Now that the honeymoon’s long-since ended, the reception to Shenmue 3 is mixed at best. While it did stay faithful to the formula of the Dreamcast originals, it barely moved the fiction forwards – a disappointment considering fans had waited 18 long, torturous years for the release. It’s unlikely we’ll ever get a fourth entry, of course, but speaking in an interview with IGN, series creator Yu Suzuki has hinted he’s considered making a prequel next.
“I want Shenmue 4 to be enjoyable for newcomers,” he said, as part of the promotional tour for the upcoming arcade shooter Air Twister. “To make that possible, the most important thing is to make it enjoyable without knowing previous events in the story. I don't think that a new player wants to know 100 percent of the story. 20 or 30 percent could be enough.”
He added: “In Shenmue 3, we implemented a digest movie that teaches the player the main events of the previous games, but for Shenmue 4 I want to integrate that part into the main game. It would be great if the player could naturally learn about previous events just by playing the game. For example, rather than watching a separate movie, having playable flashbacks could be a way to do it.”
Asked if he’d considered a prequel, Suzuki admitted: “Yes, I have. I cannot go into detail at this point, but it is something I have been thinking about. I think recreating the streets of Dobuita with modern visuals on a new engine alone would make it worth doing. It also connects to the topic of not simply expanding in size. Making an even more detailed Dobuita than the original Shenmue is an interesting idea, especially if it's not a remake but a prequel with a new story.”
The problem here is that most fans are interested in the story of protagonist Ryo Hazuki, and want to see some kind of resolution to his pursuit of Lan Di. While there are plenty of gaps in the fiction that could potentially be filled, the idea of creating a prequel without ever rounding out the main story seems like a bad idea to us.
Unfortunately, Suzuki was eager to stress that he’s not currently working on any Shenmue games, even though he does have some ideas. And considering the crowdfunding boom is not what it was when Shenmue 3 was announced, while a number of fans were generally disappointed by the third game, we sadly can’t see the series ever continuing at this point in time – prequel or not.