This is not a drill… Shenmue III is here! I repeat this is not a drill: Shenmue III exists, and I have played it. Check out our Shenmue III review!
Play as Ryo Hazuki, an 18-year-old Japanese martial artist hellbent on avenging his father’s death.
In this third installment of the epic Shenmue series, Ryo seeks to solve the mystery behind the Phoenix Mirror, an artifact sought after by his father’s killer. His journey takes him to an immersive representation of rural China, brimming with activity and surrounded by beautiful landscapes.
Ryo’s adventure leads him to towns and mountain villages where he can further his training, try his hand at gambling, play arcade games, and work part-time jobs while investigating those who know truth behind the Phoenix Mirror.
Shenmue III – The Story Goes On Launch Trailer | PS4
After a Kickstarter that was initially announced at Sony’s 2015 “Year of Dreams” conference, and almost 20 years after the classic Shenmue II, the sequel Shenmue III is finally now here. Having said that, how did it turn out?
First of all, if you haven’t played the Shenmue games before…stop. Please go play the remasters, which are now available on PlayStation 4 – you can check out my review of that collection right here. No one should be playing Shenmue III without having played the first two. I mean, thank you for your time and do still read the review, but if you’re interested in this universe, I suggest you go and play those two games first.
I reviewed the remasters last year and found that while the games haven’t aged well, they’re still worth playing so that gamers can appreciate how some of the games we’ve been getting this century have been influenced by them – like the excellent Yakuza series. Playing the collection on PlayStation 4 was a nice time capsule that opened a door into the past. Because of this, I was certainly interested in seeing how Shenmue III had ended up feeling. Would it be a fully modernized game or feel like a proper continuation of the originals two games, as if it had released 20 years ago?
Shenmue III literally picks up immediately after the Shenmue 2 ending. Ryo and Shenhua are still on the trail of the killer of Ryo’s father. This brings them to rural China, a change in pace from Hong Kong, where the sequel took place. The villages are full of colorful characters which make interacting with the fun.
As the main purpose of Shenmue III is tracking down Lan Di, you need to talk and interact with the villagers as you look for any useful information. This leads to one of my favorite parts of the game, but I could see people taking this as a negative: talking to people. The dialogue is terribly written and sounds as if robots were speaking. After playing the game for a bit, I realized this was a situation of something being so bad it’s good. All the voice actors read in a monotonous voice, making them sound very dry, with no emotion. Again: it’s so bad, it’s good.
I actually think the way Shenmue III presents its detective work in the game is really interesting. Talking to people will give you leads that you can then follow up on with other people as you begin to solve the overall puzzle. You may go on a bit without a lead, but when you get one, and can go from that to talking to other people who are in on the situation, it feels like a rewarding gameplay loop. Shenmue III does better detective work better than most games.
Shenmue III also features some combat, as was to be expected. The original two games used the Virtua Fighter engine for the combat, but this sequel is using a different engine, which is why combat feels a bit different. It seems that, for the game, combat is not a big focus. When first introduced to combat, you get a card on the screen giving you the combat tutorial – you know, press the face buttons and the R2 button here and there. That was all of the combat tutorial for the game, and while I don’t love long tutorials that overstay their welcome, the combat system for Shenmue III has more nuance that should be presented in a better way.
Speaking of the controls, they have been improved considerably! Gone are the tank controls from the previous entries in the franchise, so your character now moves in the direction you press the left analog stick at. The controls just feel much better, and I wish the remasters of the first two had an option for implementing something similar – not a deal-breaker for the collection with the first two games, but something you need to know.
I think Shenmue III is a great visual upgrade over the original two games, as well as on the look of the remasters. It’s has a simple and clean look, but honestly, that feels right for a game set in rural China in the late 1980s. The quieter moments in Shenmue III will lead to some beautiful visuals, which you’ll just want to take a second to appreciate. My biggest gripe with Shenmue III is that it didn’t finish Ryo’s story. It took almost twenty years to get a sequel, so I hope that a fourth entry is not going to take another twenty years to arrive.
Shenmue III is a new game that feels old, in good ways and bad ways. The controls feel much better with some good quality of life improvements, and the game looks great thanks to the Unreal 4 engine, but the writing and dialogue are almost so bad they are so good. Searching for Lan Di is a satisfying experience, looking for leads and following upon them. I mentioned earlier you needed to play the first two before you play the third one. If you have played them before and have enjoyed them, then Shenmue III is going to feel like a very satisfying sequel.
This Shenmue III review is based on a PlayStation 4 copy provided by Deep Silver.