PS4 Review: Shenmue III

18 years later, is Shenmue still relevant?

The story begins in 1980s Yokosuka, Japan…The main character, Ryo Hazuki has his father murdered before him by Lan Di, the boss of the underground organization, Chi You Men. Ryo learns of the existence of a mysterious pair of mirrors, and makes his way to Hong Kong to unravel the mystery and avenge his father. A stranger in a new land, Ryo gains the help of Ren Wuying, and together they make contact with Yuanda Zhu, only to see Lan Di make his escape. Continuing to pursue his father’s Killer, Ryo travels to Bailu Village in Guilin. Along the way, he meets a new companion, Shenhua Ling who will forever change his destiny. The story of Shenmue was originally scripted for a total of eleven chapters.

Shenmue II brought the story up to chapter six, with Shenmue III continuing from there at Bailu Village. What secrets are held within the twin mirrors? Will Ryo face his arch nemesis, Lan Di in a final showdown? What does fate hold in store for Ryo and Shenhua?

I must confess that I haven’t played the past Shenmue games, I was going to pick up the remasters but haven’t gotten around to it just yet. But luckily the game offered a short catch-up video to get me up to speed with the events of the past games and so with that in mind, let us see how the third entry holds up after an 18-year hiatus…

The game will certainly please fans of the original games and the story is pushed further, though doesn’t have a full ending for Ryo’s story as most would have hoped. It seems that either there will be a sequel or an endless wait to find out exactly how Ryo’s story concludes. In terms of gameplay, it handles like the past games for better or worse, but after 18 years and advances in gameplay mechanics, Shenmue III does feel terribly dated.

That’s not to say there’s not a lot to enjoy here, but you’ll definitely notice just how dated the gameplay seems in comparison to games of this and the previous generation. There is a decent amount of content however and will more than appease those fans who have waited almost two decades for more Shenmue.

The visuals have improved since Shenmue II, but also appear dated overall. The voice-acting is a real mixed bag in my opinion, while the soundtrack is superb in contrast. The load times aren’t too bad, while the framerate seems steady for the most part.

The Verdict

After 18 years, gaming has moved on but Shenmue III ultimately feels stuck in the past with its gameplay, for better or worse. Fans will love the new instalment but will feel annoyed that the saga isn’t concluded and may have to wait years to find out if there will even be another entry. Let’s hope there is and Ryo’s story can finally have a conclusion.

Score: 7.0