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Shenmue 3 release date, trailer and exclusivity

Shenmue fans have been through a lot.

They watched the first Shenmue take off like a rocket, capturing hearts and minds all over the place. And then they watched that game's home console, the Sega Dreamcast, crash and burn.

But then the Xbox came along, and Sega struck a deal to bring a number of its titles to Microsoft's new machine, including Shenmue 2. "The series lives!" they exclaimed. Or so they thought. After Shenmue 2, the series went dormant. And that period of dormancy lasted for years. And years. And years.

Every once in a while, series producer Yu Suzuki would pop up to say that he'd love to make a new Shenmue game. Series devotees would get excited and tell all of their friends. The internet — as different as it was then — would light up with chatter about a new Shenmue. But it never came.

Until now.

Shenmue 3's release is just around the corner. And wow, what a ride it's been. After all of the false starts and all of the heartbreak, we're finally getting a new Shenmue game. And below, we're going to tell you everything about it: when it's coming out, where you can play it, what you can expect to see, and more. So strap in: you're never going to see the word Shenmue more than you're about to below.

Shenmue 3 is set to release in November 2019

Kickstarter games are notorious for their delays; that's just the way it is. These games are relying on crowdfunding to pay at least some of their development costs, which means teams can't go too crazy hiring or determining a scope until they know how much money they'll have. Not only that, but plans change. Just like any normally funded game, developers might discover they bit off more than they can chew, or there might be a new feature they want to sneak in.

Shenmue 3 endured several delays, but really, none of those are important anymore. The game now has an official release date, one that looks like it'll stick.

Shenmue 3 comes to PlayStation 4 and PC on Nov. 19, 2019. And you know what? That's a pretty aggressive choice for a release date. The fall is typically packed in the video game space, with major franchises like Call of Duty always seeming to pop up in that window. This year, Shenmue 3 is putting itself right in the same area as Death StrandingStar Wars: Jedi – Fallen OrderPokemon Sword & Shield, and Doom Eternal. That's gutsy. But it could mean the Shenmue team believes it genuinely has something special, and that's good news.

Shenmue 3 will be exclusive to PlayStation 4 on console

For just a moment in time, Xbox One fans were excited about Shenmue 3, because it looked like the game might be coming to their console.

A Twitter user named @Wario64 — infamous for their leaks — found mentions of "Xbox" in the source code of Shenmue 3's pre-order page. Instantly word got around the internet, and it looked as though Shenmue 3 would be a multi-platform release. And it would've made sense! After all, the remastered versions of Shenmue and Shenmue 2 also came to Xbox One. The Shenmue series has some history with Xbox. Why not?

Unfortunately, publisher Deep Silver came along to shut the party down, tweeting, "There is no planned version of Shenmue 3 for Xbox One."

And that's all there is to it. It appears that Shenmue 3 is destined to remain a console exclusive for PlayStation 4. And we know what you're thinking: what about Nintendo Switch? You can probably forget about that, too. Shenmue has never appeared on a Nintendo console, and there are no signs of that changing.

The game's trailer promises that Shenmue 3 won't venture far from its predecessors

Are you hoping for Shenmue 3 to be a prettier, more modern-day version of the Shenmue titles you might've played on the Dreamcast and the Xbox all those years ago? It sure looks like you're going to get your wish. We've gotten to see some of the new game in action, along with some cutscenes from what we presume is the game's campaign. And it looks like vintage Shenmue.

You'll talk to a lot of people. You'll chase bad guys through the streets. You'll engage in quick-time-heavy Virtua Fighter-esque battles. And Ryo will say "okay" a lot.

Nothing in this trailer should frighten anyone who wants Shenmue 3 to stay true to the formula. This is still a Yu Suzuki game, after all. He has some of his friends from past Shenmue titles working with him. There's a reason Sega trusted Suzuki and his team with the Shenmue license: because the company knew they'd take care of it.

Will anyone but the hardest of hardcore Shenmue fans be interested in that kind of game, though? That is the question.

Shenmue 3 has pre-order bonuses, but not for backers

Thinking about pre-ordering Shenmue 3? If so, you might get a few extras along with the game. Several retailers are offering bonus items for Shenmue 3 if you front your money for a pre-order, but interestingly enough, none of that content will be free for the Kickstarter backers who made Shenmue 3 possible.

Everyone who pre-orders Shenmue 3 will receive a "Blazing Kick" technique scroll, which teaches Ryo that special maneuver. They'll also get 25 game tickets, which can be exchanged in Shenmue 3 for capsule toys. Playing tokens will be dished out for customers who want to do a little gambling in the game (5,000 tokens, to be exact). And those securing a copy of the game early will be gifted three bottles of Snake Power, which provides Ryo with additional energy during fights.

But of course, there can't be pre-orders without store-exclusive content. Amazon customers will get a unique outfit called "Kenpogi Training Wear." Those buying from Best Buy will be entitled to a Limited Edition Steelbook. And lastly, those picking up Shenmue 3 from GameStop will receive some (actually rather cool) collectors items: a Dragon Mirror medallion and a Phoenix Mirror medallion.

Can you play Shenmue 3 if you haven't played the other games?

Here's a question a lot of people are asking about Shenmue 3: "If I'm new to the series, can I still play it?" It's an entirely valid thing to ask, and honestly, we wish we had more of a solid answer for you on that topic. Unfortunately, not much has been said about Shenmue 3's friendliness toward those unfamiliar with the franchise.

What we can do, however, is look to the past for a potential answer.

When Shenmue 2 arrived on the Xbox in 2002, it came as a bit of an oddity. It was a sequel to a game that was originally released on a competing platform, and thus, came without much context for those who'd never owned a Dreamcast. Fortunately, Sega had a solution: along with Shenmue 2 on Xbox, it bundled another disc full of the first game's cinematics. It was hoped players would watch this disc to get caught up on the story, and then jump into Shenmue 2 having a better understanding of what was going on.

Could something similar happen with Shenmue 3? It's hard to say. The large gap of time in between Shenmue 2 and Shenmue 3 certainly warrants it. Then again, Sega recently published remasters of Shenmue and Shenmue 2 for PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One. So if you don't get any help from Shenmue 3 in terms of catching up on the full Shenmue saga, you could always lean on the remasters for a bit of a refresher.

It's been almost 18 years since we've seen Shenmue

It's been a really long time since we've seen a new game in the Shenmue series; nearly 18 years, in fact. Do you know how long that is? There are people who were born after the release of the last Shenmue title who are entering their senior year of high school. In video game time, that is ancient history.

The game we're speaking about is 2002's Shenmue 2. It was originally meant to release on the Dreamcast, but when that system was discontinued, Shenmue 2 then found a new home on the Xbox. Yes, the first Xbox; the one that looked like the kind of huge crate you'd store your tools in.

Dreamcast. Xbox. These consoles both came out right around the turn of the century, back when the kind of open world found in Shenmue was new and remarkable. Now it seems like every game has an open world. And now, 18 years later, we're going to see what the next game does to catch up to the rest of the crowd.

Here's why the Shenmue series is so revered ...

The Shenmue series holds a special place in a lot of people's hearts, and to understand why, you really need the context of the first game's release date. The original Shenmue debuted on Dec. 29, 1999, and at that time, open worlds weren't what they are now. They were barren. Uninteresting. They didn't feel lived in. They were more about looking like a place and less about capturing its atmosphere.

Shenmue had atmosphere in droves.

Kotaku writer Keza MacDonald nailed it as she explained her love of Shenmue and its world: "You could walk around wherever you wanted, doing mundane things; visiting the arcade, the convenience store, the park, a part-time job. These daily rituals slowly deepened my familiarity with [the game's city of] Yokosuka until it felt not like a fictional place I'd visited, but an actual place I'd lived."

Shenmue 2 accomplished similar ends, giving you areas of Hong Kong to explore, tempting you with the various attractions you'd come across. It was immersive; both games were. Both games were impressive in their ability to make you feel connected to the place Ryo was in. And in that, they were ahead of their time.

Of course, not everyone feels so strongly about Shenmue's place in history. But if you've been wondering why the series has so many fans — and why so many are eagerly awaiting Shenmue 3 — now you know.

... and why some believe this long-awaited title won't hold up

Don't be mistaken about the amount of excitement there is surrounding Shenmue 3, however. There are a lot of fans on the hype train, but that doesn't mean everyone is all that excited to dive back into the world of Shenmue. It's been a very long time, after all. Video games are quite different now.

For all we know, Shenmue 3 could end up being a total disaster.

There are definitely some red flags popping up that we should take note of. Some have played a demo of Shenmue 3 and found it felt just like the old games in the worst way possible. There are also some concerns about the game's voice acting work and the combat being a little too "stiff" by today's standards.

Our own Nathan Simmons fears Shenmue 3 could "turn out to be something of a relic, as well as a letdown years in the making." That's not impossible; the game is straddling a very fine line between nostalgia and what the gamers of today want to see. How well it balances the two will ultimately determine how well the game is received.

And to know that, we can't use a crystal ball. We'll have to wait until November.

Shenmue 3 will continue Ryo's story in China

We don't want to spoil too much of the Shenmue story for you; after all, remasters of the first two games released fairly recently, which means you don't need to dig out a Dreamcast or an Xbox to go back and play them. What we do feel comfortable saying, though, is that the first Shenmue took place in Japan, and the second took main character Ryo from Japan to Hong Kong, China.

In Shenmue 3, Ryo will continue his adventures in China. Though it appears the story will be less about him this time around.

The International Business Times reports that Shenmue 3 will only concentrate on furthering Ryo's personal story to a fractional degree. The rest will be more about building out the version of China Ryo is currently exploring. He'll take on quests from characters in the world, tackle other situations as they pop up, and spend time getting to know the Chinese countryside.

Ryo's own personal mission will take more of a backseat in Shenmue 3. And there's a very good reason for that.

Some of the original Shenmue development team returns

Former Shenmue producer Yu Suzuki managed to get permission from Sega to make a new game in the series. That's great! But how much could he possibly do on his own? He certainly didn't make either of the last two Shenmue titles by himself; he had a team.

Good news: some of those team members are also working on Shenmue 3. A company called Neilo is also helping out with Shenmue 3. Takeshi Hirai of Neilo previously worked on the first Shenmue as the chief programmer. And Kotaku also reports that Suzuki worked to "[gather] other key members of the development team for the original game." So while we don't have specific names, that's a pretty good sign for Shenmue 3 staying true to its roots. It means Suzuki wants to make something that feels familiar to longtime fans.

Will it ultimately achieve that goal upon its release? We'll find out.

Shenmue 3 was announced as a Kickstarter project in 2015

As jacked as Shenmue fans were to hear about a brand new game in their favorite franchise, there was the slightest bit of skepticism about the way the game was announced.

Shenmue 3 was rolled out on Sony's PlayStation stage at E3 2015, and at first, it looked like a complete steal for Sony and the PlayStation brand. Did Sony somehow acquire the Shenmue license? Did Sony nail down exclusivity for Shenmue 3 in exchange for funding the game? Wow, what a great move!

Unfortunately, reality set in. Shenmue 3 was definitely getting made with some help from Sony. But Sony had less to do with the game than it first appeared. Instead, Shenmue 3 was launching on Sony's stage as a Kickstarter project, meaning fans of Shenmue would have to chip in to ensure the game got made.

It didn't turn out to be much of an issue. Shenmue 3 hit its funding goals. The game started into development. All was well. But for a moment, the rug was pulled out from under Shenmue fans yet again, years after Shenmue 2 abandoned the Dreamcast in favor of the Xbox. It was not the best start.

Sega is licensing the Shenmue IP but is otherwise uninvolved

Shenmue is a Sega property, end of story. It debuted on the Dreamcast, it was developed by Sega, and it was published by Sega. In fact, there's a good chance some of you reading this right now believe that Sega is the company working on Shenmue 3. The series is so closely tied to the Japanese software company that the idea another company might work on Shenmue — and a totally different company might even publish it — might shock you.

That's exactly what's happening.

Sega is licensing Shenmue to a development studio called YSnet, which is headed up by former Sega employee and Shenmue producer Yu Suzuki. Not only that, Shenmue 3 will be published by Deep Silver. Sega will likely be making a bit of coin depending on how well Shenmue 3 does in the sales department, but otherwise, the company has nothing to do with the game at all. It's not dictating its development, and it's not marketing the title on the various platforms it's planned for.

You learn something new every day.

Shenmue 3 ditched a Steam launch in favor of Epic Games Store exclusivity

Shenmue 3 nearly made it to release without a major scandal. That's tough for a game to do; something always seems to come up in the eleventh hour to rile gamers up. But Shenmue 3 looked like it was headed toward clear skies and calm seas. That is, until the PC Gaming Show happened at E3.

Everyone at E3 got a brand new look at Shenmue 3 during the PC Gaming Show, which was great. But then the end of the trailer happened. That was not.

Completely changing the store you plan to launch your game on? That's not the best news to quietly deliver at the end of a video. It's especially not recommended when the store you're moving to is already under fire. PC gamers have some real beef with the Epic Games Store and its propensity to sign exclusives. It's managed to pull a bunch of games away from Steam — the preferred launcher for most PC gamers — and keep them on the Epic Games Store only.

Shenmue 3 went from being a Steam release to an Epic Games Store release in the blink of an eye, and Kickstarter backers were livid. Some complained online. Some even demanded their money back. Developer YSnet promised it would look into the deal, and that the EGS wasn't the only store Shenmue 3 would eventually sell on. But the damage had been done.

It remains to be seen if that damage ultimately hurts Shenmue 3's sales on PC.

Yu Suzuki wants to make more Shenmue games

Stop us if you've heard this one before: Yu Suzuki wants to make another Shenmue game. No, we didn't just pull that from the many articles you could find from 2001 on, where Suzuki repeatedly expressed his desire to continue the series. Suzuki is actually trying to leverage the development of Shenmue 3 into another game afterward.

Yes, Yu Suzuki wants to ensure there is a Shenmue 4 at some point. The best way to do that? Leave the story incomplete.

When asked how far Shenmue 3 would take Ryo Hazuki's story, Suzuki used a water bottle as a prop. The full bottle represented the whole of Ryo's tale. And then he pointed to signal where the story would be after the new game. It was below the halfway point, or, as a translator offered, "40 percent."

Exactly how many Shenmue games does Suzuki want to make again? After three games, Ryo will only be 40% through? Yikes.

We'll have to see how successful Shenmue 3 is before we know if there'll ever be a Shenmue 4. But it sure seems like Suzuki will want a lot more than that. Stay tuned.