Its literally been 14 years since Shenmue 2 made its debut and left many unanswered questions. Over the years the Shenmue fanbase has grown since more and more people have gotten a chance to try the franchise, it has reached some level of mysticism. Having this rabid fanbase, all with individual reasons as to why they like the Shenmue franchise waiting for the next evolutionary step can be daunting to a development team.
Can Ys NET and Yu Suzuki make a game that will live up to the hype? That’s this topic on this week’s Round Table.
This is an interesting question and not something I think can be answered so easily. We first have to remember what Shenmue was, it was a breakthrough in open world game design, there literally was nothing like it before it was released. Then we have the condition of the developer, AM2, who at the time was one of the most technically impressive developers in the industry. It’s not an exaggeration to say that Shenmue was the first true AAA game to be developed, costs were spiraling out of control as SEGA spared no expense on Suzuki’s masterpiece. Finally, above all else, Yu Suzuki was undeniably in his prime, just reached his 40’s with a string of hits dating back to the 1980s, he was (PUN INTENDED) at the top of his game. Looking at it like this, it’s hard to see IF Shenmue 3 is going to live up to the hype, especially with so much time that has gone past from then to now.
But then we have to keep in mind the advancements in open world hasn’t expanded on what Shenmue itself was. The challenge is not bigger is better, the challenge is having a small contained world that is living, breathing and you feel every character isn’t just an expendable NPC but their own unique character. Even though we’ve seen many advancements from the original Shenmue, it’s been mostly superficial for open world games. More cars, larger maps, more minigames but nothing to the extent of personality we saw in Shenmue (At least from the open world titles I’ve played.) this is something I feel Shenmue 3 will have to it’s advantage. Unlike in the past where the tech was needed to be developed beforehand, thanks to Unreal Engine 4 usability, Suzuki will find the tools he needs to develop a sequel already there, now it’s all about planning out the design work and programming the game logic.
It’s a tough one to answer, because there are so many variables, does Yu Suzuki still have the IT factor within himself, he hasn’t made a proper game in over half a decade. Will he bring together a team of the same capabilities as SEGA AM2? Just how much can he truly create within any further funding (It’s going to be tough to stick to budget after all) and is the Shenmue 3 Suzuki developing the same as the one everyone envisioned? But… despite all these shortcomings I feel if there is any single developer in the industry who can break expectations and regroup talented ex-AM2 developers it would be none other than Yu Suzuki. I’m firmly throwing my hat down and saying that Shenmue 3 will meet the hype and expectations of it’s fans.
There is no way Shenmue 3 can live up to the hype. I’m not saying it’s going to be a bad game, but when a game like Shenmue achieves such a legendary status, it can be difficult for future games to live up to that status, especially when the original games haven’t aged especially well and the new one isn’t being given the sort of massive budget it will need to keep up with the best of today’s open world games.
Let’s be honest here: had the Shenmue 3 pitch video not bared the brand name “Shenmue 3” it never would have been funded to begin with. The stuff on display within it was awkward, ugly, and clearly from a stage in development few people outside of the games industry ever see.
For Shenmue 3, I am personally keeping my expectations modest: a good open world adventure game, with a few interesting ideas, and decent production values that continues a story I’ve wanted to see concluded for more than 13 years. I didn’t fund Shenmue 3 because I expect an amazing, groundbreaking open world game that does for today’s games what the first game did. Unfortunately, I suspect many others, with their nostalgia goggles firmly affixed to their faces, will expect just that.
This is a hard question to answer but I think Yu Suzuki and his Ys NET staff members will have a hard time trying to live up to the hype that Shenmue has set over the past decade since Shenmue 2 was release.
First you got to understand the amount to press and advertisement hype that Shenmue had before its release. Shenmue was probably one of the biggest hyped titles in SEGA history since the triumphant debut of Sonic the Hedgehog. SEGA tried to put a lot of money to promote Yu Suzuki’s name and convince mainstream gamers that Shenmue was the next evolution in video gaming and it really was. The game offered an organic feeling world (back in the early 2000’s) that wasn’t done until Yu Suzuki and SEGA AM2 had the grand vision for it. That’s the issue though, Shenmue had a lot of hype due to what it offered during the early 2000’s, will people be let down if Shenmue 3 doesn’t evolve the Shenmue formula far enough? It is 2015, after all…
I think we also have to consider the development team behind Shenmue was literally one of SEGA’s best teams in their history. Prior to releasing Shenmue they had 15 years of experience delivering some of the best arcade games ever released. This including the racing, fighting, rail shooters, and plenty of other genres. The massive amounts of hits they had under their belt in 15 years was ridiculous. Sure, the Shenmue 3 KickStarter announced that a handful of lead developers will be joining Ys Net in developing the 3rd entry. The issue here is that most of the development team will be new people, hired with the funding from Kickstarter and not a team that had been working for over a decade on hit after hit. For example: YS Net has officially only developed Shenmue City, which was taken offline a year after release. Not the best track record compared to what SEGA-AM2 accomplished prior to announcing the Shenmue franchise.
The last thing that worries me is that while its nice to have $6.3 million dollars for development, sadly its a far cry from SEGA’s ‘blank check’ that was put toward this project, not even close to the $40-60 million dollars rumored that SEGA spent on the franchise (without counting Shenmue Online/City). Not to mention that development has only gotten more expensive as time has gone by, having many games breaking SEGA’s ‘Most expensive game ever made’ record.
So I think that Yu Suzuki and his team will have a hard time living up to the hype that they set for themselves. But if anyone can actually overcome it, its Yu Suzuki. Good or bad, I can’t wait to finally play Shenmue 3.
Barry the Nomad says:
The Shenmue series has many different types of fans, and the type of fan that you are will dictate the level of expectations you have. I know that there are some real hardcore Yu Suzuki fans out there who love everything the man has done. Let’s be honest though, Ys Net’s output since its creation in 2010 has been pretty unexciting. Don’t get me wrong! I do think Yu Suzuki is a visionary developer, but I feel it takes a talented team to realize his ideas. AM2 was one of the best Japanese development teams throughout the 80s, 90s, and early 2000s. Coupled with Yu Suzuki’s imagination, they were a powerhouse! From what we’ve seen so far, the team behind Shenmue 3 is a mix of old and new faces. It certainly isn’t the same team that created the first two games, so there is a lot of unknowns when it comes to what sort of game this newly assembled team can develop.
Fourteen years is a long time to wait for a sequel to any franchise, especially when you’re coming off of a cliffhanger like the one presented at the end of Shenmue 2. While I’m certain Suzuki will deliver in the storytelling department, I just can’t see the gameplay and graphics being as innovative as they were in the first two games. The Dreamcast was our introduction to the sixth generation of consoles, where 3D graphics and gameplay finally had the tech it needed to truly shine. Shenmue was the perfect sort of game for this new technology, and Shenmue 2 nearly perfected what the first game had set out to do. Shenmue 3, however, is different. While Shenmue 3 has the legacy and many years of expectations behind it, on the shelf or in the digital marketplace among other modern games in 2017, Shenmue 3 will be just another 3D adventure game.
I guess what I’m getting at is we shouldn’t so much lower our expectations as we should keep the passage of time in mind when forming our expectations for Shenmue 3. It won’t be the same development team and it won’t carry the same development goals the first two games had. This isn’t SEGA or Yu Suzuki’s big budget game meant to showcase the latest game console, it’s simply the continuation of a story that many fans have been eager to see. That’s what I plunked down $100 for, and that’s all that I am expecting.
And I’m sure the game will deliver. It will be Shenmue III. It won’t be a game trying to wow a new mainstream audience, or one trying to outdo Fallout 4 or take open world gaming to new heights. That’s not only not possible on a Kickstarter budget but it’s not the way the game was ever positioned. Shenmue III will be Shenmue III. It will be another game in the style of the first two…with next gen touches, sure. But this is a sequel to a Dreamcast series and I think the Shenmue fanbase, above all, wants that. They don’t want something completely new. They want the sequel to Shenmue II that they’ve been waiting for. They want Shenmue III to evolve things while remaining the same. And I think the game will achieve that, and I think generally fans will be happy with it.
It’s true that those outside the fanbase who never got into Shenmue, especially those who may be expecting it to be a truly modern experience, (the audience Nuckles seems to be referring to) may be let down. But Shenmue fans who have been waiting years for this game will be stoked to have Shenmue III, and I think the majority of them will love the fact that it remains true to its roots instead of trying to imitate games that it wasn’t originally envisioned to be.
It will be the game that should have released over a decade ago. It will take advantage of the more powerful hardware in various ways, but that’s what it will be. And I feel like most fans, myself included, wouldn’t have it any other way.