[PlayStation 4] Shenmue III Review
Shenmue III was announced at the 2015 Year of Dreams conference and is now finally out nearly 20 years after the prequel. Curious about this title? Then dive into our Shenmue III review!
Play as Ryo Hazuki, an 18-year-old Japanese martial artist hellbent on avenging his father’s death.
In this third installment of the epic Shenmue series, Ryo seeks to solve the mystery behind the Phoenix Mirror, an artifact sought after by his father’s killer. His journey takes him to an immersive representation of rural China, brimming with activity and surrounded by beautiful landscapes.
Ryo’s adventure leads him to towns and mountain villages where he can further his training, try his hand at gambling, play arcade games, and work part-time jobs while investigating those who know the truth behind the Phoenix Mirror.
As someone new to the Shenmue universe, I began by watching the in-game recap of the events of the previous games, which is a 5-minutes long video. With Shenmue III being a direct sequel to its predecessor Shenmue II, the best way to enjoy this game would be to first play the remasters of Shenmue I and Shenmue II that are available on the PlayStation 4, and have been reviewed here by EdEN.
As for the story, Shenmue III starts up right after the ending of Shenmue II. While Shenmue II took place mainly in Hong Kong, this third installment takes place in rural China, with beautiful locations and villages to visit, and you can really appreciate the bump in graphics thanks to the Unreal Engine. In Shenmue III, Ryo Hazuki’s goal is still to find Lan Di, and this is achieved by talking to the villagers and finding any useful hints about his whereabouts. As a newcomer to the series, it felt like I had missed a great deal of backstory, even with the quick recap video, if you want to enjoy this game to the fullest.
Like in the previous Shenmue games, you’re going to get into some fights as you progress through the game. I’ve seen some gameplay footage from the previous games to catch up and compare the gameplay with Shenmue III, and the battle system was very similar to the one found in the classic fighting game Virtua Fighter. This time the battle system has changed a little bit while keeping the same look and feel. Enemies are fought with the different action buttons on the controller, as well as with the shoulder buttons. Defending is a must in order to be able to complete the harder fights you will find down the road, so you’re going to have to make the most of the skills you’ve picked up along the way to be able to stand your ground and make a difference.
I need to mention that the control scheme on the DualShock 4 controller is really different from what I’m used to – at least by today’s standards. The best example is the Triangle button that usually pops up the in-game menu, but in this case, it opens the controller help menu, which definitively isn’t needed after playing the game for an hour or so. In this game, the menu is bound to the R1 button, which is unusual and certainly feels off. It’s not a deal-breaker, but this is something I did have to bring up.
One of the things that impressed me right off as I began playing was the visual presentation of the game using the Unreal Engine, and how the game takes a hefty 40GB of space on my PlayStation 4’s HDD. The locations are beautiful and done in a way that you could probably recognize a location if you’ve already been there. As for the different characters, Shenhua looks and feels great and is easily the most beautifully rendered character in the whole game. Ryo, for his part, and this is probably a decision made by Yu Suzuki to stay true to the two prequels, has an overall strange facial expression. His walking and running animations are also awkward-ish to look at.
As for the English localization, the translation felt off as soon as I started to talk to a few characters in an early location. The voice acting is also monotonous and feels as if the different voice actors could have put a little more enthusiasm into their performance. Luckily, the game has English and Japanese voice acting, so you can select to play using one or the other.
Shenmue III is the long-awaited sequel to a great franchise with a pair of beloved video game classics, but it does have a few issues that will prevent newcomers to fully enjoy this one. For starters, the game’s story begins in the heat of the ending of the previous game, the control scheme is different to what you’re probably used to, and the voice acting and animations don’t feel quite right. The different locations are amazing to look at, thanks to the Unreal Engine. This game is easy to recommend if you played the previous releases, but will feel harsh to a gamer new to the franchise.
This Shenmue III review is based on PlayStation 4 provided by Deep Silver.