Previously on Shenmue...

Your guide to the triumphant return of a cult classic

Two decades on from the last instalment, creator Yu Suzuki is back with a new instalment in the Shenmue saga. We look at the enduring legacy of the series and detail what to expect from the sequel.

 
 

1. Where did it all begin?

Envisaged by its original creator Yu Suzuki as a hybrid of traditional fighting games and story-driven action-adventures, Shenmue was a unique experience that combined complex, close-combat encounters with a deep narrative, a huge cast of characters, tonnes of exploration and quirky mini games. 

One of the most expensive video game projects ever undertaken at the time of its release in 1999, Shenmue’s striking art direction and emotional story captured the hearts of gamers and earned it a dedicated following.

A sequel followed in 2001 but the series ended on a huge cliff-hanger, leaving the story awaiting a conclusion that would take two decades to finally emerge. 

 
 

2. What was it all about?

Set in 1980s Japan and taking inspiration from classic Kung Fu movies from that era, Shenmue follows the adventures of teenage martial artist Ryo Hazuki as he makes his away across Japan and China in search of his father’s killer.

Filled with larger than life characters – from outlaw street-gangs to charismatic martial arts masters – the story takes Ryo from small villages to bustling metropolitan areas as he hunts for clues, uncovers the secrets of an ancient prophesy and learns unexpected truths about his family’s history. 

 
 

3. What made it such an enduring classic?

Back in 1999, Shenmue was unlike anything anyone had ever seen. It was a hugely ambitious project, with incredibly detailed visuals, hundreds of fully voice-acted non-player characters, full day-to-night cycles and even dynamic weather patterns.

It was also one of the earliest examples of what we know today as an ‘open world’ game. At a time when 3D design was still quite new, Shenmue pushed the envelope, delivering a level of interactivity, complexity and immersion that was unheard of. 

It was a bold step forward for game design and would influence developers – with its quirky mini-games, free-roam approach and quick-time action sequences – for much of the following decade.

 
 

4. How does Shenmue III evolve the series?

Developed using the latest technology, Shenmue III takes the original formula and expands on it to deliver a game true to the spirit of the series but with the look and feel of a modern title.

Cutting-edge technology

Shenmue I and II were ahead of their time but, developed with Epic's Unreal 4 Engine, Shenmue III benefits from the latest 3D rendering technology - allowing for detailed characters, dense environments and more nuanced gameplay mechanics - bringing its creators closer to their original vision.

Rich new environments

Ryo's journey has taken him from rural Japan across the sea to Hong Kong and China. As the story continues, you'll venture into huge new environments that can be fully explored, transferring seamlessly between indoor and outdoor areas, meeting new characters and uncovering more secrets as you go.

Fan-favourite characters redefined

Shenmue's lovaeable cast of characters return with detailed new designs, upgraded animations and brand new dialogue - in many cases delivered by their original voice actors - bringing the story to life like never before.

 
 

5. Who are the main characters?

You’ll meet a huge assortment of personalities as you explore the world of Shenmue, many of whom are critical to your mission. These are the main folks to keep an eye on:

Ryo Hazuki

Shenmue’s lead protagonist, 18-year old Ryo Hazuki is a determined albeit slightly naïve teenager with a score to settle. Trained from a young age in martial arts, he’s a skilled fighter, but still has much to learn.

Wuying Ren

The 19-year old leader of a Hong Kong, harbourside street gang known as ‘The Heavens’, this money-hungry, mischievous outlaw is an unexpected ally of Ryo’s and a capable fighter in his own right.

Shenhua Ling

Encountering Ryo late in the second game, 16-year old Shenhua is a compassionate but cloistered young lady bound to Ryo by greater forces than either of them understand. 

Lan Di

An expert martial artist and ruthless leader of the Chi You Men cartel, Lan Di is the series’ principle antagonist and the man who killed Ryo’s father. Lan Di is a man of great power, mystery, influence and criminal means.

 
 

6. What do you do?

The Shenmue series is known for its mix of gameplay styles, including combo-driven melee combat, exploration, quirky mini-games and a branching narrative.

Become a martial arts master

In order to face down the fearsome Lan Di, Ryo must hone his fighting techniques. You’ll need to meet with teachers around the world to develop new abilities to overcome the escalating odds. 

In a violent world of organised crime, you’ll often be called upon to defend yourself and others – your survival will depend on your hand-to-hand skills. 

Track your father’s killer

There are a huge number of people to meet in Shenmue, with their own stories to tell, clues to uncover and rewards to be earned. 

Explore conversation options with each character, note down useful hints or help them out in order to get the information you need. 

Sometimes you’ll discover an unexpected ally, a brutal new adversary, a crucial clue to your mission or a simple exchange that adds colour to the huge world.  

Explore huge environments

Shenmue’s rich locations are filled with things to discover; everyday items like drawers, cupboards and baskets can all be opened to uncover hidden items or additional information. 

You’ll also encounter a range of unique mini-games with rewards to collect, from simple games of chance to wood-cutting challenges or combat trials. 

Take the time to properly explore each area you visit and get the most from Shenmue’s world.

 

 
 

7. How do I get up to date with the story?

Sega released remastered versions of Shenmue I and II on PS4 in 2018, featuring upgraded visuals and optimised performance.