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Game review: Shenmue III is a nice surprise

04 Dec 2019

Shenmue III would not have come out if it wasn’t for a successful Kickstarter campaign that launched during E3 2015. Four years later, the game is finally out but does it live up to the hype?

Since I never owned a Sega Dreamcast, I sadly never got the chance to play any of the previous two Shenmue video games. Shenmue III is my first time playing the series and I must say, I’m pleasantly surprised by how much I love the game so far.

I heard mixed opinions when it comes to Shenmue games. Many people dislike the mundane chores you have to do in the game in order to earn money. Others have said that they didn’t like all of the dialogue you have to listen to as well.

 I have not played a game like Shenmue III before, so I thought my experience was more unique.  It’s a nice breath of fresh air to play a game that offers something different compared to the myriad number of online shooting games that are on offer these days.

In terms of the story, Shenmue III takes place a few years after the previous games with the main character named Ryo Hazuki in Asia with his friend Shenhua Ling. The two are currently living in a small town called Bailu Village and they have to find clues to where Shenhua’s missing father is.

Their quest is not easy though because the father’s disappearance leads to them eventually travelling to Hong Kong meeting people both good and bad. Along the way, Ryo will also gain many martial art skills so he can beat up the many enemies that he will have to face.

As much as I liked the story; I have to admit that Shenmue III starts off very slowly. At the start of the game, all you are really doing is walking and talking to a lot of people finding clues to Shenhua’s father’s whereabouts. It gets boring asking people the same question all of the time, but eventually things get better.

The thing that manages to make Shenmue III interesting is all of the side activities that Ryo Hazuki can do in this game. Unlike in other open world games, there’s a ton of things Ryo can do as every area he visits is chock full of interesting people to meet and loads of leisure activities to participate in.

One of the jobs that Ryo earns money from is chopping a lot of wood. After that, he can move boxes with forklifts and even chase ducks for a restaurant owner. The jobs are just little mini-games that the player has to engage with, and they’re neat ways in order for Ryo to earn the money he needs for food, clothing and supplies.

If he’s not earning money from jobs, Ryo can also have fun at the arcade. Since Shenmue III is set in 1987, you cannot play fancier arcade games like in the Yakuza titles, but there are several small things you can do such as basketball, boxing and many more.

There are even other types of games you can play to earn tokens like turtle races, frog races, gambling activities and things of that nature.

Other activities Ryo can do during his time in the game is improve on his martial arts. He can practice his kung-fu skills on wooden dummies or real people. Not to mention he can test out his skills in actual fighting matches too! If Ryo has access to skill books, he also has more new moves he can use.

I also really liked the detail that was put into all of the shops. It’s like you’re really visiting an Asian market as every piece of food looks accurate and yummy. The graphics overall are nice and bright, although the only downside to the visuals is the lack of facial animation to the character models.

You can replenish Ryo’s energy too by eating loads of food that Ryo has access to. Shenmue III has tons of shops you can visit in order to eat lots of food like moon cakes, fruit, vegetables, and numerous other Asian cuisine stores.

Speaking of details, the game also has several Easter eggs to say thank you to the many people that backed the game up on Kickstarter. There’s a whole room in the game I found that has photos of the fans that helped make this game come to life in the first place.

As much as I enjoyed playing Shenmue III, the game isn’t 100 percent perfect. For one thing, the game can get really repetitive because you have to talk to a LOT of people. Your investigation to find Shenhua’s father will take you everywhere and you need to speak to pretty much everyone you see for more clues to his location.

Some people may also dislike all of the jobs that you have to do in order to earn money. I remember I had to chop lots of wood just to earn 2000 in-game credits to spend on an important story quest item. If you don’t purchase the item, you won’t be able to progress further into the story.

Another minor issue I had with the game is that Ryo has a strict curfew of 9:00pm every day. If you are in the middle of an investigation, the game will automatically force Ryo to go back home and you have to continue your mission when the next morning occurs.

Lastly, people might also not like the outdated gameplay mechanics and controls. The clunky combat feels rough while there are also annoying quick time events (QTEs) that you have to press as well. It also gets annoying how Ryo is unable to run long distances because his stamina depletes too quickly in my opinion.

All in all, Shenmue III isn’t as bad as I thought it would have been. I liked the story and the investigative part of the gameplay made the game feel more unique compared to many other games that are out there now. Sure some of the gameplay is outdated, but this wasn’t enough to deter my enjoyment of the game.

Verdict: 8.0/10