Rekindling a love affair with Shenmue and trying to complete the trilogy

2021 has landed and I’m still trying to finish Shenmue 3.

The sheer level of excitement when the game landed in my hand last November after some 18 years of waiting for a conclusion to the story, I’m only now getting to work my way through Niaowu.

Notes tell me it was 29 December 2019 that the wrapper came off the Day One edition, picked up for PS4 for the princely sum of €36.99. Gameplay lasted on and off until mid-January when midnight dad duties made way for a return to work and all but nixed gaming time.

With a few weeks off this Christmas and a FM21 burning a hole in my pocket, so to speak, I’m on a mission to finish what I started 12 months ago before tearing into a few months worth of Football Manager.

What follows below was my initial game-play-in-progress review for Shenmue 3 pencilled for another website in 2019.

I’m giving myself a few late nights this week to get things wrapped on the head and figure out this mystery once and for all.

Shenmue 3: First impressions

I’ve finally taken off the wrapper on the Day One edition of Shenmue 3.

For all of the best of intentions, I never got around to backing the third installment’s development. Then when the game was finally released, I waited a few weeks to pick it up – no real sense of urgency.

Only last year I bought the Shenmue 1+2 pack from the PS store, taking me all the way back to the year 2000, knowing the story and every scene without knowing what was going on or why.

It was like throwing on an old shirt that just fits, or meeting that childhood friend you haven’t seen in years and the conversation is like you just parted ways yesterday.

That feeling is carried into Shenmue 3.

A Kickstarter campaign launched in August 2015 ultimately saw 69,320 fans back the development of Shenmue 3 to the tune of over $6.3m. The game itself was supposed to drop in December 2017 but delay after delay saw it stalled out all the way to November of this year.

For fans of the original, it’s been worth the wait.

Shenhua and Rio at Shenhua’s home (first seen in Shenmue 2). Photo: Shenmue 3/Deepsilver
Shenhua and Rio at Shenhua’s home (first seen in Shenmue 2). Photo: Shenmue 3/Deepsilver

A straight sequel

The game picks up exactly where Shenmue 2 leaves off, in the cave with Shenhua, having spent the entire of the fourth disc of the original walking through fields to reach your final destination.

Like “the day of the incident” 20 years ago, the third game picks up with thugs having wreaked havoc in the sleepy village of Bailu and now you’ve got to find them.

Shenhua’s father is also on the missing list, but to learn about the thugs and his disappearance, you’ll have to wait until late evening for one conversation, play hide-and-seek in the early morning with a group of children for more clues, and interrogate every man, woman and child around you for hints.

Straight off the bat, I’m not keen on the new element of having to eat to keep up your stamina and strength (which will see you through fights and improve your training).

To wit – to keep your health up, you must eat. To eat, you must have money for food. To get money, you must work.

So, out of the traps, I’m chopping wood like a demon to pick up a few dollars, then spending that on garlic, bananas, cabbage and potatoes. I’ll consume them, go train for an hour or two at the local dojo, rinse, repeat. All while there’s a mystery to solve and herbs to collect.

Oh, and surely Lan Di is lurking in the background somewhere.

So far, so familiar, so good.

The QTE system was one of the first of its kind when introduced in 1999 and the arcade features are back 20 years later.
The QTE system was one of the first of its kind when introduced in 1999 and the arcade features are back 20 years later.

I can see newcomers to the series turning their nose up that the game mind. Clunky movements, some dodgy voice acting and script work, shocking levels of repetition and the rest could put anyone off.

Unless like me you had an absolute love affair with the originals, then you’re on cloud nine with the latest release.

Shenmue 3: Now on PC

If you’re more PC inclined, Shenmue 3 is now available via Steam. At time of writing it’s discounted heavily from €44.99 to €16.99.

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