Shenmue III could've been made 18 years ago as it feels very similar to the previous two entries, with no real improvements, making it feel rather outdated.
Some players may want to mainline Shenmue III in order to see all the story has it has to offer as quickly as possible. This is not advised. For one, there’s actually not very much new story information to glean during a playthrough. Secondly, doing so would make the more annoying aspects of the game all the more glaring. It’s much better to savor Shenmue III at a leisurely pace.
Rejoining Ryo Hazuki’s quest to avenge his father is exciting, but Shenmue 3 feels like a game that has ignored the innovation and progress of the last 20 years of video game development.
Shenmue 3 was always about delivering a sequel its diehard fans wanted, the most generous of those supporters also appearing in-game through mostly tasteful means in the game’s second half, such as via a hotel guestbook. On that basis alone, it’s a miraculous success, and Shenmue fans will have no problem spending hours having the same awkward conversations or repeating the same small tasks just so they can be immersed in a world that has been brought back into existence against the odds. We can only hope that the wait for Shenmue 4 won’t take as long.
A literal dream come true for fans and while most others will struggle to understand the appeal it’s impossible not to admire Yu Suzuki’s vision and tenacity in not only making the game but making it his way.
A more astute critic might point out that the performances are uneven, the character models sometimes look wayward, you're kind of limited as to what you can do and nothing of note really happens. That's not me, I'm afraid. Yes, Shenmue 3 can look and play like a Dreamcast game. But it looks and plays like a Dreamcast game that's as off-kilter, maddening, magical and majestic as the original Shenmue games, both all-time classics. I think there's good reason to rejoice in that.
It doesn’t have the conclusion we’ve been waiting two decades for and it barely drives the story forward at all, but the climactic battle is as satisfying as that 70-man tussle in the first game’s harbour. When you finish, you’re given the option to start again and carry all your skills and money over to a new game, allowing Ryo to become even more proficient a fighter. He’s putting in the time and learning to check those legs yet again. The credits have rolled, but the story isn’t over. And neither is the grind.
Personally I can’t believe what I’m playing. Somehow Shenmue III is not only real, but it feels 100% authentic after all this time and against all the odds. I can’t wait to see what happens next. Look out for the full verdict on Shenmue III later in the week. Should you buy it in the mean-time while it’s full price? Fans should, newcomers should not. That’s the truth of it.