Shenmue III is finally here, and once again, his name is Ryo and he dances on the sand… yes, that old rubbish joke still works for me after 19 years since I first tried it out. Although this title had a Kickstarter launched to fund it at E3 2015 – where it eclipsed the $2m proposal with scooping $6m in seven hours, it’s then sat in development limbo for longer than anticipated, although that was partly down to the team wanting to put out a slightly-remastered edition of Shenmue I & II in August 2018. Naturally, this led to the third installment being released in time for this Christmas.
This installment begins with a video recap of the events so far in the first two games, lasting around six minutes. Given that I’m a bit rubbish, I didn’t finish the first two games so this helped.
As before, it’s the ’80s and you’re still on the trail of Lan Di, the man who bumped off your father. Here, your journey takes you to China where you meet the lovely Shenhua, who pronounces herbs as “erbs“. However, we’re in familiar territory because Shenmue III has the same sort of dodgy running and dodgy voice acting, with the same happening for the lip movement, that we all know and love, so you’ve gotta love it for that. Sure it looks different to modern games, but it’s meant to fit in well with the original duo.
Similarly, the same frustrations set in, but to me, it’s happening even more than before. It’s best to get this across by giving examples, and there’s some odd turns of phrases in the dialogue, such as when asking around for a guy called Yuan:
- Me: “I’m looking for someone name Yuan”
Them: “No I haven’t.”
Huh? It’s like if I’d asked them had they seen him, and then their answer would make sense, so the parsing is up the spout.
And when I’m talking to another character:
- Wang Wen: “How is Shenhua doing?”
Ryo: “I guess so”
Also, when you speak to the same people for a second time, it doesn’t remind you that they’ve already spoken to you, and if they’ve moved about the environment, I end up initiating a conversation with them for what I’m thinking is the first time, only to realise a moment later that it’s the same person and I’ve got to sit through the same vacant stare of theirs for a minute.
The same happened when I have a game of pail toss, then try to speak to the guy. He acted like we’ve never spoken before!
You do get more answers out of them when Shenhua is in tow, so clearly, the world of Shenmue is like The League of Gentlemen: it’s a local town for local people!
As with those first two titles, you can also play a number of side games, such as Lucky Hit or getting a random ball from the lucky dip machine. There’s also the option to practice your “horse stance” and “one-inch punch” as well as earning some money by chopping wood. However, given how much Ryo wants to solve the murder of his father, surely he should just get on with it, rather than play those, or even allow himself to have the same conversations with the same people?
And Ryo has the personality of a door knob as a repetitive conversation just ends with him saying in monotone, “I see“. Then try knocking on someone’s door more than once. They’re usually out, but you think he’d get the hint after the first time and not knock on it more than once.
There was another really dumb moment, the day after I went to Shenhua’s house, as I woke up in the morning, and she was cooking breakfast – yet we didn’t eat anything, and she suggested we should continue to ask people in the village, but after she says we should go, I went outside…. then I looked inside the window and see that she’s still cooking!
So, I go back inside and she turns to me, and said we should go again, and repeat. Basically, I had to run far away towards the village before she would leave the house and catch up! WTF?!
To that end, at other times, you can let her walk off, then run far ahead of her and she will catch up and we’ll be walking alongside each other… It’s all very bizarre.
A lot of these moments are in the above video.
For one issue on a different topic, when you want to save and quit out of the game, it’s all rather awkward. I’d auto-saved at one point anyway, but then I wanted to go back to the menu before quitting altogether, since that’s usually how games work. Here, there’s no actual button on the controller for this, and the only option appears to be to press ESCAPE on the keyboard which tells you, if you quit out, you’ll lose any unsaved progress…. hmm… well, hopefully that auto-save DID save?
I select yes to quit out, and it just unceremoniously dumps me back to the desktop! Luckily, when I ran the game again, I could just load in where I had saved up to, but it didn’t leave me feeling positive about that.
And for another issue, if you didn’t back this and wanted to buy it upon release, the game retails for $60, but in the US, it was discounted for Black Friday for $35, and that discount was announced BEFORE release. A lot of people were not happy about that if they pre-ordered it.
Then again, a lot of people weren’t happy about the game being able to be pre-ordered on Steam, only for that to be moved to the then-new Epic Games Store, some months before release. Personally, yes, it’s easier if everything’s in one place, but it’s not a biggie to have to log into a different service as I’m racking up a few games on the latter, now, including Heavy Rain and The Sojourn.
Finally, I wanted to give Shenmue III the benefit of the doubt after rather enjoying the first two, but it seems they’ve forgotten to give Ryo anything to get his teeth stuck into this time, and so far, it’s turning into a great cure for insomnia. I just don’t remember the first two games being so interminably slow all of the time.
Yes, you can run about and talk to anyone and check out lots of things in the environment, but all too often, there’s nothing of interest to be found. I went through almost ALL of Shenhua’s drawers in the guest bedroom, and there was either boring stuff around, or a stack of books that Ryo observed: “This doesn’t look like something I’d read”. GAH!
Shenmue III certainly keeps the spirit of the originals, whilst updating the graphics enough to the point where it does look gorgeous, even if the animations are ‘of their time’. However, after first giving this the benefit of the doubt as my patience was wearing thin, I thought, maybe the first two Shenmue games were just ‘of their time’ and that’s why this feels like it really misses the mark?
- Developer: Ys Net
- Publisher: Deep Silver
- Players: Single player campaign
Director: Yu Suzuki
Creator: Yu Suzuki
Screeenplay: Masahiro Yoshimoto
Ryo Hazuki: Corey Marshall
Ling Shenhua: Brianna Knickerbocker
Lan Di: Kyle McCarley
Ren Wuying: Greg Chun
Ye Xiuyu / Chen YuQuing: Wendee Lee
Feng ChengXu / Bei Xianzi: Kyle Hebert
Sun JiuSi: Cam Clarke
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.