During its E3 2015 press conference, Sony made gaming history when it invited famed video game developer Yu Suzuki to the stage for one heck of an announcement: after more than 10 years of dormancy, the Shenmue saga would finally be completed with the Kickstarter-funded Shenmue 3. As someone who played through both Shenmue and Shenmue 2 many times as a kid, you can imagine how excited I was. I’m already anticipating how wonderful it’s going to feel getting to step back into a world that captivated my attention as a young gamer and I’m also curious to see how Suzuki plans to develop a follow-up to two games which are, admittedly, quite archaic by today’s standards. Below are my top five hopes and suggestions for how Suzuki can bring the legacy of Shenmue into the modern age of gaming.
Unique Fighting Styles via the Skill System
Yu Suzuki has already confirmed that Shenmue 3 will see the return of technique scrolls that allowed protagonist Ryo to learn new martial arts moves in the first two games as well as a skill system that will, I’m assuming, allow players to customize Ryo’s fighting style to a degree. In Shenmue 2, players could sort of customize Ryo’s fighting style by assigning certain moves to certain button inputs, but only if they learned two different moves for the same input (something which the game determined).
In Shenmue 3, players should have a greater amount of control over how many different moves Ryo can learn and which moves can be assigned to certain button inputs. This could allow players to craft their own signature fighting styles for Ryo that were tailored to their gameplay preferences or even their roleplaying ideas for the kind of fighter they want Ryo to be. With customized fighting styles, Ryo could be a brawler who favored powerful upper-body strikes (punches, elbow strikes, etc.), an acrobatic fighter who preferred high-flying kicks and leaping strikes, a methodical strategist who used counters and throws to punish aggressive opponents, or dozens of other potential archetypes.
Battle Mode Featuring Iconic Duels, Group Battles, and Maybe Even Multiplayer
Both Shenmue and Shenmue 2 featured a replayable battle mode of some kind with the original Shenmue allowing players to replay the iconic 70-man battle from the game’s final act (which, as the name infers, had Ryo and his ally Gui Zhang fighting an entire gang of thugs, 70 opponents in total) and Shenmue 2 featuring replayable versions of several of the game’s more memorable one on one fights complete with a scalable difficulty. Shenmue 3 should take both concepts and fuse them together, letting players replay both group fights (pitting Ryo and an ally against multiple assailants) as well as one on one duels.
The replayability factor could be upped considerably if the mode allowed players to import their customized fighting styles or maybe even earn new exclusive technique scrolls that they could then bring into the main game. If Suzuki and his team wanted to really wow diehard fans, they could also use the game’s battle mode to introduce multiplayer, allowing players to pit their skills against each other in the one on one duels (this could also open up the possibility of multiple playable characters) or work together to defeat groups of A.I. thugs cooperatively (opening up the possibility of team-based takedowns).
Bring Corey Marshall Back (Or At Least Find a Worthy Successor)
Shenmue 3’s Kickstarter page has already confirmed the return of Japanese voice actor Masaya Matsukaze (who voiced Ryo Hazuki in the Japanese versions of both Shenmue and Shenmue 2) but American Shenmue fans know Ryo by a different voice, that of voice actor Corey Marshall. Bringing Marshall back to voice Ryo would present some logistical problems, the biggest of which being that he is now 14 years older than he was when he voiced Ryo in Shenmue 2 which means playing an 18-year-old young man (Ryo’s current age in the timeline of the games) likely wouldn’t be feasible.
I think Suzuki and his team would be better off finding a worthy successor to Marshall for voicing Ryo but that doesn’t mean Marshall should be cut out completely. It would be really cool if Suzuki could convince Marshall to come back for an equally important part, maybe voicing an entirely new main character (perhaps someone who was related to Ryo). If Suzuki wanted to give fans a Kickstarter stretch goal they’d really want to strive for, he could offer a goal in which Marshall provided his own Ryo voiceover, separate from the new actor’s, which could then be unlocked in the game.
A “Retry” Feature For QTE’s
If there’s one thing the Shenmue series is known for, it’s the frequent use of Quick Time Events, or “QTE’s.” In both Shenmue and Shenmue 2, one or several QTE’s would occasionally pop up during a cinematic, most often during a chase sequence or a fight scene. The player had mere seconds to input whatever button command flashed on the screen with success leading to Ryo avoiding a pitfall or dispatching an enemy in stylish fashion and failure resulting in a penalty such as less health in a subsequent battle or missing out on an optional story moment.
While some failed QTE’s could be repeated, most could not, forcing players with slower reflexes to live with the consequences, an especially frustrating outcome considering most QTE’s suddenly popped up with little to no warning. It would be neat if Shenmue 3 offered players a limited number of “do-overs” which could be applied to any QTE in the game. If there was a specific QTE sequence a player wanted to execute flawlessly or a story-based QTE that they didn’t want to miss, these do-overs would ensure the player wasn’t constantly stressed out about the game suddenly pulling a (quite literally) fast one on them.
A Less Linear Narrative
As much as both Shenmue and Shenmue 2 were praised for their living worlds that players could explore to their heart’s content, the main story path in both games was a mostly linear affair with Ryo following the same sequence of scripted events and outcomes all the way to the end. While there were minor variations as to how Ryo found his way to these major story beats, he always followed the same ones no matter what.
With the power of today’s gaming technology, I think Suzuki and his team could easily create a world for Shenmue 3 that felt truly alive, not only in its aesthetics but also in how the player interacted with it. While there would obviously be larger goals that Ryo was working towards, the exact specifics of how he reached those goals could unfold in a multitude of different ways. For instance, if Ryo was trying to find a specific person, he could employ several different tactics (eavesdropping, inquiring with the locals, intimidating thugs, etc.) with each tactic altering the final goal (if he chose to rough up thugs and intimidate them into giving up information, the person he was looking for would likely hire on more protection as a result).
What do you think Yu Suzuki should work on improving and/or adding for Shenmue 3? Share in the comments below!