The Shenmue series has a huge cult following with good reason. It is one of the most immersive games I have ever played. And it was amazingly gorgeous and epic, particularly for its time. It was first released for the Dreamcast in 1999/2000 depending which side of the Pacific you lived on.
Shenmue is the brainchild of game creator Yu Suzuki, also known for the Virtua Fighter series, Virtua Cop and more. Thinking about it, maybe he has always had a thing for graphic innovation.
The game takes place in Yokosuka, Japan. The 3D virtual world is just wonderful. I really felt like I was exploring 1980's Japan. The environments are incredibly interactive. I remember you could open each drawer/door of the dresser in the protagonist Ryo's room. The vending machines Japan is notorious for were also interactive. You could buy drinks or even collectible toys, though not some of the more bizarre offerings you may have heard about in Japan, like worn panties.
The behaviour of the NPCs was also very interesting. The game kept track of time and at different times of day, the characters would be going about different things in their daily lives. Shops would open and close at different times. The seasons changed. It was a gorgeous, realistic world.
The control system was diverse. There was so much you could do in the game. There was the 3rd person exploration mode which was perhaps a bit like the 3D Zelda games without the ability to attack. There was the fighting mode which is similar to the fighting in the Yakuza games. There was the Quick Time Event or QTE mode. This happened sometimes during action sequences of the story wherein you must push a certain button or button combination before time was up. On top of these common modes, there were also a few mini-games to be played throughout the game. You could go to an arcade and play some games there, including darts, Hang On, and Space Harrier, a couple of Yu Suzuki's old games.
The game begins with Ryo walking into his father's dojo to find his father battling a Chinese man named Lan Di. Lan Di is demanding the whereabouts of some mirror. Lan Di ends up taking Ryo's father's life and injuring Ryo. And so begins Ryo's quest for revenge.
If martial arts, an open interactive world and 80's Japan are your thing, I think you will enjoy this one.