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Shenmue III

Posted by GG Goblin On December - 11 - 2019

Ryo is still looking for revenge.

It has been some twenty years since the original Shenmue launched on SEGA’s mighty Dreamcast console and the fans of the game are still just as fanatical about Ryo Hazuki’s quest for revenge as they ever were. The Dreamcast was a magnificent console that was way ahead of its time, as was the game Shenmue. It offered something almost entirely unique and paved the way for many games that come since. However, it is often said that you can’t go back, and many of Shenmue’s quirks and eccentricities would be simply not acceptable in modern gaming. Still, the fans wanted to see the conclusion of the Shenmue story and have been demanding a third installation since Shenmue II. Creator Yu Suzuki waited, but still listened, and eventually we saw a KickStarter campaign that has resulted in the fabled Shenmue III finally being released.


The original Shenmue and its sequel, Shenmue II, were re-released just recently, maybe to get new players ready for Shenmue III, or more likely to cash in on the new release. Dropping back into these old games was an absolute delight, but it also served to highlight how much gaming had changed over the years. The slow pace of the game, the Quick Time Events, and the constant having to work out who to talk to, and when, are all things that younger gamers, those who missed out on Shenmue the first time around, would struggle with, ultimately wondering what on earth all of the fuss was about. But still, with Shenmue III at least we will be looking at a much more modern sequel that will have made all of the evolutionary jumps to fit in with today’s gaming habits. Right?

Well, you would have thought. The reality is that Shenmue III is almost exactly the game that it would have been, had it been released back on the Dreamcast. It is almost as if the developer had created Shenmue III all of those years ago, and then has just been sitting on it until now. Obviously that is not the case, this latest Shenmue game is totally new and has been made to fit perfectly as the sequel to the previous Shenmue games, complete with all of the strange choices that made the originals such a fan favourite. It is all about continuing the story of Ryo Hazuki as if time has stood still.

Which, for Ryo, it has. Shenmue III continues on from the end of Shenmue II, still loosely trying to get revenge for the death of his father. It is easy to forget that this is a new game, since everything feels so retro. The gameplay is pretty much identical, with Ryo spending the vast majority of his time wandering around and talking to various people, trying to get the information he needs. It is all so wonderfully awkward, as even the voice acting still manages to feel disjointed and unnatural, as if these characters have no concept of conversation at all. And there is next to no personality to most of the characters, including the lead. There is something charming about the odd conversations, but I am fairly sure that charm comes from nostalgia and would leave players new to the Shenmue series shaking their head in disbelief.


At least the visuals can be seen to have some modern flair, sometimes. Don’t get me wrong, Shenmue III at times looks lovely, with some really amazing detail. But even at these best times, the game still doesn’t look as good as would have been expected. But the looks are not consistent, with some areas looking far better than others. The same is to be said about the character models. None of them look especially great, but the differences between models are so apparent that they must have been created by different teams with totally different ideas. It can be quite bizarre.

When it comes to the actual gameplay, aside from sparking odd conversations with everyone, the returning players will know exactly what to expect. The pace of the game is very slow, with players spending at least some of their time trying to earn money to buy the all important food that keeps Ryo’s stamina up. There are various jobs to be done that always manage to feel like busywork in some kind of life simulator. There is the combat which is quite simple but still enjoyable, although the proper fights are few and far between. Then there are the other distractions, such as the Gashapon machines that pop out small collectible figures that could, maybe, be worth some cash, or at least are cute enough that collecting them is pleasant.

It’s a strange one. As a fan of the original games that I played on my Dreamcast, dropping into Shenmue III felt natural and all of the quirkiness was instantly forgotten. However, the modern gamer in me kept wondering what I was doing playing such a slow, and often boring, game. Quite simply, I can’t see any gamers who didn’t play the originals finding anything to enjoy here. For the fans though, Shenmue III is exactly what it always should have been. Except Shenmue III doesn’t bring the closure that fans would want as, you guessed it, it looks like there will be a fourth game.


Shenmue III is the game that Shenmue fans have been waiting for all of these years. It continues the story and brings all of the features of the original games, both good and bad. Sadly, newcomers may struggle to invest in many of the games archaic systems. But the game is not for them, it is for the fans. It may not have been the game that some players expected, and it does feel like it belongs in a different time, but Shenmue III is the continuation of Ryo’s story, which is all the fans wanted. Newcomers would do best to try out the remakes of the originals first though.




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