At long last, Shenmue 3 is here. It’s been nearly 20 years since the first game in the series released, and roughly 18 years since the previous game came out, and a lot of long time fans had given up on Ryo Hazuki and company. However thanks to a successful Kickstarter campaign, and a controversial decision to jump from Steam to the Epic Games Store, Shenmue 3 has finally launched for the PlayStation 4 and PC. It’s been a few days since it released earlier in the week, and it’s safe to say that the video game community is split in half.
From what we can tell, there’s nothing wrong with the game technical wise, in fact we’d reckon that it looks fairly impressive so far. However, some of the main complaints seems to be stemming from the actual game mechanics, the presentation, and the flow of the story. It’s apparent that the developers, Ys Net and Neilo, created this title with every intention of being faithful to the die hard fans of the series, and there’s nothing wrong with that in practice. Unfortunately when it comes to Shenmue 3, there’s a lot of those aspects that haven’t aged well for some.
This is no more evident than with the recurring phrase “Feels like a Dreamcast Game” like in Gamesradar’s review. If you’re a fanatic of Sega’s swansong console, then this shouldn’t bother you. For everyone else, or if you’ve never even played a Dreamcast game, this probably isn’t up your alley. Some outlets such as Eurogamer praised the developers decision to keep the series exactly the way it’s been, while others like IGN and Polygon we’re less than favorable in theirs. The main points that they criticized was that the game didn’t implement anything new or revolutionary from the last 20 years.
For the sake of spoilers, we won’t get into the specific’s of the story, but we will say that this takes place immediately after the conclusion of Shenmue 2. There isn’t any major time skip, and the story of Ryo looking for his fathers killer is still the main premise. As we stated before, the open world landscape is very impressive for the most part, but one of the main sticking points that detractors have pointed out is the facial animation on the characters, going from realistic to barely moving at all.
Speaking of the characters, the voice acting was also something that a lot of fans and critics took shots at. Ironically, the first two games also suffered from the same issue, although fans may not have been as critical since the idea of voice acting in games was still a work in progress. The part where the player participates most, the combat, has changed quite a bit from their predecessors. It now blends the Virtua Fighter style of gameplay with the series signature Quick Time Events (QTE). Some of the reviewers weren’t fans of the idea that this is what they had to learn in order to progress the story, despite keeping to a similar style of the previous games.
Shenmue 3 isn’t perfect, but for the fans who have been waiting for an eternity, it’s everything they’ve wanted and more. However, if you haven’t the faintest idea of how this series works, you might be better off playing something else. If this game came out two or three years after Shenmue 2 as opposed to 18, we might be having a different conversation altogether. Still, it’s nothing short of a miracle that the game was released at all. Who know’s, this may lead to more sequels in the future.
Shenmue 3 is available now for the PlayStation 4 and PC through the Epic Games Store.