data, he’d simulate a punch, asking them to dodge. Needless to say, that didn’t get them anywhere, and the masters told him to come at them seriously since he’s an amateur who’ll never hit them anyway. That way, he managed to get real data. The masters would instinctively counterattack though and he got beaten up badly, even getting a rib fractured. Seeing he’s Japanese, kids from the Shaolin Temple thought he was an actual Karate master challenging their masters, so they came to watch and all cheered whenever he was getting floored. Now he looks back at the experience as a fond memory.
Taking all of this into account, when developing the first Shenmue, while many told him it’s dangerous to mix up so many different genres and themes in a single game, he was confident he could pull it off, seeing everything he developed beforehand. It was indeed a daunting task but he still managed to pull off the first two games, which are fondly remembered even now.
Next, videos from multiple developers were shown, asking Yu Suzuki some questions. One of these was how different the current Shenmue 3 is compared to the Shenmue 3 he initially imagined two decades ago. Yu Suzuki spoke about how Shenmue was conceived as eleven chapters, with each chapter being its own game. However, instead of only covering chapter 3 as initially planned, Shenmue 3 has obviously evolved story-wise and will cover more. Another question asked if Yu Suzuki ever felt like doing another Space Harrier. He answered that he’d like to try to do one in VR.
A video message from Suda 51 was played as well, where he mentioned Virtua Racing is his favorite game and how he first met Yu Suzuki in his youth at Sega, triggering his desire to become a game developer himself. He jokingly mentioned how years later when eating together, Suda 51 told him this story, but Yu Suzuki didn’t remember their meeting. At the end of his message, Suda 51 asked what kind of racing game would Yu Suzuki make today.
Yu Suzuki answered he’d like to make a racing game utilizing real-time GPS data. The setting would be various cities of the world with heavy traffic, and players would need to go from one place to another using the quickest route possible, avoiding traffic jams. Rather than piloting skills, decision making would be key, making it an original racing game.
The panel then moved on to new Shenmue 3 info, with 4 new screenshots being revealed. We’ve got Chai attacking Ryo and Shenhua, remembering us he’s coming back. Another screenshot shows Lan Di because “we didn’t show a cool badass shot of him yet”. Then we’ve got an arcade. And lastly, the Panda Market, the market in the first town of the game.
Multiple sketches from the early days of the conception of Shenmue were shown as well, displaying Ryo’s evolution. Yu Suzuki was undecided on whether making the story start at Ryo’s childhood or not and, whether to give him a gentle personality or make him look like a delinquent, hence why all the different looks. We’ve also got a sketch where Ryo still looks like Virtua Fighter‘s Akira, and the final sketch was the trigger for Ryo’s final design.
Lastly, a short trailer for Shenmue 3 was shown. Again, this trailer technically isn’t new but has rarely ever been shown, and most never saw it before. You can find it below along with the whole panel, in French.
Yu Suzuki ended the panel by mentioning how Shenmue 3 is currently being playtested. He explained that wildly different people are trying it: those who played the original games, those who discovered Shenmue recently with the remaster, those who don’t know the series and even those who didn’t particularly like it. He mentioned how everyone has a completely different way of playing depending on their personalities, making Shenmue 3 “a mirror reflecting oneself”. He added that Shenmue 3 players should go through the game at their own pace and take their time with it.
Shenmue 3 launches on PS4 and PC via Epic Store on November 19.