Shenmue III

Game review by
Marc Saltzman, Common Sense Media
Shenmue III Game Poster Image
Decent installment to franchise held back by outdated play.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this game.

Positive Messages

On one hand, the message is positive -- about a teenage boy's efforts to find his father's killer -- but the game features a lot of combat, too, which might suggest violence is one way to get what you want.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The main protagonist, Ryo Hazuki, is a likable character, who, understandably, wants answers on his father's killer. He talks with many people with respect, but he also is a jujitsu expert who wants to improve on his fighting and isn't afraid to get involved in street fights with several people. He also gambles on various games to use the winnings on upgrades.

Ease of Play

The game isn't difficult to control, but there's a learning curve, especially in the combat department. Plus, navigating the dialogue menus when talking with characters can be tedious.


There's no blood or gore, but there's a lot of martial arts combat. As Ryo, you'll learn and execute melee moves against enemies. You'll want to win the fight, of course, but no one's tortured or dies. Fighting makes up a large part of this game.


Some female characters wear revealing outfits, showing large amounts of cleavage under low-cut tops. There are also characters who make overt sexual references in dialogue.


Dialogue includes words like “ass,” “bitch,” and “pr--k."


Latest installment in the Shenmue franchise.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Many characters can be seen smoking cigarettes or pipes, and drinking beer or jugs of wine.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Shenmue III is a role-playing game (RPG) for the PlayStation 4 and Windows PCs. The story is the third installment in the Shenmue franchise, and revolves around a young martial artist looking for his father's killer. The game includes lots of fight scenes with hand-to-hand martial arts brawls, although there's no blood or gore shown as a result of the fighting. The game also includes some women who dress suggestively, along with references to sex and female anatomy. Additionally, plenty of characters are shown smoking, drinking, and gambling. There's also some profanity, including words like "ass" and "bitch" used in comments. While it's not difficult to learn the controls, navigating through dialogue options can be tedious.

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What's it about?

SHENMUE III is the long-awaited sequel to Shenmue I and II, and is a story-heavy Japanese role-playing game (RPG). The tale is about a young jujitsu student Ryo Hazuki who sets out to find his father's killer while visiting fictional open-world Chinese villages and towns. Gameplay involves talking with several dozens of characters in search for clues towards Ryo's goal, engaging in hand-to-hand combat against street gangs and other seedy characters, and playing several types of mini-games, including arcade diversions as well as gambling (and taking part-time jobs) to earn enough money to buy virtual upgrades for your protagonist. This single-player game also features Quick Time Events (QTEs), where you'll be tasked with pressing the correct PS4 buttons at the right time in order to perform a move.

Is it any good?

It's been a long time to wait, and is very similar to the first two games in the series. but this adventure is starting to show its age. One one hand, hardcore fans may not be disappointed with Shenmue III. The story, open world, mini-games, and melee combat will all be familiar to those who played its predecessors, though there have been improvements in executing combos and chained attacks. For instance, you now have the ability to map a learned move to a particular button. Even the look of the game is similar, even though modernized with HD graphics, and the QTEs are back, too. But the game series is showing it's age. The pacing is slow, choosing dialog options with many dozens of characters can be tedious, and the graphics look outdated -- including stiff animation and some inconsistencies in the character models (some look good, while others seem rushed and generic).

Fighting, though, is rewarding, if you give it some time and earn enough money to upgrade your moves and try them out on the next hoodlums you encounter. It's a long game at more than 40 hours of play, with a few different plot twists to keep you interested in where it's going. This is a good thing, since many of the dialog sequences can't be skipped -- so those who love a game's strong narrative should keep a close eye on the information given by various characters. But this slower pace isn't too popular today. Those with a sentimental leaning towards the original games will find value in this long-overdue sequel, which continues on its story directly from Shenmue II. But it's certainly not the best JRPG you can play today -- not by a long shot.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about violence in video games. Is the impact of the violence in Shenmue III affected by the lack of blood and gore shown, even though violence is a central part of the gameplay? Would the impact be intensified if the action was bloodier or more realistic?

  • Do you think that the portrayal of women in Shenmue III is due to cultural differences? Why do you think that some of the women in the game look very young but seem overly sexualized?

Game details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love role-playing games

Themes & Topics

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