Yu Suzuki’s Shenmue can’t seem to catch a break; like most franchises that began on the Dreamcast, the series has a small but dedicated fan base, but it’s never quite been able to catch-on with enough gamers to justify the first two game’s apparently astronomical development costs. The series was given a second chance via Shenmue World, but even as a casual social game, it seems that Shenmue once again couldn’t draw in enough of an audience to support it’s continued existence.While the cell-phone based social game was never the real Shenmue sequel that fans have been hoping for ever since Shenmue II’s cliffhanger ending, Shenmue World was an attempt by Yu Suzuki and developers Sunsoft to renew interest in the series. If Shenmue World was successful, it could’ve possibly been enough to convince Sega that there was still money to be made with the Shenmue name. Obviously, things haven’t panned out in the game’s favor, and it’s once again seeming more and more likely that we’ll never see a proper conclusion to Ryo Hazuki’s adventure.
The news of Shenmue World’s abrupt shuttering is the latest in a long line of disappointments for fans of the series (including myself,) but it’s understandable why Sega isn’t in any hurry to revive the franchise: the original game was reportedly one of the most expensive games ever developed, and sold rather poorly. The series’ appeal is also intrinsically tied into it’s rich (though poorly translated) story, and creating a sequel that requires narrative familiarity with a niche game that’s a decade old really isn’t the way to draw in new audiences. Sad as I am to say it, I think the only way fans will get to play as Ryo Hazuki again is through his cameo in Sonic and Sega All Stars Racing.