The Music of the Shenmue Saga

The Music of the Shenmue Saga

Shenmue had a lot of money spent on it by Sega. A lot. So much in fact that for a while Sega infamously had to drop the 'a' from their company logo because they had run out of money, and had to use an upside down and reversed 'e' (this story may or may not be 100% made up by me just a moment ago). The quality of the Shenmue series is often debated, but in this blog I'd like to focus on something a little different.

For me, Shenmue 1 and 2 have some of the best soundtracks ever made for a video game. Not only are they a wonderfully rich audio experience, but also a vast one and often more emotionally moving than the game's storyline. Here's just a hint of some of the fantastic music from the Shenmue saga.

Workers' Pier

"Workers' Pier" is one of the first tracks you'll hear in Shenmue 2, and it sets the tone wonderfully. There's a hint of stranger in a strange land about it, reflecting Ryo's own situation. The drums and warm bass-like drops give it a nautical background, whilst the pipes at the foreground underline that this is a game set in the East, and you'll find few western influences (other than some spill over British in Hong Kong). It's a great wandering track, especially as the strings seem to wander themselves throughout the piece.

Stand Quarter

The "Stand Quarter" track is bizarrely dominating. Each time it plays you're reminded that Ryo is in Kowloon for a reason, and a deadly serious one at that - to find his father’s murderer and kill him. There's a sense of urgency about the piece, stemming from the relentless deep stabbing string sound, and the hurry up of higher, faster, scaling strings. This urgency is well placed, as it appears later on in the games story, and exists in the part of Shenmue 2 where the main action takes place.

Encounter with Destiny

The original Shenmue's "Encounter with Destiny" is another favourite of mine. It's a piece that never actually really gets going and I think that reflects Shenmue 1's pace brilliantly, albeit maybe by coincidence. There's a sense of scale to it, as if this is the beginning of something big, which it of course was intended to be but never was. There's an aura of mystery as the harp is played up and down, and the plucked strings that appear as quickly as they fade give hints that there's defining moments ahead, all whilst the track seems to wrestle with itself as it tries to tell the Shenmue story in one, but in the end settles for revealing that there's more to come.

There are so many more great tracks to experience in the Shenmue saga, all of them available to find on YouTube, and I advise you to have a hunt and browse about, giving them a listen. Some of them really are beautiful pieces of music, whilst others are more ambient and subtle in their nature. These days you don't see many video games that have an entire sound track based on the sounds from the far East, so I recommend you make the most of Shenmue's.

Note: The links in this blog come from a YouTube account called 'Ziming' and not mine.

2 Comments
2 Comments
Posted by BrickRoad

The Music of the Shenmue Saga

Shenmue had a lot of money spent on it by Sega. A lot. So much in fact that for a while Sega infamously had to drop the 'a' from their company logo because they had run out of money, and had to use an upside down and reversed 'e' (this story may or may not be 100% made up by me just a moment ago). The quality of the Shenmue series is often debated, but in this blog I'd like to focus on something a little different.

For me, Shenmue 1 and 2 have some of the best soundtracks ever made for a video game. Not only are they a wonderfully rich audio experience, but also a vast one and often more emotionally moving than the game's storyline. Here's just a hint of some of the fantastic music from the Shenmue saga.

Workers' Pier

"Workers' Pier" is one of the first tracks you'll hear in Shenmue 2, and it sets the tone wonderfully. There's a hint of stranger in a strange land about it, reflecting Ryo's own situation. The drums and warm bass-like drops give it a nautical background, whilst the pipes at the foreground underline that this is a game set in the East, and you'll find few western influences (other than some spill over British in Hong Kong). It's a great wandering track, especially as the strings seem to wander themselves throughout the piece.

Stand Quarter

The "Stand Quarter" track is bizarrely dominating. Each time it plays you're reminded that Ryo is in Kowloon for a reason, and a deadly serious one at that - to find his father’s murderer and kill him. There's a sense of urgency about the piece, stemming from the relentless deep stabbing string sound, and the hurry up of higher, faster, scaling strings. This urgency is well placed, as it appears later on in the games story, and exists in the part of Shenmue 2 where the main action takes place.

Encounter with Destiny

The original Shenmue's "Encounter with Destiny" is another favourite of mine. It's a piece that never actually really gets going and I think that reflects Shenmue 1's pace brilliantly, albeit maybe by coincidence. There's a sense of scale to it, as if this is the beginning of something big, which it of course was intended to be but never was. There's an aura of mystery as the harp is played up and down, and the plucked strings that appear as quickly as they fade give hints that there's defining moments ahead, all whilst the track seems to wrestle with itself as it tries to tell the Shenmue story in one, but in the end settles for revealing that there's more to come.

There are so many more great tracks to experience in the Shenmue saga, all of them available to find on YouTube, and I advise you to have a hunt and browse about, giving them a listen. Some of them really are beautiful pieces of music, whilst others are more ambient and subtle in their nature. These days you don't see many video games that have an entire sound track based on the sounds from the far East, so I recommend you make the most of Shenmue's.

Note: The links in this blog come from a YouTube account called 'Ziming' and not mine.

Posted by 9cupsoftea

Too right - awesome soundtrack. I played that game about 6 years ago and I can still remember how atmospheric some pieces were.