Shenmue III Interview: Yu Suzuki Talks Gameplay, Tech, Romance, PS4, PC, Frame Rate and Much More

We smiled, laughed and even cried when legendary Shenmue creator Yu Suzuki announced Shenmue III on Sony Computer Entertainment’s stage at E3, and during my latest trip to Tokyo, I had a chance to talk with the man himself about the game, and on what we can expect in the future.

Suzuki-san talked about many interesting factors like gameplay, what kind of romance we’ll find in the game, the relationship with Sega, the platforms, technical elements like the use of Unreal Engine 4 and the tentative frame rate on PS4, and he even gave some uplifting details on how a talented fan like Nocon Kid joined the team behind the title.

Without further ado, you can check out what he told me just below.

Giuseppe: First of all, thank you for your time. We are very honored to be able to ask you some questions in person. How is development going?

Yu Suzuki: It’s going very well. We’re currently testing the Unreal Engine 4. We’re also undergoing testing for maps of the three areas that will make up Shenmue III.

G: How is the process of improving the character visuals since the early prototypes proceeding?

YS: They are being improved. Also, the person who originally created Shenhua, is collaborating with us on her character. Thanks to him, Shenhua is looking a lot cuter.

G: Will there be many new main characters introduced in Shenmue III that never appeared in previous Shenmue games?

YS: Yes, of course there will be.

G: Do you have any hints about those characters?

YS: There will be many new characters. There are the four main bosses. There will be Lan Di from the previous games, and two more fighters. One of those is an extremely beautiful and sexy, but cruel woman. I briefly introduced her image in Shenmue II, but in Shenmue III she will have a proper and extensive role. The last one, on the other hand, is strategist using more cunning than head-on fighting.

YuSuzuki

G: Personally, I feel that modern games lack a bit in romance, which is baffling considering how deeply rooted it is in other media like movies and anime. How important is romance going to be in Shenmue III?

YS: Yes, it will be an important topic in Shenmue III, and I will try to portray the differences in how men and women think in the game.

G: How extensive is the weather system going to be? Can we expect the whole range between sun and snow? Will it be dynamic?

YS: Yes, it will be dynamic. I would like to improve the quality compared to Shenmue II. Also the mornings and evenings, the lighting of sunsets and sunrises will be really beautiful.

G:  The game is partly set in the depths of a mountain region. Will we be able to explore every part of the map and actually climb those mountains, or there will be areas we won’t be able to reach?

YS: There will be areas of the map where you cannot go like in Shenmue II, you won’t be able to explore everything.

G: Could you explain what the “AI Battling” part of the seven million stretch goal entails?

YS: It’s a system that will make the character respond intelligently to the commands given by the player during battle. With simple commands you’ll be able to execute complex techniques.

At this point Suzuki-san showcased how it’ll work visually, showing that if the player and the enemy are not correctly aligned, pressing the punch button without the system would cause the player to hit the air, punching straight in front of him. With this intelligent system, the character will perform steps to dynamically align with the enemy, coming at them with a hook motion. 

Another example shown by Suzuki-san involved a situation with a wall close to the character and the enemy, with the character jumping on the wall and then punching the enemy in mid-air in a movie-like attack.  You can enjoy his demonstration in the video below.

G: Besides the AI Battling, What are the biggest changes to your new vision for combat compared to the previous games of the series?

YS: Controls will be simpler than in the past, and combat will be more cinematic. It will look more like a movie.

G: Lately, you mentioned that Chai is going to return in Shenmue III. That surprised many within the community. Can you share more details on how is that going to happen?

YS: That’s a secret for now (laughs).

G: 2017 is still quite far. Are there any plans to tide fans over with the release of Shenmue-related content? For instance, some developers release short stories…

YS: There are no plans for short stories for now, but we will release new information to our backers once a month.

G: Have you ever thought of an anime to recap the story of the first two games?

YS: I have, but the rights for Shenmue and Shenmue II belong to Sega, so it isn’t just my decision.

G: Having worked in the voice acting field in the past, and having seen work on sequels or remakes of old anime series, I’m quite interested in the issue of older voice actors returning to new productions after their voice has changed, and sounds considerably older than the characters they need to portray. Would you prioritize getting the original voice actors back for each character, or do you prefer to employ younger actors that might sound more fitting to the part?

YS: For women, there’s no problem, because their voices do not change much. For men it’s different, because their voices do change, and it’s not just that. It’s been fifteen years since I created Shenmue and Shenmue II, so many voice actors actually retired.

Some voice actors have been requested by the fans, so I’m trying to bring them back, at least those whose voice did not change much.

Shenhua

G: Is Sega involved in any way in the project, or they just gave you the rights to create the game without being involved at all?

YS: It’s difficult to explain. I am the one who created Shenmue, so Sega allows me to take decisions for the game. They trust me because I know more about the workings of the game more than anyone else.

G: Was it difficult to convince Sega to let you create Shenmue III?

YS: There were no problems. Sega is very helpful and collaborative with me. They hope the best for Shenmue III. I actually still work for Sega as an adviser, so we have a very good relationship.

G: Is the game being developed first on PC or on PS4?

YS: It’s not so simple. The prototypes are being made on PC, but then production shifts to PS4, and then to PC again. It’s like PC, PS4, PC. It really depends on which phase of development we are in.

G: What frame rate are you aiming for on PS4?

YS: For the moment, I’m thinking about 30 frames per second. 60 might be too difficult, but I’m not sure yet.

G: What dictated the choice of Unreal Engine 4 for the game?

YS: It was the portrayal of colors, the shaders and the rendering engine. They’re close to the image I have for the world of Shenmue III. Unreal Engine 4 allows me to portray what I think the humidity and the smell of the world should be. If you see a scene in the desert, you will feel the dry air of the desert. I feel that I can bring those abstract qualities of climate and atmosphere to life using Unreal Engine 4.

G: Xbox executives talked about Shenmue quite a bit in the past over social media, and that’s why I was quite surprised to see the deal with Sony. I honestly expected to see you appear on Microsoft’s stage at E3. Was there any contact with Microsoft in the past year about making the game for their console?

YS: I’ll let you use your imagination on this one (laughs).

G: Do you play any games nowadays?

YS: I don’t really play other games, because if you play games it’s too easy to be influenced by them, and even if it is unintentional, one ends up losing their originality. On the other hand, I’m watching movies.

G: Are there any movies that inspired you? 

YS: For instance a Chinese movie named like Reign of Assassins [by Chao-Bin Su]. I really liked the fight scenes in that one. But there are many. There’s also Interstellar, and quite a few old movies like Casablanca and Roman Holiday.

Since you asked about romance, for the game I’m drawing inspiration more from old movies than from new ones, like Casablanca and Roman Holiday, and their idea of pure and platonic love. This is what I want to portray.

G: That’s why you’re going to implement phone calls between Ryo and Nozomi?

YS: Yes, and Americans look at Ryo and wonder why he’s not doing anything (laughs). I’m also watching many action movies like Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan movies. I really love Bruce Lee.

G: I heard that you hired Kid Nocon that created a Shenmue HD Remaster fan project to work on Shenmue III, how did that happen?

YS: Kid Nocon is a big fan of Shenmue. He recreated the image of Shenmue in Unreal Engine 3. Because of that I asked him to work on Shenmue III, since his work on CG was really high quality. Many fans already knew about him.

I met him during a lecture I had in Korea last year. I knew that he was Korean, and I wanted to meet him. He came to my lecture. During the autograph session afterwards, he introduced himself and I invited him to have a coffee together.

Nocon Kid told me he wanted to help with development and that he’d come to Japan as soon as I called him. After the successful Kickstarter I called him, and he came from Korea to come join us.

G: That’s a great story. So now he moved to Japan?

YS: Yes, now he lives here.

G: To conclude, would you like to give a message to the fans that followed you faithfully for all these years, and that can’t wait to play Shenmue III?

YS: We are really doing our best to create a great game, so hope you will continue to show your support for us.

Shenmue III‘s crowdfunding is still ongoing, and at the moment of this writing it’s sitting on $6,402,184, which is quite close to the stretch goal that will allow Suzuki-san and his team to implement the AI Battling system showcased in this interview. If you want to help with funding, you can do so here, and find the game’s official website here

Full Disclosure: the editor in charge of this article is among the 70,188 gamers who backed Shenmue III, and he’s damn proud of it.

[Interpretation by: Valeria Costarella]

Join the Discussion

  • Budgiecat

    Sega really needs to rerelease Shenmue I & II for HD Collection to help (themselves) promote this games potential success because there’s a great many gamers who never played the originals, so the hype is lost on them.

    Also, side note: I wonder if he’s been an advisor all this time, what the hell went wrong with Sega white washing Vanessa’s skin in Virtual Fighter 5. That was uncool lol

  • Joshyouare

    Funny because i remember all these developers bigging up how the good the ps4 is..
    60fps is like a blessing now a days jesus

    • CrusaderForever No Regret

      Well, it’s true but these developers are really pushing the tech. IMHO every game made on the PS4 could 60FPS and I would be over joyed by the graphics. But graphics are being pushed over the max so you have to set it at 30FPS for the maximum eye candy. I love the eye candy, I just don’t need really need it.

      • Leo Liu

        The best option will be that they give two graphical levels, a better one at 30fps, and a shittier one at better 60fps.

        • doog

          It’s annoying that people think that it works that way and is easily fixed. Frame rate maybe be bound to the limits of the cpu that are directly tied to the game’s mechanics and how it plays like view distance, ai and world building systems not just the gpu.

          • Leo Liu

            Just a hint, Final Fantasy XIV on PS4 has an option of two graphical settings between which you can get 30 and 60fps experiences.

            It’s possible, and it’s always possible if the game is designed that way. Sure it is hard when the game is finished, and you want to adjust the graphics to get a higher framerate. NFS Rivals on PC is a prime example of that, in which the game’s framerate is directly bounded with the online play refresh rate. But if they realized how stupid they were, they could have designed the game structure to be based on 60fps or even higher.

            Again, see FFXIV is an online game with no such limitations.

            There is nothing to do with CPU and GPU “limits”. If one game can run at 60fps, then every game COULD BE DESIGNED to run at 60fps. The design is the key.

          • doog

            Meh both of those games were designed to be able to run on ps3 hardware. Maybe that’s what it takes to make a 60fps game is sticking within the scope of last gen tech and with no evolution other then faster fps.

          • Giuseppe Nelva

            Actually, you’re incorrect. Final Fantasy XIV has an option with 720p, but neither 1080p or 720p offer 60 or 30 fps. The game is capped upwards at 60 in both settings, and uncapped downwards.

          • Leo Liu

            So was TLOU remastered a better example?

      • Ryo Shenmue

        Uncharted 4 is currently running on 60fps with some of the best graphics out there. I don’t know if the final version of the game is going to run at 60fps but it is now in a late stage of the development.

    • WTGHookshot

      They try implementing more in the games like better lighting, better physics, better AI, higher resolution textures, better shaders, more context sensitive actions, larger worlds, less in-game loading, better animations, better weather effects, more particle effects, larger amount of on-screen action, larger multiplayer, etc. These prevent them from doing 1080p, 60 fps. They have to make a sacrifice somewhere and the average, mainstream gamer doesn’t care too much about the whole 1080p, 60 fps quibbles.

      • Budgiecat

        there should be balance in the game development Force

      • Gary MacGregor

        Finally, someone gets it.

      • Leo Liu

        I used to like to play games on my PC until every game claims it’s running at 60 but in fact runs at 59 something which gives me horrible stuttering. And those that runs 30fps on PC are even more awful.

      • Starman

        Funny as I asked why people chose ps4 and everyone said because most games are 1080p!

        • WTGHookshot

          That’s why they chose a PS4 over an Xbox One, not why they decided to move from PS3/Xbox 360 to PS4.

      • tom

        fully agree with you so many 60 fps sexist nowadays:P

    • Ryo Shenmue

      Shenmue is a type of game that doesn’t need 60fps at all, it’s a slow game, not a fast and frenetic one like Bayonetta. Because of that and because it’s not as big as Fallout 4, The Witcher, etc…they could easily obtain the 60fps but apparently they’re pushing to get the better out of the game in other more important aspects(visuals, A.I., general performances, physics for the combat system).

  • Jonny

    “Full Disclosure: the editor in charge of this article is among the 70,188 gamers who backed Shenmue III, and he’s damn proud of it”
    Damn straight!

    • Budgiecat

      hey I pledged too what about me

      • Jonny

        I pledged too, lets blow our own trumpets

        (;◔ิз◔ิ)~♪♬

        • Netronader

          I thought you had to have a rib removed in order to do that?

          • Jonny

            Are you insinuating that I am performing auto fellatio?

      • Davie

        i pledged 600

    • Cudgiebat

      I pledged twice, once when it was first announced, then again when the PS4 physical version was announced, I loved the 1 and 2 on Dreamcast, some of my favorite games.

      • Jonny

        I pledged $120 and I’ve only played up till disk 3 of Shenmue 1 :3

        • Cudgiebat

          Just wait till you get to Shenmue 2, the story is excellent.

          • Jonny

            Better whip out NullDC then :p

    • CarolMacLaine

      we are an ocean indeed

  • CrusaderForever No Regret

    Wow, I really love this site. Great interview!

  • Noctis Lee

    “modern games lack a bit in romance”
    who care….!!??

    • Giuseppe Nelva

      I care. And since I was the one asking the questions…

      • Noctis Lee

        u dont say! outside gaming there r plenty of romance movie/drama u could watch

        • Jonny

          You’re missing the point…

          • Giuseppe Nelva

            Indeed he is.

        • Giuseppe Nelva

          I’m sure that you can get the point if you think really, really hard 😀

    • Budgiecat

      we all know you’re romantic for Giuseppe..

      • Noctis Lee

        pause on that doe
        stupid little cat! u dunno &h!t about human

        • Budgiecat

          with my cat instincts I could tell you swooned like a fujoshi when you heard his deep Italian accent with the broken English in the vid :3

          • Noctis Lee

            lmao!

    • Noctis Lee

      ya i just realizes i missing the point, ok good for u and ppl who care those boring mood, glad most games dun care about that

      • Ryo Shenmue

        Nobody really cares about your stupid comments, so we’re all good.

  • DanielGearSolid

    Great interview, no fishing for controversy. Dualshockers went from annoying to one of my favorite gaming sites in the past year or so

  • Carlo

    As someone who never played or heard of the previous installments I look forward to seeing this game and hopefully playing it. I hope it delivers

  • João Felipe Autran Apaes

    I wish this cinematic shit would just die already.

    • C4

      What dafuq are you talking about?

      Shenmue is an adventure by heart, one of the truest core genres of gaming.

      • João Felipe Autran Apaes

        I’m talking about game devopers wanting to make games more cinematic in style. I hate that shit, I want my games to be like games, not to be like movies.

        • C4

          Trying to make a movie-like game and to let oneself inspire by movies in terms of stuff like fighting and romance isn’t the same thing.

        • GamerAlligator

          Then don’t buy it. Shenmue series was made to be cinematic.

          • João Felipe Autran Apaes

            No it wasn’t, it was made to be an adventure and beat’em up game. If by cinematic you mean presentation, then I guess you’re correct, but when the cinematic starts to steer into the gameplay, that’s when it should stop.

            There’s a reason why The Order sucked so hard, it tried to hard so be like a movie, it forgot that it was a game. I don’t want Shenmue III to end up like that just because they’re trying to be more cinematic.

        • Ryo Shenmue

          He wasn’t talking about the general experience, he was talking about the COMBATS, which have always been inspired by japanese and chinese films in both Virtua Fighter and Shenmue.

    • KingKellogg The Waffle Haggler

      I like it.

  • C4

    Looking forward to Shenmue 3.

  • frank pikul

    man…Suzuki has a huge head

  • tilt

    It’s been a long time coming and we’re finally getting it.

  • KingKellogg The Waffle Haggler

    Go Shenmue!

  • JuneBug81

    Excellent interview. I’m a backer, and I too am “damn proud of it.” :) We achieved a miracle!

  • Arturo Salazar

    I pledged $300! :) <3 Shenmue

  • Lord Frieza

    How long damned

  • PerkyStep

    Well done, sir on your interview! l’ve never played a Shenmue game in my life.

  • Michael Norris

    I am one of those 70,188 gamers =).

  • Starman

    Should’ve asked if Sony paid for it to not be on xbox or could it still release on it.

  • Jonathan Dogey

    I wish people would understand, he asks for money to make the game for us. He wants to do many things for the game that just happen to cost money. There’s no greed in asking for what’s needed to make this game.

  • Tom

    I’m only a Slacker Backer. I really hope Shenmue III will turn out good. I’d like to see how Ryo looks now, he really needed some work on his face.

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  • Raphael Jarvis Sloan

    It’ll be very hard not to breakdown in tears when I can finally play this game, the wait was epic but to know it is happening fill me with an overwhelming amount of joy!