Here in South Africa, we have limited access to the marvels of the East, particularly video games, anime as well as manga, and nerdy paraphernalia in general.
Despite this, we Otakus do our best to use what few avenues we have available to us to try and immerse ourselves in the titillating world of Asian culture.
Due to our limited resources, there are many things that we will miss out on, things like Shenmue, which countless people around the world were thrilled to see again.
Before the third instalment was announced (to be available for the PlayStation 4 and PC some time in 2017), I had never heard of this franchise, and I’m pretty sure I wasn’t the only one.
For this reason, I have taken some time to investigate just what the heck Shenmue is. Let’s have a look.
It turns out that Shenmue was a game that came out on the Dreamcast, a console that never really took off in South Africa.
I do not remember ever seeing it in stores, so I can only presume that like the Nintendo 64, it was never officially distributed in the country.
I only remember one friend having this console, and I’m pretty sure he bought it outside of South Africa.
The game is an action-adventure brawler set in an open-world, simulating real-life events such as weather and day-and-night cycles.
A young Japanese martial artist called Ryo swears revenge on Lan Di, an evil Chinese martial artist that Ryo watched pulverise his father to death.
The game follows Ryo’s path for vengeance on Di and his henchmen as he navigates his way through a city, beating up adversaries in a gameplay style similar to Virtua Fighter.
The game was originally intended to be set in the world of Virtua Fighter, but the cost of bridging the two realms proved too much.
Despite this, the game was the most expensive to make during the time of its production, costing a whopping $47 to $70 million.
Ryo helps civilians along the way with their individual problems, all the time searching for leads on Di.
A great part of Shenmue was apparently the mini-games, ranging from throwing darts to playing classic SEGA arcade games such as Hang-On and Space Harrier.
The game also includes thrilling missions such as forklift racing.
Shenmue received mostly positive reviews and critics praised its gameplay, story and attempts at capturing real-life.
Its voice acting was kind of terrible apparently, but that is only expected from earlier Japanese video games.
I decided to YouTube the game to get some better insight and see what all of the fuss is about, and yes, the voice acting is completely laughable.
Not even obscure Japanese games like Mr. Mosquito or Kessen are on par.
The iconic classic gathered a massive cult-following and its devoted minions enabled the crowd-funding for the abandoned franchise’s Kickstarter reincarnation.
Within 102 minutes of the Kickstarter project, over $1 million were raised and in 8 hours the benchmark $2 million, the fastest a crowd-funded project has raised such a vast amount of money, ever.
By the end of it, Shenmue III’s Kickstarter campaign had raised $6,333,295. What; the; hell.
On a side-note, true Shenmue fans are known as ‘Shenmuedandies’. If you would like to become one, please head to Reddit’s Shenmue Dandies subreddit.
We’d advise you play the games first, but good luck finding a copy or the console to play it on.
You might try searching Gumtree for a Dreamcast, copy of Shenmue and see what all of the fuss is about, but it’s not going to be cheap.
There’s always the emulation route, but that’s not exactly legitimate, so we won’t advise it. Or, alternatively, you could watch a Let’s Play of Shenmue.
So what exactly can we expect from the return of a failed gaming franchise nearly 17 years later? Not much information has been released as of yet, seeing as it was just very recently given the green light.
But for starters, it will be produced using the Unreal 4 engine. The early results follow:
There will also be several personal and NPC-affecting mechanisms that will decide the traits and outlooks of the protagonist and his friends.
This will also be a “True open world” according to a lead developer, provided they achieve their required $10 million. We’re guessing Sony will cover the balance.
If you want to imagine what Shenmue III will be like, from what I gather, think of a tamer Sleeping Dogs and throw in obscure mini-games.
Weird as it seems, and for as confused as we are, I actually can’t wait to see what this Shenmue thing is all about.