Rumours of high-definition remasters of Shenmue and Shenmue II were strengthened over the weekend, as Rice Digital, an online blog and retailer, say “a trusted source” close to the USA branch of developers Atlus has confirmed that they’re in development. Atlus are a subsidiary of original Shenmue publishers Sega.
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Rice Digital’s source says both games “may be released together rather than separately” as episodes one and two, with a targeted release date later this year. It's worth noting that Rice Digital have been accurate with leaks from Atlus before, revealing in April last year that the developers would publish King of Fighters XIV a few days before they announced it.
Rumours of an HD remaster of the original Shenmue games have been swirling since at least September last year, when Sega acknowledged community interest in such a project and said it has their “full attention.” Domain name registrations earlier this year added fuel to the fire.
The original Shenmue and its sequel released on the unsuccessful (but affectionately remembered) Sega Dreamcast, with Shenmue II also making it to the first Xbox in 2002 in the USA and 2003 in Europe.
With Shenmue III on the horizon, and these games so driven by story, a remaster of the originals makes a lot of sense to get a whole new generation of gamers up to speed.
Rice Digital say Shenmue III “could possibly slip into 2018” - it’s not clear whether this also comes from their source. Perhaps a remaster of the originals, released as a single game sometime in the summer or autumn, would make a good stop-gap and drive interest in the third?