Shenmue fans, you never stopped believin', and your ultimate reward is finally within grasp. Shenmue 3 is out next month. Some of the backers who helped Kickstart the project even received a playable demo of the game earlier this week. One such recipient, Digital Foundry's John Linneman, says he's quite impressed with what he's played. Digital Foundry has since published an analysis of how this classic Dreamcast series looks and plays in the context of modern technology.
First, Linneman addresses a big question. Seeing how the original Shenmue was one of the most expensive games ever made when it hit the Dreamcast in 1999, how can a Kickstarted project with a small budget and a small team hope to compare? Additional financial assistance from Deep Silver has been a big help, but Linneman brings up another interesting point: The flexibility of Unreal Engine 4 makes it much easier to perform programming tasks that were costly and time-consuming 20 years ago. "Many key features already exist within the engine itself, allowing the team to experiment and utilise these features more rapidly than in the past," Linneman writes.
Another key point is that Shenmue 3 feels like a modern Dreamcast game by design, something Eric confirmed when he went hands-on with the game at E3 2019. Its open world is consequently more constrained.
"In this sense, despite the use of a cutting-edge engine, art direction and game design are more of an evolution of AM2's achievements back in the day, as opposed to dragging the concept kicking and screaming into the modern era," Linneman says. "It also means that Shenmue 3 focuses on smaller but more densely packed areas rather than presenting a massive open world."
If you're still worried Shenmue 3 sounds too modern, don't worry: Digital Foundry's video confirms the game's dialogue is still weird and stilted.
"You can't play unless ya buy some tokens," a hawker tells Ryo.
"Okay," Ryo says flatly.
"Buy some tokens if you wanna play!"
Just because parts of Shenmue have to leave the Dreamcast era doesn't mean all of it needs to follow.
Shenmue 3 is coming to PlayStation 4 and PC on November 19. In the meantime, read our story of how it went from Virtua Fighter RPG to Kickstarter success.