We go a bit back into time. The year is 2019, a continued fascination with the 1980s has sparked a new wave of ‘retro-cool’ products, from hit Netflix TV shows, a return to the synth-wave sound and a continued trend of 80’s inspired style in K-pop, to stylised and high-budget blockbusters continuing the trend – but what about video games?
With games such as Cyberpunk 2077 which wears it’s ’80’s inspired material on its sleeve for all to see, Wolfenstein Youngblood simply trying to cash in on the decade’s setting and Yakuza 0 featuring some of the wildest, 80’s suits since Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, it’s clear to see that the 1980s is still a much-loved era that continues to inspire, regardless of the 30-year cycle now ready to relive the 1990s – in short, we are living in an age of remakes and remasters, where much-loved games of the 1970s through to the 2010s are now being re-released for a new generation to enjoy and originality is almost totally exhausted.
On November 19, 2019, the much anticipated Shenmue III was released, after 18 years of empty promises, failed projects, industry collapse and the almost decimation of a franchise that was once held dear, remembered purely for its poor voice acting and Ryo’s timeless “I’m looking for Sailors”.
Due to a delay in the release schedule, it was announced to release the same month as Hideo Kojima’s much-awaited Death Stranding, Pokémon Sword and Shield and Star Wars: Jedi Fallen Order, so it was almost inevitable that Shenmue III would likely not receive the release hype it deserved and would fall behind much higher-grossing games of the year.
That said, Shenmue III released with little fanfare, but was immediately snatched up by all the series lifelong fans and even new fans that had discovered the series due to the 2018 re-release of Shenmue I & II HD and though it has been criticised in reviews, it’s the greatest strength is that it is quite literally, a game for the fans.
Shenmue III picks up immediately from where Shenmue II left off back in 2001, with series protagonist Ryo Hazuki and the mysterious Shenhua Ling discovering the cave in search of Shenhua’s father, from here Ryo will explore two large areas – Bailu Village, a rural Chinese village, where you will help Shenhua search for her father and complete other tasks along the way, learning the job system almost from the get-go and exploring the beautiful Asian landscape. The second area is the port-city of Niaowu, a stunning Chinese city beside the water, which brings memories of exploring the Wan Chai area of Shenmue II, here you will see some familiar faces and will discover new jobs, new tasks and will enjoy continuing the main arc of the story as you relax in the Hotel Niaowu, just be sure to pay for your stay.
Shenmue III was always going to be a hard sell to those new to the series or for those who have never played Shenmue, it’s slow-pace and deliberate design does not appeal to every gamer, but to its fans, it’s everything it needed to be – it feels as though it’s an HD remake in its design, it plays almost the same as it’s predecessors despite an 18-year gap between releases – it did what many of its crowd-funding backers wanted, it delivered on its promises and in the age of remakes and remasters, it did its job – it returned our nostalgia.
Only 18 years to wait now until Shenmue IV.
Shenmue III is now available for purchase on PC and PS4.