Actually, The Shenmue 3 Trailer Is Fine

Shenmue 3's first major trailer debuted yesterday, showing off a world of martial arts, beautiful locales, and uncanny facial expressions. For some, including my peers at Kotaku, it was troubling. For me, it was everything I could have asked for.

Yu Suzuki's Shenmue released on the Sega Dreamcast in 1999, revolutionising how games handle open worlds. From Dobuita's packed streets to the sunlit piers of Yokosuka Harbour, Shenmue offered a fully explorable world where characters engaged in daily schedules and every drawer could be opened. The result was a game that felt expansive and detailed, where danger and excitement lurked around every corner. The tale of Ryo Hazuki's quest to avenge his father's murder felt grand. It grew even more expansive in 2001's Shenmue II, which took the story to larger cities and locations throughout China.

Shenmue was originally imagined as an 11 chapter epic, but the story was put on hold for over 14 years until Shenmue III's Kickstarter campaign was announced at E3 2015. A dedicated fan of the series, I was among the first waves of backers. The latest trailer's blocky visuals has many people concerned, but I just want Shenmue, with all of the good and all of the bad.

Shenmue has always been clumsy. From Ryo's stiff walk cycles and stuffy English voice acting to the way his various martial arts moves seem to suddenly pop into action, the series has always had a rigid quality. But that rigidity comes with confidence and romantic aspirations. Shenmue aspires to be a grand wuxia narrative more than anything else. The world is packed with wizened martial arts masters, devilish mafiosos brandishing forbidden techniques, and ancient prophecies. With its magnificent vistas and tightly edited martial arts sequences, the Shenmue III trailer is a perfect distillation of what the series has always wanted to be.

The character models lag behind today's standards and should give anyone pause given the game's historic $US6.3 ($8) million dollar crowdfunding campaign. But in spite of the stiff elements, the romantic core still shines through. And while time will tell if the game's technical goals are achieved, it seems that Yu Suzuki's vision has remained consistent even after all these years.


    List of Kickstarter games that got off to a rocky start and then got better:

      This isn't a rocky start though, this is Shenmue. They've chosen something that fits the originals. I think it would be different if the first two games had modern remasters but I like this approach. I mean nobody spits the dummy over Shovel Knight's crap graphics.

        I take your point about Shovel Knight - I'm not saying you can't stylistically make games look old. The problem is that Shovel Knight was intentional but we don't know enough to say if this is intentional or just a best effort from a small team. If you look at the reaction comments to the video on their Kickstarter its clear that if its intentional it wasn't communicated well:

          I get what you mean and there's always that risk when the Kickstarter didn't raise a huge amount of money, but I think it looks too much like the Dreamcast games to be an accident. You're spot on about the bad communication though. Whether this is intentional or not they let people draw their own conclusions on this aspect of the game.

    Agreed. The trailer doesn't feel out of place at all next to the first 2 games. Some people don't know what they want, even when they ask for it.

    Looks good however the characters could use a touch of facial expressions and also perhaps some better more realistic textures, atm they look like Street Fighter characters which puts them a bit out of place in the realistic world looking settings.

      Yu Suzuki did say in an interview that they had to pull facial animations from the current build of the game they used to make the trailer for technical reasons and that they'll be re-implemented later on.

Join the discussion!

Trending Stories Right Now