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We're a mere handful of months away from finally - finally! - being able to play Shenmue 3, and if you're one of the backers of a certain tier of Yu Suzuki's hugely anticipated return you're just over a month from being able to play a slice of the belated follow-up.
Kickstarter backers have received details of a forthcoming demo which is currently scheduled to drop 'the second half of September'. It'll offer a standalone act around Shenmue 3's starting area, Bailu Village, and will offer around an hour's worth of play - with the option to go back and replay it as many times as you want 'until the trial expires'. There'll be no cross-save with the full version of Shenmue 3, which is coming in November.
It sounds sort of similar to What's Shenmue?, a demo that launched before the original game that had you tracking down Sega's then managing director Hidekazu Yukawa, the final scene depicting him surrounded by boxes and boxes of unsold Dreamcast consoles. Late 90s Sega really was the greatest.
Epic boss Tim Sweeney has announced Epic will fund all Kickstarter refunds for any future games that go exclusive on the platform.
Following the announcement that backers of Shenmue 3 who aren't happy with the year period of Epic exclusivity will receive refunds, Sweeney took to Twitter to explain Epic will settle the bill "so that refunds won't reduce Ys Net's development funding".
In a follow up tweet he added that with future crowdfunded Epic-exclusive titles, the company will "coordinate with colleagues at the other stores to ensure key availability, or guarantee refunds at announcement time".
Ys Net has provided Kickstarter backers of Shenmue 3 with an update regarding the fallout surrounding the game's exclusivity to the Epic Game Store - and will be providing refunds to unsatisfied customers, while more patient ones can wait a year for a Steam key so they can play on the platform of their choice.
The update comes in the wake of the news - revealed at last month's E3 - that, upon its release later this year, Shenmue 3 would now be an Epic Game Store exclusive on PC. Further clarity was provided that Shenmue 3 would be coming to Steam at a later date, while today Ys Net provided a more definitive statement.
"As noted in the updates and survey at launch, we had originally planned for PC distribution through Steam," says the update circulated to Kickstarter backers. "Taking publishing and sales considerations into account, Ys Net and Deep Silver agreed to our partnership with Epic Games Store on PC version distribution. As a publishing partner, Deep Silver has greatly contributed not only to sales and marketing, but to scaling up the game so there is more Shenmue III to begin with. Also, Epic Games has been with us from the start of the project when we adopted Unreal Engine 4 for development, and have given us their support throughout the development process.
Shenmue 3 developer Ys Net insists it is "listening to [fan] concerns" and will "assess the situation and together find a way forward to justify the trust you placed in us" once its back in the office after E3.
The "situation", of course, was last week's confirmation that the eagerly-anticipated sequel had been locked into a timed PC exclusive on Epic Game Store. Emotions were further heightened when Ys Net and its publishing partner Deep Silver also confirmed "refunds will not be granted" for those upset the game will not be coming to Steam at the same time.
Now, however, Ys Net has issued a further statement confirming it is listening to fan dissatisfaction.
Predictably, not everybody was thrilled when Shenmue 3 was announced as an Epic Games Store exclusive on PC (he says, underplaying it wildly). The major sticking point was in Shenmue 3 being a crowdfunded game and a Steam release being heavily suggested and expected. Steam logos were on marketing materials, Steam game keys talked about in pledge tiers, and a Shenmue 3 Steam page has been around and updated for a long time. But as of last night, when the Epic Games Store announcement was made, this suddenly changed.
Whether or not you want to use the Epic Games Store is one thing, but another issue is the underlying trust in a developer which suddenly pivots like this. And trust was shaken further when Ys Net and Deep Silver, the publisher, refused to offer people refunds on their Kickstarter pledges.
"This is greedy and underhanded," one fan wrote on Kickstarter - echoing a general sentiment. "If you won't provide Steam keys than you had better offer a refund. That's what decent campaigns do when they drop a platform."
Shenmue 3 made a brief appearance at this year's PC Gaming Show, revealing its take on the classic QTE chase scenes and a brief glimpse of combat - and also unveiling the news that it'll be an Epic Games Store exclusive on PC.
'Development for Shenmue 3 has been moving forward using Unreal Engine and the support we have received from Epic has been excellent," developer Ys Net said in an official Kickstarter update. "Most importantly, in looking for the most enjoyable experience on PC, it was decided together with Deep Silver after much discussion that the Epic Games Store would be the best distribution platform option."
It's likely to be an unpopular move, but can we at least all agree that Shenmue 3 looks... Well, just like Shenmue. The new trailer also revealed the returning English voiceover cast, with Corey Marshall picking up his detached reading of lead Ryo Hazuki. How will it all pan out? There's not that much longer left to find out, although the recent small delay did put release back to November 19th.
Shenmue 3's release date has been shunted back again. Previously due for launch this August, the long-awaited threequel will now arrive on 19th November.
In a blog post issued to fans today, publisher Deep Silver and creator Yu Suzuki said the game was "almost ready".
Here's the brief message in full:
It's the news every Shenmue fan wanted to hear - the upcoming third game will see the return of forklifts.
Revealed in a new image from publisher Koch Media, it shows Ryo hard at work driving a forklift truck in a factory setting.
We already knew Ryo could get a job in Shenmue 3, but this is the first look at exactly what he can get up to.
With a few short months until its release this August, we finally got our first proper look at Shenmue 3 in action courtesy of a new trailer unveiled at this weekend's Magic festival in Monaco. And it looks exactly like Shenmue - news that will probably delight as many as it disgusts.
We get to see Ryo, Lan Di, Shenhua and an extended look at the new, more pastoral backdrop of Guilin as well as the introduction of several new characters. There's a cartoon sheen to the designs - which, it's worth remembering, is in keeping with the original games. The fighting, too, looks faithful to the Dreamcast originals - a boon for traditionalists, though there's a stiffness there that many, myself included, were hoping might have been ironed out for a more contemporary release.
Really, though, it looks exactly what you'd expect a revival handled by a relatively small team on a comparatively miniscule budget - the original Shenmue was famously, at the time, the most expensive video game production - would look like. If anything it's surpassed my own expectations, and I'm looking forward to the release later this year even more.
The developer of Shenmue 3 has declared its crowdfunding over and a $7.1m total raised.
To be specific, $7,179,510 from 81,087 backers.
Shenmue 3's Kickstarter raised $6,333,295 from 69,320 backers before it ended, so nearly $800,000 was raised from slacker-backers in the time since up to September 2018.