Shenmue 3 Hands-On Impressions
How about a game of Lucky Hit?
This weekend Shenmue 3 backers are getting their hands on a brief demo. The demo takes place near the home of Shenhua Ling in the Bailu Village. The demo lasts a full in-game day cycle or until you complete a battle. This is roughly around 1 hour, depending on how long you take to stop and smell the roses or play some Lucky Hit.
I’ve been playing Shenmue for the better part of the past 20 years. I have to say this feels like a Shenmue game in 2019. The game looks and sounds beautiful, there are breathtaking visuals, the audio is just phenomenal. Yu Suzuki has opened up the color pallets to create these gorgeous beds of foliage sounding the town, beautiful blue skies. A significant difference from the dark gray concrete jungles and warehouses from the first two games.
My initial reaction when I first saw Ryo was, “Oh don’t worry about how he looks, they are going to fix that.” That turned into “Oh boy they are going to ruin this game.” Walking around the areas as Ryo feels smooth. After 20 years of playing the same character model, this feels and looks like Ryo. I was dead wrong about this game.
Interacting with NPC’s in the game can sometimes feel bizarre. In a romantic way that brings you back to the Dreamcast. Shenmue doesn’t feel like any other game you would play today. Similarly to the previous games, the “janky” charm of the facial expressions and, eclectic voice acting on NPC’s found wandering the streets remains. Would it be a Shenmue game without it? Did Yu Suzuki do this intentionally as part of his vision? Are the thousands of backers the only people that can appreciate this?
Of the new things I experienced, some good and some bad. There is a new food and energy system. Subsequently, you eat to gain your health back, as well as take medicine. Now that is OK except you lose health slowly during the day, more so as you run. So, you will find yourself stopping in the middle of the quest to look for food or diverting your dart money into recovery resources. I hope this isn’t a tool they use to turn a 15-hour game into a 20-hour game, or a 25-hour game into a 30-hour game. I was able to pick up different types of flowers and plants, there may be some sort of food farming system or crafting. It wasn’t initially clear.
A change that I appreciated was the improvements to the combat system. So you can now build on your skills and endurance through mini-games. Like a Horse Stance mini-game, where you tap A to keep balance. And a wood-chopping mini-game. Now you change your combat style with L1 and, block with L2. Likewise, perform a special attack with R2. The combat feels smooth, improved and very Shenmue.
With the PC demo, I experienced some minor framerate issues during cut scenes. As well as during the battle. This is the same demo shown behind closed doors at E3 back in June. So we will have to wait and see what get’s cleaned up for the November 19th release. All in all, the game feels like a warm welcome fresh return, to a game rooted in the year 2000. Fans of Shenmue should come back at least to drive a forklift. Fingers crossed for Outrun and Space Harrier. I can not wait to get my hands on the full version of the game. Check back here for more news and features on Shenmue, as well as a look at backer rewards when they arrive in November.