For eighteen long years, devoted fans have been begging for more Shenmue, and somehow, miraculously, it has happened, as Shenmue III finally launched last week amidst a wave of delight and stupefaction.
And boy, if it's anything, it's definitely more Shenmue - for better or worse.
After a relatively pedestrian start plodding about in the mountain village of Bailu, the very Shenmue-esque Shenmue III becomes even more Shenmue-esque, transporting Ryo to the bustling port town of Niaowu. The beautiful riverside hub combines the scale of Dobuita with the bright lights of Hong Kong, and it's simply wonderful. And absolutely brimming with shops!
In a decidedly un-Shenmue like turn, these shops actually serve a purpose. Not only can you buy a selection of garbage from all of them, but they each contain a well-hidden statuette of Chobu Chan, Niaowu's cute little bird mascot. As part of a city wide promotion, finding one bags you a corresponding Shop Card, several of which can be traded for high-end skill books.
The little devils are very well hidden, most cleverly camouflaged to match their surroundings. Obviously, we recommend hunting them for yourself first: the brilliant thing about this side-quest is that it forces you to immerse yourself in the low-key mundane beauty of Niaowu. Some tips to get you started: always use the first-person view, force yourself into weird angles, and check at different light levels. And be prepared to be patient!
Some of them are right scamps though, and if you just can't be bothered, we don't blame you. Luckily, we (and by we, I mean muggins here) have painstakingly combed over Niaowu's stores, bothering loads of shopkeepers in the process, to find every last one of the blighters.
Not all of them lead to Skill Books, but every shop has one, except the gambling parlours and game exchanges (as far as we can tell). For convenience, we've ordered them geographically, and pointed out the ones contributing to the pawn shop prizes as they come up. If we've missed any - and it's likely, though we found over 100 of the chaps - do please let us know @WCultureGaming or @BARThreepwood. Happy hunting!
Benjamin was born in 1987, and is still not dead. He variously enjoys classical music, old-school adventure games (they're not dead), and walks on the beach (albeit short - asthma, you know).
He's currently trying to compile a comprehensive history of video game music, yet denies accusations that he purposefully targets niche audiences. He's often wrong about these things.