This is an interview with Yu Suzuki from the japanese site 4gamer.net published 2015-06-19.
Here translated by me.
Original article: http://www.4gamer.net/games/305/G030593/20150618126/
Among other things it brings up interesting new information about the 5 million dollar stretch goal; the character perspective system.
There is also a slight spoiler of a character that might appear, so those of you who want to play the game totally spoiler free should maybe avoid reading this.
here we go.
-- Thanks for being here.
YS: Thanks for having me. before jumping into questions I just want to make clear that Shenmue is a Kickstarter project and the scope and contents depend on the stretch goals.
-- Yeah, looking at the Kickstarter stretch goals there are the rapport system and skill tree and other added.
YS: We add more stretch goals so as more people pledge the scope of the game will get bigger. So as of now I can’t talk in detail about the mechanics of the game. What I’m able to accomplish will very much depend on the funds we can gather. I want to avoid telling too much and end up betraying those who have paid.
-- Under those circumstances, what do you want to do with Shenmue III?
YS: I want to show the relationship between Ryo and Shenhua in more detail. Even further than previous games.
-- It’s kind of hard to imagine how that would work.
YS: Maybe so. I want to to challenge myself, but new things are hard to get people to understand and therefore harder to gain support for. That’s one of the reasons we have prepared stretch goals like larger map and mini games.
-- So you made easy to understand stretch goals first.
YS: As more money comes in, the world of Shenmue III gets larger, and the game becomes more complete. But if it becomes a question of what game has the largest world, the game with the largest budget has a sure advantage. When it comes to Shenmue III, I want to ensure that there are other parts to enjoy besides just the open world aspects.
-- Can you give us any examples?
YS: At 3.2 million dollars there is the rapport system stretch goal. Actions and conversations will affect the relation between Ryo and Shenhua in subtle ways. The way Shenhua speaks and cooperate etc. will change.
-- It seems like the story could change depending on the relationship.
YS: Let’s just say that it depends on the budget. Making statements like that is just asking for trouble (laugh).
-- I get it (laugh). Could you explain the 5 million dollar stretch goal; the character perspective system?
YS: That is where the player will take control of characters like Shenhua and Ren instead of Ryo.
-- At a certain point in the game will we be able to change characters freely?
YS: I can’t talk about details yet, so I will just say that it’s not necessarily like we are letting you control the other characters exactly like Ryo.
-- So it’s not like you can just change characters at will.
YS: The personality of Ren and Shenhua is different from Ryo, so even if they see the same thing the reactions would be different. When you played as Ryo it was his decisions, but playing as Ren and Shenhua would make it very interesting.
-- Hearing that makes me even more interested (laugh).
YS: I’m unable to describe it any more until the 5 million dollar stretch goal is reached, so I’ll stop here for today.
-- By the way, will the story end with this part.
YS: To tell the truth, the original story is too long to end here. So I decided against trying to fit it all in to Shenmue III.
-- Which means that after the Shenmue III project has been finished we have to wait for the the next part.
YS: First we have to do our best to make Shenmue III a solid game.
-- Let’s leave the appearance of Shenmue III and talk about the backend. Can you tell us why you chose to use Unreal Engine 4?
YS: It’s because it’s easy to use and fits with how I imagine Shenmue to look. There are like rendering tendencies for the different engines, and the base colors of Unreal Engine 4 added with “dampness and scent” makes it Shenmue.
-- Are the colors you imagine the same as with the first two parts?
YS: Of course. Shenmue had that air humidity feeling well presented and it had a smell too. That’s what I aim for with Shenmue III.
-- So you’re saying that if you take a scenery out of the game and look at it you’d be able to say “That’s Shenmue!”?
YS: Yeah, That’s what I want to do. But the promotional video we made for Kickstarter felt dry. Kind of ended up like the Californian humidity level (laugh).
-- Your idea of the exact colors or the “scent” of the graphics, is it hard to convey that to the developers?
YS: It it very very hard to explain it. It’s like trying to explain what a melon is to someone who only has seen watermelons and mandarins. Well, you can say the size is about in the middle, but trying to explain the taste is very hard.
-- With that said, do you have members from the former parts working on Shenmue III?
YS: Yes. So we have the original members that kind of know what Shenmue is about.
-- After fifteen years, it’s quite the thing to bring everyone together again.
YS: I think so. Everyone has gone independent or changed their positions, but even at this stage when the scope of the production isn’t set in stone they have gladly offered to join. That’s really heartwarming.
-- It feels like the relationship is deeper than what you could expect from work colleges.
YS: That’s because Shenmue was a project that was more than just work. Ten years after the development of Shenmue II we had this get-together and more than 100 people came.
-- That’s amazing. I’m not sure if I would call that just a get-together.
-- The level of creativity in the games you have created is often very high. Is there any secret to this?
YS: No. I never play games outside work, so I don’t get that influenced by other games. Maybe that’s the reason.
-- I had this idea that you researched other games thorough and tried to make something different, but I guess that’s not true then.
YS: Yeah. it easier to just make something from zero (laugh).
-- So maybe If someone from the media like me hear an explanation for a game and say “Is it like the mechanics from that other game?” you might not be able to get it?
YS: I’m sorry, but I guess that’s true. Well, maybe I have to study the trends in the most popular games.
-- By the way, this is the first in a long time that you get to work on a game this big.
YS: Yeah. It feels like it was a long time ago I got this invested in a game.
-- It’s not like you totally left the game industry, but what do you think of the game industry in Japan looking from a bit afar.
YS: The game engine Unity came out and made it easy for just one person to make his own game, which is a good thing. It wouldn’t be healthy if only big budget games were able to survive. It’s good that the market has expanded with more alternatives. But it’s kind of sad that a majority of games that make money are small like games for smartphones.
-- Do you feel like more effort should be made in making titles for the consoles?
YS: Yeah. Before, Japan was said to be number one in game making. It’s sad that the knowledge that had amassed during that time wasn’t used better.
-- Many of the people during that time went over to make games for smartphones.
YS: It’s not like games for smartphones are necessarily bad, but what’s characteristic of smartphone game making is that the development cycles from start to finished tend to be fast. It might be good for business, but I’m not really satisfied with that. If you compare to cars there’s the really popular cars that sell well. They make a lot of money for the company, but if they don’t develop their flagship model their technical advancement will suffer.
-- In USA there is still a lot of money spent in games for game consoles and PC.
YS: Yeah. That kind of rich content helps activate the whole industry. I hope the industry in Japan gets back on track like before...
-- Oh, the interview got very negative suddenly. Could you maybe give a word of encouragement to the young developers of today or people thinking about making games?
YS: Today is different from before. It’s possible for anyone to make games now. Before it was impossible to make games if you didn’t know how to program, but now there are tools for that. It’s also possible to study game development, and it’s easy to learn from the internet. Living in this age you shouldn't think too hard and just try for fun, go in the direction that feels best for you. Begin with having fun creating.
The character perspective system means taking control of characters other than Ryo. He literally says “レンやシェンファ” which means characters “like Shenhua and Ren” so it could be for other characters too. (Edit: Or it could be just an example of characters. Like Thief said: "It could mean that characters like Shenhua and Ren (as in main supporting cast characters) are playable. Ren could have merely been used as an example." Thanks Thief! )
But it’s pretty much as close of a confirmation that we can get that Ren will show up in Shenmue III in one way or another. There is a concept art image of him riding a horse so it’s maybe not that unexpected, but we can be fairly sure he will show up in part 3 and not 4 or even later. Horses were also pretty much confirmed in Yu Suzuki's Reddit AMA so the concept art could very well be of an event happening in Shenmue III.