Shockingly, there isn't a review for Shenmue 1 on here. Since I posted my video review, I figure now's a good time to make a post for it.
Shenmue is probably one of the best known games for the Dreamcast. Before and after it was released, it was hyped because of its (eventually inflated) budget ($70 million, or $46 million, depending on the source). The enormous game was originally in development for the Saturn (you can see test footage here) and was moved to the Dreamcast after Sega killed the Saturn. Sometime between its development for the Saturn and the release, the game was split into multiple parts, with the second part being released later on the Dreamcast in Japan and Europe, and the Xbox here.
Technically, this is an astounding video game. I don't think it's hyperbole to say this is the best looking Dreamcast game by far, and the fact that you can interact with any character that pops in (admittedly, the game does pop characters up right in front of you, especially during the best part) and have that person be fully voiced was unheard of in 2000. Everything any character says is voiced, and there's multiple areas you can play in of varying size (Dobuita is the largest, and allows you to do the most). All this means that Shenmue is a big game. Three GD-Roms full of content mean I'm pretty sure it's the largest game released in North America (apparently the sequel is 4 discs), and given that the last two discs contain all the areas (meaning you can literally walk from Ryo's house to the bus stop, then into the harbor), it's easy to see why. A fully orchestrated soundtrack that isn't overbearing at times (cough, Halo) rounds out the graphical and auditory experience with perfection.
In terms of gameplay, the game ...has a steep learning curve. Now, to preface this part, two things. One, after finishing the game, I hadn't turned it back on until I started the review. I'm not the type of person to replay stories to get the same experience (that sounds weird, but I will replay games for a different story path, or if they have no story, but rarely will I replay an experience. Two, I finished the game in 2004. That means that about 10 years went by without playing the game. I know for a fact that when I was playing it (and I played it pretty quickly, because it's very engrossing), I had the controls down perfectly. Coming back, it takes a bit of getting used to for the analog stick not to be mapped to movement in any way. The D-pad moves Ryo, and the stick looks around. The R trigger sets up a look mode, L runs. The A and B buttons are used for interactions, and X and Y operate your notebook and menu/inventory, respectively. It's not a perfect system, and it could be better.
Story is where the game excels. You play as Ryo Hazuki, a teenaged Japanese man who is investigating the murder of his father by the evil Lan Di. That it happened is not a debate, as it happens in the opening cinematic of the game. The questions for Ryo are why did he want something from your father, and where did he go. Throughout the game, you will find various clues to the answers of both of these questions. The story is what kept me hooked all those years ago, and Shenmue II was one of the reasons I wanted an original Xbox, just to play that game (insert long, increasingly angry diatribe about the lack of Shenmue III here- I mean, come on, Bayonetta gets a sequel but Shenmue doesn't get finished?). This is an incredibly engrossing story, and I think that gets overlooked a lot by people talking about the game. Yes, it's a technical amazement, but so was Rise of the Robots. Shenmue keeps players engaged throughout all three discs in a way many games don't.
All of this doesn't even mention the fourth disc, the Shenmue Passport. This is a supplemental appendix to the game, with four uses. It can be used to play unlocked movies or music from the game (meaning it needs to access a save for that), play videos where the characters from the game explain some of the features in the game, and an online portion. I've never had my Dreamcast hooked up to the internet, so I don't know exactly what that entails, besides getting special figurines from winning soda cans.
I could go on about this game for well over 20 minutes (and I do, in that review), but the main thing in the game, and the best part, is the forklifts. Later in the game, Ryo gets a job moving crates in forklifts, which entails driving forklifts, and even better, racing forklifts. Yes, you earn money for your goal (spoilers), but the best part is the forklifts. This is by far the best game with forklifts ever. Is it the best game ever, as some will yell at me in the next replies? It's...not. Technically, it's superb, doing things the Dreamcast could barely do, and even the Saturn version looked great, for the Saturn. The story is deeply engaging, like a great book. However, the game's controls are still not incredible, It would have helped if the game didn't have the free look (until you pulled the R trigger) and moved the movement to the analog stick. That is the game's only flaw. That and the fact that it hasn't been rereleased once in 14 years (if it were a Capcom game, we'd be getting Ultimate Shenmue Hyper Deluxe Plus Plus Matching Ultra '').
Shenmue gets a 9 out of 10, kept from perfection by its clunky archaic control scheme.