- Shenmue 3 release date: December 2017
- Developer: Ys Net
- Platforms: PlayStation 4, PC
- Price: TBA
It's been quite a while since Shenmue 3 was announced at E3 2015 during the PlayStation Press Conference, but the the sound of fans online and in the audience losing their minds with excitement and nostalgia still rings in our ears. Of course, there was at least half the gaming community wondering what the heck a Shenmue was. And no, it's not a whale.
Here’s the brief history lesson. Shenmue is an RPG that launched on the Dreamcast back in 1999/2000. The story centers on Ryo Hazuki and his quest to avenge his father’s murder, but playing it is just as much about getting lost in the details of everyday life in suburban Japan. It was one of the first open-world games as we now know them, with a persistent universe, drawers that opened, and stores that kept specific hours. Shenmue II sees Ryo in Hong Kong, still looking for answers and justice; that one dropped back in 2001, but only on the original Xbox in the U.S.
The games made a big impact on a small group of fans, and the series has long been a cult favorite among them. And now, more than a decade later, Ryo and Shenhua are getting back on the road together. Anticipation is high, but information has been a bit scarce. Here’s what we do know.
Shenmue 3 release date has been pushed to 2018
Originally (and incredibly optimistically) pegged for release in December 2017, the Shenmue 3 release date has since slipped into 2018. According to developer Ys Net, the game will be released some time in the second half of 2018 on PS4 and PC. There will be physical and digital versions available when it does arrives too.
For anyone who has ever pledged a Kickstarter campaign, that release date push won't come as much of a surprise. With a creation this massive, and with no small amount of expectation on its shoulders, delays seem inevitable. We'd suggest that you should still take that release timeline with a large grain of the proverbial salt.
The first ever Shenmue 3 trailer arrived
The first ever proper trailer for Shenmue 3 dropped at GamesCom 2017 in August, showcasing the first actual footage for the highly anticipated game. The original was applauded for its day and night mechanics, interactivity and mini games - all things that we basically take for granted in today's AAA climate.
It's therefore interesting to see the first actual gameplay footage for the game after many, many years of waiting. Unfortunately though, the trailer gives very little away about the game beyond showing off some sprawling landscapes and detailed city skylines.
Shenmue 3 now has facial animations
The first few glimpses we've had of Shenmue 3 to date have featured characters with incredibly expressionless and stiff faces. Protagonist Ryo Hazuki's face was incredibly problematic through the entirety of the game's first teaser trailer (which you can watch at the top of this article).
Thankfully, Ys Net's own Yu Suzuki hear the concerns of the game's fans, who actually explained to Game Watch that the facial animations had been removed from some of the footage that had already been released for the game. But don't you worry, they're all going back in again.
In a development update video, Ys Net then showed off the facial animations it's been working on for the game. Take a look:
Shenmue 3 : The Kickstarter story and a whole lot of money
The game and its gargantuan budget all began with the launch of a Kickstarter campaign. It started out seeking $2 million, but wound up pulling in a jaw-dropping $6,333,295 in one month. An impressive 69,320 people backed the game.
Given the high price tag, you’d expect some baller rewards. Different price tiers might be getting an art book, in-game items, illustrations signed by Yu-san himself, or rare merch from the first two Shenmue titles. And for a cool $10K, some superfans will get to have dinner with Yu Suzuki and talk about the game.
Shenmue 3 gameplay: Still mostly a mystery
All the game’s many fans would love nothing more than a look at exactly what they’ll be doing in the sequel. Suzuki said early on in the project that it would take $10 million to make the new game a true open world experience, although he didn’t explain exactly what he meant by that. He does have the backing of Sony on top of the crowdsourced funds, so maybe those open world mechanics are still something that we’ll see in the final product. Fingers crossed.
In July, series creator and director Yu Suzuki offered a brief update. He said that development had “really taken off” since the start of 2016. But we still don’t have confirmation of what the gameplay of Shenmue 3 will actually be or how closely it will match the two before it.
"The style of game will be very similar to the original, but we will of course be adding some new features as well," adds Sukuzi in an interview with Metro.co.uk. "The style of control from the original game is one thing that will be updated, but that is natural given modern controllers and the advance of that type of technology."
"I don’t think it’s necessary to change the basics of the gameplay. If I change it too much the existing fans will be very upset. Although I am always making up new ideas and things to add to the game, which can be a problem for my team who are trying to implement these ideas. [laughs] At the moment we are trying to keep it to 30% new and the keep the other 70% of the game similar to the original. But the design is constantly changing and I am always coming up with new concepts that we can try to add to the game if there is the opportunity."
Shenmue 3 story: "The story you have waited for"
It’s been more than 14 years, but it seems we might finally get a resolution to the cliffhanger that ended of Shenmue 2. Last time we saw Ryo, he had just met Shenhua Ling. Then there was a sword and a mural and a whole lot of questions. In the Kickstarter video, Suzuki promised that Shenmue 3 would be “the story you have waited for.” The duo will be traveling through China as Ryo continues to seek vengeance.
Sukuzi has long envisioned Shenmue as a multi-part saga. In a Reddit AMA last summer, he explained that he sees the complete story having 11 chapters, with each title exploring a handful of them. “Over the past 14 years I originally planned for there to 4 of five games to series,” he said. “If at all possible, I would still like to realize the full story of 11 chapters.”