Thanks to a mischievous little Tweet from Shenmue creator Yu Suzuki yesterday depicting a forklift outside of the E3 Expo the Internet promptly broke.
And it wasn't the first time.
|Look what Mr Suzuki found at E3.|
Every time the name Shenmue 3 is spoken, even whispered, an upswelling of emotion takes hold of any gamer that once held Nozomi Harasaki’s hand. To every gamer who hunted Lan Di, fought to avenge a loved one’s honour and, yes, spent a hell of a lot of time driving forklifts, the concept of a third Shenmue title is literally mind blowing. It’s enough to make even the most secular gamer get down on their knees and begin praying.
And, it’s obvious why - vision. Yu Suzuki had a single vision, an epic tale to tell and over the course of the first two titles, games that - for all of their mechanical clumsiness - transported the gamer into one of the best and most engaging narratives the medium had ever seen. It’s a world that is beautifully singular in comparison with most of today’s open world experiences.
|I always liked Nozomi. Reunited in Shenmue 3?|
Regardless however, the history of the Shenmue franchise is now old and, if we are being totally honest, a little stale. Like its great partner in non-release-ity (yeh, that word construction didn't really work did it) Half-Life 3, the burning hunger for its release, the non-stop speculation, theorising and talk have started to sully its non-existent reputation. Because that’s the thing isn't it - the more people talk about the first two games, the more their limitations and problems are brought to the fore. Judgements are dispensed rightly or wrongly according to modern standards and they hurt, driving a wedge into how the franchise is depicted.
While in 1999 Shenmue was seemingly reviewed fairly honestly, with its narrative, characterisation and scope praised, yet its mechanics and open world teething problems criticised, today Shenmue is held up as either an unfinished masterpiece cruelly locked away from the world, or a now old man’s grandest folly that deserves to be left in the past.
|This just looked stunning when first released in 2001.|
Of course, neither of these statements are true. The thing is though, through their diametrically opposite positioning, they do craft a crucial question that, at least in my eyes, has still been left unanswered - what should Shenmue 3 actually be? You see, because while millions of people would literally sell their soul to Cthulhu for it to be announced - me included! - I think if you asked all of them what you think it should be, then I think you’d receive some markedly different visions.
I've spoken to people who would be quite happy for a third title to be literally kick-started in the old engine. Others want the same formula with HD graphics. I've seen others who fight the corner for a GTA-style experience and yet more who want a Telltale episodic graphic adventure. And this is just their grand vision. Details such as movement, fight mechanics, interactivity, physics and more are left unspecified. Personally, I feel the Shenmue franchise could learn a lot from the recently released The Witcher 3, which was put together with a smallish team on just a US$32 million budget (the first two Shenmue games were developed for US$70 million, which is close to US$100 million today).
|Just imagine the freedom that Shenmue 3 could offer the player with today's hardware.|
The point is though, regardless of the cost, a clear vision must first be established and, if you were to ask me right now who is capable of achieving that, then I'm afraid I'm going to have to default back to Suzuki. I've always been a fan of games that held an intrinsic purity and Suzuki managed to create one of the most complexly pure game series I've ever played. The problem is, finding people in the modern gaming industry who are happy to take a punt on such a project, a project where there would be no safety net, no Call of Duty profit margin, is an incredibly difficult task.
All we need now is someone to give Mr Suzuki that money because, I've got to say, my knees are really starting to hurt.
“Yes Tama, I know, someone should definitely give Mr. Suzuki another $50 million to make Shenmue 3.”
“Yes, I agree, Mr. Suzuki should definitely not bring back Tom Johnson.”
“What? Oh you just want more dried fish… fine. I’ll just pop down to Tomato.”