Wishing on a Game: Shenmue III

Shenmue

Our last Wishing on a Game feature concentrated on Rare’s killer series, Killer Instinct, with the dream of a third installment. This time we look at arguably one of the most influential games of the last 15 years, a game that defined the Dreamcast. That game is Shenmue, but what would we want if Sega ever decided to develop that much-wanted third installment of the series.

There were many great games on the Sega Dreamcast; games such as Sonic Adventures, Resident Evil: Code Veronica, Power Stone, andVirtua Fighter, among others, kept gamers occupied for hours on end, but there was one game that had every Dreamcast owner drooling, one game that was so far ahead of its time that many people thought it couldn’t be done. It had romance, it had death, it had action, it even had everyday jobs to gain money. It had gambling, it had pool games, and it was the first to introduce quick time events (QTE). So what was this legendary game? None other than Shenmue.

Developed by Sega-AM2 under the direction of the legendary Yu Suzuki, Shenmue was a masterpiece. It gave birth to the “FREE” acronym, which stands for “Full Reactive Eyes Entertainment." This is how Suzuki was describing the game throughout development. What Suzuki was implying was the fact that he wanted to give the player the freedom and interactivity they come across every day in real life. He achieved this goal by simulating aspects of real life that include morning, afternoon, and evening time settings. The Shenmue world would revolve around these different times; shops would open in the morning and then shut in the afternoon, pubs would start getting busy during the evening times, the streets would become less populated throughout the night, and people would be doing their usual daily routines just as they would in real life. This was unheard of at this time. He also included the option of working to gain money as well as build trust with people who might give you information. Again, this was unheard of back then, and created that extra bit of realism Suzuki wanted.

Shenmue’s story revolves around Ryo Hazuki and his quest for revenge for the death of his father at the hands of Lan Di. The game opens with a hard-hitting bang with the death of Ryo’s father which then sets the tone for the rest of the game. The death of his father came because Lan Di wanted a special item by the name of “Dragon Mirror” which Ryo’s father processed, when Lan Di threatened to kill Ryo, his father gave up the location details and once Lan Di had said item in his hands he killed Ryo’s father. Once this dramatic cut scene is over the game starts and it is up to you do some investigation and ask people around the town if they saw anything surrounding the incident. The information Ryo receives leads you to where you will be spending most of your time, the city of Yokosuka. Throughout the game you meet some very interesting and intriguing characters which include Master Chen and your “love” interest Nozomi. There are many different twists and turns throughout the game, and we could spend all day discussing it.

Shenmue II carried on from where the first left off and improved on some of the complaints surrounding it. This mainly had to do with the game’s slow pacing. Though it improved on these gameplay complaints, many thought that the sequel didn’t have the same effect as the original. The game wasn’t nearly as detailed as the original and felt a bit underwhelming when compared to the groundbreaking original.

At this point in time many other games started using the same gameplay mechanics that Shenmue introduced, and like the infamous Matrix effects, these lost the original wow factor. So, why hasn’t there been a Shenmue III? Well Shenmue II, an Xbox exclusive, sold pretty badly. Add that to the huge loss Sega incurred while developing the first, which cost over 70 million dollars, and you don’t come up with a very profitable series. Yu Suzuki, as you may have heard, recently stepped down as creative designer at Sega. This comes as no surprise, considering Suzuki hasn’t been in the frame since Virtua Fighter 4 and thus hasn’t had much say in pushing for Shenmue III. So what would we want in a third installment?

For starters, although the sequel wrapped up most of the story, there were still some unanswered questions and a few chapters still not finished, including the bloody cliffhanger ending. We want to know what the **** happened when Ryo combined the phoenix mirror and sword. So without a shadow of doubt the third installment will have to start where the last one left off. Beyond that, Sega can do what they like with the storyline so long as it is engaging, interesting, and entertaining.

Shenmue took graphics to the next level so we would expect the same for the third — sorry Nintendo but this game belongs on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. With the power of the 360 and PS3 we can expect more characters on the screen at once, more lifelike animations and interactions, more dense and expansive locations offering more places to explore, and overall, a much bigger game. Conversations with other characters could draw influence from Mass Effect’s, with different choices resulting in different outcomes. By doing this, players can not only play the game how they want, but also have an opportunity to replay the game and retain a fresh experience.

One of the few shortcomings of the original was, although it had an open world setting, it was considered fairly linear. We’d want Sega to open the third game much more than the previous two, with branching storylines, alternate travel routes, multiple endings, etc.. Between the two existing games, they never really got the pacing right; the original lacked much action, whereas there was an abundance in the sequel. Getting the right balance would be a must for the third. There would also need to be more standout moments. One of Shenmue’s best moments was when you took on 70 gang members near the end of the original; we need more surprises like this. Shocking moments, moments to keep us on the edge of our seats.

We would still want the open world gameplay mechanic, and a day-night cycle is a must. Jobs and other minigames are welcome and adding some new ones for good measure (like debt collecting) would be great. All in all, everything that made Shenmue so great should be enhanced even further to match what we expect from games today. But, and this is a huge but, there is one thing that needs to be cut down: QTE. There was too much QTE in the sequel; all the fight scenes seemed to revolve around it. In the third game I’d hope that little, if any, QTE would be included, making the fighting scenes more open and enjoyable, and making the game more streamlined and uninterrupted.

What are the chances of Shenmue III? Very little I am afraid. With Suzuki stepping down as creative manager at Sega, there seem to be fewer and fewer people pushing for this game. If Sega listens to its fans then maybe one day we could see this epic tale come to its conclusion, but until that day arrives all we can do is dust of our Dreamcasts and play the original masterpieces. TheGameReviews.com is wishing on a game, and that game is Shenmue III.

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