Can Shenmue 3 hope to live up to fans expectations?

shenmue 3 can it work

In late 1999 early 2000 Sega launched an ambitious new Open-World Action Adventure IP on the Dreamcast. Shenmue, was a massive venture by Sega and an extremely long and costly project, from the day of release the game was fated to be a financial flop. Being the most expensive game developed at the time meant that unless Dreamcast owners had multiple copies of the game, it wouldn’t break even, let alone make a profit.

The game followed the story of Ryo Hazuki, and although it was groundbreaking at the time, when looking objectively it laid out for us a by the numbers revenge plot. A good old fashioned “You killed my father, so i’m going to kill you” framing for our narrative. However Shenmue’s presentation, attention to detail and how the story was steeped in unanswered questions pushed the game forward and made for a deeply immersive experience.

shenmue 1 screenshot

The game was received positively by in large, the years of work had showed in the end product. A massive and detailed open world area, a real cinematic story telling experience and satisfying fighting mechanics blended together to make an experience that really got fans of the series invested in what Sega had begun. Quickly a sequel which was already being developed and was released the following year, carrying on from the 1st game with the next chapter in Ryo Hazuki’s story. However, without getting too much into specifics and any possible spoilers, the game finished on a well built up cliffhanger that made you want to dive further into what the story had to offer.

The IP remained dead for years, with passionate fans (including myself) scouring the internet, campaigning to Sega for any clue or hint that Shenmue 3 would become a reality. These years were almost half my entire life, until 15 years later at E3 2015 Shenmue 3 was announced as a new KickStarter project. Gaining its target within hours, Shenmue was back, and fans who had waiting so many years we’re simultaneously stunned and elated at the announcement (again, myself included).

But now all the dust is settled and the release of Shenmue 3 draws closer and closer, it really brings up some questions, does a game like Shenmue fit in the modern world of gaming? Does the project have the resources to deliver an experience like the first 2 games managed? And how can Shenmue 3 possibly live up to the hype?

shenmue 3 promo

How does Shenmue fit into the modern world of gaming?

In 1999, Shenmue was a revolutionary game, a real cornerstone in the development of the modern open world genre, and like it or not, popularised quick time events in cutscenes. But by today’s standards it’s open world area is relatively small, the English voice acting is awful (although has it’s own sort of charm), QTE’s are very unpopular and the fighting feels stiff and unsatisfying.

So this is the first problem that Shenmue 3 has, how can it move into the modern gaming space? A time where we know what we like in our open world games, it’s no longer a new genre with loads of room for innovation, now the open-world genre is saturated and although is still extremely popular, each deviation from the established open world formula is now a potential risk not an innovation.

Does the project has the resources to deliver?

Back in the 90’s Shenmue was a massively ambitious title, scores of people were involved in bringing it altogether and loads of money was spent doing it. Now times have moved on, comparatively to make a game the same scale of the initial 2 games would be a much cheaper endeavour.

But with around $7m of crowdfunding, and whatever other financial investments have been secured for the games development, does Yu have the resources he needs to deliver a game where previous entries were notorious for going massively over budget? Will the game ultimately have to be released below the initially planned scope if Yu does run over budget? It all leads to the possibilities that fans could be getting an under developed version of what they have been promised.

Can Shenmue 3 possibly live up to the hype?

Even if the previous 2 questions come through as a solid ‘Yes’. Even if Shenmue 3 lives up to it’s initial ambition, making a bold statement in the open-world genre with interesting ways of delivering it’s story, and is well put together and feels like a game that isn’t under-developed. Can any game ever live up to 15 years of speculation?

Yu Suzuki had the whole Shenmue story planned out over many chapters from the very start, and whilst the series was on hiatus fan speculation/theorising has been going for a long time, I’d even hazard a guess that some of these theories are more in tune with what fans want than Yu’s actual planned story arc.

Shenmue 3 screen

Unfortunately it’s going to take Game of Thrones/Breaking Bad levels of writing to give fans anything that’s close to worth waiting for 15 years for. That being said Yu has also had 15 years to develop the story further, tweak it, edit it, streamline it, you never know he might just have something up his sleeve.

Although this article has had quite a negative outlook for what Shenmue 3 is going to look like, for me personally I’m still really excited to see how it all works out, and all my fingers are crossed that all those dedicated fans aren’t just marching straight into gaming’s next big disaster.

Hopefully next month’s E3 can shine some light on this for us, giving us that little bit more detail we need to start getting that initial impression of how it’s shaping up. Regardless of what happens I’ve paid my money into the KickStarter, providing the game is released I will be getting my copy and although I do have my apprehensions I’d just at quickly do the same again.

Shenmue 3 is still a planned for a end of 2017 release, which will see the game launch on the PS4 & PC (sorry Xbox owners).

What’s your thoughts on how Shenmue 3 is going to turn out? Do you think it’ll ever live up to the expectations of the fans, and if so, how?

Rob Beckett781 Posts

Volunteer writer, poor mans excuse for a grown up, and certified panther rider... I'm told I have far too many consoles that i'm convinced come to life and have endless series comedy capers when the house is empty. Sort of like Toy Story, but really poorly written and every character is voiced by Jai Courtney... a bit like that...


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