It will be released for PC and PlayStation 4 on August 27, 2019, with both versions to have physical and digital releases. It is being developed by YS Net (Yu Suzuki Net), Yu Suzuki's development studio, and will be published by Deep Silver instead of Sega since Sega licensed the Shenmue IP to Deep Silver.
Set in 1987, Ryo Hazuki has made his way to China in search of his father's killer, Lan Di. There he meets a new travelling companion, Shenhua Ling, and learns of a legend from her village that has foretold their path together.
The story continues as Ryo and Shenhua start off on a new journey that will take them farther into enemy territory, deeper into mystery, and ever closer to their destiny. Lan Di will return, with a new antagonist Niao Sun.
Will the mystery of the mirrors be revealed? How is Ryo's father connected to all of this? Will Ryo track down the Chi You Men cartel and face Lan Di in a final showdown?
Shenmue III begins in Bailu Village in Guilin. The second area, Choubu, is "a riverside village with lots of shops, souvenir stores, hotels and temples", and the third area, Baisha, will feature a "siege game reminiscent of the Warring Kingdoms."
Shenmue III is an adventure game featuring exploring China and occasional combat. It will be very similar to the previous games, although improved in many aspects.
It is currently unknown if save data can be imported from Shenmue I & II (such as money, items, the capsule toys, Ryo's fighting skills) or if Shenmue III will force the player to make a fresh start.
Shenhua will follow Ryo and they will have a relationship mechanic where their current relationship can affect conversations.
The game is implied to feature a food system where Ryo can actually eat the food in his inventory to restore health. It is also implied Ryo's health won't automatically rejuvenate after battles and that prolonged hunger will lead to low stamina and the inability to run. This is a major change compared to the previous games, where Ryo's health would always return to max and food did not have major purpose. It is also implied the game will feature an economy system where prices of items can fluctuate between locations.
Ryo can make phone calls to Japan to catch up with the lives of characters from previous games.
When interacting with NPCs, their name will be shown on-screen for convenience.
There will be mini-games, such as turtle and frog racing.
The camera can now be fully rotated around Ryo, instead of only being able to show his back. There will also be a first person mode.
The weather system will be a bit more realistic. For example, if it rains, then puddles will remain for the rest of the day, and previously dry dirt will turn into muddy mush.
The player can feel a bit more fashionable and customize Ryo's clothing, and wear different shirts, pants and shoes.
Because not everyone is into the fighting aspect of Shenmue (as even reaching the endings of the first two games can be difficult due to the mandatory fighting, some of them which are hard), there will be four difficulty levels. This will make the game more accessible for casuals without hurting those who prefer challenge.
A new AT “automatic” system is present, which allows people who can’t handle input commands to do moves easily by pressing one trigger. 5 moves in total can be put on the AT system. An MT “Manual” system is present as well which will require you to input the moves like in previous games. The more you use a certain move, the stronger it gets, until you “master” it.
Shenmue III was originally planned to be developed for the Dreamcast but due to the dwindling sales of the console and its games and the huge losses Sega incurred between 1998 and 2001 (at 2001 losses hit an all-time low of approximately 51,750,000,000 Yen) it did not seem financially viable for Sega to develop a sequel to a game that cost $70,000,000 for a console that was no longer profitable.
However, of the $70,000,000 budget the developer had spent the budget on all the research and resources necessary to create all the further installments of the Shenmue saga, in fact the Shenmue story was already finished and planned out, the research for all further titles is complete, all the character design is complete and there are still many hundreds of gigabytes of uncompressed textures ready to be ported for development on any console the developer would be creating Shenmue III for.
At E3 2015 at Sony's press conference, series creator Yu Suzuki announced that Shenmue III will be crowdfunded.
Through a Kickstarter campaign, Shenmue III subsequently hit its initial $2 million (USD) goal within a mere 8 hours, becoming the fastest-funded video game in Kickstarter history. The stretch goals extended up to $11 million. The Kickstarter finished at $6.33 million. Shenmue III became the most funded video game on Kickstarter with 69,320 people helping to bring back the Shenmue series back to life.
The game is being developed using Unreal Engine 4 for both PC and PlayStation 4. Development can be followed at its Kickstarter blog.
Its release date was set for December 2017, although this was delayed to the second half of 2018, and later, to 2019, and then specified to August 27, 2019. Both of these delays were necessary to ensure the game is polished. In the meantime, HD remasters of the first two games were released in 2018. In September 2018, additional crowdfunding from other sites (such as Paypal) ended, making the total crowdfunding 7 million.
In January 2019, the English voice acting, which started recording the previous year, was noted to be about 70-80% complete.
When the game started development in 2015, numerous articles online speculated that Shenmue III would be a "scam" in the sense that the final game would be underwhelming, as Kickstarted games are often notorious for this. In addition, it was revealed that Sony would also be helping to fund the game only after the Kickstarter launched.
Some pre-release character models for the game have been criticized, such as one released in 2017. Many feel that they seemed oddly animated, doll-like and lacked facial expressions, although they are not polished to the final game.
- One of the major complaints of Shenmue II (due to the floating sword in the ending) as well as the cancelled Shenmue Online (which featured characters throwing fireballs) was that players did not like the supernatural elements in the series which has been mainly realistic. In response, Shenmue III will not feature supernatural elements.
- Yu Suzuki said he was always confident that the rest of the story of the series would be told. He said that Shenmue III is not the end of the series from a story perspective and that Shenmue III will be open for a sequel and that is is not possible to fit the rest of the series into III. Whether or not a Shenmue IV will be made likely depends on the success of III.
- Please note that the game is a work in progress and screenshots may not reflect the final game.