I bought it for like $9 back in early 2001 and loved it but I recall it getting mixed reviews. Then GTA 3 came out later that year and (even though they aren't similar games at all) reviewers were calling it "Shenmue done right".
It really was a technical marvel, though. Even had internet features that I never got a chance to use because we didn't have internet access until like 2007 in my home.
Indeed. Shenmue at its core was too Japanese in its design. I loved the original one on the DC, but even felt restricted when compared to Ocarina of Time. Gamers of the time were expecting something akin to what GTA delivered as the natural progression of big "open" world RPGs and action games. That said Shenmue at least visually and artistically was way beyond GTA III, and visually in my opinion did do the trick of transporting me to 80s Japan. I wasn't big on GTA3 though I had the game. Shenmue was unfortunately destined to have a niche following and it's big (rumored 70 million dollar) budget at the time was a killer.