The Shenmue 3 Kickstarter is in the bag and the verdict is in – we are finally getting the continuation of the saga. Yu Suzuki is the main man behind it all and is rightly revered as one of the greatest minds to emerge from SEGA.
Not only is he responsible for the Shenmue series, but it was Suzuki’s games that really made SEGA a force to be reckoned with in the arcades of the late 1980s and early 90s. His back catalogue is simply littered with innovation after innovation, and the games that follow are five of the very best.
Having already wowed the world with Hang-On and its specially designed arcade cabinet, Yu Suzuki decided his next arcade smash should be a shooter. It was a classic too, as Space Harrier and its unique parallax scrolling quickly became a hit in arcades. It was fast, frenetic and gobbled up coins like they were going out of style. It has also appeared on a slew of home consoles and is still great for a quick blast, though gamers of the era know that the only real way to experience it was in the special, seated arcade machine.
Yu Suzuki has always had a penchant for the innovative and it showed with Virtua Fighter. Long before Tekken and the many other pretenders to the throne that would follow, Virtua Fighter was the very first arcade beat-em-up to feature fully polygonal graphics. Suzuki was at the crest of the 3D wave while most developers were still struggling to get the most of the Megadrive and the series has only gone from strength to strength in the years that followed.
In 1986, just a year after the massive success of Space Harrier, Suzuki was back at it again with another quality arcade game that offered players a specialised cabinet. This time he returned to the racing genre and crafted a sublime game that simulated the sensation of speed like few others before it. Couple that with a classic soundtrack, which many players can still recite to this day, and branching courses, and you have a game that was perfect for a quick play but also hid plenty of depth beneath the surface.
The pinnacle of Yu Suzuki’s desire to create arcade cabinets that were as much a part of the experience as the game itself, After Burner was pure adrenaline distilled into gaming form. Play it in the rotating cabinet and it would be as disorientating as it was awesome, managing to provide an experience unlike anything that players had ever felt before. Like all of his other arcade efforts, the game has been ported to many home consoles but can only truly be experienced in the arcade.
Shenmue 1 and 2
Okay, so maybe putting both games together is a little bit of a cheat, but seeing as the Shenmue games were conceived as one grand story that was intended to stretch across multiple games it can be forgiven. Simply put, Shenmue is Yu Suzuki’s magnum opus. It is the culmination of years of innovation in the industry, all brought together to create a game that truly revolutionised the industry. These games, more than any of the others on this list, simply have to be played.
Lee Price is a freelance writer and general miscreant who enjoys video games, movies and making dreary situations better by adding copious amounts of alcohol. Follow him on Twitter @Mr_Lee2112 to read his random musings.