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Hands-on impressions of Shenmue III’s backer trial

Well, ladies and gentlemen, I finally got my hands on some Shenmue III gameplay. It’s been a long time coming (I’ll spare you the long backstory of my love for Shenmue) and I couldn’t download that trial fast enough. Many people who experienced the demo at E3 and those who tried it since Friday have mostly given Shenmue III‘s trial the same consensus: It feels like a Shenmue game.

I have a problem

After playing through the trial myself, I would wholeheartedly agree with that statement. Prior to playing the demo, I wasn’t sure what I wanted a Shenmue III game to feel like. It’s been almost 20 years and so many games have passed by. You know what, though? The visual aesthetic, music, and even hilarious townsfolk dialogue from this small snapshot of Shenmue III is exactly what I wanted.

The backer trial isn’t very long. Ryo is allowed to explore a tiny chunk of Bailu Village, where he must find a “bookie with a scar on his face”. Like the E3 demo, Ryo can play a bunch of mini-games including Roll It on Top, Lucky Hit, and turtle racing. There are two different locations in the village where you could open capsule toys; Drop some change and collect tennis rackets, forklifts, and Shenmue I characters!

The trial also includes a section where Ryo can train and test his martial arts skills. You can practice horse stance and the one inch punch, as well as spar with the local fighters and rise up the ranks in Bailu Village’s dojo. As it was previously announced, Shenmue III‘s fighting system did not include grapples/throws due to budget constraints. The fight system is still solid and I hope throws are included in Shenmue IV.

It’s a wine and paint kind of night

When it comes to Shenmue III’s interface, there is a map at the bottom left side of the screen that shows your location. At the moment, it does not look like you can toggle it off, so people who might want the OG Shenmue experience could be disappointed. Another tweak Suzuki included in Shenmue III is a camera-like reticle when Ryo zooms in to first person and a red circle highlighting objects that you can interact with. I wasn’t sure how I felt about it at first, but I got used to it and understand the reasoning behind it. Ryo can run around flowers fields and collect herbs, so a way to highlight them makes sense.

Ryo’s stamina meter is another big addition to Shenmue. Running, fighting, and training will slowly deplete this meter, so it is integral to have food stocked in your inventory at all times. If you attempt to fight at the dojo on low stamina, you will be prompted to feed Ryo before you can start the match. The stamina system adds an interesting wrinkle to the Shenmue gameplay, and I’m sure it won’t be everyone’s cup of tea.

What a view

Interacting with the local villagers is always entertaining. Some of the villager responses are just as quirky and hilarious as Shenmue I & II. There are definite improvements in the voice acting, though. Ryo is still as stoic as ever, and Brianna Knickerbocker does a great job with Shenhua’s voice.

No one can deny the beauty of Shenmue III‘s environments. Shenmue III is much more vibrant and colorful than it’s predecessors. It is also just as detailed as Shenmue I and II. It was relaxing to just take in the sights at night while the rain reflected off Ryo’s jacket and those familiar songs played in the background. Yu Suzuki and the team knocked it out of the park with this aspect.

This trial did a great job of getting me hyped for Shenmue III‘s release in November. You can look forward to a full review of the game right here on Mega Visions.

Marcin Gulik

Live and learn everyday. Dreamcast and Shenmue are the epitome of gaming!
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