Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Shenmue III DLC Out Now: Battle Rally (with Bailu Chan Hunt)

The first playable DLC for Shenmue III, called "Battle Rally" has become available from today, and offers not one but two games set in Shenmue III's world.

One is Battle Rally, the an entertaining series of time-trial courses (mixed with fighting!) which gives the DLC its name. And the second is a separate treasure-hunt style game that will look somewhat familiar to Shenmue III players, called Bailu Chan Hunt!

Both of these activities are set in Bailu village, and the game will check that you have progressed past this location in your main game, before making it accessible. Also be sure your main game is up-to-date (at the time of this post, the latest version is currently v1.04.01).

Battle Rally

Battle Rally has a fun, arcade-like feel to it that will immediately remind players strongly of Yu Suzuki's past arcade titles. You can choose to play as one of three characters: Ryo Hazuki, Ren Wuying or Wei Zhen (the martial artist who can often been found practicing opposite the Sunflower grove in the main game).

Each has different Health and Attack stats: Ryo has more health but a weaker attack; Ren has a strong attack but starts with less health, and Wei's stats are more balanced. Each of them also has been assigned their own unique set of combo moves that can be used to defeat opponents during the race.

The development team has done a great job at giving the race the feeling of a classic arcade game: there's an energetic soundtrack, time-limit with checkpoints to extend your time, several logo and other graphical tributes to Yu Suzuki's Out Run series of arcade games, and even a set of lights that turn green to signal the start of the race.
Onlookers cheer Ren from boats at the start of the Man Yuan Temple course.
Below are some of the elements drawing from Out Run that have been spotted so far in the game.
Reported by 紅人(あかいと)on Twitter.

All the characters you control are very agile and are able to weave over the course, which is useful for picking up mushrooms on the way to replenish lost health (simply running over them is all that is needed).

Points are awarded based on a number of factors including time taken, opponents defeated, check-points passed and race completion. There is an achievement table for each race (although it's not shared online) which amusingly contains historical times of residents of Bailu village and the date on which they were set - such as the top record being held by Elder Yeh back in 1927! If you beat the top record you are awarded with prizes such as a new move for Ryo.

Facing an opponent on the Languishan course.
On reaching the goal, each character makes a pose (or swagger, in Ren's case), reminiscent of the victory poses in Virtua Fighter.

Initially only the first Battle Rally course (Rainbow Baisin) is available. Further courses can be unlocked by completing the second game in this DLC, which we will cover next.
The first course available to play.
The race itself is a fun mixture of knocking down opponents who show up along the way as efficiently as possible (these get harder as the races progress) to increase your score, while moving quickly through the course. It is quite the challenge to try and beat Elder Yeh's 1927  first-place record, even on the first course..

One nice aspect about the integration with the Shenmue III world is that features such as the changing weather are also present, so it may for example be pouring with rain as you race.

Looks like I'll need to polish my strategy some more to be able to remove Elder Yeh from the throne.

Bailu Chan Hunt

It was a pleasant surprise to find this second complete activity included with the Battle Rally DLC: Bailu Chan Hunt.

In the main game, a fun side-activity was to scour each shop in Niaowu to locate the little bird mascot (which Yu Suzuki revealed in our interview last year to be a cormorant chick, in a nod to the cormorant fishing on the Li River) hidden there. This same idea has been carried across to Bailu village and given its own mascot to hunt: judging from its pale appearance and antlers, and recalling the meaning of the written Chinese characters for"Bailu", this time the mascot has some characteristics of a white deer.

There is no time limit, so you can take your time wandering around the area (if evening comes, you can continue the next day). Unlike in the main game, this time there is an onscreen proximity indicator as to how close you are when there is a Bailu-chan in the vicinity. This by no means makes the activity a walk-over however: even when the indicator shows you are very close, the mascot may be hidden above or below you, inside a container, or even on the inside of a building when you are close to its outer wall (this situation resulted in my spending several minutes of fruitless searching!). As before, the mascot is often a different color or material so as to blend in with its surroundings. There is a also a good mix of difficulty, with the last few on each level being a real challenge to locate.

Other characters and animals populate the world, adding to the atmosphere (although you are unable to interact with them, in the main).
Ryo's indicator (lower left) tells him there's a Bailu-chan very close by!
There are 20 Bailu-chans to find in each search area, and there are multiple areas defined within Bailu village. Initially there is one available area, centered around the village square. Depending on how many Bailu-chans you find, you will be awarded various rewards (such as power-ups to your stats in the Battle Rally) and to unlock further Battle Rally courses and Bailu-chan areas.

You can also take a rest from the hunt temporarily (by walking over to the "Quit" location) and your progress will be saved for you to resume at a later time.
The next two Bailu-chan areas to be unlocked are Sunflower Grove and Panda Market.
I really enjoyed this section of the DLC (in fact it was the highlight for me), and it makes the perfect complement to the faster-paced action of the Battle Rally section.

Overall Comment

In conclusion, this first DLC delivered even more than I had hoped for. and props to Yu Suzuki and team for creating gameplay that provides fresh new entertainment that integrates so well into the existing world of Shenmue. There are also two further DLC still to come (we will update on the timing once announced).

For PC users: there is currently a 30% off sale on Shenmue on the Epic Games Store that runs for another week, so is good timing to pick up the DLC season pass at a discount.

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