The E3 2015 announcement of Shenmue 3 very nearly broke the Internet. Some people lost their minds with excitement and nostalgia, while some just wondered what the heck a Shenmue was.
Here’s the brief history lesson. Shenmue is an RPG that launched on the Dreamcast back in 1999/2000. The story centers on Ryo Hazuki and his quest to avenge his father’s murder, but playing it is just as much about getting lost in the details of everyday life in suburban Japan. It was one of the first open-world games as we now know them, with a persistent universe, drawers that opened, and stores that kept specific hours. Shenmue II sees Ryo in Hong Kong, still looking for answers and justice; that one dropped back in 2001, but only on the original Xbox in the U.S.
The games made a big impact on a small group of fans, and the series has long been a cult favorite among them. And now, more than a decade later, Ryo and Shenhua are getting back on the road together. Anticipation is high, but information has been a bit scarce. Here’s what we do know.
The game is pegged for release in December 2017. But as anyone who has ever pledged a Kickstarter campaign knows, with a creation this massive, and with no small amount of expectation on its shoulders, delays seem inevitable. So take that timeline with a grain of salt.
We’re light on updates in this regard. The Kickstarter page lists a very brief clip of Ryo and Shenhua at a lake, and the official YouTube channel for the game takes viewers through some shots of a hut in Bailu Village. Some early in-engine footage and screenshots also emerged at the MAGIC game conference in February.
Most recently, in August, the Shenmue website posted a video from the dev room. Good to see things really are still in motion with the game!
The game and its gargantuan budget all began with the launch of a Kickstarter campaign. It started out seeking $2 million, but wound up pulling in a jaw-dropping $6,333,295 in one month. An impressive 69,320 people backed the game.
Given the high price tag, you’d expect some baller rewards. Different price tiers might be getting an art book, in-game items, illustrations signed by Yu-san himself, or rare merch from the first two Shenmue titles. And for a cool $10K, some superfans will get to have dinner with Yu Suzuki and talk about the game.
All the game’s many fans would love nothing more than a look at exactly what they’ll be doing in the sequel. Suzuki said early on in the project that it would take $10 million to make the new game a true open world experience, although he didn’t explain exactly what he meant by that. He does have the backing of Sony on top of the crowdsourced funds, so maybe those open world mechanics are still something that we’ll see in the final product. Fingers crossed.
In July, series creator and director Yu Suzuki offered a brief update. He said that development had “really taken off” since the start of 2016. But we still don’t have confirmation of what the gameplay of Shenmue 3 will actually be or how closely it will match the two before it.
It’s been more than 14 years, but it seems we might finally get a resolution to the cliffhanger that ended of Shenmue 2. Last time we saw Ryo, he had just met Shenhua Ling. Then there was a sword and a mural and a whole lot of questions. In the Kickstarter video, Suzuki promised that Shenmue 3 would be “the story you have waited for.” The duo will be traveling through China as Ryo continues to seek vengeance.
Sukuzi has long envisioned Shenmue as a multi-part saga. In a Reddit AMA last summer, he explained that he sees the complete story having 11 chapters, with each title exploring a handful of them. “Over the past 14 years I originally planned for there to 4 of five games to series,” he said. “If at all possible, I would still like to realize the full story of 11 chapters.”
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