Sunday, March 15, 2020

Return to Shenmue and Spinning my Wheels

Well this is normally where I would say "look at how much time I'll have for video games now that we're all practicing social isolation", but that would imply I ever left the house in the first place. I do feel less guilty about being an asocial blob now that it's the responsible thing to do. I suppose that's a silver lining.

Most motorsport racing on TV has been cancelled, leaving me with a void I was not expecting. I decided to race the Formula 1 season myself in F1 2019, but actually ran into problems calibrating my racing wheel to the game. My wheel can be turned 900 degrees, or roughly 2.5 half times to the left or right. Real life Formula 1 steering wheels tend only turn only 360 degrees. A big steering wheel with a huge turning radius is great if your a long haul trucker moving several tons at highway speeds. It's a also a good way to develop wrist cramps if you attempt to do this with a twitchy race car that weighs as much as me after a good meal. I think I've figured out the calibration settings I need to get that fixed, but I'll need to do some more testing tonight.

Impromptu nostalgia week continues unabated in the Palace de Everwake. I'm currently replaying Shenmue for the umpteenth time. I had actually 100% the game on the PS4 as little as 4 months ago, but my console has developed a tendency to corrupt it's "database". I don't really know what the "database" is that it's referring to, but at some point it erased every save that I had on the machine. And apparently cloud saves are only a thing if you subscribe to PlayStation Plus, which I don't. And since once can transfer their Shenmue saves to Shenmue 2 I was a bit annoyed by all this.

(I don't want to purchase another PS4 with the PS5, and it's rumored backwards compatibility, coming out in the Fall.)

One of the Humble Monthlies had Shenmue 1 & 2 for the PC included in a month where I already had a bunch of duplicates, so I ended up the Steam version that I'm playing now. Boy is the version of the game buggy. The game really struggles in cut scenes where it jumps from a 16:9 ratio, back to a 4:3 ratio, and then back again to a 16:9 ratio. I know the PC version was even worse at launch but there are still audio issues that I'm encountering every now and then. I also don't feel there is much advantage to playing on my high-end PC versus my base model PS4. The game does support 4K but the 2000-era textures tend to look worse for it. The game also seems locked to 30fps so there's no real advantage there. I've pushed the Super Sampling up to max but it doesn't seem to have any effect outside of causing frame rate drops at select moments.

Shenmue is very much a detective game where the main gameplay loop is talking to NPCs and showing up to events at the right time of day. So once you already know the game, playthroughs go through pretty quickly. This is probably the 4th time that I've played through the game: twice on the original Dreamcast, one on PS4, and this current run on PC. I've never made it particularly far through Shenmue 2 and I don't currently own Shenmue 3. I also want to play through several of the Yakuza games that I consider the spiritual successors to Shenmue. I'm hoping that by the time I make it through all of these titles, Shenmue 3 will be released on Steam and I can continue to ignore the Epic Games launcher in my taskbar.

I haven't thought too hard about it, but returning to an old open-world game probably makes sense. I was really looking forward to doing some traveling, possibly in Japan, this spring. With that on the back burner until possibly the fall or later, digital recreations are going to have to do.

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