So here we are, more than a decade after Shenmue 2 was released on the Xbox and still no Shenmue 3, what is the fricking holdup? When I first played Shenmue on the Dreamcast I was instantly hooked with the gameplay, the fact time had relevance in the game was something I had rarely seen done in way that actually affected the way you apporached the game. Random QTE's and the fact almost everything in the world was interactive, right down to the bubble capsule machines you can buy little sega trinkets from.
The combat was something I could only compare to more recent games such as the Batman Arkham titles, only more difficult. Shenmue was the glowing beacon of hope that came to Dreamcast owners when we first played it, then heard there were at least 2 more games in the works. But alas the Dreamcast was not meant to be, so lets jump ahead to the Xbox release, some of the textures within the game have been removed and replaced with simpler images, I'm sure this was to hasten the release of Shenmue 2.
Sadly when a game calls a single console home that leaves it in a bit of a bittersweet position, it is easier to differentiate yourself from the pack but if you're home gets foreclosed on you find yourself in the street trying to get people to notice you. This is where Shenmue 2 found itself, being a Dreamcast exclusive left the series in limbo. Most Xbox owners probably hadn't played the first Shenmue so in all reality they had no drive to finish the story, they were never left wondering what happens to Ryo? How does this story end, well most people just don't care, so Shenmue 2's release wasn't great, and once the numbers came in on the second game production on the third release seemingly stopped.
Sega AM2 can come up with all the excuses they want but the sad truth of it is they damned the game the moment they went Xbox exclusive, had Shenmue had a chance at the Gamecube and PS2 they're may have likely been a lot more people waiting to find out how it all ends. Now in this day and age of Blu-ray media and highspeed internet is it truly impossible to re-release Shenmue and Shenmue 2 as a $60 set, this could help drive consumer interest while at the same time alleviate some of the financial burden development of the third installment would likely be causing.
The games industry is constantly looking for way to innovate in digital entertainment, here they have a gem waiting to be polished. Before Heavy Rain, before L.A. Noire there was Shenmue, there was no guns, no explosions, just a lot of fighting, and forklift races... The way you learned knew techniques was different, rather than buying or allocated skill points you would actually find masters of the martial arts, and these people were the ones you would learn your skills from. The focus of the game was to actually experience the game The integration of old classic arcade games that are actaully playable within the game was a really cool thing as well especially over a decade ago. Add to that the in game weather system that played a huge role in the look and feel of the game, when it was raining people walk around with umbrellas, when it snows the streets become snow covered. There's even the option to have the game weather mimic what the real weather was like back in '86/'87 which is the time period this game is set in.
The voice acting in Shenmue was also a giant leap forward, in an age where most NPC's dialogue was handled with ugly text boxes, Shenmue was one of the first large RPG games that had actual voice acting for all non-playable characters. Taking another que from the movie industry Shenmue made great use of dramatic camera angles that would sweep around the game world as different events happened such as when it hit dusk and the street lights would come on, the camera would cut to different NPC's around the world and show them actually doing something even when the player wasn't directly interacting with them.
On top of all this lets add another dash of salt to the wound, when the game released it was meet with generally good reviews, the biggest issue seemed to be the overall pace of the game. But the one thing that no one could argue was the graphics of this game, love it or hate it Shenmue was an extremely pretty game.
According to most gaming outlets Shenmue is the grand daddy of the open world sandbox game sub/genre, think GTA III, Fallout, games along those lines and don't forget the QTE's, yet again Shenmue was blazing a trail for games like God of War and Resident Evil 4 to the latest release in the Far Cry series, you'll start to see the pedigree of game that's being left to rot on the shelves of possibility. In a way it's kind of poetic, a game many believe to be way ahead of it's time only available on a console also considered to be way ahead of it's time.
The games industry has always had it's glimmers of innovation, only to be extinguished by the realities of the real world. Sadly I see no end to this, if a game doesn't clear a certain sales mark it gets shelved and forgotten about, whether or not it was the greatest thing to come to games since the dedicated GPU.
In a way it's quite comical, gamers whine about wanting something different to play, they're tired of the COD's and Mario's they want something original, yet year after year we see Activision release a new COD every year, whether it's BLOPS or MW, they're both FPS's, Halo, Battlefield, etc, etc. If gamers want something different they need to send the messege the only way publishers will listen, close the wallets, stop buying the 60 dollar game along with the 60 dollar elite service along with the 5 map packs at 15 bucks a pop, I mean 'cmon.
Maybe, just maybe if annually released games such as sports titles and certain shooters would reduce the price by half, this would allow parents to swallow the cost of a new one and maybe even a second one, since for the most part parents have gotten used to spending 60 bucks on a game. On top of that the 2 for 1 mentallity may start sinking in, and lets be frank its much easir to take a risk on a 30 dollar game than it is to bite it on a 60 dollar one.
I know this is a pipe dream that will more than likely never happen, but big publishers need to recognize the market is shifting, there are a lot of disgruntled former EA, Bioware, Rockstar, on and on and on programmers and developers who dont need to sell 10 million units at $60 a piece to turn a profit. Instead we're starting to see 10 man development teams putting out games nearly as good as the big boys, maybe not graphically superior but interactively it's light years ahead of the monolithic beasts that now run the industry.
Now to end this little thought on my longing for a Shenmue conclusion, creator Yu Suzuki said on January 4 2012, Sega may let him acquire the rights to Shenmue, possibly hinting at a resurrection of Ryo.