Shenmue II expanded on Yu Suzuki's original Shenmue, continuing the story where the previous game left off. This time, Ryo Hazuki steps off a boat and into Hong Kong, where he inevitably beats up various street gangs in his search for Lan Di, the man who killed his father.
The game still operates the FREE (Full Reactive Eyes Entertainment) system as seen in Shenmue, which sounds a lot better than it actually works. The game is played from a third-person perspective and you are able to do what you want, and things happen at certain times of the day. Standing around and waiting for these things to happen is incredibly tedious, however. The game also includes a "run" button. Whenever a game maker gives you a "run" button, you will always use it. So you do look a bit silly running around everywhere. The idea that you need to get a job to pay the bills is as shocking to see in the game as it is in real life. You spend a lot of your time doing repetivitve jobs to pay your way when you really would just rather break someone's face open and steal their money.
This negativity all really masks the fact there are beautiful graphics coupled with a beautiful emotive story. Sadly, you sometimes wish they had simply updated Streets of Rage and slapped in lots of cut-scenes instead. The story carries the game and makes you think it was really good once you finish it. Perhaps that's enough.
The game was never released in America, possibly because the game's voices, unlike Shenmue, were not re-recorded in English and instead simply displayed as subtitles. This was arguably a good thing (the subtitles, not not releasing it in the States), because people speaking English could disjoint the player from the oriental atmosphere.
Update: Accipiter has informed me that Shenmue II has now been released in the States on the Xbox, not the Dreamcast.
Update 2: megan_of_wutai says re Shenmue II: It wasn't released on DC in America because of licensing issues. i.e. there was some Xbox exclusive thing and thus it couldn't be released on DC.