Sunday, April 14, 2019

Recap & Analysis: New Shenmue 3 Screenshots (High-Res) | Reboot Develop 2019

To the delight of Shenmue, Yu Suzuki revealed several new screenshots and new gameplay details on Shenmue 3 during his one-hour on-stage talk at the Reboot Develop 2019 game developers conference held in Dubrovnik, Croatia.

This post presents the new screenshots (update: now refreshed with 1080p versions obtained via the official site), with notes and comments on each. When zooming in on details, the images have been enhanced for clarity using image-processing software to upscale and filter.

At points along the way I've provided my own translation of Yu's words, although I have to say that the on-stage MC, Ben Judd, did an excellent job at digesting and translating what Yu said, and combining that with his own input.

New Screenshot: Ryo at the Waterfront (Choubu / Niaowu)

Notes on this image:
  • Yu Suzuki says: "This is the Guilin we created. It's Guilin only as far as the mountains go [indicating the distinctive shape of the mountains]: there are also outdoor stalls that are a little similar to those in Japan, and the scenery along the shore on this [right] side is from a place that isn't Guilin, called Fenghuang (Phoenix Ancient Town). I've assembled pieces of scenery that really feels like China from various places and made alterations as needed to bring them closer towards what I want to portray.

    In contrast to the fair amount of "shaping" that was carried out with the backgrounds, is the accuracy of things like people's movements and their small every-day gestures - for example when someone feels troubled and so on. NPCs too; we've made a lot of different faces of Chinese people, and I don't think there's any other game that has put this much effort into portraying old men and women NPCs!

    For the music also, I've used Chinese musical instruments as much as possible, for example.

    To bring out the feeling of China, there are certain areas like these that I've really focused on".
  • The items for sale at the first stand appear to be bracelets.
  • On the green awning of the first stand, the large characters 珠宝専科 mean "Jewelry Specialists" (hence the picture of a cut diamond in the center).
  • The smaller characters above are 五十年店. Update: I initially misread the fourth kanji - thanks to yuc02 for the clarification! The meaning in Chinese is that the shop has been in business for 50 years.
  • The writing on the other stalls is hard to make out, but it looks like one of the characters on the red awning is 董, which is part of the word "antiques".

New Screenshot: Pawn Shop & Prize Exchange (Bailu Village)

Notes on this image:
  • Yu Suzuki says: "In Japan there's a method used by Pachinko parlors called a 'three-shop exchange', which I created here to avoid potential problems in China with the inclusion of gambling directly for money. You take tokens [that you have won at a gambling house etc] to the Prize Exchange who will exchange them for a prize, then you take the prize to the Pawn Shop and exchange it for money".

New Screenshot: Pawn Shop

Notes on this image:
  • Yu Suzuki says: "You can take something to the Pawn Shop to sell, or you can choose to exchange an item or combination of items for a Skill Book. Alternatively you can buy a Skill Book directly with money. So in the end, everything leads to obtaining Skill Books. This exchange function is pretty fun, as a lot of different combinations are possible".
  • "Skill Book" is the term that the game uses in English for the items that have previously often been known as "technique scrolls" or "move scrolls".

New Screenshot: Prize Exchange Interface

Notes on this image:
  • Yu Suzuki commented that there may be people who aim to collect a full set of all these items, but agreed that their usual ultimate use is to obtain new skill books.
  • Different Prize Exchanges will carry different selections of items, and their exchange rates will also differ between shops.
  • At the left appears to be the name of the shop, in this case the shop is the "Premium Exchange".
  • (The red circles have been added for purposes of discussion in this post)
Let's take a closer look at particular areas of interest. Firstly, the date and time display at the bottom left can't go without mention - despite all the years that have gone by in real life, it tugs at the heart to see that Ryo's timeline continues smoothly onward from his cave explorations.

Not long before we can join Ryo again back in the 1980s!
At the bottom of the screen is a status panel:

From the top, it contains:
  • A number representing Ryo's current health or energy (399 of a maximum value of 1573)
  • A counter for some kind of energy drink? (We have seen something similar previously next to the health meter during combat)
  • A number representing the cash he carries (presumably in yuan: the image shows "200")
  • A counter next to a small pile of colored boards that we will see later represent gambling tokens (Ryo appears not to have any).
  • In the lower section: a diagram showing how Ryo's Attack and Endurance levels relate to his "Kung Fu" level - Yu explains these terms on a separate slide, later on.
And a look at the items available for exchange at this shop - with my best guess at what each of them represents. (If you can help identify that are unknown or don't seem right, leave a comment at the end of the post and I will update the image!)
Our attempt to identify the items available at this Exchange Shop.
A nice touch is that these items can actually be seen in the screenshot of the shop itself - for example, masks, paintings and plates decorate the shelves and a panda toy sits on the counter.

Information is given about the currently-selected item: its name, description, the number of tokens needed to acquire it and any special properties it may have (such as restoring endurance, in the case of the banana).

New Screenshot: Pawn Shop Help Screen

Notes on this image:
  • This in-game Help screen for the Pawn Shop illustrates how it first into the cycle of the "three-shop exchange" system that Yu alluded to earlier. The three shops involved are the Token Exchange (a general name for a gambling parlor or similar, where you gamble for tokens), the Prize Exchange (where you exchange the tokens you've won for an item) and the Pawn Shop (where you can sell your prize for money). And the cycle can continue as you can then use the money for further gambling.
And, easy to miss at the bottom left and not mentioned during the talk, we see that the center of the energy meter shows a mini-map that indicates Ryo's direction and current location with a blue arrow.

Mini-map detail

Diagram: Obtaining Skill Books

Some of the many different activities that help Ryo towards the goal of obtaining new Skill Books.
Notes on this diagram:
  • Yu Suzuki says: "Several 'user cycles,' or 'game cycles,' have been created in which Ryo can participate. You receive items from these, and combinations of these items take you towards obtaining a Skill Book. There are actually more than these, but I'm just showing six of them."
  • The categories that are shown on the slide are: Mini game, Story, Shop, Search, Collecting and Capsule Toy.
  • The Collecting category has an illustration of a mushroom, with an example being a "Herb Set". This is something that Yu also talked about in the recent Famitsu Interview.
  • The Mini game category has illustrations of an ax (Yu has previously mentioned wood-chopping as one of the part-time jobs available) and also of a violin - will Ryo be able to try his hand at a musically-based game?
  • Side-note: I thought at first this was a picture of the little "mohawk bird" we have seen previously, but I was mistaken: this one is missing a mohawk!

Information: Difficulty Level in Shenmue III

Yu Suzuki stated that the battle system has been built to be accessible and enjoyable for both beginners and hardcore gamers, by taking inspiration from his arcade game days where physical DIP switches on the machines can be set to adjust the difficulty of the games ("easy, normal, hard, hardest").
  • For the battles, the names of the four modes in Japanese translate to
    • Easy
    • Recommended
    • Mastery (for which you need to carry out training), and
    • "You'd Better Not!"
  • In Easy Mode, the five strongest moves from your Skill Book will be automatically selected (they can also be selected manually) for a quick-select set of moves that can be cycled through with the left trigger button, and executed with the right trigger.
  • Yu stated that adjustable difficulty in Shenmue III applies not just to the battles, but also the story's progression in various places.

Diagram: Growing Stronger for Battles

I've added English translations to this slide, which was originally only in Japanese.
Notes on this diagram:
  • A Dojo is available which can be entered and used at any time to strengthen your skills. There are three ways you can do that:
    • Kung Fu is solo practice against a wooden dummy, to build up endurance.
    • Sparring allows you to practice and improve the effectiveness of the moves in the Skill Books you have collected. You can practice the button commands needed, and might be told that your button pushes are too slow, for example.
    • In Matches you can fight opponents of higher ranks in preparation for enemies you will meet in the game.

Information: Flashback Movie

  • The game has been built so that it can be enjoyed by people who haven't played the first two games. However a digest movie of what has happened to this point will be included, so for players who haven't played Shenmue I and II, Yu suggests watching this before starting the game (or completing Shenmue I & II first!).

New Screenshot: Game Arcade

Notes on this image:
  • Yu comments that:
    • While some of the games are the more modern CPU-driven electronic games, the majority of them are primitive games of the electro-mechanical type: ones that use magnets, relays and discrete components, or purely mechanical ones (such as capsule toy machines).
    • His focus has not been on how fun each individual game can be made. The concept is about traveling the world of Shenmue and gathering memories of the various ones you find. Then, after you your trip is over and you've finished Shenmue, you'll be left with all those memories of your journey. And for that, Yu believes that simple and more direct types of games are most suitable.
    • In Shenmue III the games have been designed to connect together with other elements in the world through tickets that they issue. The tickets can then be used in a certain way; and from there another connection is made to something else and so on.
  • The name of the amusement center shown in the image is "Hi-Tech Land Panda". As fans on social media have pointed out, this is a nod to Sega's chain of game arcades which are also named "Hi-Tech Land".
We can see a row of capsule toy machines outside:

And the interior of the arcade looks most enticing:

In the above (image-enhanced) close-up we can see four different machines:
  • The first at the left is largely obscured by the doorway, but the number "3" can just be made out, confirming that this is a QTE Excite 3 machine as seen in the background of this previous screenshot:
  • Next is a QTE Title 2 machine, no doubt taunting the player as usual.
  • The third machine has a steering wheel controller - some kind of driving game?

    Update #1: fantastic detective work by Shenmue Forever has come up with a potential identification for this game on which this machine may be based: Road Racer by Williams was an electro-mechanical driving game that involved ensuring your car stayed on the road drawn on a rotating drum. As this video of it in motion shows, you can certainly feel the simple charm that Yu alluded to above.

    Update #2: now that we have obtained higher-resolution original images, it looks like the Shenmue 3 version is named "Highway Star". It's surely no coincidence that this is also the name of a song by Deep Purple - which is, as Yu Suzuki has previously mentioned, one of his favorite bands! (This connection was pointed by KidMarine on the Dojo forums.)

  • Looking closely at the fourth machine, we can see some strong clues as to what this could be: an illustration of two characters on the front of the machine wearing green and red helmets and peeking out from holes; the letters "Wh" and "Mo"... this looks very much like it could be a Whac-a-Mole machine!
  • There is a picture in the background of Pai Chan from Virtua Fighter (as seen in Fuku-san's room in Shenmue)... perhaps simply an illustration, or could it point to the possibility of a Virtua Fighter arcade machine hidden in the back...?

That wraps up the summary and post for now. I hope you enjoyed reading through, and please leave your thoughts and comments below!


Become a Patron!


  1. The best analysis i've seen so far! Thanks so much for all the hard work to category all the new info like this dude :)

    My guesses on the ??? items...first one perhaps Alcohol too, maybe a big Sake jug like the drunken master in the Magic trailer? Next to that I really have no clue...I can't tell if the white thing is a box in a fabric wrapped packaging...similar to what the Hazuki family crest was in? The last one is also tricky to work out, but is the shape at the back some type of Chinese fiddle?

    Hope that helps :)

    1. Thanks SkillJim! Some interesting guesses there. Part of that last image does look a bit like it could be an instrument doesn't it. (By the way, while looking over the canned items again, I had a thought that these could well be cans of fruit / tomato juice...).

  2. Thanks guys for this analysis. August is not coming fast enough.
    By any chance, no hint of information about a possible Shenmue 3 Xbox One release!?

    1. August will be here before we know it! Regarding the Xbox One, it's not something that realistically will be happening any time soon: this interview (in French) with co-producer Cedric Biscay gives some background as to why. (Microsoft was approached prior to the Kickstarter but talks did not come to fruition).

  3. Update: the third arcade machine has been identified by Shenmue Forever! Information added into the post.

  4. Update #2: images have been upgraded thanks to 1080p images having become available on the official site.

  5. Brilliant stuff as usual, Switch! I knew 'Hi-Tech Land' rang a bell - why didn't I think of Yakuza? Great spot on the '3' at the arcade - I completely missed it. I agree - it's probably Excite QTE 3

    Can't wait now for Shenmue 3. Hype levels are off the scale!

    1. Hi iyapol, thanks for your comment! With all the subtle connections and clues scattered about for us fans to ponder over, Shenmue 3 will be here before we know it! :D

  6. Really great stuff, Switch! I love that we are getting more and more details to pour over as August gets closer and closer.

    1. Hey Drakub! It's fantastic, there's a flood of information starting to come through now.