Hello and welcome to our spoiler-free review of Shenmue 3!
It’s been 18 years since Shenmue 2, and in the wait for a sequel we’ve been on a journey that’s involved crowdfunding records, delays and a ridiculously high bar of expectation. Admittedly Shenmue was a series that passed me, and a lot of others by, originally coming out in the Dreamcast – a console that compared to its contemporaries can politely be described as niche. But with all the buzz, I was excited to see what the franchise had to offer in 2019.
But before we dive into Shenmue 3, let’s catch up with what’s going on in the story. You play as Ryo Hazuki, a cool jacket-wearing Japanese boy whose dad’s been killed by a nefarious character called Lan Di who was searching for hidden treasure in Hong Kong, specifically two mirrors with the power to end the world! We pick up the story immediately following the events of 2, with Ryo searching for Lan Di and the treasure, accompanied by a girl called Shenhua, whose father has also been kidnapped. Bloomin’ dads always causing trouble.
It’s pure 80s action movie schlock, but is the game actually any good? Watch on to find out.
First and foremost, Shenmue 3 spits in the face of modern games, and exists in a bubble of early 2000s nostalgia. It’s rife with the bad dialogue that was common at the time, and I mean BAD! Even the character models feel like a product of the time, however this isn’t as egregious as the script, as set against admittedly beautiful backgrounds, it does have an aesthetic charm that’s unique and endearing.
What is less forgivable is that health and stamina are the same thing, meaning you lose health just by walking around. This means you’ll have to be stocked up on food before you encounter any sort of combat – which itself is just a series of button combinations with on-screen prompts
And all this makes it so much of a grind. On top of the constant virtual eating, you can only level up by training with wooden dummies, rather than in real fights. These mechanics, along with many others make it feel like a life simulator, and one I just didn’t enjoy.
Maybe it’s because I’m coming into the series with Shenmue 3. I’m sure longtime fans will appreciate the authentic replication of a type of game we haven’t seen for a good long while. It isn’t a terrible game by any stretch, rather an acquired taste that perhaps my basic palette hasn’t become accustomed to yet.
To wrap up, Shenmue 3 is all about perspective. It’s an objectively awful game that knowingly ignores the convenience and accessibility of contemporary releases, essentially alienating it from potential new fans. But by doing this, it endears itself to its hardcore following, existing as a true love letter to a simpler time, and for that I doff my cap. In the words of Jason Bateman in Dodgeball “It’s a bold strategy, Cotton. Let’s see if it pays off for ’em”.
But what did YOU think of Shenmue 3. Please let us know in the comments below and don’t forget to like, share and subscribe for more reviews and great content every single week.
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