[dropcap size=big]S[/dropcap]henmue 3 is the first video game Kickstarter to have been announced and launched during an E3 press conference. With a surprise reveal during Sony’s E3 event, the gaming populace went wild and managed to crash Kickstarter due to hammering the site so hard. Less than nine hours after launch, Ys Net had succeeded in attaining their $2 million goal. Sure, it may not have actually been the fastest funded game crowdfunding project ever, it is definitely up there in regards to amount funded in just a few hours. Since then, the campaign has continued to attract fans, reveal new facets of the game, and keep funding coming. There’s a lot we still don’t know about how the title will turn out, but we do know far more than we did at launch. So, let’s review!
Did you know that Yu Suzuki finally decided to pursue Shenmue 3 via Kickstarter thanks in part to a game developer by the name of Ryan Payton? Yep, the mind behind the successfully Kickstarted Republique urged Suzuki to take this path. Thank goodness that campaign succeeded or he might never have suggested this funding venue! But how did these two meet? Well that relationship was formed thanks to game designer Mark Cerny introducing the two parties. Considering Cerny’s longstanding history with games, it makes a bit more sense the two would be friendly.
The basics of Shenmue 3 were revealed alongside the game’s pitch, though it actually wasn’t a huge amount of info. Of course, this is a sequel to both previous series titles which were open world RPGs with a tremendous amount of spirit. The newest release is currently pegged for PC and PS4 release and will be running on Unreal Engine 4. Beyond that, we didn’t actually get a huge amount of information about the upcoming game. Basically, the mindset appeared to be that “fans know what to expect” so there’s little need to fill in the blanks with fairly in-depth descriptions of gameplay and story as most campaigns offer. It’s up to each person’s opinion as to whether they feel that was the right move.
In any case, another instance of very generalized explanation came with the series of stretch goals. Fans have already blasted through a great handful which means we’ll be getting subtitles in Dutch, French, Italian, and Spanish. At this point we’re also promised the nebulous gameplay updates of the Rapport System alongside the Skill Tree System. Skill trees don’t require much explanation, but the Rapport System was described nebulously as “[adding] a depth of story, interactivity and character development that only Yu Suzuki can bring.” Luckily, the AMA on Reddit with Suzuki revealed the following comment about it: “The Rapport System will govern changes in Shenhua’s actions depending on your conversations with or actions towards her.” Not a super definitive explanation, but better than before!
As fans are sure to recall, ever since the announcement of the Kickstarter, some folks began raising questions as to Sony’s exact involvement in the campaign. After all, they did give them time to present during the Sony conference. It was definitely a misstep to not clearly state the relationship from the get go, as some parties involved even misspoke about the specifics. Thankfully, Suzuki updated the campaign to share that Sony is monetarily involved as far as marketing and publishing are concerned. Shibuya Productions is also involved production and marketing. Although it was not the pressing question on the minds of gamers, they also shared that the Kickstarter funds will not go to either company — they will go to Ys Net.
So, what about those other stretch goals? The most complete version of Shenmue 3, in Suzuki’s mind, sees players exploring three vast, distinct areas: Baisha, Choubu, and Bailu Village. Although these were revealed earlier, a campaign update featured these stretch goals specifically as they neared. Although the game will obviously feature areas regardless, stretch goals facilitate the expansion of each location. What does “expansion” mean? In this context, it refers to things like adding additional minigames, quests, battle events, infiltration missions, and part time jobs just to name a few things. Fans know that the series really comes to life thanks to these extra features which aren’t necessarily integral to the main storyline.
Another aspect which is of importance to many fans is the voice actors. Although it took a while, a post finally went up announcing the return of Ryo’s English voice actor Corey Marshall. And yes, Japanese voice actor Masaya Matsuzaki will be reprising his role as Ryo as well. Of course, many other teammates are also back for the new game. For example, original composer Ryuji Iuchi, animation producer Hiroaki Takeuchi, script writer Masahiro Yoshimoto, once lead programmer and now creative director Tak Hirai, and others. It’s a big, happy Shenmue family who have jumped back together to create the third game.
All this information is just the start. There’s still the matter of the comment made on Reddit stating Shenmue 3 will “truly have the features of an open world” only if Shenmue is funded to the tune of $10 million. Well, in a more recent Twitter question and answer session, Suzuki revealed that at $5 million the scale of the game will be “similar to Dobuita in terms of scale.” This is where most of Shenmue’s first disc takes place. Although this might not be a disappointment to Suzuki himself, it does seem a bit unfortunate if the newest game can only be a portion of the size of the first game. Of course, getting the game at all is better than receiving nothing after all these years!
With a little over a week left to go, we’ve gained a lot more information about Shenmue 3 but there’s still a lot left to the imagination. There are over 50,000 backers, many of whom have pledged hundreds (or even thousands) of dollars toward a variety of ever-increasing stretch goals. As items such as going on a dinner date with Suzuki are $10,000, I’m personally sticking with a physical copy at $60. Yes, despite personal feelings that the campaign hasn’t been handled as effectively as it could have been, and that there’s a lot of questions being left unanswered, I simply can’t ignore my adoration of Shenmue. Will similar emotions pull in more backers before the campaign ends? Yes. Will we reach $10 million? It seems unlikely, but there’s no doubt this Kickstarter is set to accrue many more funds before it finally ends.