Shenmue III Gamescom 2019 Preview – Don’t Play Pachinko

Sep 4, 2019
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I am not a typical Shenmue fan. I played the first game years and years after the original release, and as anyone can imagine, it didn't hold up so well at that point. Shenmue is a period piece that is emblematic of the time it was made and the people it was made by, making it a fascinating example of gaming history, but not amazing contemporary entertainment. Therefore, I don't know what Shenmue fans are looking for, but if it's authenticity, then Shenmue III surely delivers.

That's because Shenmue III authentically feels like playing a Dreamcast game years and years later, with better graphics powered by the Unreal Engine 4. The way Ryo moves, the way lines of dialogue are delivered, even the way some of the areas are designed. This is authentic, absolutely. And from some of the Shenmue fans I've spoken with, that's exactly what they want: a Dreamcast sequel, two decades removed from the original source material. And that's what they are getting, for better and for worse.

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Shenmue III's demo takes place in a picturesque Chinese village, where you a looking for a man with a scar on his face. Sound familiar? Well, it absolutely should. You'll be wandering around the small village, talking to all of the villagers, and each of them has a unique piece of dialogue pointing you in the right direction.

The characters you talk to are filling this odd middle-ground between stylized characters, and realistic depictions of people, with some characters looking as if they've been modeled on real people, and others modelled on a crude caricature. Though, that is another thing that feels authentic to the original Shenmue.

Once we found the man with the scar on his face, it was time to throw down and beat the information out of him, already making Shenmue III more action-packed than any of its predecessors, frankly. You can beat him immediately, but should you lose, he will direct you to a local martial arts temple, where you discover the man with the scar is far more experienced and deadly than meets the eye. While there you can spar and train yourself to become better at combat, before heading back to deal with the scarred man. Once you win the fight, the demo is over. So of course, I had to play it again and see what I missed.

The answer is… not much. Unfortunately, all of the houses in the demo were locked up tight and wouldn't let me inside. The characters I passed by didn't have much to say to me, either. Although, there was pachinko. So hell to it, I decided to play pachinko, for the real Shenmue experience.

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I played over, and over, and over again, it felt like forever. All I wanted was to hit the jackpot once. Just once, that's all I wanted. And we came to a point where the pachislot ball fell into the jackpot slot and bounced right out. I took my headphones off there and then, and put the controller down, and turned to face the PR representative overseeing the demo. I practically screamed; "Did you see that?!"

He looked solemn and replied: "Yes. Yes, I did." It was at that point I let out a string of expletives, before heading back to crack the skull of the scarred man without any training, just to make a point.

I finished the Shenmue III demo twice, and I have two takeaways. First, this feels exactly like the other Shenmue games do, but looks modern. If that's what you wanted, then it has delivered, but as a piece of contemporary entertainment, it stands to be seen how it will hold up. Second, pachinko is fixed, and the house always wins.

Shenmue III is out on November 19th for PC (only on the Epic Games Store for some time) and PlayStation 4.

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