Review: Shenmue 3 (PlayStation 4)

Shenmue 3: Member Review

PlayStation 4 2 likes 23 comments
Reviewed by Robfozz, posted Nov 23, 2019, last updated Nov 23, 2019
Nov 23, 2019
  • Release Date (NA): November 19, 2019
  • Release Date (EU): November 19, 2019
  • Release Date (JP): November 19, 2019
  • Publisher: Deep Silver
  • Developer: Ys Net
  • Genres: Simulation, RPG
  • ESRB Rating: Teen
  • Also For: Computer
  • Single player
    Local Multiplayer
    Online Multiplayer
    Co-operative
Shenmue 1 and 2 are my all time favorite games. Naturally, I've been long awaiting the third installment. How does it add to the story people have been waiting 18 years for?
Robfozz
This is it. Shenmue 3 is here. A game we all thought was impossible and would never come is real, and I played it. I finally get to experience more of this story that was left on a cliffhanger for 18 years from Shenmue 2. Or... do I?

Story
This is so painful for me to write. Shenmue 2 ends with one of the most insane cliffhangers possible. To recap, Ryo travels to Guilin, China at the end of Shenmue 2 and meets a girl named Shenhua. She tells Ryo of a prophecy, one we have heard in the intros to the games, and we start to see the story really unfold. Just who is she? Why is she so important? They make their way to the cave where her father mines a mystical stone. Inside, they find a sword, and a note from her father nowhere to be seen. If that wasn't strange enough, Ryo takes the sword and places it upon a pedestal where it begins to float somehow and Shenhua uses a mysterious power to seal it in. Then Ryo places his Phoenix Mirror in another structure and a god damn laser comes out of it, starts a fire, and reveals 2 giant versions of the Dragon and Phoenix mirrors carved into the wall.

This ending was so legendary because of how this pretty grounded in reality game just went off the wall nuts with these supernatural happenings and all the last minute questions it brings up. So naturally, Shenmue 3 would just pick up from that right? Well, yes and no. Shenmue 3 starts off by showing the cave scene again, but its a little different. All of the supernatural elements are completely gone. Nothing interesting happens, they still find the letter from Shenhuas missing father and there are still 2 big mirrors carved into the wall, but everything else is just gone. No sword, no levitating, no Shenhua powers, no lasers, nothing.

Now that is super disappointing but lets see where else the story goes, maybe it will get addressed later or will be better for it. Ryo and Shenhua then go to Bailu Village, a settlement near her house to ask if anyone has seen Shenhuas dad. You ask around for a while and nobody really knows. You eventually find out some thugs were looking for the village stonemasons, assumingly looking for who made the mirrors. You find the thugs, beat them up and lose anyway because the game doesnt have branching paths unlike Shenmue 2, and are now forced to train for a couple of ingame days. You find some old guy who trained your dad many years ago and he reveals that the guy in the photo with your father was Zhao Sunming, Lan Di's father. Something that was pretty obvious to anyone paying attention, but not outright stated until now so I guess nice info. I hope you werent prepared to learn any other new info in this entire game though because that is literally it. After the game wastes your time running around to various old people to learn about a bridge for literally no reason in a storyline that goes nowhere, you find this old guy Sun who trains you. You have to buy a lot of things for him, and then you chase chickens 3 times and then are forced to fight at the dojo if you havent already to progress. It takes way too long and isnt fun. After that you get to fight the thugs again, you win and they tell you everything you already knew but game pretends like you didnt. After that Chai from Shenmue 1 is there for some reason. You dont get to fight him though its just a lame 3 button QTE. Afterwards, you go to an old womans house, collect keys for the belltower, enter the belltower and retrieve a scroll from it. For some reason, the games writers forgot that Yuanda Zhu near the end of 2 tells you that the mirrors are the keys to a legendary treasure, because the following cutscene pretends that this is a big reveal and the characters act like they havent heard all of this before. This game does this a lot actually, it has these scenes that are set up to be huge plot points but its all stuff thats been stated previously and clearly in the other games.

Afterwards, you go to the city of Niaowu. Here you do literally nothing but plot irrelevant minor events until about 8 hours later you go to the castle where Lan Di is hiding, break in, fight some bad guys, have a really shitty QTE, and then fight Lan Di for all of about 20 seconds and then he beats you up and some lady you saw one other time in the game lights the castle on fire and you leave. That is literally it. Shenhua found her dad off screen and theres a final scene of all of them on a pier and the credits roll.

Yep, that is really it. This is the story we have been waiting 18 years for. All that happens is they retconned the ending of 2 and then repeated some info once or twice and then the game ends a couple hours later. I cannot begin to describe how hard of a slap to the face this is for everyone who wanted to see more of this series's story. The entire game is literally filler, designed to take a long time to complete to trick you into thinking its meaningful just because it takes a while to do. Words cannot describe how heartbroken I am over this. I genuinely wish the game did not happen because now we are technically left with less than we had before since they decided the events from Shenmue 2 didnt happen.

Gameplay
Shenmue has never been about the gameplay. In its rawest essence, all you do in Shenmue is walk around, explore, talk to characters, and sometimes a fight breaks out. Also theres minigames along the way. Theres not much to it, but theres a real charm in exploring the virtual worlds these games housed. Characters said strange but funny things and it made you want to talk to all of them. The shops and buildings were detailed to an impossible degree and you wanted to go inside each one and just look in awe of what they were able to pull off all those years ago. And the story was always interesting, very rarely a low point, so you always wanted to push forward to see what was next.

So, how does Shenmue 3 mess this simple idea up. It does it by taking that definition of Shenmue I just wrote out so literally, that it entirely misses the point. Shenmue 3 is basically just an infinite loop of "Talk to this person who tells you to talk to this person who tells you to talk to this person" for roughly 15 hours until the game is over. Now, yes, that is basically what you do in the other games, but it was so much more varied than that. In Shenmue 3, there is often only ever 1 person who has the answer for you. The beauty of the previous games and what made them so replayable was that many characters had answers and could even take you down different paths to the same goal. Also the game generally only lets you do 1 story thing per day as to pad out the playtime naturally. Yes, you have to wait in the previous games sometimes, but not this many times. There is a skip time option sometimes but you still have to walk all the way back to where you were the next day just because the game wants to waste your time.

Speaking of wasting your time, this game truly has no respect for you. The game is meticulously designed to take as much time as possible to hide the fact that if there was no padding the game would only be like an hour long. Constantly you are forced to grind for money to progress, or go train at the dojo. Again, before you say "But the other game had that" yes it did, like 2 times. This game makes you do some tedious, grindy bullshit almost every story point. Gotta buy things for Sun like 4 times one each day, and then you have to grind an additional $2,000 (which is an INSANE amount of money in this game), and then you have to catch chickens 3 times once each day, and then finally the day after you get to progress in the story. Similar instances happen many times in this game and it is the most blatant filler I have ever seen in a videogame.

The other half of Shenmue, the character interaction, is just abysmal here too. Most characters only have one thing to say to you, some you can ask about story stuff and have a couple additional extra lines for that. And thats it. What's there isnt even good most of the time either. This games translation is abysmal at points. Ryo will often respond with dialogue that makes no sense in response to what was said. Now, Shenmue is known for its awkward dialogue, it is its trademark. However, despite the awkward dialogue, it at least made sense. In Shenmue 3, Ryo will literally say "Hello" mid conversation with other characters, it gets that bad. And it isnt a rare occurance or glitch either, it happens often. This is made even less excusable because there are less characters than ever to talk to. Bailu village is incredibly small, and Niaowu despite being a city is a borderline ghost town. You also cant talk to every character either. In previous games, sure, some characters had more to say than others but you could still talk to them all anyway. In this game though, many characters, especially in Niaowu, cannot be interacted with at all. Only shop keeps and few select NPCs can be spoken to. There is a number of them but it creates a massive disconnect from the world. There also arent many people walking about to begin with, this is supposed to be a bustling city but it feels completely empty. Compare this to Hong Kong in Shenmue 2, which is an 18 year old game on comparatively weak hardware, and the difference is night and day. There are so many people walking around in the old games they can even get in the way sometimes, like a real life city and, of course, you could talk to each and every one lets not forget. One could argue its due to budget reasons. This may be true, however, most of the characters reuse eachothers clothes, facial features and other assets to begin with. If theyre getting that lazy and cheap with it, is it really too much to ask to just make a couple more and have them populate the city streets?

Graphics and Sound
This game is a mixed bag audiovisually. Sometimes it looks really nice. Walking out onto the hotel balcony at night to a view of the starry sky and moonlit waters is a visual feast. But then, you notice that the city streets are completely empty. And then you looks closely and notice the shaders around the light sources are interfering with the shaders on the water ruining the effects. And then you remember the song that is playing is just copy and pasted from Shenmue 2. A beautiful scene ruined by a machine gun spread of blemishes. This is typically how every area in Shenmue 3 plays out. The environments and foliage and whatnot look quite nice but youre ripped out of the moment by everything else going on. When the game isnt playing an old reused song, its usually something that is not particularly good. The song that plays in the majority of Bailu village becomes migraine inducing after about an hour.

Characters look either pretty good, or downright awful with very little inbetween. The majority of NPCs reuse eachothers clothes, facial features, etc. For example, go to Joy Park in Bailu Village. Theres a drunk old man. Right behind him is the dice game guy, who has literally the same exact hair, head and face minus the beard. That old man head is probably the most reused one in the game lol, its on the dojo master, the Tao Get shop owner and many many other characters. Once you see it you cant unsee it and it pulls you out of the game every single time.

Conclusion
I hate this game. I wish it did not exist. I feel bad for the fans(even though some still blindly love and support this game for some idiotic reason), I feel bad for the backers who paid to make this game happen including me, I feel bad for the people who waited 18 years for a story they didnt get, I feel bad for the people who just got into Shenmue to play 3 and will be presented with this trash, and I feel bad for Yu Suzuki. It is indeed partially his fault the game is like this, he did direct everything so it all went through him, but I still do feel bad because he was so passionate about these games and telling this grand story, and now its over. The series may go on beyond this game, maybe we will see a 4 and 5 but Im not interested anymore because this game has ruined the story with its retcons and plot changes. Whatever comes next, if anything at all, will not be the original story and the plot we have been waiting for since 2. Shenmue 3 singlehandedly has killed this franchise.

Get up, I'll allow you to die like a warrior.
Verdict
Pros
+ Graphics look nice sometimes
+ Shenmue music is always good
+ I had fun playing Lucky Hit once or twice I guess
Cons
- Absolutely no story
- When it doesnt look alright, the game looks abysmal most of the time especially character animations
- Everything is padding
- Everything takes forever
- The stamina system is only there so you are forced to walk slowly making the game feel longer
- No dialogue skipping except for very few instances
- Very few minigames and the same ones are pointlessly copy and pasted in close proximity to eachother
- The combat sucks
- World feels empty
- Most of the music is reused from Shenmue 2
- The voice acting is bad in a way that isnt charming
- We waited 18 years for this absolute garbage
6 Presentation
There are some detailed environments here and a lot of the lighting and textures are quite nice. However, so much of the game is made with storebought assets and its clear as day too. Characters look awkward and many even look incredibly similar to others. Animations on everything are poor.
1 Gameplay
Shenmue has never had super enthralling gameplay. You talk to people and sometimes theres a fight. Shenmue 3 takes that very literal description and doubles down on the monotony in a way that is very grating and really just dreadful to play. Everything takes forever and you are forced to grind for cash and fighting EXP often. There is nothing fun here.
- Lasting Appeal
I have played the original two games more than I can count. Thats because they have many hidden scenes, alternate ways of doing things, and so many characters and shops and buildings that you may never see them all in a lifetime of replaying them. Shenmue 3 lacks all of that and since its such a slog to go through the first time around, I do not wish to play it ever again.
2
out of 10
Overall (not an average)
The disrespect for everyone who waited for this game is unreal.


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