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[Review] Shenmue 3 - Was it Worth the Wait?

Shenmue 3 logo We know Gamers

Its been a long 18 years, but Shenmue 3 is finally here and ready to continue the story of Ryo Hazuki as he aims to avenge his father's death. A lot has changed within the video game during this time, but was Yu Suzuki's long awaited follow up worth the wait?

I recently did a crash course on Shenmue thanks to the HD editions that were released, however this was not even necessary as the game will bring you up to speed via a summary in the menu which fills you in on the important details. While this is incredibly helpful, the patient fans will feel a higher sense of satisfaction from it due to the many call backs and name drops, so if you do have the time, definitely play through the previous games as it will help you appreciate the journey more.

Shenmue 3 kicks off right after two with Shenhua  and Ryo discovering quite the revelation in a cave on the mountains of Guilin, China. Their adventure leads them to discover the secrets hidden within Bailu Village and across the water to the famous port town Niaowu.

What made the original games really memorable for me were the characters and while we did not get anyone as iconic as Tom, we come across quite the personalities on our journey and in true Shenmue fashion, everyone just seems to be bursting with life and energy.

Whether its the stall owners of Niaowu trying to sell you their Buddhist statues or cakes, to Su Zixiong teaching martial arts in Bailu all the way to the creepy fortune teller, it just feels like they all have their part to play which just makes you feel even more involved in the world that Yu Suzuki and his team were trying to create.

This is only furthered by the great environments that were created from the quiet countryside to the bustling, business centred port town. Niaowu is definitely my preferred favourite location as it holds the amazing temples that are a marvel to look at. Sights are simply beautiful and colours are vibrant.

Shenmue 3 Niaowu We Know Gamers

A large part of the game is combat and this is based upon you learning moves from skill books and other characters as the story progresses. Skill books can be earned through side missions and the main story, bought in a shop or found in the general environment. In order to master these techniques, you will need to spar with a suitable person which in turn allows you to level up your moves.

The techniques themselves are attached to a button combination but can also be performed by a simple press of one of the triggers. A small change, but one that I am sure players will appreciate as some of the button combinations were out of this world.

While this aspect of the series was revered in its hey day, it just seems like a bit of a hot mess now and in some instances, not very fun to play. Veteran players will be able to get to grips with this fairly quickly, but new players will definitely have a harder time at it, especially once the game wants you to take on multiple opponents at the same time.

Shenmue 3 Horse Stance We Know Gamers

Along with this you can train and level up your attack, skill and stamina, however this can also be done through general training such as the One Inch Punch or Horse Stance. In order to take part in any of this, you will need enough stamina and this drops through out the day. 

QTE's also make a return and while I didn't feel they were used as much as the previous games their presence were felt. At some points I did feel that they were either happening way to quickly or not registering even though I pressed the button at the right time. In terms of elevating the action sequences, this is something that Shenmue still does very well.

Other than combat and training, Stamina is also important when taking part in work in order to earn money and I was glad to see that there was quite a variety to dig into. Like many you will be looking to chop wood which you can only do for so long, but there will also be the opportunity to drive a forklift once again, collect herbs and even catch chickens. Depending on what you go for the reward will vary, but if you have time to kill it definitely is worth it.

Shenmue 3 fishing We Know Gamers

Lastly in regards to Stamina, if you are anything like me, you will try to run everywhere you go and this eats up the stamina very easily. As mentioned before this can be increased through training to allow you to last longer, but if you need a quick pick me up, simply resting or eating something will do the trick. 

In terms of other activities you can take part in, you can still gamble in a good old game of Flower, Bird, Wind or Moon or take part in the turtle race which essentially tests your button mashing-stamina skills. If this doesn't tickle your fancy, you can hit up the arcade and enjoy some classics, however since this is not being published by SEGA, you won't find their games there unfortunately.

Games played do earn you tickets in which you can exchange at the prize shop for a gift of your choosing. Of course some cost a lot more than others, however if you are making to make some quick cash, you can always sell the gift off at the pawn shop; a strategy I myself used many times.

Shenmue 3 Flower bird wind and moon We Know Gamers

What Shenmue 3 does well is replicate all the good vibes that fans of the series remember rather than bring it closer to open world games of today. This is definitely one for the fans and if you were looking for something more, you will be disappointed. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but if there is another in the series, I would expect some big changes to be made in order for it to compete.

It is indeed a love letter to the fans and those who have been waiting for this will definitely find an enjoyable experience that is true to the game they fell in love with, however what cannot be overlooked is the fact that it is not a game that can keep up with the expectations we have of its genre today. 

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