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Artist John Sweeney Illustrates His Process for Creating a New ‘Shenmue’ Piece

Inside the making of some fine gaming art.

by Mike Diver
07 July 2015, 11:00am

John Sweeney's SEGA-approved 'Shenmue' piece

Amsterdam-based art dealers Cook & Becker have been commissioning limited-run works based on famous SEGA franchises for a little while now, and when I found out that a Shenmue-themed piece was incoming, I wanted to dig into the creative process behind it.

The work of John Sweeney, a concept artist on games including Uncharted 4 and The Last of Us (do check out more of his work, it's amazing), this image captures the Shenmue series' protagonist, Ryo Hazuki, struggling to cope in the immediate aftermath of losing his father. It's based on events that happen early in the first game, setting the narrative off on a path through Yokosuka, Japan, to Hong Kong and into rural China.

Says Sweeney of his piece:

"I'm so excited that Shenmue 3 is finally happening. I wanted to capture the moment just after Ryo's father, Iwao, is killed by Lan Di. In the game, the scene stops with Ryo cradling Iwao and screaming, 'No!' I wanted to imagine a shot where Ryo is standing just outside the dojo where his father was just killed. It's cold and very early in the morning. Snow is falling. The light is still weak, and only some of the wood interior is catching light from outside. Ryo's pose already hints at him seeking revenge."

On Noisey: The Art of the Record Label Logo

The final print proper (which you can buy if you're into these kind of things) is above, as this article's lead image, but below we've some slides that Sweeney's sent us documenting the creation of his work. One, marked "photoshoots", provides a glimpse of his work for The Last of Us. There's also a "making of" time-lapse video to check out, and photos of the final print.

Shenmue 3 was revealed at E3 2015, initially as a Kickstarter campaign (ten days to go) but it's now clear that Sony are going to pay a lot of its development costs. It's the long-awaited third entry in director Yu Suzuki's adventure series – Shenmue II came out back in 2001. This one had better not have forklift racing in it or so help me...


More from VICE Gaming:

Hold the 'Shenmue 3' Hype – Weren't the Earlier Games Actually a Bit Shit?

The Three-Decade-Old 'Out Run' Is One of 2015's Best New Games

New 'No Man's Sky' Footage Leaves Us Thinking, 'That Escalated Quickly'

vice gaming
Mike Diver
Yu Suzuki
Shenmue 3
John Sweeney