Yu Suzuki: I've Never Been Able To Do Everything I Wanted With A Game
Even though Shenmue III is much bigger than the project Suzuki originally Kickstarted, the series creator said there's more he'd like to do.
Some 18 years after its last installment, the wait for the next entry into the Shenmue franchise is nearly at an end. Shenmue III, the sequel to the beloved Sega Dreamcast open-world series, has traveled a long road into existence, starting with a vision for the third game in the series that director Yu Suzuki has held onto for nearly two decades. That vision, or some version of it, is finally about to be realized.
At Gamescom, Suzuki discussed the path Shenmue III has taken across nearly two decades, which included a Kickstarter campaign that asked backers for $2 million to help give the game life. The campaign wound up pulling in more than $6.3 million, and the game later greatly expanded in scope after Suzuki's company, Ys Net, made a publishing deal with Deep Silver. Without that deal, Suzuki said, Shenmue would have been much simpler.
"The most important part is the story, so I would have done the story, that's for sure," Suzuki said in an interview with GameSpot. "It would have been a type of game where you just observed a story going on with some [Quick Time Events]."
Even with more money, Suzuki said Shenmue III doesn't encompass everything he wanted to do with the game.
"I've been making games since 1983 and there wasn't once where I could do everything I wanted," Suzuki said. "All the time, it's about half of the things I wanted to do. But since I could complete at least half of it, I am happy. If I manage to do everything 100%, I won't have anything to do next."
"The problem is when you make a game ... if you put everything you want in, you can put a lot in it, but the risk gets bigger because it's a completely new game," he said. "And this time for Shenmue III, I had to pare down a little bit on innovation, and it's more a game I made for the fans of the series. But there are still new things in it."
Still, what composed the Shenmue III hands-on demo at Gamescom is a far cry from the thinner, more observational experience Suzuki described. In the 45-minute segment, protagonist Ryo Hazuki searches for a man with a scar on his face in a small village, questioning its inhabitants and taking part in a number of small activities. Those include odd jobs you take on to earn money like chopping wood, gambling on games such as Lucky Hit, and fight training with minigames that can build up Ryo's stats or increase his capability with signature moves.
None of those activities are especially innovative--they're pretty much all simple quick-time events that only really have you pushing one or two buttons in time with a prompt. The same was true of the many conversations Ryo has with different characters in the demo as he seeks out the man with the scar. It all felt right in line with the original two Shenmue games, despite 18 years in between.
Though the demo feels firmly rooted in the past of open-world games and Suzuki said Shenmue III is geared at longtime series fans, he also said he felt the influence of the influx of open-world games in the years since Shenmue II. In some ways, the way open-world games have evolved over the years changed some of the ways Suzuki approached his own return to the genre.
"I've arranged a game to fit the time we're living in now, so it's a bit more modern, maybe," he said. "You know, nowadays everything is going faster, these movies, the games. [Players are] looking for the thrill that it provides, and I think the Shenmue we have now is a bit faster as well compared to the old Shenmues. But since it's still Shenmue it's still quite slow and chilled compared to other games. It's like, it's just a slow life."
With Shenmue III finally coming, thanks largely to an outpouring of support from fans who want to see the story continued, a natural question is one of the future of the series. Suzuki has said before there's more to Ryo's story and his vision than Shenmue III--there are "11 chapters" in the story in total, although he didn't say how many of those chapters Shenmue III comprises. Still, from the way fans reacted to the idea of a Shenmue III, it seems plausible that a Shenmue IV could be possible, too.
That might depend on the reaction to Shenmue III, a game fans have been waiting almost two decades to play. That long a wait--and a few million dollars pledged by fans eager to see the game realized--would seemingly put a lot of pressure on a creator. Suzuki said that even though the game's launch is imminent, he's not anxious about it.
"In my mind, I think I was able to make a game that was several levels higher than the initial project, and I have done everything that I could that was in my power, so I am not that anxious," he said. "I am more looking forward to see how people see the game. If some people don't like it, I guess that, since I've done the best I could, there's no way I worry too much about that."
Shenmue III releases on PS4 and PC on November 19.
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