It was very pleasing to read how much you enjoyed Shenmue 3. You summed it's reception so well. Some loved it, some didn't, etc. I loved it but I agree with the faults. Yes it got mixed opinions but I always had Shenmue 3 as an underrated game and I always will. I'll say what I agree with you on my own opinion about it.
1. The exploration/The Atmosphere/The Immersion.
Yep I agree that this was one of the best things in Shenmue 3, I didn't do enough of this the first time but I did alot the second time. I remember spending hours, taking my time and enjoying the game instead of rushing through the story. I would talk to everyone, trying to see if they had something new to say, exploring all the areas, doing side quests, etc. Just doing everything I could to my heart's content. It was so immersive. That is the best way to play Shenmue 3, Yu Suzuki was right about that. After awhile it did get boring though so the story was always important to be enjoyable.
I also agree with what you said about the game looking gorgeous and how stupid it was with some reviews saying it looked 'dated.' It was Shenmue but 18 years later on modern platforms. . This is rare, I hardly see any games do something as good as this. I give Yu and his team massive credit to be able to this.
2. The Shenmue One Vibe
Yes Shenmue 3 did have vibes of Shenmue One. The Iwao parts, the coming home to talk to Shenhua, especially when they talked about Ryo's life back at home. The music that played outside Shenhua's house at night REALLY reminded me of Shenmue 1. Learning more about the mirrors, Ryo's mother. Ryo should have asked more about all this though, to Iwao's master he didn't ask enough which was stupid. The Red Snakes, the bustling city of Niaowu reminded me of Shenmue 2. So yes it felt like the sequel we wanted with some parts reminding us of Shenmue 1 and some parts reminding us of Shenmue 2.
I definitely agree with what you said about people expecting alot from Shenmue 3 after 18 years. I found this strange as we were lucky that Shenmue 3 even existed in the first place. I doubt it would have been the same if Shenmue 3 released a couple of years after Shenmue 2 I agree. But I do agree there should have been more story in Shenmue 3, I can bet that the kickstarter fans were expecting this as they gave money towards the game. Not saying it had to be alot of story but I have to agree that the story in Shenmue 3 was just too light.
3. The Shenmue World and the new things (My experience with the game)
As stated above, I agree with what you said about the world of Shenmue 3. It was calming and beautiful. The combat system was decent once you got used to it, but the throw moves need to come back and the combat needs to improve if we get Shenmue IV. It just felt stiff but it was still very fun. I really liked how if you bought a new move then you had to train to learn it. I liked Ryo's training in this game, with learning the horse stance, the rooster steps, etc. Although Shenmue 3 probably had the weakest story, it has my favorite setting out of the 3. I'm completely with you about the eating/stamina part. I liked it but it went down way too quickly. The gambling, the mini games and chopping wood was a good addition to the game too.
4. The Music
I thought Shenmue III had a great soundtrack. The Save Shenmue temple music is just beautiful, the use of the old tracks fit well, the new battle music. The music that played during the finale! Man that was awesome. The music that played when you was fighting Lan Di in free battle gave me goosebumps and when you first saw him waiting in the castle. Sometimes I felt the old tracks were too reused though and some parts in the game Ryo would be running and no music could be heard. That wasn't good. Still, the music in Shenmue 3 was one of it's best things about it in my opinion.
5. 5. The characters and the Story
Yep the NPC's were all unique and different. I felt Shenmue 3 actually had a great and interesting cast of characters that needed more story. Iwao's master should have had more scenes, why was Shenhua hardly involed with the Niawo section of the game? Why did Ryo have to return to the hotel at 9pm? What was that all about? It was okay in Bailu as Ryo had a lot to say to Shenhua but it was different at the hotel. Sometimes he would just say the same thing. I agree that Shenmue 3 was about the journey of Ryo's training. I loved learning the Body Check and Reverse Body Check. I remember reading a stupid comment saying 'Oh Ryo just gets his ass kicked in Shenmue 3. Ryo is not the IP Man, Yanglang and Ge were very tough opponents, especially Ge who knew one of the most powerful martial arts as well as being very strong. I thought the part where Ryo was trying to learn his fighting style was such a good part in the game. 'He was able to strike from a distance and had his hands behind him with animal like moves.' I just loved that.
The finale was so exciting for me, I felt this didn't get enough credit. The line 'Lan Di is waiting for you' was just as good as seeing him on the helicopter on the rooftop of Shenmue II. Infact, maybe the fight with him was more exciting. But that was just the Lan Di part, as the fights in the yellow head in Shenmue 2 were better as the one QTE's with Lan Di's lackeys was silly. They were done very well though but just one QTE was stupid. The music that played as you were walking up the stairs to confront Lan Di, MAN that was awesome. This is something that never gets talked about and not enough credit either.
So yes I thought Ryo did develop so well in his training in Shenmue 3 as well as a person. Like you said, he seemed more lightened up but I liked how despite all the change like the 18 years wait, Ryo was still the same lol. So yes I did love Shenmue 3 but I agree completely with the flaws. It should have been longer and more of the story should have unfolded. Niawo for such a large place with little story was so disappointing. For the most part though, Shenmue 3's story had an interesting aspect to it. It's what made me want to keep playing it and that was part of the immersive experience of Shenmue 3. I did love Shenmue 3 but not as much as I could have. I hope Shenmue IV improves alot with the story though and I hope Yu carries on with his vision. It felt great to see Shenmue 3 just feel like a Shenmue game after so long.