Shenmue III received its first PlayStation 4 teaser trailer this week, and it came in for some criticism. While the environments showcased certainly looked impressive, many felt disappointed with the title’s wax-work character models and non-existent facial animations. Speaking with various Japanese publications (translated by Gematsu), the legendary director has addressed fans’ concerns, stressing that much of the work is temporary – and the facial animations were actually removed from the clip.

While the SEGA veteran didn’t clarify why the facial animations were cut, he did promise that improvements would be made. In fact, it sounds like signing a publishing agreement with Deep Silver has allowed developer Ys Net to not only spend longer making the game – but also increase its scope, too. The auteur predicts that the campaign will take some 30 hours to complete, which is much longer than was originally intended.

But what will you spend that time doing? Well, as in past entries, there’ll be employment for protagonist Ryo Hazuki to find – this time in the form of wood cutting. Fishing will also feature, and you’ll be able to sell on certain types that you catch for cash. Suzuki has also hinted that the franchise’s famous forklift truck racing will return – although we’re curious to see how it’s going to be implemented in the rural Chinese setting that the title takes place in.

Ryo’s original voice actors – Masaya Matsukaze in Japanese and Corey Marshall in English – have both signed up for the project, though a new actress is being scouted for Shenhua. One interesting thing is that the game’s battle system is being rebuilt from scratch, and thus won’t be leveraging Virtua Fighter’s system like previous entries. While this is to be expected, Suzuki notes that he wants the battles to be more about judgement than “timing input skills”.

There’s lots of interesting information here. On the one hand, we’re pretty excited because it sounds like Yu Suzuki knows what needs to be done to improve the product – and he seems to have a good vision of where it needs to go. But with just over a year of development left, so much still seems up in the air that we can’t help but question whether it’ll even make 2018. This sounds like a 2019 game to us – and late 2019 at that. 

[via gamespark.jp, game.watch.impress.co.jp, famitsu.com, gematsu.com]