Shenmue III


June 24th, 2015

Posted in Sega

I used to imagine there was an alternate timeline in video game history where Shenmue III was released. Unthinkably, I am now existing in this in this alternate reality! Subsequent play-throughs of the Shenmue series has always been bittersweet. Every time you play Shenmue II, the end of disc 4 is so hard to swallow. It feels like the start of an epic adventure. But you know you can’t continue; you know you won’t see what happens to Ryo… Until now. Words can’t describe how I feel, but somehow I’m in a world where Shenmue III is going to exist. This shouldn’t be happening. I had convinced myself completely that Shenmue III was never going to happen. Like the Dreamcast, Shenmue was destined to an early death. No matter how good, how creative Dreamcast and Shenmue are, the video game business just doesn’t allow for this kind of thing to exist. Thankfully, Kickstarter is changing the business of video games. You and I can now save Shenmue through crowdfunding.

I have grown uninterested in current generation video games. The PS3/360 era was trailing off to blandness towards it’s end. Creative, unique games weren’t being made anymore (at least to my tastes). Now with the 8th generation, I haven’t really been excited or completely enthralled in any game the way I used to (Bloodborne being the rare exception). Games nowadays are made by massive teams, spreading the artistry of game-making thin. There just aren’t as many focused, unique, non-AAA games made anymore. I want the AA games of the 6th generation back. You felt heart in those games. I guess that’s why most of my gaming still continues to be on 6th generation consoles (DC, GC, XBOX, PS2). However, I’m still missing that excitement for new, interesting releases I once had when I was younger.

On June 15th, 2015, I felt that spark that had been missing. Shenmue III was unbelievably announced on Sony’s E3 conference for release on PS4 and PC. I don’t know if it was just the fact that the creator of Shenmue, Yu Suzuki, tweeted a picture of a forklift with “E3” (reference to the first game) or me just having some weird feeling, but I decided to watch an E3 presentation live for the first time alongside Clark DeVitis. I had a feeling with Yu Suzuki hanging around Mark Cerny (PS4’s lead architect) that if Shenmue III was going to be announced it would most likely be during Sony’s conference. In the middle of the presentation while I admittedly almost wasn’t paying attention, I see the pink blossoms falling and Shenmue’s music play. Instantaneous amazement; Initially thinking we’re looking at Shenmue I and II HD collection. Then we see Yu Suzuki in the video speak on how he gets asked about the third game all the time. Then I realize this is just balls out Shenmue III. Forget the HD collection crap. They’re just going straight to the what a true Shenmue fan really wants. Words can’t express my excitement at this point. Then I once I saw the camera pan over the rocky stream with the vibrant trees in the background, I felt pure joy. Hahaha.

I had no idea there was still this much spirit left in a financially failed series (albeit artistically an astounding achievement). That the leading console manufacturer would give such a large platform to Yu Suzuki to announce a sequel to this series is mind-blowing–especially when you consider this is a Dreamcast series from 14 years ago (the Dreamcast fanboy in me ignores the Xbox port, Hahaha). It’s very ironic too. Shenmue’s failure and the launch of the Sony PlayStation 2 were both factors in the demise of the Dreamcast. Now we have Sony promoting the sequel to this Dreamcast masterpiece. It might be crazier to me than the thought of Sonic on a Nintendo (back when that would seem crazy). It’s all great to see the game coming to at least the PC as well. Maybe for the best, Sega didn’t have the balls to to bring back Shenmue. They can’t market their games. Sega is however cooperating and is allowing Yu Suzuki to utilize all the assets of the previous games. It’s to be expected, as Yu is still an advisor at Sega and had a massive role in the company’s earlier arcade days. But here it is, our first introduction to Shenmue III:

Sony isn’t directly funding the development of the game. And I think that is a wonderful thing. This gives Yu Suzuki creative freedom to make the game he wants to make. You don’t have a big business-minded company tampering with and altering the creative vision. Sony has stated they are helping fund Shenmue III. Yu Suzuki also confirmed that their contribution is going into the production, marketing and providing Ys Net (Yu Suzuki’s company) the tools necessary to make Shenmue III a reality. I assume Sony providing support to 3rd party developers (especially Yu Suzuki and Shenmue’s hardcore nature) is to garner more hardcore interest in the PS4 platform. Shenmue III benefits from having a big company promoting it. If that means console exclusivity then so be it.

With that said, we still don’t have a big company just flat out financing the game. Nobody wants to take the financial risk of bringing Shenmue back. Instead, we are given the opportunity to fund the game that we so desperately wanted. Shenmue’s Kickstarter page has been live since June 15th instantly after the live announcement. Kickstarter allows all sorts of projects to get off the ground by people who simply want these products to exist. Shenmue III being crowd-funded by you and me and is the only way this was going to happen (at least any time soon). Please help fund the sequel you’ve wanted the most out of any other sequel ever. I measly $29 gets you the digital release. You can have your name in the credits of Shenmue III if you so choose ($100 patronage required). After the immense emotionally feelings on SII’s conclusion and watching the credits roll… To think that I could be in such a game’s credits… Wow. I’ve never wished to see ‘Brandon Ditto’ in any other context more than this.

Financially, Shenmue III needed $2 million to exist. That was the bare minimum goal. Shenmue III was the fastest crowd-funded game to $1 million (1 hour and 42 minutes). The $2 million goal was crushed within the first 9 hours of the Kickstarter going live. I mean you know every Shenmue fan jumped on the opportunity instantly (Kickstarter wasn’t able to handle the load. It took me several minutes to be able to pledge my $500–I’ve since changed it to $600 + an additional $60 for a physical PC Edition). $2 million isn’t the end of it though. Of course, the more money pledged, the more features that are added to the game. Over a week since the start of the Kickstarter, the funding has slowed. You can see the current progress with the graphic on the left. Yu Suzuki says that $5 million will bring something to the game that he really wants (didn’t say specifics). $10 million will make the fully fleshed out Shenmue experience he truly wants. I hate to say it, but I don’t think we’ll reach $10 million in funding. I think $5 million is realistic and very doable.

These numbers may seem low considering that Shenmue originally cost $47 million to create. That is misleading though. You have to consider the cost that went into the initial research and development of the game on Sega Saturn (which even has scenes from even the ending of Shenmue II). Perhaps the game was nearly complete on Saturn? Then Sega had to completely recreate the game on the Dreamcast spanning 2 separate games. I assume Shenmue had to be painstakingly optimized to run so well on Dreamcast’s meager yet surprisingly capable hardware. The technical aspects must have required a lot of work (because there weren’t any games during that time on any system that impresses the way Shenmue did). With Shenmue III utilizing an already available 3rd party development engine (Unreal Engine 4), the initial legwork and development of SIII should be much faster and easier. So if you break down the $47 million into what are essentially 3 games (Saturn version, I and II) you’re looking at about $15 million each. You already have the research and development out of the way. Suddenly, the seemingly low goals of the Kickstarter campaign don’t sound that unreasonable in order to create a modern Shenmue experience. Yu Suzuki has also stated that there is funding coming from other sources outside Kickstarter. We don’t know how much Sony and the possible other sources are funding, but Yu says Kickstarter is primarily what’s driving development. That’s why Shenmue fans and newcomers to the series need to help make this game as good as it can be.

Some media outlets are expressing concerns about Shenmue III’s funding. Some think that Sony shouldn’t be asking fans to put down money for a game that they should just be funding outright. Why exactly is this Sony’s responsibility? This is still a 3rd party endeavor that is also releasing on PC. The Kickstarter funds will not at all go to Sony or Shibuya Productions (another company helping bring this project to life). They go directly to into development of the game. I don’t think the detractors are looking at the facts currently presented. While Sony said they are helping fund (as well as other sources), Yu Suzuki states that the actual development costs are being primarily funded with Kickstarter. That means we can’t just sit idly by and hope a company puts more money into the project. Clearly, companies aren’t willing to put the money down. It’s been 14 years of wishful thinking. Fans now have an absolute opportunity to show these video game companies just how much we want this game. Maybe Sony wanted to test the water before they went all in. Maybe they produce physical release in 2017. I don’t know yet. I am thankful they gave Shenmue III such a large audience to present to. Regardless, I don’t believe this was going to happen unless the fans made it happen. I’m not sure if the new crop of these Shenmue III skeptics have even played Shenmue. Hahaha. Maybe it’s just my obsessive love for the game, but I’ve wanted to throw money at this game for years. I’m absolutely proud to be an intrinsic part of its development.

Shenmue Preview

I’m very excited for a game that I don’t truly know whether or not it will live up to its name. I trust Yu Suzuki though. He’s bringing in key members of the original Shenmue staff that provides the talent to craft an experience on the same level. As you can see from the screenshots and video, there hasn’t been much time in development. The expected release is December 2017. That’s quite a while from now. They can make an epic game with that amount of time. I heard some chatter on the internet that the Ryo 3D model looked a little off. Don’t worry as development has just barely began and Yu Suzuki has already stated he isn’t satisfied with the model yet. Environment-wise, I’m seeing greatness from the get-go. You have your Sega-blue skies and vibrant greens, yellows, oranges, and reds making up the foliage. Along with the crystal clear steam running alongside the beautiful forest path, I’m seeing an environment I want to explore. Shenmue is well known for its visual splendor and I’m not disappointed thus far. Now my imagination is running wild with exploring the towns and seeing how each individuals’ lives within those towns plays out. I loved that immersion in Shenmue. Every character had a back story and life they lived as you went about your business. Yu Suzuki has even hinted at Ryo Hazuki having the ability to ride a horse… Again, my imagination gets me picturing Chinese countryside exploration on horseback (specifically riding through “Green Field” area on disc 4 of Shenmue II).

Thank you Yu Suzuki and all Shenmue fans for making this game!