Hands up who remembers the Dreamcast? The little white box of wonder marked the end of Sega‘s 18-year home console run, and though it is often thought that it was the company’s previous consoles that led to their eventual withdrawal from the console market, many still feel it was the Dreamcast’s lack of important titles that dealt the final blow.
In hindsight, the Dreamcast was actually way ahead of the times and offered some truly inspiring titles that are still well-loved to this day. Jet Set Radio, anyone? How about Crazy Taxi? Sonic Adventure? Phantasy Star: Online?
How about Shenmue?
One of the colossal announcements that shook the very foundations of this year’s E3 event was the unveiling of Shenmue III. For 16 years since its original release (has it really been that long??), Shenmue and Shenmue II have developed quite the cult fan base, and following the collapse of the Dreamcast, there have been countless petitions and groups actioned in the hope of bringing the series back from the grave.
For 14 years, there was nothing. Director Yu Suzuki remained neutral and quiet on the topic whenever it was raised. Most simply assumed the story of Ryo Hazuki would never again rear its spiky-haired head. Then, last month, Shenmue III was finally announced.
The Shenmue series follows teenage ass-kicker Ryo as he hunts for his father’s killer Lan Di, a powerful criminal and martial artist who steals a precious and mysterious mirror from Ryo‘s family. The story is a fairly standard revenge outing with plenty of Japanese tropes popping up, but it is the gameplay that put the video game in the such high regard.
Shenmue is an open-world game that hosts both action/adventure segments, RPG-elements, and life-simulation sections, creating a video game that was fresh and exciting given the time of its release. The game was praised for its scope and ambition, as well as for its gameplay and graphics – but it cost more than any other game in history at the time: a cost it didn’t manage to recoup despite enormous sales figures.
Shenmue’s gameplay was constantly varied: one moment you’d be exploring and investigating, gathering clues and information to further Ryo‘s quest. Next, you’d take part in a QTE – a Quick-Time Event – or a battle with truly in-depth fighting mechanics. And, alongside all of this, you could spend your days and nights (which were cyclic and varied) at the arcades, doing housework, training, or otherwise killing time. For a game pre-2000, Shenmue certainly set the bar for future releases.
Kickstarted back to life
This Saturday, the ground-breaking Kickstarter campaign (which you can read more about here) for the third instalment of the series comes to an end, after smashing its original $2million target in under eight hours (the fastest EVER campaign to reach such a target). Clearly, even if Shenmue isn’t as renowned as Sega’s blue hedgehog, these figures and records express just how popular the series actually is.
Set for release on PS4 and PC, Shenmue III will clearly put the video game back on the map and give those new to the Shenmue-brand something fresh to waggle their thumbs and joysticks at. Whether the third outing for Mr Hazuki will be as well-received once it’s actually developed will certainly make for interesting news. Not only that, but the critical question of whether a 15-year old series can stand up next to so many modern video games will also need an answer; as a fan of the originals, I sincerely hope Yu Suzuki has something just as magical up his sleeve now as he did all those years ago.
Have a little patience…
All that’s left to do now is wait. Like awaiting your favourite band’s upcoming new album, Shenmue’s newest effort may be tantalising to consider, but it’s far from finished. On that note: video gaming and music have often been compared. Take That were pretty popular the first time around, but upon reforming managed to outdo their earlier efforts. The Spice Girls, on the other hand, should have carried on living off of their original nostalgia.
Many are hoping Shenmue III does a Take That and rules the world one last time…but there are quiet rumblings out there filled with trepidation that all it will ever become is a wannabe of its former self.
What do YOU think? Are you excited for Shenmue III? Is it too late for a sequel?
Make some noise in the comments below.