There is no category harder than the most disappointing game. While most readers mistake it for being the worst game of the year, an honor that would go to something like Contra: Rogue Corps or some indie game you’ve probably never heard of, the award is more about games that held a ton of promise and failed to live up to it. This is why Destiny won it so many different years and why I assumed this year would go to Death Stranding. However, where Death Stranding managed to be exactly what, for better or worse, people expected, the two standout titles ended up being Pokemon Sword and Shield and Shenmue III.
Regardless of how good Pokemon Sword and Shield was, there were a lot of legitimate reasons to be disappointed. First there was a good number of missing Pokemon, several of which that should’ve made it in the list, along with some lackluster and arguably infuriating choices. But, for all it does wrong, it still very much so Pokemon and as a result Shenmue III is the unfortunate winner.
While there are some people who enjoyed Shenmue III for what it was, it makes some fatal mistakes. It starts by almost taking pride in being an extremely dated title. It feels less like a game that released a month or two ago and more like a really good Dreamcast game that was ported with zero improvements. For some that was enough, though it has so many rough patches that it’s an experience that is almost exclusively for a specific fan.
Between lackluster dialogue and mediocre voice acting, it’s hard to be engaged. It also ends on a cliffhanger, ultimately putting fans in the same position the series was prior to this point. This isn’t to say the series had to end here but it’s hard to see all the struggles the franchise went through only for it to just be another cog in a larger story that will likely never be finished. It also suffered from some choices, like combat feeling like a step back from previous entries.
Again, there is nothing wrong with liking Shenmue III, it’s just hard to escape the fact it doesn’t meet expectations. Maybe something in the future will fix this or I suppose it’s not entirely impossible later games might resolve some of the issues but for now it’s an adventure that is only good under very specific situations and for everyone else need not apply.