16th June 2015- There I was sat watching the Sony E3 press conference expecting the usual franchises with their usual updates and so far it was business as usual. ‘yippee’ I thought sarcastically -ps4 getting the COD maps early. New footage of Uncharted 4 showing off the power of the PS4, last guardian footage and street fighter 5 looking great.
So far so predictable it was very late so I was dozing whilst watching until suddenly the room goes dark and a familiar tune plays with the words ‘Shenmue’s story was left incomplete’ blazended across the screen. My 32 year old brain could not compute the images I was seeing and it the first time in my life where I actually pinched myself to check if I was awake. Yu Suzuki, one of-in my opinion- the greatest game developers of all time, announces SHENMUE 3. Holy moly!! Its real…… well if us fans pay for it!! Yes this was the Shenmue3 kick-starter announcement. The game I had been waiting for all my adult life is finally real!! Luckily it was funded in no time at all and now the long wait is on for the actual release date.
Why should anyone care about a sequel to a 15 year old game that many of the current generation of gamers wont have played or even cared about? Well make yourself comfortable and ill tell you about the tale of Ryo Hazuki, his dead dad, evil Lan Di and some bloody sailors- the truly wonderful and magnificent Shenmue.
Originally being developed for the Saturn before shifting development onto the white magician- the Dreamcast. The game is very unique as its based in 1986 in Yokosuka Japan. It starts as all good stories start with a murder at the hands of a kung fu master named Lan Di. You see Ryo’s dad has a mysterious artefact known as the dragon mirror and Lan Di demands it from him, a scuffle occurs and Lan Di threatens to kill Ryo so his dad gives up the location of the mirror- beneath a cherry blossom tree in the garden. Its then that Lan di gives the finishing blow and murders his dad and he dies in Ryos arms. The game then puts you in the shoes of Ryo and you have to investigate the murder. Thus begins a web of intrigue and betrayal and numerous weird and wonderful characters including the pre-mentioned sailors.
The gameplay was revolutionary at the time as it was completely open world and it felt more like a life simulator than an actual game. You could just spend your time shopping for capsule toys of popular Sega characters for your collection or nipping down the arcade to play arcade perfect conversions of space harrier rather than find your dads killers. It inspired countless games and arguably laid the foundations for 3d open world games such as Grand theft auto and the Yakuza Series.
It wasn’t all good as the game did have very clunky controls even for its time and the voice acting is ridiculous but I feel that just adds to its charm and the game gave birth to the QTE or quick time event which divides gamers to this day. There is a fighting mechanic which is a like a very dumbed down virtua fighter- which is understandable as it was originally titled Virtua Fighter RPG and was going to be the adventures of Akira before switching to its current state.
It really is a unique and excellent experience that I feel everyone should at least try. I think ill finish with a quote from Brendan Main from the escapist- If the Grand Theft Auto games have been vilified as crime simulators in which you can press a button to buy a hooker then run a hooker over with a car, Shenmue is a game where you can press a button to politely ask directions, then combo into cherishing your elders and always remembering to recycle. Instead of giving us a city to be tested and battered against in all directions, Shenmue builds you a world and asks you to follow the rules rather than break them
It is pretty expensive to pick up a copy due to the announcement of Shenmue 3 but it is definitely worth your while and I haven’t even mentioned the also excellent sequel Shenmue 2, but we’ll save that for next time!