Shenmue 3 Feels More like a Video Game Than Its Predecessors

I found a cozy little shop at the outskirts of Bailu, the rural Chinese village Shenmue III starts off at. In front of the entrance were two capsule toy machines, and maps that indicate where to find medicinal herbs could be obtained from a small table next to it. As Ryo Hazuki, I pick up one of the maps and then bent down in front of the capsule toy machines, just like I did for the first time nearly 20 years ago.

Ryo puts the toys in his magical pockets that can hold anything from stone mirrors to living ducks, and heads into the . Before approaching the clerk, I decide to take my time and first have a look around. Like in the previous entries, Ryo can freely explore these environments, open drawers and pick up random objects that have no importance to the main story. Objects Ryo can interact with are now highlighted with small circles, a convenience that Shenmue purists will probably find unnecessary.

“That’s a lot of spices,” Ryo’s English voice actor Corey Marshall says as I open a certain drawer, in the exact same stoic way as he did when he was still a beardless young man.

Dolls are being displayed in the back of the store. They look like Russian Matryoshka, which is noteworthy considering Shenmue III’s late eighties rural China setting. Ryo is also surprised that “they have these in China.” Environmental storytelling like this, makes me want to investigate every single object I come across.

It beats me how director Yu Suzuki managed to do all this with a much more limited budget.

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Ryo can buy or sell items at the store and help out with wood-chopping as a part-time job. Instead, I decide to ask the clerk if he knows where I can find “a dealer with a scar on his face”. Just like Ryo asked for black cars, sailors, people that can read Chinese and what not in the old games, approaching NPCs to achieve your goal is still a key factor to Shenmue’s gameplay. All of those conversations are in voiced dialogue, and more often than not NPCs have something interesting or funny add to the story, rather than just pointing you in the right direction.

It beats me how director Yu Suzuki managed to do all this with a much more limited budget compared to the previous entries, but Shenmue III’s open world seems to be as packed with details as before.

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