Playing Shenmue 3’s recently released demo is like coming across some strange relic, unearthed and polished off by curious digital archaeologists looking to understand turn of the century video games. The pace is stately to the point of being somnambulistic, its voice acting feels like it’s been phoned in from half a planet and a couple of decades away, and the scope is limited in the extreme. I could not be any happier with it all.
I’m getting ahead of myself a little. The first thing that takes a while to comprehend is that Shenmue 3 exists, is playable, and is something I spent several happy hours playing over the weekend. The second thing that takes a short time to process is that, after all its various trials, Shenmue 3 actually might be good. As a fan who’s been waiting eagerly, at times impatiently, for nearly 20 years, I am not disappointed in the slightest.
It’s probably worth setting some context, though – I am most definitely a fan, a backer on Kickstarter and outside of that probably up to stalker-tier level when it comes to my support of Shenmue. I’ve made a pilgrimage to Yokosuka to see the setting of the original Shenmue, and have followed Yu Suzuki around the world to trace the project from its first seeds through to its eventual development.