Shenmue III is finally out. The revered masterpiece from Yu Suzuki finally has a follow-up to its Dreamcast videogame legacy. In retrospective, when Shenmue I & II launched respectively, both titles received critical acclaim. Each title posed as revolutionary in terms of story-telling and mechanics. Though, times are different now. Technology pushes new boundaries every day and what made the series famous is now a staple for the action-adventure genre. The core elements that once made Shenmue a must-play, are now present in most modern titles. So, with that in mind, is Shenmue III’s style and essence enough to keep players interested in this classic tale of revenge? Let’s go ahead and figure out what Shenmue III is all about in this review!
Ryo and Shenhua
One good thing about Shenmue III is that it includes a brief cinematic that reviews what’s going on with the story until that point. Although, you will need to manually access it from the main menu. Namely, the story centers around Ryo Hazuki and Shenhua Ling. Ryo is a Japanese man whose father died in the hands of a man named Lan Di. His pursuit of revenge leads him to Shenhua’s village in China, where they meet for the first time. Their paths become closer together as they unravel the mysteries behind Shenhua’s father’s disappearance. As well, they piece together how these events connect to the fate that befell on Ryo’s father in the previous games.
In essence, the story is solid. Still, it suffers from dated mechanics and gameplay. During most of the game, your task is to play detective and figure out the mysteries the story presents. In order to do this, you will have to speak with many NPCs. Additionally, you will have to inspect many environments looking for clues. This is done with a first-person perspective and it is genuinely fun until it becomes repetitive and cumbersome. Repetitiveness is almost always a constant in Shenmue 3. From its mechanics to its dialogs. At its best, the story keeps you going for another round of exploration. At its worst, you stop caring because of how monotonous and jarring the gameplay loop is.
Gaming in retro style
Ryo is a martial artist, which comes in handy. Every now and then, you will have to engage in combat with thugs or other NPCs that challenge you. Ryo gets better by sparring with monks in a temple or playing some training mini-games. Combat in Shenmue III is simplistic and unrewarding. Furthermore, the same goes for exploration, as there is a lot of backtracking to do. Besides that, you won’t see any other areas besides Shenhua’s village until around 10 to 13 hours into the game. This is, of course, depending on how much time you spend on mini-games and side activities like fishing.
Shenmue III does have some magical moments in it. Some of the opening scenes have a very appealing and 80s style that makes graphics look crisp and carefully crafted. Sadly, this rapidly drops in quality. The effort to keep Shenmue 3’s visuals sharp and visually engaging only covers its settings and falls short in other areas. Even when there are some pretty detailed and interesting landscapes, these rapidly lose their charm due to the amount of badly animated character and animal models. What could have been stunning countryside landscapes, rather turned out to be unrealistic and off-putting scenery.
Even when some of the character models look okay, some others are straight up cartoonish. Additionally, the voiceover for most, it not all characters, feels off and terribly lipsynced. There are many instances of broken dialog. Specifically, I had to repeat several conversations due to how broken the responses were. Ryo sometimes answered questions he hasn’t even been asked yet during interactions with other characters. As well, NPCs have canned and unskippable responses that simply become annoying after a while.
In review, Yu Suzuki’s Shenmue III is not the modern continuation of the cult classic fans wanted. However, it does advance in a story that deserves closure. It is a good thing that this chapter in the story was made. Though, it is a shame that many fans won’t be able to cut through all the rough edges and enjoy the game. Shenmue III is a playable game, but also a repetitive and cumbersome experience. It attempts to deliver a visually striking adventure and a compelling story-telling. Thus, it regrettably falls short due to dated mechanics, broken dialog, and jarring narrative pacing. It is still amazing what the development team managed to do with the limited amount of resources at their disposal. Hopefully, if there is ever another entry in the franchise, it will be the continuation that fans want and deserve.
Release Date: November 19, 2019
No. of Players: 1 Player
Publisher: Deep Silver
Developer: Ys Net
A review copy was provided by the publisher.
Are you planning to pick up Shenmue III? Be sure to leave all of your thoughts in the comments section below, or join the discussion over on our Facebook page.
Here at PlayStation Enthusiast, we are covering the latest PlayStation titles in written and video format. If you’re more interested in video content you can check out our official YouTube channel here. We are constantly putting out interesting features and opinion pieces that may interest you. Head over to our home screen and see if anything catches your eye!