I never had a Dreamcast as a child. I started with the PS1 and went straight to a PS2. It’s not like I didn’t want a Dreamcast. I wanted to play games online and visit websites, who didn’t? Especially as I didn’t have the net yet. I vividly remember being in a discount warehouse when things started going south for SEGA and they had Dreamcast’s for £30. I begged for one, absolutely begged. I wasnt allowed one. I proceeded to spend the rest of the day sulking and watching episodes of Bugs on VHS. Flash forward several years later and here I was with console emporium. PS3, 360, Wii, DS, Whatever: I had it. I didn’t have a Dreamcast though and people still talked about games like Power Stone and Shenmue being exclusive gems for the system that you’d be an absolute knob to miss out on. So I jumped on eBay and for several months I staked out systems.
Sexy Consoles, Always For Sale.
There was always one key thing I looked out for: A bundle that came with Shenmue. I knew the game was a bit pricey on its own, but as apart of the bundle I might be able to get it cheaper. That I did and thus a bundle was bought and delivered. Peeling back the layers of bubble wrap, revealing more and more remnants of a heavy smoker, unveiled the games sat there. Classics such as Crazy Taxi, Sonic Adventure and everyone’s #1 title for the system: Jimmy White’s 2: Cueball. At the bottom was Shenmue in perfect condition. For the next week I was sat huddled in front of my TV. What was laid out in front of me was something I don’t think I’d ever experienced in a video game. Now let me quantify that: I wasn’t some sort of grunt who only played FPS’ and couldn’t give a toss about story. My all time favourite game is Metal Gear Solid 2, so I’m used to heavy (and confusing) storytelling. Shenmue took that storytelling motif and made it such a deeper experience.
If you don’t know Shenmue then here’s a brief overview: Ryo Hazuki comes home one night to find his father in their dojo being attacked by a man called Lan Di, who is after the Dragon Mirror his father owns. Ryo tries fighting back, only for Lan Di to be too strong of an opponent. Ryo’s father dies and Ryo swears he’ll get revenge on Lan Di. The game then has you finding clues as to who Lan Di is and where he could find him, this all being done through investigation. You ask people questions, you appear in places at a certain time to ask people who only appear at those times, you work out puzzles, you drive forklifts and, yes, you have quick time events. Shenmue’s gameplay is a little lax for someone who expects to go in there and kick random people in the face. Only a few fight sequences are spread throughout the game with most of the time being spent asking questions and coming to conclusions. Shenmue was the first title to introduce Quick Time Events and in the game they’re fine. The rail sequences that depend on QTE’s are fun and I think the only reason they have such a bad reputation now is because of the hoards of games depending on them. Auto running down a street and pressing buttons to avoid obstacles makes sense, repeatedly hammering the Y button to open a door does not.
Of course, Shenmue does have one grand fight to its name. Near the end you have a battle where you have to take down 70 men in one fight. You remember the Dreamcast’s VMU? Well that would count down how many men you’ve got left to beat. It’s such a small thing, but that really did make everything feel so much more epic. You’re nearing Lan Di: You have a ton of men in front of you. You’ve got to make it in one piece, in one battle, to take down each and every one of these guys. Lan Di wasn’t at the end though, for Shenmue was meant to be a start of something grand. Shenmue was meant to be the first part of an epic saga, with the first shipping Ryo off to Hong Kong and the second opening on his arrival.
Once I finished Shenmue and my eyes were opened to how damn amazing it was, even after ten years or more on, I immediately had to have Shenmue 2. Now this is where my tale gets a bit sour. As much as a Shenmue fan I am, I have not finished Shenmue 2. On my Dreamcast copy I got into a rut with Lucky Hit and having to carry books out of the temple’s library each morning. I stopped having fun and that’s something that didn’t happen with the first. In the first it didn’t matter if I had to wait around for Sailors at Night. A while later I came across the Xbox version of Shenmue 2 and, willed on by the fact I still wanted to finish the thing, I bought it and got much much further. If I remember rightly, I’m now in Kowloon trying to impress some fight promoters. Life happens though and I had to do other things, so once again my play through of Ryo’s vengeance was stalled. I’ll return to it and probably even play some once I’ve finished writing this. The problem is that, thanks to the internet, I know that my revenge on Lan Di will not come. It doesn’t matter if I reach the end of Shenmue 2: I still don’t get to punch Lan Di in the face for taking away my father.
Shenmue cost SEGA a lot of money which it never really recouped, so a third Shenmue never arrived. That hasn’t stopped it from being constantly hinted towards though, with the series’ creator Yu Suzuki always talking about how he wants to do the third, even going along with a Mega 64 joke about what the ‘real’ end of Shenmue 3 would be.
Yu has teased us many times with it getting even more rampant in the last few years. He’s gone from saying that SEGA ‘probably would’ let him make Shenmue 3, to him talking about potentially Kickstarter-ing the third title just the other day. On forums like Neogaf, a slither of a mention of Shenmue 3 is enough to get a hoard of Shenmue fans excited and ready to sink their life investments into the development fund. There’s a captive audience ready to spend money on it, so why the holds up? Well, maybe it’s because the development would need millions of dollars. Yu Suzuki really just needs to meet a company that has that sort of money to spend.
Oh. OH. OHHHHHHHHHHHH.
Whilst we don’t know what the context Yu Suzuki and Mark Cerny – game designer and architect of the Playstation 4 – met under, but could a Sony published Shenmue 3 actually be a possibility? Well, who knows? SEGA is a company that is constantly strapped for cash, with Sonic basically being its only property that will regularly churn out money. However, when we take into count that Nintendo is publishing Bayonetta 2 – a SEGA property – does that mean that, if the price is right, SEGA will relinquish IP’s to be developed with the money of a different publisher? If so then it’s extremely possible that Shenmue 3 could actually happen if Sony was up for funding it. However we shouldn’t pitch our hopes on this. For all we know Yu and Mark just had a quick chat and got a picture together. That’s exactly what we should believe, because if we believe anything else then when reality crashes down on us we’ll just be left sad, pissed off and without a game.
I want Shenmue 3. Me once dressing up as Ryo Hazuki for an online sketch has nothing to cloud that judgement, but it does mean I’ve got a pretty sweet brown leather jacket in my wardrobe. No one should say they don’t want Shenmue 3. For the fans it means they finally get redemption. For people who are fed up of talking about it then it means, well, we’ll stop crying over it not existing every five minutes. Really what needs to happen is a Shenmue HD collection. Then it’d be easy to see how big the audience is and a whole new audience of people can play the games. Really what happens isn’t down to us. It’s down to top men in a boardroom pushing dollar bills along a whiteboard of potential projects. All that’s left for us is to Wish…