Sega is in my blood. I grew up with the blazing blue ball of speed that is Sonic The Hedgehog, spent countless hours in the phantastic worlds of the Phantasy Star phranchise, dominated in Virtua Fighter and Fighting Vipers (seriously, if you want to play a great fighting game… check out Fighters Megamix), and hailed the Dreamcast as the greatest videogame console ever made. I loved the Dreamcast, the awkward cable placement on the controllers, the pretty graphics, and all the games… especially Shenmue.
Shenmue really surprised me when I started playing it over a decade ago by presenting a world that felt alive. I love a good adventure game (and Shenmue is a great adventure game), but (especially back then) they rarely ever created such an expansive world that allowed the player so much freedom. Yu Suzuki broke the mold of the conventions of gaming with Shenmue and crafted something beautiful and innovative.
The story of Shenmue is a tale of revenge as Ryo Hazuki sets out to find the man who killed his father and uncover the secrets of his father’s past. It’s a simple enough premise, but it gets deeper and more involved as you progress and encounter more interesting revelations... and then it ends with “To Be Concluded.” The last we heard of Ryo Hazuki and his epic tale was 2002 on the original XBOX with the North American release of Shenmue II, and the game… just… ends. I was initially excited when I saw that because it meant that I’d be playing Shenmue III someday, but that day has yet to come and I have grown to realize that cliffhanger, “To Be Continued” type endings suck because of this decade-long letdown.
Since the release of the second installment, there has been little news and much disappointment with the Shenmue franchise—Shenmue III was never announced or released, Shenmue Online was canned, and then we heard news about a new Shenmue game and got all excited only to find out that it’s a mobile phone title. Most recently, Yu Suzuki has been playing with our emotions again by teasing us with possibilities that the Shenmue franchise might have a future, but I know better than to get my hopes up too soon.
But… what if? Wouldn’t it be nice if Sega was actually letting Yu Suzuki work on the final installment of the classic adventure series? Wouldn’t it be nice if the mobile game and all this teasing is to increase the buzz around the franchise so they can release to more success than the Dreamcast and XBOX games did? I think a great way to even better increase that buzz (and provide players who have never experienced some of the greatest games ever made a chance to do so) would be to re-release the first two installments and end them with a sincere promise that Shenmue III is coming.
With all the HD re-releases these days, it would be nice to see Shenmues I & II get a fresh coat of paint and another chance to shine in a new age of gaming. I mean, Beyond Good & Evil (another underperforming adventure title from the past) was just given a second chance on XBLA recently, so why not Shenmue?
Shenmue holds a special place in my heart—as I’m sure it does with many gamers out there—and, for all of us who experienced (yes, experienced… you don’t freaking play Shenmue, you experience it), we have been waiting patiently to find out how the story concludes. I would be more than willing to buy the Shenmue games again, and I’m sure there are many, many people out there who feel the same way. Sega, if you have a heart, please… please make this happen (and give us Shenmue III, dammit!).