All those hours spent training have paid off, it would seem. In the recently released Gamescom teaser for Shenmue III, protagonist Ryo is now such a capable fighter that he has become utterly inscrutable.
As well as Shenmue III, we should be getting even more Shenmue on PC in the future.
Unmoved by any situation or emotional imperative, his face remains locked in a threateningly docile stare. We certainly wouldn’t mess with anyone who was so obviously incapable of expressing basic emotions - or, for that matter, registering any clue whatsoever that they are in any way aware of their immediate surroundings. In that respect, at least, Ryo - enigmatic to the point of being an on-screen void - deserves a wide berth.
Perhaps we’ve misinterpreted and he is actually just trying to remember his lines. None are delivered in this teaser, so it’s possible that the task overwhelmed him. It leaves us with little sense of Ryo’s motivations or interests after all these years.
We managed to glean some of his passions from the sparkling dialogue in the debut trailer shown back in 2015 (“Ryo, can you jump?” “Yeah.”), so it’s a great pity that he doesn’t manage to divulge anything else this time around.
Maybe there is something more insidious going on. Ryo’s updated character model looks suspiciously shiny: his forehead, cheeks, and chin aggressively reflecting the low-hanging evening sun. It’s not the glow of a healthy man, though, is it? More like that of someone who has just struggled up the small ramp to the smoking area outside his workplace.
We know the martial arts expert is no stranger to physical exertion, so it can’t be that he’s out of puff from walking alongside Nozomi or the occasional spot of jumping. And that heavy leather jacket he insists on wearing everywhere he goes is open, so he’s benefiting from a little ventilation, at least.
No, it’s worse than that. Ryo’s fixed stare and unmoving lips, eyebrows, and jaw are indicative of the true horror of the situation he finds himself in: the facial animation stretch goal must not have been met.
As such, Ryo has been rendered in the digital equivalent of rigid plastic - a second source of trauma that will probably not stack well with that whole ‘murder of his father’ thing. Sure, he can blink. But so can a lot of dolls.
We know it sounds crazy. But can you think of a single more reasonable explanation for Ryo’s unfathomably dull performance in this trailer? No, exactly. Our theory must be true.
There’s a world of difference between tapping into nostalgia and peddling retrograde compromises, of course. And at this point, we’re not entirely sure where Shenmue III lies on that spectrum. At least this unexpected animation hiccup will expedite the next part of Ryo’s journey: with no way to effectively communicate with shopkeepers, dock workers, and Nozomi, he’ll just have to fight them all, and skip his own cutscenes. Actually, now that we think about it, this could work out well...