Shenmue III predictions (15+ years in the making)

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Wow, so many great posts in this thread lately. This feels like a group therapy, almost :D

I change my stand slightly and I align with those of you like @Peter and others, that perfectly explained how the one thing that is lacking most in Shenmue III is not strictly the story itself (whose general traits are fine although IMO it's a bit too scarce), but the writing in a general sense.

But I coped with that disappointment pretty fast after finishing the game and seeing things with perspective. Shenmue III existing is a miracle by itself, and it gave me a lot of great things. Closure to the frustration of II being stuck in eternal limbo is one of them. The thrill of the announcement is another. And of course lots of them that are in the game: the soundtrack, the intimate conversations, Bailu Village in gorgeous HD, knowing what Niao Sun is about, and a long etcetera.

And, delving more into that perspective, if I'm honest to myself I've always loved Shenmue II much more than the first one, so there has never been the need to love them equally. There are a lot of music groups that I love that have a stinker or two in their discography, and I love them the same overall. That's why I still anticipate with joy the possibility of a fourth game.

My issues remain more so with the writing than anything else...and some of that boils down to bad translation in the subs (who can forget the badly translated "the cliff temple we visited" line at the end of Shenmue III when that's NOT what they said in Japanese at all or even what happened in the game...not to mention the second Shenmue tree which is not what it says in Japanese)
Is there any comprehensive compilation of those translating mistakes? I would love to know all the details (the example you mention of there being another Shenmue tree felt ultra baffling when I played the game, and I'm really glad it's a translation mistake).

I really have to disagree on those two points. First "the essence of Shenmue is NOT what Suzuki says it is; it's what the fans say it." is completely wrong. You know, as a musician and movie director myself, I can tell you that the best way to create something meaningful, is to make something you, as creator, see as meaningful. Not the fans. What you should offer the fans isn't what they want, you should offer them what they didn't know they wanted.
Like it's been said since ancient times: Quoted for truth!

The first two Shenmue's screenplays (meaning, the dialogue, and incidental scenes) were actually written by Masahiro Yoshimoto, not Suzuki, even tho he designed the entire story otherwise. Peter already hit the bullseye on why that's a major factor above. But it really tells that the story feels like a first draft instead of a third piece to the saga. It was an RPG fetch quest. Not Shenmue.
This is the simple thing that explains it all IMO. Despite being featured in the kickstarter, Yoshimoto ended up not participating in the game (it's mentioned in the credits only in the same "thanks" category as Mark Cerny or Adam Boyes). I don't know if Yu Suzuki (who is a genius but an engineer in essence) wrote the script himself or hired other writers that weren't up to par (it looks like the latter if we believe the staff credits roll).

But the priority for IV should be getting better staff in that area. Even if we get bad graphics or animations in exchange.
 

Peter

Site Staff
Joined
Jul 14, 2018
Despite being featured in the kickstarter, Yoshimoto ended up not participating in the game (it's mentioned in the credits only in the same "thanks" category as Mark Cerny or Adam Boyes). I don't know if Yu Suzuki (who is a genius but an engineer in essence) wrote the script himself or hired other writers that weren't up to par (it looks like the latter if we believe the staff credits roll).
I didn't even know that. Jesus. That's just bummed me right out.
 
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The very story-driven Shenmue The Movie squeezes the events of a 20-hour long game into a 1.5-hour cutscene compilation that ends up missing a lot of what makes Shenmue 1 great: the immersive 'FREE' life simulator gameplay, worldbuilding side content and detective adventuring coupled with the mysterious story. To focus solely on the story alone, you'd end up missing a lot of the things that make Shenmue 1 a unique and enjoyable game experience. Rather than assessing whether a piece of interactive media is good/bad by just one element (the story), I think Shenmue 3 should really be played at someone's leisure to fully experience the product as originally intended - there is a lot to love about it.

Shenmue 3 is a bit like The Force Awakens. It has a simple story but absolutely spoils itself in capturing a classic Shenmue 'feel' through its gameplay to draw fans back into this soft reboot after a 20-year long hiatus. Now that the foundation has been set, Shenmue 4 can focus more on the story progression.
I can only agree with this 100% :

I discovered Shenmue with Shenmue 2x. When it was released on Xbox in 2003, I was only 9yrs old. I discovered Shenmue 2 and fell in love with it, even tho I didn't understand anything (the game wasn't translated in French, and I didn't speak a word of english then). Few years later, in 2008 I think (so around 14 years old), i decided to replay Shenmue 2 on 360 (now that I could understand english I really wanted to try it out again and finish it and understand it !) and the first thing I did was watching the DVD of Shenmue 1 The Movie. I thought it was horrendous. It almost killed my envy to play Shenmue 2 even, because I thought that maybe when I played Shenmue 2, I was too young and didn't realized it was SH#@T. I am glad I still played Shenmue 2 until the end, because it instantly became my favorite video game of all times. But it took time for me to finally play Shenmue 1. I think it was only in 2012 or 2013 that I tried it out on emulator. Because during all these years, with the Shenmue Movie, I really thought Shenmue 1 was a meh game. In the end, I ended up loving the game. And to be honest, for years I considered Shenmue 2 as ridiculously better than Shenmue 1, but as time goes by, I love Shenmue 1 more and more. Today I consider it a tie with Shenmue 2. Maybe I like Shenmue 1 even better than 2 now, just because I feel cozy in it. I feel at home, with friends, and it helps me alot when I feel down.

Anyway, the truth is, if I kept my impression of Shenmue 1 with the Movie and never played it myself, I would consider it an overhype piece of junk game. And now, all I want to do is jump back into it to talk to Nozomi a bit. I miss Nozomi alot.

The thing is, it's a video game, not a movie. It is meant to be played, not watch. The emotions Yu is trying to convey, he's trying to convey it not only with the story/dialogue/direction, but also with the gameplay. Just like any other game at that. So yeah, I'm not saying that by playing Shenmue 3, you would instantly like it, but there's more chance that it does.
 
Joined
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Shenmue 2, Mario 3D World, Links Awakening, FF XIII, Cloudpunk
This is the simple thing that explains it all IMO. Despite being featured in the kickstarter, Yoshimoto ended up not participating in the game (it's mentioned in the credits only in the same "thanks" category as Mark Cerny or Adam Boyes). I don't know if Yu Suzuki (who is a genius but an engineer in essence) wrote the script himself or hired other writers that weren't up to par (it looks like the latter if we believe the staff credits roll).

But the priority for IV should be getting better staff in that area. Even if we get bad graphics or animations in exchange.
Yeah, I think the writing for Shenmue 3 must have been hell. It's just a feeling, and what I'm about to say is hypothetical... But the fact that, in the end, the screenplay writer not coming back, having to probably change the story many times during development (you know, with extra funding coming later with DS and EGS, the fact that they had to cut Baisha out even though it was supposed to be the most important place in Shenmue 3 apparently), I think they lacked in time and talent to have a story that is properly written.

And yeah, it's sad because the way you tell a story is as important (if not more) as the story itself. If you tell a dumb story about a guy going to buy bread, but every bakery is out of the type of bread he wants so he has to run to every bakery in town, you know, a really dumb story, well, if you tell it well (good directing, good dialogues, good rythm, good characters and characters development, etc...) you can still hook people to your project. But, even if you have a great and epic story, if you don't tell it well, people won't like it. @Revan used the example of Star Wars before, so I'll do the same haha. But back in 1977, the first Star Wars (episode 4 now) was released. It was a huge succes both critically and commercially. The movie has a great directing, good pace, good effects, compelling characters and arcs, interesting settings and plot etc... But, what many don't know is that the movie was a hell to produce and had to go through multiple reshoot. The actors on stage were really not serious because the film and the script felt like it was going to be a [email protected]#t movie. And it did ! Georges Lucas showed the first version of the movie to two friends : Steven Spielberg and Brian de Palma (yeah, he has good friends...). And they both told him that the movie was really really really bad. They told him what was wrong in terms of story telling, wether it was the shots, the acting, the editing, the dialogues etc... So he reshoot alot of scenes, rewrote alot of the dialogues, the compleltely re-edited the movie etc... And suddenly the movie was great and became one of the greatest classics in the history of cinema. Yet, what has changed isn't the story itself. It isn't the "background" or "substance", it's the form. It's not what is told that has changed, but how it is told. The two versions of the movies tell the same things, with the same characters, the same universe, the same stakes, but how it is told, how you present the situation etc... has changed, and it changed a shitty movie into a masterpiece. Btw you can find excerpts of the very first version around the internet.
 

Guppy

Level-Headed Mud Spider
Joined
Jul 27, 2018
Forgive me for resurrecting an old thread. However, I just had to get this off my chest.

I created this thread, and shared my thoughts, a few months before Shenmue III was due to be released. Like a lot of Shenmue fans, I tried playing the game. However, I am no longer a 14-year-old buy. I am a husband and a father, who has three businesses to run. So, after about a year of putting it off, I spend an evening watching the cut scene videos on YouTube, so I could catch up with the story. Result? I am SO glad that I did not "hold out" for playing Shenmue III "one day".

After all that waiting, Shenmue III was a colossal disappointment.

The story-telling was simply terrible.

In the credits, I saw the logo for Shenmue Dojo and must conclude that either Suzuki or somebody in his inner circle pays attention to these threads. If so, I sincerely hope somebody passes the following advice to him:

(1) Read Console Wars.

(2) Recognize that the essence of Shenmue is NOT what Suzuki says it is; it's what the fans say it.

IMHO, the essence of Shenmue is the story. Not the gimmicks. Not the arcade games. Not the fishing or wood chopping. The STORY. We want to dive deeper into the mystery. This is what drove us throw the last two games.

(3) Fire the person who was responsible for the story-telling in Shenmue III. And, yes, if it was Suzuki, then he needs to fire himself. Find a real writer who is at the same calibre as the person who lead the storytelling for SI and SII.

On the flip side...

The environment was simply superb. And the music fantastic. Bravo.
I sure hope the advice never reaches his ears. Honestly, please tell me what original piece of artwork made by fans (amateur) was worth your time, because I never heard of such a thing. Would The Godfather or The Beatles' songs, or whatever piece of entertainment you fancy, be the same if it was originally made by fans? It would be a paradox as it makes no sense. Sure, inspiration can be drawn upon and subsequent work be improved by others, but from professionals from the same field and not by casual mainstream fans. If Yu Suzuki actually listened to the fans most likely the next Shenmue would be a Yakuza rip-off or one of these modern open world RPGs.
IMHO, the least essential part of Shenmue is the STORY. Not that it shouldn't have one, but as a videogame it matters less in a design stand point. But I understand your perspective. Playing games is an expensive hobby with high opportunity costs, specially for those with other priorities in life. Luckily for you who cares about the story more than anything else, the perfect Shenmue "game" is in the works and not directed by Yu Suzuki: Shenmue the Animation.
 
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Revan

Excuse me...gorgeous
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Luckily for you who cares about the story more than anything else, the perfect Shenmue "game" is in the works and not directed by Yu Suzuki: Shenmue the Animation.
Reading this makes me better appreciate the brilliance of launching a Shenmue anime.

With Shenmue fans, you have those who enjoy the series more for being a game, but there is undeniably a large subset of fans who seem more concerned with the story - hence all the "I'll take Shenmue 3 as a book, visual novel or comic, I just want to know what happens next!"

With the Shenmue games, you can appeal to the gamer purists who like to experience Shenmue more as a video game rather than as a book or film. Then with the Shenmue Animation you can appeal to those who purely fell in love with Shenmue's story and who can do without all the gameplay. And for those who like both, you get the best of both worlds.
 

Sergeynest

Keep your Mind as clear as a Polished Mirror.
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I sure hope the advice never reaches his ears. Honestly, please tell me what original piece of artwork made by fans (amateur) was worth your time, because I never heard of such a thing. Would The Godfather or The Beatles' songs, or whatever piece of entertainment you fancy, be the same if it was originally made by fans? It would be a paradox as it makes no sense. Sure, inspiration can be drawn upon and subsequent work be improved by others, but from professionals from the same field and not by casual mainstream fans. If Yu Suzuki actually listened to the fans most likely the next Shenmue would be a Yakuza rip-off or one of these modern open world RPGs.
IMHO, the least essential part of Shenmue is the STORY. Not that it shouldn't have one, but as a videogame it matters less in a design stand point. But I understand your perspective. Playing games is an expensive hobby with high opportunity costs, specially for those with other priorities in life. Luckily for you who cares about the story more than anything else, the perfect Shenmue "game" is in the works and not directed by Yu Suzuki: Shenmue the Animation.
The least essential part of Shenmue is the story !?
I wonder if Shenmue didn't have any story if it would have made such an impact on the fans the way it did !?
I wonder if Shenmue didn't have that intro in Shenmue 1; if it would have had the same impact on me or any other fan !?
I wonder if I hadn't found the Phoenix mirror in the hazuki basement or if I hadn't rescued Yuanda Zhu in Kowloon and learned more about the mirrors; if I would have enjoyed both games the way I did !?
I wonder if Shenmue 2 didn't end the way it did; if we would have had the Kickstarter we had in 2015 !?

The story of Shenmue is one of the most important parts of the series; just like the music; the side characters and the overhaul atmosphere of the game.
It is everything combined that makes Shenmue Shenmue.
No part is less important than the other.

I believe that there were problems during the development of Shenmue 3 and that Yu Suzuki wanted to give us the best Shenmue that he could give; but I also believe that he was too ambitious with Shenmue 3 and ended up being overwelmed with everything.
Shenmue 3 only failed to deliver on the story because it had passed almost 20 years since the ending of Shenmue 2 and not just 4 or 5 years.
I myself was also disapointed by Shenmue 3 not having another great revelation to its story; but on the other hand Shenmue 3 ended up delivering on other areas I was not expecting like the immertion and the way it made world feel connected and all the side actvities being meaningfull and having a purpose to exist.
Shenmue is like one big soup where every ingredient counts; and Shenmue 3 just needed a little bit more story because of all these years we have gone through playing Shen 1 & Shen 2 and ending up on that cliffhanger at the cave.
I believe that Shenmue 4 will satisfy the fans in the story department; and I hope it can also deliver in all the other areas that make it the full Shenmue experience we all want and love.
 
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I didn't even know that. Jesus. That's just bummed me right out.
Oh, I'm sorry then! Didn't want that!.

For me, perhaps a bit bizarrely, knowing that thing kind of produces the opposite effect. Having a clear and understandable cause for the evident drop in writing quality kind of gives me relief. Like detecting the root cause for some toothpain or something :D

Delving a bit deeper in the full credits (which were analyzed in this thread https://www.shenmuedojo.com/forum/index.php?threads/staff-credits-in-depth.2609/), it looks like writing was handled by a team of 3 people, whereas (according to https://www.mobygames.com/game/windows/shenmue-i-ii/credits) Shenmue I lists 16 people in some kind of "writer" job. And 10 for Shenmue II.

Luckily, two of the three writers of Shenmue III (Junichi Yoskida and Yasushi Ohtake) seem to be ex-Sega people who already had participated in the first installments, so maybe the problem was of too much work or they simply weren't the most brilliant from the original team :-).

The good thing is this is easily fixable for a fourth game. Just as Suzuki looked to be smart enough to externalize character modelling to that Lakshya company when the initial character models didn't seemed to be on par, maybe he will realize this and externalize the writing, too!
 
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Joined
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The least essential part of Shenmue is the story !?
The least essential part of Shenmue is probably the Press Start Button screen or something :p

I myself was also disapointed by Shenmue 3 not having another great revelation to its story;
Seriously speaking now, I think in the end we all kind of agree here, and it's only a matter of wording. I think the main story beats of Shenmue III are quite okay, and could have felt as "great revelation to the story" if handled a bit better.

The basic schema of (tagging in spoiler to be cautious)

1- Knowing Shenhua and her rural village in depth
2- Meeting former masters of Iwao and train under them while you learn more about your father's youth and past.
3- Learning about the origin of the mirrors
4- Witnessing Shenhua use her powers again to resolve some conflict
4- Go to a luxurious river town in China (new kind for the series), and know it in depth. And regroup with Ren there.
5- Face a new evil Chi You Men leader there, who uses trickery instead of martial arts.
6- Meet a new grandmaster and train under him while meeting its assistants (kind of a repeat of the Xiuying storyline, I admit)
7- Confront Lan Di for the first time, and be saved of death by Ren
8- Learn that that new evil Chi You Men leader is actually not an ally for Lan Di, but a deadly rival and there's a civil war there which has nothing to do with you.
9- Have the Phoenix mirror handed to that rival, putting you in an even weaker position and levelling the struggle in the CYM
10- Rescue Shenhua's father and solve the mystery about the stone pit and the prophecy, while pointing you to the CYM headquarters for the next game

To me is perfectly fine. And could have made a really pleasing and thrilling game if told and paced properly.

But, instead of, for example, making Niao Sun known from the beginning of the Niaowu chapter and make her menacing presence felt throughout the city, they opted for the "chasing ordinary thug gang" pattern for the nth time.
 
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Joined
Aug 19, 2018
The good thing is this is easily fixable for a fourth game. Just as Suzuki looked smart enough to externalize character modelling to that Lakshya company when the initial character models didn't look to be on par, maybe he will realize this and externalize the writing, too!
Was there a list or proof of what characters they produced? I know from the initial press release they were responsible for Shiling Lin‘s character, who looked great outside some slightly odd physics with her hair.

I know Ke Junhao and Lin Zhou’s dad were widely panned as being too cartoony and some incorrectly associated them with Lakshay digital but I believe that was incorrect. It would be nice to have a comprehensive list of who produced what.
 
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Jul 28, 2018
Luckily, two of the three writers of Shenmue III (Junichi Yoskida and Yasushi Ohtake) seem to be ex-Sega people who already had participated in the first installments, so maybe the problem was of too much work or they simply weren't the most brilliant from the original team :-).
I'm sure being under-staffed was a constant problem in all departments.

The structure of the story is probably the main issue, and we know it was impacted heavily by the budget. We have direct proof of this in Baisha being cut and anecdotes of the team fighting hard to get the drunken master in the game.

To give credit where it's due -- despite some of the more important side characters lacking depth -- I actually think the general chatter between Ryo and the denizens of Bailu and Niaowu is better in III than in previous games.

Some might say that's damning with faint praise, but I think the original game in particular did a good job of having entertaining conversations with lesser NPCs. III gets back to the original in that way, and introduces an element of humour in the dialogue as well, which is subtle enough to be funny, while fitting with the tone of the previous games. I really like it.
 

Guppy

Level-Headed Mud Spider
Joined
Jul 27, 2018
The least essential part of Shenmue is the story !?
I wonder if Shenmue didn't have any story if it would have made such an impact on the fans the way it did !?
I wonder if Shenmue didn't have that intro in Shenmue 1; if it would have had the same impact on me or any other fan !?
I wonder if I hadn't found the Phoenix mirror in the hazuki basement or if I hadn't rescued Yuanda Zhu in Kowloon and learned more about the mirrors; if I would have enjoyed both games the way I did !?
I wonder if Shenmue 2 didn't end the way it did; if we would have had the Kickstarter we had in 2015 !?

The story of Shenmue is one of the most important parts of the series; just like the music; the side characters and the overhaul atmosphere of the game.
It is everything combined that makes Shenmue Shenmue.
No part is less important than the other.

I believe that there were problems during the development of Shenmue 3 and that Yu Suzuki wanted to give us the best Shenmue that he could give; but I also believe that he was too ambitious with Shenmue 3 and ended up being overwelmed with everything.
Shenmue 3 only failed to deliver on the story because it had passed almost 20 years since the ending of Shenmue 2 and not just 4 or 5 years.
I myself was also disapointed by Shenmue 3 not having another great revelation to its story; but on the other hand Shenmue 3 ended up delivering on other areas I was not expecting like the immertion and the way it made world feel connected and all the side actvities being meaningfull and having a purpose to exist.
Shenmue is like one big soup where every ingredient counts; and Shenmue 3 just needed a little bit more story because of all these years we have gone through playing Shen 1 & Shen 2 and ending up on that cliffhanger at the cave.
I believe that Shenmue 4 will satisfy the fans in the story department; and I hope it can also deliver in all the other areas that make it the full Shenmue experience we all want and love.
You can wonder all you want as nowhere in my post I said the games should totally be devoided of a story or narrative hook. Just because you feel its story is what drives you to play Shenmue, it doesn't mean it applies to all fans in general. And I for one definitely didn't back the game just for some videogame storytelling. But as I said before, the animation project should fill up whatever narrative bits a lot of fans couldn't get from the games, so a win-win situation no matter how the series move forward. I just don't have that crave for plot development like most do in videogames, so S4 will not be better or worse because of the quality of its story to me. Sorry if that view doesn't match with what Shenmue fans supposedly should feel about the games.
 
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