Shenmue 3 developer Ys Net published a Kickstarter update announcing the return of Keiji Okayasu, director on Shenmue and a sub director on Shenmue 3.
A video interview with Okayasu accompanies the announcement. In his interview, Okayasu gives an overview of his role on the first two Shenmue games before diving into what he hopes to help his colleagues at Ys Net accomplish with Shenmue 3.
Okayasu recounted that he served as a sub director on the original game—meaning one of two directors, alongside Yu Suzuki. He saw the game through to its release in 1999 and remained at developer Sega AM2 until Shenmue 2 reached approximately 70 percent completion. Okayasu left to pursue other interests, and Sega AM2 went on to release the sequel in 2001.
Following Shenmue 3's successful Kickstarter, program director Yu Suzuki found Okayasu working as the president of a small Japanese studio, and asked his old friend to join him at Ys.
"We are very happy to have back this Shenmue veteran who helped deliver the goods the first time around, and look forward to him doing it again," Ys Net wrote in its Kickstarter update.
"I have just recently joined the team. I thought I would be another fan waiting excitedly for the release, but as it is, I get to once again be a part of the team," Okayasu said in his video interview.
As part of Shenmue 3's team, Okayasu will focus on "what makes Shenmue, Shenmue. The game has an utterly unique atmosphere, and I want that all to be breathed in. As you play along, you feel the ambiance, the milieu, from place to place, getting that full sensory experience. It is about that natural... atmosphere, as best as I can call it, because Shenmue is a game where that is so important. With Shenmue 3, that aspect will not be disregarded, and I will keep it alive and well as we continue development."
Shenmue 3 was revealed during E3 2015 as a surprise announcement during Sony's press conference. The Kickstarter launched that same day with a funding goal of $2 million. It smashed that goal in just nine hours and raised a total of $6.3 million, becoming the highest funded video game in Kickstarter history.
Director Yu Suzuki wrote in a recent update that progress has been moving apace for the last six months, now that all key developers are in place.