Developer: Ys Net
Publisher: Deep Silver
Director: Yu Suzuki & Keiji Okayasu
Engine: Unreal Engine 4
Release: November 19, 2019
Platform: PC, Playstation 4
In 1987, following the events of Shenmue II, teenage martial artist Ryo Hazuki has journeyed from Yokosuka, Japan, to the mountains of Guilin, China, in search of his father's killer, Lan Di. There he met Ling Shenhua, a mysterious girl who previously appeared in his dreams. After learning the legend of her village, which foretells a united path between them, Ryo and Shenhua embark on a new journey which reveals their shared destiny. Lan Di returns, with a new antagonist, Niao Sun.
Shenmue III begins in Bailu Village in Guilin. According to the game's Kickstarter page, the second area, Choubu, is "a riverside village with lots of shops, souvenir stores, hotels and temples", and the third area, Baisha, will feature a "siege game reminiscent of the Warring Kingdoms". Ryo will be able to make phone calls to Japan to catch up with characters from previous installments. Shenmue III will not conclude the story, as Suzuki hopes to create further games in the series. [FROM THE WIKI]
WHO IS YU SUZUKI, DESIGNER OF SHENMUE?
Faced with Nintendo's vice-like grip on third parties, Sega would often set their new graduate hires to work on their own projects in order to maintain a steady flow of games for their consoles. Yu Suzuki, who joined the company in 1983, was no exception and he created a game for Sega's SG-1000 console, Champion Boxing, within his very first year. So impressed were Sega's executives that they ported the game to the arcade and promoted him to project manager. His next game, 1985's Hang On, was revolutionary in its use of fast pseudo-3D scaling graphics combined with a sit down motorbike cabinet, and over the next 15 year Suzuki would continue to release game after game which pushed the boundaries of what people thought was possible.
Even from those early days, it is easy to see what would become hallmarks of his career: a desire to push technological boundaries, to do things no one had ever done before, to create an "experience" as much as a game. Being a non-gamer himself, he tends to take inspiration from cinema and real life rather than from other games. 1986's Outrun is a good example. Like Hang On before it, Outrun was a graphically impressive super-scaler game with sit down hydraulic cabinet. Suzuki said wanted to recreate the experience of driving a Ferrari along beautiful roads, one arm on the steering wheel and a pretty girl in the passenger seat. He described it as a driving game rather than a racing game and he got the feel of the game completey right. This design philosophy would also be evident in what would become his magnum opus: Shenmue.
THE DEVELOPMENT OF SHENMUE I & II
Having created the world's first 3D fighting game, Virtua Fighter, in 1993, Suzuki would later have the idea of expanding on the world created for that series and creating a martial arts RPG. In 1996 he and his team at AM2 began work on a Sega Saturn version of the game, but switched development to Sega's next-gen console, the Dreamcast, the next year. It was a hugely ambitious project, the first attempt at creating a 3D open world console game. Suzuki felt that the word "RPG" was not sufficient to accurately convey the type of game he was creating, and so coined his own phrase to describe the genre to which he felt it belonged : FREE (Full Reactive Eyes Entertainment). His team recreated a real life Japanese town, complete with it's own population of NPCs, each with their own daily schedule and spoken dialogue. The passage of time in the game was tied to a real life clock and the weather changed according to real life historical records of the weather at the time. Whereas games of the previous generation of consoles had featured simple polygons wrapped in basic low-resolution texture maps, Shenmue featured expressive, realistic characters models and fully interactive environments, from being able to rifle through the draws in your house to buying cans of cola from the vending machine. The game perfectly encapsulated Suzuki's design philosophy: it pushed technological boundaries, it had never been done before, it was an experience as much as a game.
The game was released in Japan in December 1999, followed by a sequel a couple of years later. It sold pretty well considering the relatively small install base of the Dreamcast, but being the most expensive game ever made up to that point ($47 million according to Suzuki, which included both marketing and development) it was never likely to be able to fully recoup its costs. With the discontinuation of the Dreamcast in March 2001 it could no longer be justified as a first party showcase, and the game faded into relative obscurity after a port of the sequel to the Xbox failed to find an audience.
With the exception of a couple of aborted spin-off games, Sega didn't seem interested in continuing the series and it looked as though fans of the series would never get to find out what happened with Ryo and Shenhua after the cliffhanger at the end of Shenmue 2. That is, until one day at E3 2015...
Kickstarter and Development of Shenmue III
Having just managed to regain their composure after the announcement of the Final Fantasy 7 remake, the Game Trailers' crew were once again thrown into a frenzy by the appearance of Yu Suzuki on Sony's E3 stage. Shenmue III was coming back, this time as a independent kickstarter project. It went on to become the best funded game in kickstarter history, raising over $7 million from over 81,000 backers (after the inclusion of slacker-backers). Additional funding from future publisher Deep Silver provided enough funds to fulfill most left over kickstarter pledges, as well as cover an extra year of development. While an undisclosed amount of extra funds were provided by Suzuki's own company, Ys Net, and the Epic Games Store, the budget is almost certainly only a fraction of the original game. In spite of this, his team of Shenmue veterans and newbies have managed to leverage the power of modern development tools to create a game reportedly equal in scope and attention to detail as the originals. Reactions to the recent backers demo was overwhelmingly positive, and Shenmue fans will finally be able to continue the adventure they paused almost 20 years ago.
There have been no pre-release reviews of the game. This section will be updated once the Review Thread is posted.
CREDITS: Special thanks to Kazza for writing the "Development" section of the OT. Amazing work!