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Shenmue 3 now has facial expressions

For better or worse

Michael McWhertor is a journalist with more than 17 years of experience covering video games, technology, movies, TV, and entertainment.

When Yu Suzuki and Ys Net showed off the latest footage from Shenmue 3 in August, fans of the revived adventure series expressed concern over how stiff and expressionless the game’s characters were. Protagonist Ryo Hazuki’s face was distractingly blank throughout the game’s first teaser trailer.

Reaction to Shenmue 3’s mannequin-like faces prompted a response from Yu Suzuki, who told Game Watch that facial animations had been removed from some of the footage, but would eventually be replaced.

In a new development update video, Ys Net showed off some of the facial animation its been working on for Shenmue 3. The developer offered a brief look at a “grandma” in the game who, in the developer’s own words, is scary looking. There’s an even briefer peek at a younger woman’s expressions. Reaction that footage has been divisive.

While many of the Shenmue fans who backed the game on Kickstarter had positive things to say about Ys Net’s incremental update, calling them “lovely” and “very Shenmue,” others expressed concern over the animation. “This is not exactly inspiring,” one backer said.

As other Kickstarter backers pointed out, Shenmue 3 still has roughly a year of development time left, if Ys Net makes its second half of 2018 ship date. And with a comparatively small budget — Shenmue 3 raised $6.3 million on Kickstarter, while the original game cost tens of millions of dollars — fans may have to learn to love its lower-budget look, warts and all.

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