When Shenmue III came across my desk, I offered it around to my other editors. It’s a game that, while I have heard good things, I’ve never actually played. This being the case, I felt it my duty to offer it around to my colleagues in order to get it a review from a fan of the series. Sadly, it seems none of us grew up with a Dreamcast or an Xbox, so as I did actually always want to play the game, I’d give it a crack.
When I first loaded up Shenmue III, I was a little aghast. The title screen looks as though someone plucked it from the Powerpoint slide that they used to show potential investors. Despite that, I did persevere and actually get into the game, and I’m so glad I did. The game itself is absolutely gorgeous, all throughout. The characters look a little zany and unrealistic, but I think that just adds to the charm of the game. It is definitely Shenmue’s best asset, and thankfully you get a long time to enjoy all the various different areas you’ll travel to and from, marvelling at how good everything looks.
I actually looked forward to playing Shenmue III. It was a series that I’d always been interested to play, but having not grown up with a Dreamcast or an Xbox, I was sadly out of luck. Unfortunately, my long-awaited debut with the game couldn’t have been any worse. I know it was kickstarted, so I wasn’t expecting the world, but I didn’t think I’d be getting a horrendous mess of voice acting, movement, combat and writing that seems to have come straight from the late 90s. I read on reddit that many of the existing Shenmue fans love this, because it really does hark back to the original games, but for a newcomer to the series, I couldn’t have been more let down.
At first, I wasn’t sure if it was the voice acting that was bad, or if it was the translation that made it seem so bad. In the end, I actually worked it out. It’s both. The translation is shoddy and stilted, with plenty of conversations that add nothing to the game, or sound extremely weird – even if you just read them without the voice acting. If you do add in the voice acting though, it becomes laughable. Shenmue III manages to combine translation works straight out of the PS1-era with voice acting that anyone who heard it would know they could do a better job. Although there are plenty of dreadful performances, the one that really stands out is the main character, Ryu. He sounds so infuriatingly bored of his situation, despite being in a game with a fairly exciting story.
One of the reasons I was looking forward to Shenmue III was that I had heard the Shenmue games had a pretty nifty world with interesting NPCs to talk to and observe. I’m sure you won’t be too surprised to learn that this was absolutely not the case. Rather than have an immersive, busy world with people wandering around and keeping to their own schedules. I would even go as far to say that this isn’t really even a big ask – games have been doing this since the mid-2000s, so why would it be so difficult to implement it here? It would seem extremely. Although there is a clock, and events that are tied to that clock, people don’t seem to do anything different. No ambient movement or anything, just standing, staring into space. Occasionally spewing the same ten words that you’ve heard dozens of times when you try to talk to them, hoping for some modification in their behaviour.
The Final Word
If you’re a newcomer to the Shenmue series, I wouldn’t start with this one. From what I’ve read online, it’s a game that is an homage to the original games. With very few bells and whistles to go with their kickstarted cash. It probably would have been an excellent game, had it been released in the early 2000s, but for a 2019 game? It’s just not good enough for a full price game.