A fellow Dojo member was looking for someone to translate the full text of the recent Famitsu article interview with Yu Suzuki - so here's a rough translation of the interview text + picture captions.
Link to original article (Japanese): http://imgur.com/a/tSsnL
Link to summary of the main points in English that was made by Varion on NeoGAF: http://www.neogaf.com/forum/showpost.php?p=168899118&postcount=6043
Interview Text (F=Famitsu, YS=Yu Suzuki)
F: The title "Shenmue 3" is one that has a huge impact, and it was a real surprise when it was announced. So first of all, with 14 years having passed since the previous game Shenmue 2, please tell us why and how the decision to make Shemue 3 came about.
YS: Bringing the sequel to reality isn’t something that was just started recently. Even more than 10 years since Shenmue 2, there are still many passionate fans and whenever I attend events or autograph sessions overseas I’m always asked about when Shenmue 3 will be coming. For example, at my autograph sessions in France, 80% of the fans are Shenmue fans. Of the rest, 10% are Virtua Fighter fans, and the remaining 10% are fans of Hang-On etc. Even now, firm fans run and manage communities. For some reason, every year around March and April, I have been hearing rumors about Shenmue 3 being released (laughs).
F: Expressions of hope for a sequel soon become rumors, don’t they (laughs).
YS: Right. But as time went on the voice of the fans began to weigh on me more and more: “Please publish the rest of the story, even if it’s just as a novel”, “We want to see a new Shenmue published, even just in manga format” and so on. So, to try to answer the feelings of the users in some small way, I decided to myself: “Even if it turns out not to be possible to create the game with all extra features, I'll do what I can to bring about the sequel”.
F: What is the reason you chose Kickstarter as the method?
YS: About 3 years ago, a fan who had used Kickstarter suggested I try it. That’s when I first heard about Kickstarter, and I investigated it further. I couldn’t immediately promise we would use Kickstarter because I wanted to be sure we would be able to use it to produce something that will live up to the expectations of the fans. I looked at other methods of making Shenmue 3, such as finding a partner company, but I wasn’t able to find one that suited my criteria. After consideration, I concluded that Kickstarter was the best approach, and finally now in 2015 I have been able to make the announcement.
F: You have often mentioned in the past that you’d like to make the sequel, but it really took a long period of preparation.
YS: Yes. The tremendous response to the Shenmue panel at GDC 2014 served as a boost to bring us to where we are now. Sega Games has gladly provided the license, and SCE has also expressed their encouragement for the creation of this Shenmue. It’s quite unusual to announce a Kickstarter project at SCE’s conference, but I am truly happy at everyone’s support for Shenmue.
F: The title of the sequel is simply “Shenmue 3”, isn’t it.
YS: No other title really came to mind. Shenmue 3 is the next part of the series leading from Shenmue 1 and 2. It’s not a spin-off. The hardware it will run on is PS4 as well as PC.
F: As the highly-anticipated legitimate sequel, I’m sure the fans will be delighted. By the way, what is the target amount for the Kickstarter campaign?
YS: 200 million yen (approx $2m) is the initial target.
F: Given that this is Shenmue, the amount of 200 million yen will surely be reached readily.
YS: Having said that, 200 million yen is the minimum amount for the game to come into existence. At that level, the content would be focused on the story. The collection of additional funding would allow me to bring into reality what I would really like to include. I would like to do new things.
F: Your outlook of “wanting to make new things” is something that you have always held to, isn’t it.
YS: Yes. I will be trying my best to achieve this with the new Shenmue sequel also.
F: Please give us more details later on. By the way, what kind of rewards do you have planned for your Kickstarter backers?
YS: As much as possible, I would like to include people’s input in the development process. For example, if there are two possible story directions for a character (say A and B), we could hold a poll to ask everyone which they prefer. I would like to give as a reward the right to participate in this kind of vote. And I also intend to allow players to experience part of Shenmue 3 while it is under development.
F: In other words, creating Shenmue 3 together with the fans.
YS: Since I expect the core of the backers will be individuals, I would like to make each one of them happy. Please have a look at the details of the rewards are listed on the Shenmue 3 Kickstarter page.
F: Next, I would like to ask about the key content of Shenmue 3. What kind of story developments can be expected in Shenmue 3?
YS: At the end of Shenmue 2 Ryo visits Guilin, said to be the most beautiful region in China. The area is famous for landscape paintings, and it has a river called the Li river. Shen Hua’s house is located on a tributary of the river. The story of Shenmue 2 ends at the point where Ryo reaches Shen Hua’s house, and the story of Shemue 3 continues right from there.
F: So, Ryo and Shen Hua will make an appearance, continuing from the previous part.
YS: For people who have played the Shenmue series, those familiar characters will appear as they were.
F: Will the setting be Guilin?
YS: Yes. For example, visiting a town(s) in the Guilin area, or going back to the mountains. Also infiltrating the Guilin chapter of an underground organization, the Chi You Men.
F: It could be said that Shenmue is the originator of open world gameplay, and has influenced many games since, but for Shenmue 3 what direction do you plan to take the open world model?
YS: When I created Shenmue 1, I was aiming to create exactly what is now called an “open world”. Being able to stop freely at any location you wish, advancing if you wish to move the story forward, or just standing still if you prefer. Back then, we called the system “FREE”, but in time it came to be referred to as open world. In Shenmue 2, with advances and technology and techniques, the open world was expanded even further.
F: In Shenmue 2, it was possible to walk through many towns over a wide area of Hong Kong, wasn’t it.
YS: Actually, at that time, I had decided that for Shenmue 3 I would delve in more deeply.
F: More deeply?
YS: Yes. People might expect that the open world would be made even broader, but in contrast to that, I will focus on depth. For example, for the case of 100 characters, splitting the development budget among them would limit the elements that could be incorporated into each character.
F: That’s true, it would make it harder to create each with detail.
YS: However, if we reduce the number to 10 characters, a lot of possibilities are opened up. The amount of conversation could be increased 10 times, or detailed A.I. provided for each character. As a result, conversations could be much richer. As an example, in Shenmue 3 the person that Ryo will speak with most is Shen Hua, so I want to portray her with depth. I envisage an approach where, by settings parameters for Shen Hua, on-going conversations with her will influence events such as changing her attitude, or changing the way that quests relating to her unfold.
F: I see. I think a lot of support for Shenmue comes not from just the realistic towns, but from the realism of the people inhabiting it. From what you have described, this realism will be further increased, and the world will feel even more “human”.
YS: Yes. In Shenmue this time I will be focusing particularly on digging down further on such internal aspects.
F: This is your vision for the new Shenmue, isn’t it.
YS: Of course, that’s not to say it will not be open world. Stretch goals will allow the town(s) to be expanded. However, what I would like to try first is to develop something that everyone has not anticipated; a deep Shenmue world.
F: I can’t wait to see this new Shenmue. Speaking of Shenmue, apart from its open world, its QTEs and minigames made it special, didn’t they.
YS: QTEs were originally included so that even people who were poor at battles could enjoy them. I’m happy that various games have included QTEs since then.
F: QTEs also had their origin in Shenmue, didn’t they.
YS: This time, I would like to show new QTEs; ones which can played by anyone, and which have carefully-crafted event sequences. In addition, I’d like to change the nature of free battles. (I will think of a different name, as I don’t want to call them free battles). I’d like to make a battle that is won by making the correct decision, rather than by correct timing of pushing buttons.
F: I believe Shenmue was made with the concept of being a game that can be enjoyed by any player, and this new system feels to be in keeping with that.
YS: Also this time I am planning a “technique scrolls” system. Ah.... maybe I have said too much (laughs).
F: Not at all, we’d like to hear more! (laughs)
YS: For example, with the free battle it is tough to practice and input the various commands required, so simply by obtaining a technique scroll you can apply the technique to help you win a battle. In the case of a QTE, the new technique could be unleashed during the QTE. I would like to make it so that a technique can be used to your advantage in battle just by obtaining a technique scroll. Furthermore, I’d like to make that technique scroll connect with various elements within the game.
F: Could you explain a bit more with respect to “connecting with elements”?
YS: Shenmue has had a number of ways you could play around, such as mini-games and gambling spots, but I have always been thinking about how to connect these together in some way. Of course, they are connected in the sense that you can take a part-time job to earn money, then increase that amount by gambling, then buy weapons... but not that kind of connection, something much closer. If the stretch goals can be reached and more detailed elements incorporated into the open world, this will allow technique scrolls to serve as the pivot for connecting together the various side games. That’s the kind of direction I would like to take it.
F: I see. So various elements of the open world will be connected together in a more natural way. Apart from that, are there any other elements that you are keen to include in Shenmue 3?
YS: One particular part of Shenmue that fans seem to have fallen in love with is the forklift part-time job, which is extremely popular. So I really want to include it in Shenmue 3 too, but how can you operate a forklift deep in the mountains of Guilin (laughs). I haven’t stopped thinking about how to find some way to include a forklift (laughs).
F: Please tell us about the development set-up for Shenmue 3.
YS: This time, the main development company is Neilo. The representative for Neilo, Takeshi Hirai, worked as the chief programmer for Shenmue and has a good understanding of Shenmue.
F: Since Shenmue is an open world game, I had thought that working with an overseas development company that is experienced in open world games would have been an option.
YS: Yes, that may have been an option. However, the main distinguishing characteristic of Shenmue is its culture. I believe that users overseas also have taken interest in the culture and customs of Asia. People have said they appreciate it when Ryo says “Thank you” for the smallest thing, for example. Someone who has worked all along on creating Shenmue understands that kind of culture and values.
F: So this time, development will be using Unreal Engine 4, won’t it.
YS: I have been looking at various engines for Shenmue 3 for the past 3 years, but the colors of Unreal Engine 4 are closest to those I envisage for the world of Shenmue. Although that’s a pretty broad statement, given that it’s a technical topic. The feeling of slight dampness in the air, the skin colors, the feel of materials etc were closest to my ideal.
F: Apart from the Neilo staff, are there others participating who have worked with Shenmue before?
YS: Yes, of course. I wanted to build up the team with past members as I believe that gives the fans some reassurance. Among others are scenario writer Masahiro Yoshimoto, and Kenji Miyawaki who is in charge of the character designs.
F: Given that this project is coming to life 14 years after the previous release of Shenmue, everyone must be very surprised.
YS: Mr Yoshimoto has been active in the world of television, and reacted with surprise saying “With television, producing something new with a theme that is 14 years old is unheard of”. But Mr Yoshimoto told me that he made many discoveries through his experience with Shenmue. Later on, I plan to release a video with comments from Mr Yoshimoto and the rest of the staff, so please watch out for it.
F: We are looking forward to seeing it. The fans are sure to be happy.
YS: I have gathered together quite a few of the original key members who gave Shenmue that special feel. I’m sure this will bring a feeling of both reassurance and nostalgia.
F: By the way, it may be a bit impatient to ask, but do you already have in mind how things will progress after Shenmue 3?
YS: Of course, I have that in mind. But first and foremost, I’d like to put primary focus on Shenmue 3.
F: When is the planned release date for Shenmue 3?
YS: I’d like to release it by the end of 2017.
F: That’s quite some way off, but we can’t wait. From speaking with you today, I can really appreciate the challenges that you are taking on of producing a new Shenmue. Finally, do you have a message for all the fans who have waited all this time for Shenmue 3?
YS: The fans have told me over the course of 14 years how they wanted part 3 to be made, and I have always told myself that I had to find some way to make it. And now, through the crowd-funding of Kickstarter, at last I have been able to make a start on the Shenmue 3 project. In order to bring about a Shenmue 3 that incorporates a perfect blend of both a Shenmue that everyone desires, as well as a Shenmue with the new challenges I want to take on, everyone’s effort is needed. Thank you so much for your support.
1) This image shows the figures of Ryo and Shen Hua walking on a mountain path. Note that Ryo has changed clothes from the leather jacket he wears in the first and second parts of the series.
2) Using a telescope, Ryo observes buildings below a cliff. According to Yu Suzuki, before Ryo lies the enemy’s camp, which Ryo is searching for a way to infiltrate.
3) Shen Hua and Ryo, drawn by Kenji Miyawaki who is in charge of character design for the series. Shen Hua, the main heroine, did not appear much in the first and second parts of the series. In Shenmue 3, she will surely take a principle role.
4) Niao Sun, one of the leaders of the underground organisation opposing Ryo, the Chi You Men. Although her existence has previously been revealed, she has not made an in-game appearance until now.