Anyone who has played the Shenmue games knows they are something extraordinary. Shenmue I and II both dazzled players with an entrancing storyline, leaving players wanting more. This is why it came as a shock to so many that a Shenmue III is apparently not in the works. How could this happen to such a great franchise?
When Shenmue I was released in November of 2000, it was clear it was a game far ahead of its time. The game featured unprecedented, breathtaking graphics that took full advantage of every bit of muscle the Dreamcast had to offer. The level of freedom allowed to players in the game was also astonishing. Players could attempt to further the story, or spend the day playing some of the many minigames the game offered. The game also featured exceptional fighting mechanics based off of the Virtua Fighter series. The central draw of the games, however, was the story. The player takes the role of Ryo Hazuki, a young man in search of the villain who killed his father. On his search Ryo encounters it all- danger, romance, intrigue, and humor. The way the player becomes entwined and involved with the story is something that distinguishes Shenmue from most modern games. The characters, rather than being static objects, begin to mean something to the player as they progress in the story. The game also holds the distinction of being the first game to feature a forklift worker simulator/racer.
Oh yeah, baby.
Shenmue II only built upon the greatness that was Shenmue I. Originally slated for release on the Dreamcast, Shenmue II found its home on the Xbox after the Dreamcast died its untimely death. The game featured even more stunning visuals, with vast environments and realistic character models. The story continued in Ryo’s quest for his father’s killer, this time in China. The game added new features that included an easier to use interface, improved combat, and even more minigames. Ryo also meets new characters that are just as endearing as those seen in Shenmue I. The forklift, however, is a no show. The story ends in a fantastic cliffhanger that left players drooling for the third installment.
This is where the story of Shenmue hits a hole in the road and careens off the proverbial cliff. There is no Shenmue III, nor is one being announced anytime soon. Why? Well, that is a fantastic question. Apparently, the sales of the series were enough to warrant a second part in the trilogy, but not a third. A simple Google search of “Shenmue III” will yield multitudes of forum posts, disgruntled blog entries, and petitions to get Shenmue III in development. But as of yet, no such plans have been made. One such fan attempt can be seen here.
Why then, did it seem appropriate to begin development on a game called Shenmue Online, a game where players play through the events of Shenmue II cooperatively? While this is a fine idea and all, how does it make sense to begin the development of a game that has no intention of advancing the storyline? It boggles the mind, especially considering the fan outcry over not having a Shenmue III. While Shenmue Online is now dead, it is still disheartening to know that precious resources were wasted.
Note, at 0:57- Action, Drama, Heroic!….Wait, what? Also, was the lightning and fire during fighting really necessary? I don’t remember THAT from games 1 or 2…
Shenmue fans know that Shenmue III would be a more than worthwhile project. Shenmue was more than a game- It was an experience. Sometimes developers need to throw numbers and sales to the wind and look at the creative integrity of a series. Would it be right not to let gamers finish the epic tale of Ryo Hazuki? It certainly does not seem like it. Here’s to hoping that Sega wakes up and develops this gem, finally offering gamers some variety in what has being a creatively stagnant console market. Please Sega. Do it for the children. The virtual toy capsule starved children.