Yu Suzuki On Board For Shenmue 3 Kickstarter

When Microsoft made the announcement that they’d be adopting some kind of Early Access process for the Xbone, I joked that one of the other major publishers would use their conference to announce a Kickstarter. And so..

Last night, while I was catching up on sleep after a frantic weekend, Sony invited Shenmue director Yu Suzuki onstage to announce that they would be funding and publishing Shenmue III on PS4 he would be Kickstarting the sequel and releasing it on PC and PS4. The campaign has already raised almost $1.8m of a $2m target.

It’s not quite Half Life 3 but the final (?) installment of Shenmue is one of gaming’s Holy Grails. The original games were a blend of mundane tasks, QTE fights and open world investigation, and the experimental design and enormous production values ensured they stood out from the crowd. And that crowd was made up of other Dreamcast titles – rarely have a console and a game seemed so suited to one another, for good and for ill.

I don’t have any attachment to Shenmue, sentimental or otherwise, and it’s likely that I played the original too late to appreciate its significance. There were parts I didn’t enjoy, parts that I felt I’d seen better implementation of elsewhere, and parts that made me yawn.

I don’t want to rain on anyone’s parade, given how exciting this is for a lot of people, but I can’t help providing a bit of cloud cover. The original game had a budget that reportedly crept over the $70m mark and while it’s entirely probably that some elements of production are cheaper now, there are other parts that will be a great deal more expensive.

The minimum pledge for a digital copy on PC is $29, and there are a few tiers that come with physical gifts, including toy capsules, t-shirts, artbooks and the like. For $10,000 you can get the original jacket worn during press events 14 years ago. Sure. Either that or dinner in Japan with Yu Suzuki and other top-tier backers.

What you can’t get is any kind of remastered PC release of Shenmue I & II, which is a shame. If the campaign reaches $2.5m a stretch goal for Shenmue I & II cinema shorts does unlock, so you can watch the previous games while you prepare to traipse through the new one.

47 Comments

  1. Okami says:

    Small correction: Though the game made use of QTEs quite a lot (if I remember correctly Shenmue was the first game ever to use QTEs, though it was arguably God of War what made them a mainstay of modern games), it also had a complete fighting game engine under it’s hood. The combat system was actually pretty deep for it’s time. Though of course most of the game really consisted of playing “Lucky Hit”.

    • catzilla says:

      I think it was based on the Virtua Fighter engine as Shenmue was originally supposed to be Virtua Fighter the RPG.

      This might have to be the first ever game that I help kickstart!

    • ansionnach says:

      Was just going to say this. I’ll add that the fighting engine was based on Virtua Fighter and that the game started out as an RPG using the VF engine.

      I think the term QTE was coined by Shenmue (mentioned on page 29 of the UK Dreamcast manual and detailed as “Quick Timer Events” on page 39) but similar systems have existed all the way back to the likes of Dragon’s Lair. I thought that the QTE in Shenmue worked. Perhaps the chase scenes wouldn’t have been interactive or would have demanded button mashing, otherwise.

      From memory, a lot of the game was wandering around looking for the next conversation or event that would push the story forward, a bit like a Japanese adventure. Fighting and training was pretty important as well. Most of the game you did a number of these little things each “day” so there was a good bit of repetition. Then, near the end you got a job at the docks driving a forklift and there’s this bit where you fight seventy men Virtua Fighter-style for some reason. That was a lot of fun, as was the rest of the fighting. Since it was based on Virtua Fighter skill was required to succeed – it wasn’t just mashing buttons.

      The game was a bit of a slow burner and I liked it a lot, even though I had no interest in collecting shit or any of the mini games beyond Space Harrier.

    • terryterryd says:

      The ‘deep combat’ could be exploited to train and max out the basic front kick. You could fight everyone, including that golem-guy, with relative ease.

  2. drinniol says:

    I’m pretty sure that most of that $70m was marketing and the crowdfunding is a way to gauge the demand. The rest will be picked up by Sony, I reckon.

  3. ReV_VAdAUL says:

    People have been predicting for a while that Kickstarter could be used by big publishers as a pre-ordering but worse system it has now come to pass. I don’t think this is the end of Kickstarter being a worthwhile thing for Indies or anything like that but it is a shame just as people have started to wise up to pre-ordering this new avenue is opening up.

    Of course you can’t really blame Sony. If this is a success they get a nice profit whereas if it is a failure the diehard fans will have relieved them of a good chunk of the risk.

    • Highwinter says:

      Considering this is a sequel to a 14 year old game that obviously couldn’t be made any other way, I don’t think it’s fair to call this a glorified pre-order even IF Sony are pitching in after seeing the demand is there.

      • ReV_VAdAUL says:

        Pre-ordering was always used as a tool to gauge demand, previously for games that were already made and mostly complete now for games that might exist in the future. Still as I say I understand why Sony are doing it, I just don’t think it’s great for fans or consumers more generally.

        • montorsi says:

          Ah yes, making preorders available before production has even started. I can’t see how that could go horribly wrong.

      • Cantisque says:

        Still, the idea of crowdfunding a game for a multi-billion dollar publisher leaves a sour taste in my mouth.

        • Premium User Badge

          Don Reba says:

          This is usually bad advice, but in this case two wrongs may make a right. Look at it as pre-ordering for a reduced (rather than inflated) price.

          • Hmm-Hmm. says:

            I may be overly cynical, but it just seems like Sony’s cashing in on the hopeful fans who have been waiting for a new Shenmue title.

            I can’t blame fans for backing it, but it’s still a shameful display on Sony’s part.

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            Don Reba says:

            They may be cashing in but they give away copies of the games for cheap while at it. So, as long as they deliver, it’s not too bad.

  4. Premium User Badge

    Don Reba says:

    OMYGODOMYGODOMYGOD!!!

  5. orient says:

    On days like today there is no room for cynicism. The unthinkable is happening. The cash is flowing in. Shenmue III, baby.

  6. FieldyGB says:

    WOW this is big news, loved both games, especially 2.. whether I have the time now to get into Shenmue 3 as I did when I was a teenager I however doubt..

  7. FieldyGB says:

    well its hit the $2m mark (it took about 12 hours apparently)

  8. sonofsanta says:

    I adored the first Shenmue when it came out. Lived and breathed it for the week I spent playing it–nay, doing nothing but playing it.

    I can never go back. I fear that time will have ravaged this game like few others, and I don’t want to destroy my nostalgia for it.

  9. ansionnach says:

    Thinking of games that never got a sequel: I’d love to see EA come out with a sequel to Bioforge, which finished on “To be continued…”. Wouldn’t mind seeing All New World of Lemmings completed as well. Probably unlikely as even its developers said it was a bit rubbish. A new 3D Lemmings from the guys who did the original would be great as well.

  10. edwardh says:

    Damn you, Suzuki!
    I swore that I would never support another Kickstarter campaign again. He had better not make me regret this…

    And to the… Seemingly not very gaming-wise incompetent writer of this article:
    Dude! You don’t have to have emotional attachment to do your research and recognize the objective value of a game!
    When I first watched a trailer of Shenmue, a guy (standing admittedly a couple of meters away) asked me what movie that is!
    While it may look dated today, it featured the most advanced visuals back then and especially the facial details were not beaten by any other big budget game for many, many years!
    It was also the game to in fact introduce the very concept of QTE in the first place!
    And while I found it frustrating, it was also quite interesting to have the outcome of cut scenes depend on your ability to react quickly enough. Like bumping into some gangsters – or not.
    It was also possibly the first game to give you a wide variety of basically open world interaction. Sure, there had been open worlds before. But never with this many things to find and interact with.
    It also didn’t hold your hand much when it came to where you need to go, yet you usually had enough clues to know that you have to go see this or that guy. But no map markers or anything were necessary. Usually, you could find the places by just asking around. How many other games even today let you do that?
    Finally, while the emotional portrayal of things may have been quite in the uncanny valley in retrospect, you have to consider that we live in a different age now. Back then, a lot of it felt quite immersive, since the game delivered things at a level of quality that had not been seen before. Which caused apparently quite a few people to suspend their disbelief.

    • ansionnach says:

      Steady on, there! I like Shenmue as well but Adam’s comments were quite accurate other than he didn’t mention the fighting engine. Interaction in Shenmue was limited, even for the time. Conversation choices were rare and very limited. You could buy and collect figurines from Sega games. You could play mini games. There were QTE sections. There was fighting and exploration. That was about it. The level of open-world interactivity paled in comparison with the Ultima VII and Underworld games, which were released years earlier. The list of games that preceded it that boasted an equal or greater level of interaction would probably be quite long.

      Anyway, why get into personal attacks? As far as I see it your “not very gaming-wise incompetent” comment is more applicable to yourself…

      • edwardh says:

        While I don’t want to take the time to reply to what you’ve said, I’ll stick with my original opinion and instead will elaborate on my reasons for my judgement:

        He also implied that the other Dreamcast titles were crap. When Dreamcast had many great games across many genres like Soul Calibur, Crazy Taxi, Sonic Adventure, Dead or Alive 2, Code Veronica, Grandia 2, Confidential Mission – to just name a few.
        Contrary to the technically quite interior games on PS2 and many crappy games released there. Yes, overall there were probably more games with great gameplay released on PS2 over time. But to suggest that the Dreamcast had anything less than an impressive array of titles, especially considering its short lifetime is quite inaccurate – to put it more nicely.

  11. ButterflyRogers says:

    The stretch goals are pretty shit, half of them are for subtitles. However, that’s not stopping people pledging $10,000 to have dinner with the developers.

    • edwardh says:

      Dude… I’m pretty sure they have stretch goals up to like 100m$
      They will only get revealed once a certain level of funding has been reached. Quite common in Kickstarter…

    • Moraven says:

      Good. No reason to go over scope.

  12. Cropduster says:

    Good god it’s happening. I hope the years will be kind.

  13. edwardh says:

    Hm… Having just watched the Kickstarter video, I have to say… I’m afraid Yu Suzuki may pull a Jane Jensen.

    I know it’s just concept art but so far, I have not seen a Kickstarter game where the final product has exceeded the concept. Usually, they end up looking worse. (E.g. mighty no. 9)

    For many years, I wanted to see how the story ends. With visuals just as impressive as they were back then.
    Sleeping Dogs was actually very close to what I imagined for Shenmue 3. You know… When it comes to the overall flair, storytelling and visual fidelity. Not necessarily the gameplay and setting, obviously. Although hand-to-hand combat felt pretty great too.
    But I wonder whether they will be able to deliver that.

    • catzilla says:

      I think the Yakuza games are the spiritual successor to Shenmue. I get a similar vibe playing them as I did Shenmue.

      Besides,in my head canon, Kazumi is the person Ryo would become if he wasn’t so straight edged!

      • edwardh says:

        So I have heard. Unfortunately, Yakuza was always released on Sony platforms (as far as I know). And I have never and probably will never own one of them.
        And emulators… To me, 3D games tend to lose their charm way before a ROM of them ever appears.

    • tnzk says:

      Sleeping Dogs was far and away not what I imagined for Shenmue. Part of Shenmue’s charm is that it’s obsessively detailed, just like Yu Suzuki’s other games (he made an arcade racing game based off one single Ferrari car. Just one. It was super accurately modelled). Sleeping Dogs doesn’t even touch Grand Theft Auto for attention to detail, and Grand Theft Auto still doesn’t hold a patch to what Shenmue did for its recreation of 1980s Japan and Hong Kong. If you ever wanted to know what Kowloon the walled city felt like, just play Shenmue 2. It’s got scary detail, man.

      That being said, Suzuki and team have 14 years of open world video game action-adventure-RPG stuff to catch up on. Shenmue is the pre-GTA open world game, and it does feel like a chore simulator at the worst of times. I have faith they can get it right though.

      Just don’t listen too much to the weird fans though. They want the horrible voice acting and fork lift mini game to actually return. And they’re not being ironic about it either.

      • Premium User Badge

        Don Reba says:

        The forklift job was awesome, and I am NOT weird!

      • edwardh says:

        Having played GTA4 with that Lacie (or something) mod before Sleeping Dogs, I most certainly have no idea what you are talking about. I lost interest in the game within hours. Uninteresting characters and story (actually not just not interesting but even repulsive in their dumb, dumb and primitive behavior) and bad gunfight controls.
        Sleeping Dogs however, I played through twice. To me, it is GTA with style and depth. Maybe its portrayal of gangsters is less realistic because I doubt that many of them are that sophisticated but… What’s the point if a realistic portrayal makes me despise the characters so much that I don’t want to keep playing?

        • edwardh says:

          Ah… It was Icenhancer.
          (I better not go into the mental connection between that and Lacie)

        • edwardh says:

          Oh yeah… And gun controls were actually quite good in sleeping dogs. Found it especially fun once I got the hang of that slow motion system. Reminded me a bit of “It’s Max Payne!!”, haha.

    • edwardh says:

      I should maybe add that despite my doubts, I have decided to pledge because I figure… Even if it turns out to be not as great as 1 or 2, as a great fan I will probably buy the game anyway. So might as well add the special backer PC game case next to my Dreamcast boxes.

    • drinniol says:

      To be fair, I’ve not seen any game where the final product exceeds the concept. Ever.

  14. Gibs says:

    damn Shenmue 3… I had lost all hope for that a long, long time ago…

  15. Giuseppe says:

    I think it’s a damn shame they aren’t doing a PC remaster or at least a decent PC source port of the originals.

    • Premium User Badge

      Don Reba says:

      They run just fine on a Dreamcast emulator.

      • Giuseppe says:

        Perhaps, but I (and I imagine others) prefer stuff running natively on my PC rather than having to use emulators and dubiously legal ROMs/ISOs.

    • Premium User Badge

      Aerothorn says:

      It’s not their call – Sega has the rights to the first two and only they can do an HD remaster. And they may, as a result of this. Have hope!

  16. anHorse says:

    Kickstart now to help cut Sony’s costs!

    • tnzk says:

      It was more or less to gauge interest, methinks. When you have two games that were both financially unsuccessful, you normally don’t run over to rescue the series for a third outing. But Shenmue has the special distinction of being the single most desired sequel ever, even more so than Half-Life 3. So this is more for potential parties to see the real interest, and for fans to put their money where their mouth is.

      I think with smashed Kickstarter records, those investors might now believe the hype.

  17. Premium User Badge

    Skabooga says:

    Maybe Ryo will finally find out where he can find some sailors.

    • edwardh says:

      One can only hope that there will be some mini game about that…

  18. trjp says:

    Something is wrong with my PC – I searched for ‘the incident’ on this page and got nothing

    I mean WHAT!?

  19. welverin says:

    No greater gaming news will be revealed this year.