The Video Game City Week: Shenmue's harbour is everything that makes the game so special

Shenmue isn’t for everyone, and the make or break moment, I think, is in the last third or so of the story. Though the heart of the game is undoubtedly in its sleepy neighbourhoods and the downtown area of Dobuita, with shops, bars and arcades lining its winding streets, the harbour is when things get truly interesting – and is where the game’s devotion to the everyday and all its mundanities – which I mean with the utmost affection, as it’s the game’s strength! – is at its purest.

Let’s be more clear what I’m talking about – it’s working the forklift job. Shenmue’s final stretch removes the freedom that teenage detective work provides, and locks you into a 9-5 job moving crates from one warehouse to another. Shenmue is a wonderful slice of escapist tourism that has aged brilliantly, especially for those who want to experience a taste of virtual Japan (and Japan in the 80s no less), but you could argue being put to work is going a step too far.


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