Well, this has been a long time in coming, hasn’t it. Even longer than that, since I stopped playing before Christmas for a while so most eager fans have already completed it. Was I getting bored? No – it’s just a million other games came along and having to turn the PS4 on is so terribly tedious. Why couldn’t this have been on the Switch?
I’m partly serious, but of course I’m very glad we have Shenmue III at all, and I’d have bought whatever system was necessary to play it, if that was what it would have taken. The question is, was is worth the two hundred and seventy Earth pounds I paid for it? The answer, of course, is yes.
As a game, it certainly isn’t worth that amount of money. No game is. But this wasn’t paying to play just any game – this was paying for a game I’ve wanted to play for 18 years to actually get made, and that’s a different thing entirely. So here it is. And it’s exactly what I wanted. With just one issue.
Many people have complained that in terms of mechanics, controls, graphics, voice acting, and so on, Shenmue III is a relic. They’ve not improved anything in the gameplay, whereas other games have moved on. Some have said that it should have played more like Shenmue’s spiritual successor Yakuza. Others said it looks like a Dreamcast game with nicer graphics. To those people I say this: This is Shenmue III and to do it any other way would not be Shenmue III.
I won’t go into the story, events or characters – they have been covered by many better game writers than me. It’s no blockbuster film, in any sense, but it is a valid, seemless, continuation from Shenmue II to the point where the end of that game is the very beginning of this. The story keeps things ticking over, but ultimately the one real thing that we’ve waited all this time to happen… doesn’t. That shouldn’t be a spoiler at this point, by the way, but it’s the only negative thing I really have to say about the game. We now have to wait an unknown amount of time for Shenmue IV, should that ever come to light at all.
It’s difficult to explain why Shenmue III is so good when each of it’s parts – especially these days – is clearly below average. It might be a bit of nostalgia. It could be that despite there being a murder at the heart of it, it’s a gentle, slow-paced game about Ryo Hazuki training his kung-fu, gambling all his money away and (my favourite bit) hunting down fat chickens hidden in all the shops.
If you were never a fan of the games, you won’t enjoy this. But if you were a fan, Shenmue III should be both exactly what you were expecting, and exactly what you wanted.