Shenmue 3: The game that was wanted but not expected

Shenmue 3: The game that was wanted but not expected

Before its release, I wrote an article entitled: The most wanted video games. Shenmue 3 was at the very top pf my wanted list. Despite coming across the fan kick starter that was set up for the games’ development; years of fake trailers and release dates, left me with a believe it when I see it attitude.

When I saw the game actually came out the following year, I thought back to my article. Though it had no direct effect the game coming out; it was really cool to see something I had written about become a reality. I felt that I had to write something to kind of respond to my dream game piece. What I came up with is a review like article on how I feel; Shenmue 3 is definitely a game that was wanted but not the game that was expected.

The appeal of Shenmue

I grew up on kung fu movies. While the story lines were pretty straight forward and predictable; the fight scenes were some of the most advanced content of the action genre. Being into both these films and video games, I was naturally drawn to the beat em ups that contained martial arts’.

Shenmue was the first fighting game that I played that seemed to have pulled its material right from the movies.

It was a story about revenge- Main character Ryo, is out to avenge the death of his father; who is killed in front of him.

It pits karate against kung fu- Those of us who are familiar with this rivalry, Ryo is a karate expert and the villain, Lan Di is a kung fu master.

There were no tricks-Fighting games mostly the popular titles. Contained special moves that were based on super powers. Shenmues’ fighting was based on natural abilities.

This content alone was more than enough to peek my interests.

Shenmue had the look and feel of a full detailed martial arts’ movie by doing something different. Video games mostly keeps the player on one track by putting them right in the action; level after level. Shenmue gave the action plus everything that lead up to it. Random conversations, down time at the arcade and getting a part-time job; plays a big part in the storys’ progression. While this element did make shenmue pretty unique; in some ways it also plays against it.

Emotional Content

Todays video games do an amazing job at pulling on the emotional chords of the gamer. Shenmue is a tragic story that should bring plenty of emotion. We have a have teenage character whose father is killed in front of him. He’s out for revenge but his pain should be more evident at times, He should break down, joggling rage and his fathers’ teaching should have a bit unstable. Our sympathy should lead us to care about him. Humanizing the character would rid the game of its old genetic feel and bring new depth.

In the second game ryo is told of some history that actually links him to Lan Di (villain). In the third game they go a bit deeper into that history. So far, this hasn’t really revealed or lead to anything big. At a certain point when ryo is given this kind of information I think a twist could’ve been introduced. The twist would be that Lan Di was misled into taking revenge against ryos’ father. This doesn’t have to be proven true or false right away; just an interesting possibility. To build on this twist, gamers could’ve been put on an emotional ride by going back and forth playing as both ryo and LAN Di. I doubt the developers will take this route but it would bring more lanes to the story.

New Terrain

To its defense, there’s a possible conflict that the game faces. While there is a near 20-year gap between Shenmue 3 and 2; the story has only progressed a year. There would be a lack of sophistication; this may ring true in character development and story line, what about the game play?

While I’m all for nostalgia, it has its place. Because developers brought back the same game mechanics, Shenmue 3 felt a dated. This could’ve been solved with an introduction of a few new game play styles.

Mash Button – Shenmues’ mash button system has always been a bit a pain. Compared to the few modern fighting games I’ve played, it’s a bit slow responsive and too stiff. Dump it! The chain fighting system (as I call it), from the Batman Arkham games, would be a perfect fit. Not only is this style smoother, it could also show off ryos’ abilities; especially while fight multiple enemies.

Styles make fights – It was cool to see opponents with different fighting styles. I just wished that it had more of an effect the fighting. When players are facing an enemy with a differcult technique, having a mode that could change ryos’ fighting style, stance and delivery would have been on of the highlights of the game. To give the game a new feel, each style would have its own set of controls.

Developers don’t have to reinvent the wheel; just elevate by taking it through new terrain.

The video game industry is worth over a billion dollars. Like any business, the bottom line is the end all. While Shenmue has its share of fans; it’s never been a massive seller. In an interview, Embracers CEO, Lars Wingefors referred to Shenmue as a “niche product”. Later in the interview he stated that, he was happy to have pleased the core fans; the challenge is in seeing Shenmue as a mass market product.

Would Shenmue 3 have come out if fans didn’t set up the kick starter for the games’ creation? If not, then the question becomes, will they continue to develop the game if it mostly satisfies core fans? To kind of answer this, Shenmue creator Yu Suzuki stated that he is committed to delivering a fourth game. He goes on to say how he wants Shenmue 4 to attract a broader audience. This could suggest that Suzuki realizes the need fore some changes- good start!

Comments from distributors and creators leads me to believe that its make or break for the Shenmue franchise. On the brighter side, this kind of pressure has resulted to the development of great products. Earlier in their careers, both Vince McMahon and Sylvester Stallone faced similar circumstances. The end result as we know was McMahon creating Wrestlemania and Stallone creating Rocky; which ironically are linked to each other. So who knows? Shenmue 4 might be the game that puts the franchise on a more mainstream circuit.


Shenmue debuted at a time when the gaming world was transitioning, going from what games where and into what they would become. It was one of the titles that stood out to me. For the first time I saw a video game tell a story and not just a typical action adventure. While it was shelved, new titles hit the scene. These games changed the landscape with new game play styles and emotionally charged story lines. When Shenmue 3 came out but lacked fresh material, fan support wasn’t enough to put it on par with the top sellers of today.

In conclusion, if developers were to somehow catch wind of this article; I would want them to know that was not my intention to tear down their efforts. I do commend them for giving the fans what they wanted. The aim of this article was to get the creators to realize the anticipation from the fans went deeper than just a third installment. What we were looking for was the best game of the trilogy and still do. Let’s just hope we don’t have to wait another 20years for the next game. Play On!

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