Thursday, June 20, 2019

Yu Suzuki Interview & "True Shenmue Experience" Shenmue III Demo Report by A9VG | Guest Post Translation

Chinese gaming site A9VG has released a hands-on impressions report on their Shenmue III time-limited play-through at E3 2019, together with a brief interview with the game's creator, Yu Suzuki.

The review gives details of the combat and training system such as leveling up of moves and their timing, and concludes that Shenmue III "serves up the true Shenmue experience."

The translation is again from the hand of yuc02 who can be found hanging out over at the Shenmue Dojo. 

(Screenshots added from Shenmue III footage released at E3 by IGN Japan).

Shenmue 3 E3 Demo Play-through Report and Yu Suzuki Interview - Fans Should Not Be Disappointed

Shenmue is a game series that conjures up sweet memories for its old fans. In the Dreamcast days, many people were amazed by this game, but for various reasons, Ryo Hazuki’s story has yet to be concluded, leaving people with a deep sense of regret. This is why Shenmue 3 has been met with so much anticipation.

During this year’s E3, journalists from The Game Bus and A9VG played Shenmue 3 for 15 minutes, and gained an initial impression of the game.

Demo Impressions

One of the series’ main selling points was its myriad of mini games. In the demo there was an open-air market in Bailu village, where many games were available to be played. We played “Lucky Hit” - a game where you drop a ball down a wooden board, hoping that it lands in a certain spot at the bottom after going through many obstacles. If you succeed in this mini game, you can win tokens that can be traded for money. To play the game you also need to use tokens, which are bought with money.

In addition to the market, the player can also work for money. In the demo we were able to do some wood splitting, which is a QTE mini game. Players must control Ryo, and swing the ax by timing a button press, when the icon at the bottom right of the screen is at its most focused, which will lead to an “Excellent” rank. One can also achieve a “Good” rank, or fail to split the wood completely. There is a time limit, so the faster the player can react and split wood, the more money earned during each play. So if you want to earn lots of money, you have to be quick and precise, which is very hard!

When talking about work, one must mention Shenmue 3’s unique - perhaps not for Shenmue 1 and 2 players - HP system. In Shenmue 3, the player’s HP represents endurance, which was capped at 1500 points during our demo. You lose HP when you get hit during battles, as well as when doing labor, playing (some?) mini games, running and even walking. If you run around constantly when exploring places, your HP will go down very quickly. Walking calmly will help Ryo’s HP last longer.

In our demo the simplest way to replenish HP was by eating food. The player can buy all sorts of food items to refill HP, although seemingly this game will not have a cooking system. So Ryo can only eat whatever he can buy*.
*Note: it appears the journalists were not aware of the ability for Ryo to pick wild herbs that can be found on the mountainside.

Let’s now talk about the training and battle systems. Training is much like working, and is done through completing QTE mini games. In the demo, we tried the “Horse Stance” mini game. The player must rhythmically press the action button to keep Ryo’s arms aligned with the horizontal line on the screen. The more accurate the alignment, the more effective the training becomes. After training, Ryo’s experience and stats will increase and fill up a meter, and he can level up if the meter is filled completely.

The battles shown in the demo are all 1-on-1 fights. Ryo’s basic attacks include punches and kicks, and he can unleash special moves and combos if you press certain punch/kick button combinations, which is very much like the system of a dedicated fighting game. Each move can also be leveled up. When a particular move is at a low level, your button input timing needs to be very exact to execute this move, perhaps even stricter than for some dedicated fighters. But once you use the move often enough to level up, the move becomes easier to execute.

The player can choose to spar with a dojo master to specifically train these moves. One can also spar in order to learn how to counter an enemy’s technique either before it connects, or when there’s a long recovery time afterwards, by executing moves correctly when prompted on-screen. The timing at which you execute the counter will be judged, whether it is too early, too late or just right.

Shenmue 3’s graphics have stayed faithful to the style used in the previous games, and although they can’t be said to be exceptional, they are still uniquely charming in their own way. There have been many criticisms of the character models, but looking at this demo things such as stiff facial expressions have been greatly improved.

All in all, from a system and UI perspective the game may not suit the taste of many modern gamers. However it serves up the true Shenmue experience, which should not disappoint the series’ fan base.

Producer Interview

After playing the demo, we had the privilege to interview the game’s producer Yu Suzuki and its publisher Deep Silver (Global)/Oasis Games (Chinese PS4 version), to learn a bit more about Shenmue 3.

YS = Yu Suzuki

Q: You recently announced a delay to the release of Shenmue 3. Can you explain why you decided on this?

YS: We needed more time to adjust and refine the game, to make it better. So we discussed with Deep Silver to find a better release date, and finally came up with the new release date (19th November 2019).

Q: The demo version played, is this part of the same version that will be released to the public?

YS: No, but this version is very close to the release version.

Q: In Shenmue 3, even running will deplete Ryo’s energy, and the player must feed him to replenish this, otherwise he will eventually be unable to run. Why did you decide to implement this system?

YS: Shenmue 3 is a game associated with Chinese martial arts, and in real life food, nutrition and Kung-Fu training are closely linked. I wish to reflect this aspect to the players, so decided to include it in the game. For example, when the player wants to do certain training, they need to feed Ryo with the right nutrients. This relationship between martial arts and food is one of the features in Shenmue 3.

Q: Shenmue 3’s fighting system is somewhat different to Shenmue 1 and 2’s. Can you explain why the programmers did not reuse the same system from the previous games?

YS: The biggest change between Shenmue 3 and Shenmue 1 and 2 is the graphics engine. Shenmue 3 used the UE4 engine. Because of this we also decided to overhaul the fighting system, to create a different gaming experience.

Q: Why did you choose Oasis Games to be Shenmue 3’s Chinese distributor?

Deep Silver: As a publisher, Oasis Games is very experienced and easy to communicate with, therefore we chose to partner with them for this game.

Q: Shenmue 3 is a game set in China, so may I ask if there will be any game content exclusive to the Chinese players, or any special editions?

YS: Unfortunately we don’t have any content exclusive to Chinese players.

Oasis Games: There will be a collector’s edition for the Chinese market, so please keep an eye out for future announcements.

--- End of translation. Thank you to yuc02 for the translation. ---

Source: A9VG article (Chinese)
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