Spoiler alert: If you’re yet to play Shenmue 3, or are currently working your way through it, you may not want to read on.
I’ve finished Shenmue 3. And might be finished with Shenmue.
It’s taken me a year, finally rekindling my relationship with the PS4 version of the game earlier this week. But I’m not happy.
Maybe it’s the romanticism held for the first two games. The feeling I held on to all these years as Ryo Hazuki boarded that ship at the end of Shenmue (the original) to make way to Hong Kong, in search of vengeance, mystery, answers, the truth and everything in between.
Then there was the second iteration of the game in 2001. Four discs of Dreamcast greatness, with almost the entire final disc just a stroll in the woods with Shenhua.
Somewhere in 2019 I picked up the Shenmue 1+2 re-release for PS4 and played my way through both games while the wait for Shenmue 3 continued.
By Christmas 2019, it was here and by January 2020 I had made the transition from Bailu to Niaowu but as soon as I hit the docks, I hit pause for about 12 months.
Back at it
Three days was all I needed. A good block of time to put in to finishing off the game and to be fair, I stuck to the storyline rather than get bogged down in side missions and minigames. Why? The end was in sight. All the years of waiting, the chance to throw down with Lan Di, put this whole anthology to bed once and for all.
I get it. When you play Shenmue, you set yourself up for repetition. In the first game, it’s the getting up in the morning, heading to the docks, working the forklifts, heading home, rinse-repeat.
The second game has a bit of it and the third game has a lot of it – get up in the morning, get the kung fu practice in, earn a few quid, do a whole lot of asking about, running the length and breadth of the map, and go again.
But you knuckle down and get through it as you know the end is in sight.
The Old Castle serves up more frustration than conclusions
That was, until it came time to head to The Old Castle.
Before you find Shenhua’s father, you need to find a few trinkets for the pawn shop
Harking back to the 70-man battle royale from the first game, you’ll have to take on multiples of every duan of fighter on the way to confronting the end boss.
At this stage, you’ve figured out the craic with the Red Snakes and they’ve kidnapped Shenhua. Only it turns out that the innocent girl (Feng Li) who’s been knocking about Niaowu that occasionally bumps into Rio, is actually the leader of the Red Snakes and one of the heads of the Chi You Men.
Not only that, but by the time Ryo gets to Lan Di, all the training amounts to nothing. Lan Di is still Lan Di, ducking and dodging, it’s Ren to the rescue, the place is burning down to the ground (thanks to Feng Li or Niao Sun or whatever her name is) and it’s a case of having to get out of dodge before the whole place goes up in flames.
No showdown. No reuniting the mirrors. Nada.
Actually, by the time you get to the end of the game, you’re only really starting to learn about the mirrors because now you’ve a chance to catch up with Shenhua’s father and chat about what was seen in the cave.
One of the biggest annoyances was with the mirror; having trailed the damn Phoenix Mirror around for two games, when it comes time to draw the game to an end, Ryo surrenders the mirror to Niao Sun in exchange for Shenhua.
We know Ren had picked up a fake before heading to the old castle, so I’m hoping he would have figured Ryo would give it up, and so swap the real one for the fake so Ryo actually gives away the fake – if you get me. But then the fake mirror comes into play when Ren offers it to Lan Di as a distraction to rescue Ryo.
Now we’ve got no real mirror and no fake mirror.
After that? We get a flash forward to the crew (Ryo, Ren, Shenhua) walking the Great Wall, I think in search of Lan Di. Nice one, we’re going to get that showdown after all.
Only we don’t.
Up pop the immortal words “the story goes on” and it’s Back To The Future all over again. Nearly 19 years in waiting, millions fundraised in development and the third game becomes filler for what may-or-may-not produce a fourth title. Game over.
By all accounts, if there’s to be a Shenmue 4, it’s not coming in the guise of the previous three games.
To be honest, if it’s to land in the proposed anime series, or a movie, or even a PS Plus monthly download, I don’t think I can be bothered. I don’t know if too many could. Sure, there’s a love there since the early games but this past week
It seems like such an opportunity wasted to tie up the game. Reading this article from videogameschronicle.com you could be forgiven for thinking that Shenmue 3 wasn’t “made for the fans” but instead made simply to make Shenmue 4.
I know there was talk of the game originally spanning four, even five editions before drawing to a conclusion but you would think after all this time – and it’s a lot of time – it could have been knocked on the head.
After all the hopes for the game and the fact I ended up waiting a year to finish it, it plays like something that’s just having the absolute arse dragged out of it.
A disappointing start to proceedings for 2021.