Sony featured Shenmue 3 and its Kickstarter on their E3 livestream, and the Kickstarter is now live and rapidly getting funded towards its $ million goal.
Sony made it clear they decided to feature the crowdfund for the sake of their fans. The Kickstarter itself is a completely independent project by Yu Suzuki and his former coworkers, in the same vein that the late Kenji Eno’s final game, Kakexun, is fully independent. This means they are not getting any funding from Sony, they have no secret backers or publishers such as Deep Silver, and, in fact, it’s all just them. As Yu Suzuki says straightforwardly, the game will not be made if it is not fully funded.
For those of you too young to remember, Shenmue is one of the first open world games ever made, renowned for its vibrant world and nonlinear gameplay. Unlike Grand Theft Auto’s willingness to break with reality for gameplay, Shenmue strove to simulate many aspects of real life, including a day and night system, weather effects, multiple interactive elements, and more. These aspects of the game both repelled and attracted gamers, for being so hard to parse through, but rewarding if you could run with them.
The original two Shenmue games were released on consoles by Sony’s competitors. The first two games came out on the Dreamcast, owned by the game’s original publisher Sega, and the second game received a special edition release on the first Xbox.
On their Kickstarter pitch they explain that Shenmue 3 will pick up were Shenmue 2 left off. Protagonist Ryo Hazuki has finally made his way to China, with a new companion, Shenhua, and is on the road to tracking down the Chi You men cartel and his father’s killer, Lan Di.
Shenmue 3 is planned for release on PC and PlayStation 4 and will be built on Unreal Engine 4. Joining Suzuki from the original staff of the game is lead programmer Takeshi Hirai, script writer Masahiro Yoshimoto, character designer Kenji Miyawaki, composer Ryuji Iuchi, and more. They even signed up the original voice actor for Ryo, Masaya Matsukaze.
Many things have changed since Shenmue’s original release. While the original game was the most expensive game ever made in its own time, this is partly due to all the effects AM2 had to come up with on their own. With tools like Unreal 4 and advances in technology, as well as new ideas like Kickstarter, Suzuki can create Shenmue 3 independently. Suzuki also promises they are being pragmatic about getting the game finished versus constantly increasing its scale.
As of this writing Shenmue 3 is almost a quarter to its base goal. You can help fund the game on Kickstarter here.