Shenmue III released today, 20 years after the first entry in the series. Reviews were initially embargoed until two days after release before publisher Deep Silver moved it to today. The consensus is that the game will please long-term fans but leave a lukewarm impression…
The reviews are starting to trickle in at a slow pace. Probably due to the whole embargo switcheroo routine, leaving many outlets only half-way through their play-throughs. Nevertheless, we are starting to get a picture of what Shenmue III has to offer.
The consensus is that Shenmue III is part dreadful, part charming. It harks back to the drastically different gaming landscape of the turn of the century. Fans of the first two franchise entries will find a lot of pleasure in Shenmue III. Newcomers are best abstaining from what is an anachronistic oddity.
The User Score on Metacritic sits at 8.4 currently. It’s not surprising considering the cult following and a $6 million Kickstarter crowdfunding run. Here’s what the media has said so far.
If you don’t like fetch quests and can’t stand hearing the same dialogue over and over again, Shenmue 3 probably isn’t for you. A bunch of the game is spent talking, gathering information, and looking for clues. It’s like a badly dubbed LA Noire. You can speed up the investigation process by using logic – speaking to people who are likely to have knowledge on the subject you seek – like chatting to elders about history, for example – but almost everything you do takes time. After 20 hours, you begin to wish you could skip through dialogue as you read it, but you can only do so if you’ve had this specific conversation with this specific person before.
If you’ve not played Shenmue before, honestly it’s probably best you stick to Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, or any other decent modern title. This game feels like it’s trolling modernity. It’s ludicrously self-indulgent, constantly absurd, often beautiful, objectively awful and yet somehow wonderful. Personally I can’t believe what I’m playing. Somehow Shenmue III is not only real, but it feels 100% authentic after all this time and against all the odds.
But it’s not without its issues: in an era of instant gratification, Shenmue III’s tardy pacing is almost obscene. Dialogue is drawn out to extreme lengths, with characters repeating themselves to the point of irritation. The problem with this is that the game wants to embed you in its world, but no one converses like a human being. It’ll be off-putting to anyone but the most ardent fans, even if the series’ trademark humor is present throughout.
There is no doubt that Shenmue III will only speak to a handful of people. Those who, charmed by two incredible titles and frustrated by a cliffhanger dating back to 2001, have been waiting impatiently for the next chapter adventures of Ryo Hazuki. No, this game is not primarily intended to charm a new audience discovering the IP in 2019. Claimed by the fans, funded by them, and developed for them, the main question was to see if Shenmue III responded to these expectations. And, it very much seems too, even if the game suffers many defects that some will deem unworthy of the status of the IP and its year of release.
This article was edited by Gerelyn Terzo.
Last modified: November 19, 2019 7:34 PM UTC