Review: Shenmue 3
It took 18 years, but fans of the cult hit finally got to work on the third installment in the Shenmue series . After a more than successful Kickstarter campaign, the fuss about the promised Steam keys, the time has finally come. Then the question is: Was it worth the wait?
As a complete Shenmue noob, I take on the role of Ryo Hazuki, the main character in the story. Yes, that's right. I've never played a Shenmue game before, so everything is new to me. I was told that the story literally picks up where it stopped 18 years ago and I think that in itself is a good start. A direct connection to the past so that you can pick up the story immediately. In my case, start. A nice start in itself, even if you haven't played the previous games. I didn't feel like I was being left out. Of course I miss a large part of the story, but the mystery also has something.
Back in time
So Shenmue 3 picks up right where it left off 18 years ago, but the game feels and plays exactly like a game from 18 years ago. You could almost say that it is an HD version of a Playstation 2 game. Despite this, it didn't bother me at all while playing. Where I normally get tired of Japanese games with slow controls, limited freedom and chaotic UIs, Shenmue 3 brought a kind of charm with it. Maybe because it's fan service on an over 18 year old series, I don't know. I can't quite figure it out, but it all feels like it's supposed to be.
Sentences are cut off halfway through and then continue in a different tone, dialogues are quite awkward at all, with strange answers and an odd translation here and there made from Japanese (I think), but again, it didn't bother me. The game is also very slow and everything is pretty much chewed in front of you, because you can't go in the wrong direction and spend hours on the wrong track. Again, not disturbing and that's because Shenmue is richly filled with meaningful content. Everything is connected in one way or another.
In addition to following the story, there are several activities to do in Shenmue 3. Side jobs such as driving a forklift and chopping wood, mini games, fishing, collecting plants, Kung Fu, gambling games and even gachapon (capsule toy machines). Somehow, sooner or later you will qualify with these things and each and every one of them will help you further in the game. Whether it's money you need, or a specific item for a quest. Everything is connected in one way or another. This makes it hard to waste your time in Shenmue 3.
A very slow game, very viscous and in general the individual gameplay elements are not particularly challenging. The perfect recipe to slide me into another game after 5 minutes, but no. Shenmue does something to me. While playing, I felt like turning back into a child for a while and I completely lost the sense of time while playing Harvest Moon on the GameCube. Completely zen. Since then I've been looking for a game that would have that effect on me, but without success. The HD version of Harvest Moon on PS4 didn't. Stardew Valley didn't either. Shenmue 3, despite being completely different in genre, did. Maybe it's because of the slow, everything in due time mentality, but I don't really know. Maybe it's the soothing soundtrack repeated in the background.There is beautiful music in the game that only enhances that whole zen feeling.
The Kung Fu Detective
While playing you are actually a kind of detective. During the story you are constantly looking for a certain person. Such a person usually needs something from you, or refers you to another person. Searching for objects there are several possibilities to move forward. You can ask residents if they happen to know more. Every resident tells you something different, which makes you wiser or not. Maybe you've seen the item in a store before and already know where to find it.
However, certain items are not for sale and can be found by literally searching in cupboards, drawers or on shelves. Other items are hidden in capsules in a gachapon machine and other items are obtained by playing minigames. Everything is connected and the world around you moves with it. Time passes by which people may no longer stand behind their stall in the evening. Shenhua will ask you almost every night how your day has been with Ryo telling Shenhue different things depending on your progress in the story. The mutual relationships and conversations, despite poor execution, are incredibly beautiful and carefully thought out.
Shenmue 3 is a game made with a lot of love and you can feel it. The dated design is all manageable once you're working on the big picture. It is not a difficult game, nor is it challenging, although it is a game where you have to be a little careful. It's a quiet, relaxing game that you definitely shouldn't rush through. The vibrant world around you ensures that there is always something to do. So take your time, we have been waiting for the sequel for 18 years. Who knows when the next part will appear. Anyway, I'll go back to Shenmue and Shenmue II for a while.
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