Shenmue failed for a number of reasons. I’d argue it was too awesome for normal people, but others insist it was slow-going, chock full of stupid “That day it rained…” plot, and ultimately boring. The Shenmue games also cost huge amounts of money to develop – many reports approximated a cost of $20 million (Wikipedia simultaneously claims $20 and $70 million) and the first game in the series was supposedly entered into the Guinness Book of World Records for being the most expensive game that had been yet been produced.
Sega would presumably allow development of Shenmue 3 if it weren’t such a huge risk. A costly game that sells poorly is never an attractive prospect to accountants. Deciding the MMO format may make them a profit, Sega has dashed hopes of Shenmue 3. Shenmue Online, if it is ever released, will likely not be what rabid Shenmue fans want. And when Shenmue Online also bombs, it will likely signal the end of the series altogether.
Yu Suzuki should follow the four Wude by doing what is right – releasing Shenmue 3.
But consider the following: If Shenmue 3 were developed on the Wii instead of the PS3 or 360, the game would only cost Sega something like five million dollars. This is a huge difference from the 30 million it’d cost on a competing console (cost approximations from Bloomberg) Even at triple the cost of an average Wii game, Shenmue 3 would cost Sega less than the original game did six years ago. Add the Wii’s worldwide success thus far and the lack of big name third party titles on the platform and Shenmue 3 seems like a sure hit. Developing on the Wii should give risk averse Sega little risk to even be averse to.
Critics of the Wii have often focused on the system’s weak processing power. It is also a fact that the first two Shenmue games were beautiful. These two statements seem to indicate that the Wii is the wrong home for Shenmue 3. This stance seems valid, but the series was beautiful not because of just sheer polygon processing. Shenmue was unique because of the excruciating attention to detail. There have been a ton of games that look better than the Shenmue series but few have a similar visual impact. There is something special about watching the fountain outside the Hazuki dojo fill with water then spill it back into the pond below, or wandering around a Chinese warehouse and opening every single door just to see if you can.
Most of the game mechanics would translate fully to the Wii control scheme. Wandering around China or Japan (or maybe even Canada…Nazomi!) could easily be done with the nunchuck ala Twilight Princess. The Virtua Fighter battle system the game employees consists really of only three buttons. Combinations of button presses were mapped to the Dreamcast controller, but they are unnecessary. The Wiimote could have punch and kick mapped to A and B and Z on the nunchuck could be used for guarding. Attack and defense being separated may be odd at first but it’s at least an easy psychological separation.
Then there are the ways Shenmue 3 would actually be improved because of the Wii hardware. Virtual console games in the arcades Ryo visits, Mii figurines for purchase in toy machines and weather that responds to the forecast channel would all be cool, but motion controls are by far the most exciting prospect of a Wii Shenmue. The Quick Time Event scenes in Shenmue are always fun to watch, but simply tapping buttons does little to assuage the feeling you’re basically watching a movie. Punching, jumping, and diving side to side would be significantly more engaging if the player actually needed to do these things to control Ryo. It’s very likely the re-release of Resident Evil 4 will tie motion controls to the QTE scenes in that game. The idea is too obvious and good to ignore. It’s almost hard to imagine how titillating moving books and catching leaves would be on the Wii.
Shenmue 3 on the Wii would not cost Sega much and would be available to a rapidly growing market of over six million consumers. The combination of rock solid Virtua Fighter fighting mechanics, new and immersive motion controlled QTE and traditional Shenmue style story telling all in one package would likely cure most major diseases, end wars and alleviate famine. Let Sega know they have a duty to the planet to produce Shenmue 3 on the Wii.