Former SEGA mastermind Yu Suzuki has tantalisingly teased that Shenmue 3 is much more than a fantasy - it exists.
"The concept for Shenmue 3 already exists, so..." laughed Suzuki, talking to 1UP.
"Shenmue 3 doesn't expand outward, but inward. A lot of the dialogue is used for the main character and especially dialogue with Shenhua [the girl]. They [Shenhua and Ryo] talk about a lot of different, deeper things.
"This is not actually in the game, but an example to give you an idea of what I mean by deeper dialogue: when Shenhua and Ryo are at home, Shenhua will ask Ryo if he would like to drink tea or coffee and the player will select one or the other. Or, Shenhua will ask Ryo a hypothetical question like: 'There are four animals; a monkey, cat, dog and bird. You are crossing the river but you need to leave one behind. Which one will you leave behind?"' And the player has to choose one.
"Shenhua will ask lots and lots of questions like these and the answers will get stored in the game and affect the outcome of the player's relationship with other characters. It's like a personality test. For example, the person who leaves behind the monkey is the type of person who leaves their wife."
SEGA put an end to the expensive, revered Shenmue series after a second Dreamcast instalment. Simply, sales didn't justify the investment.
Today, Yu Suzuki is at work on the Shenmue licence once again, but as a mobile game for Yahoo - a project dubbed Shenmue City.
"We can't say never," Suzuki said of the possibility of one day developing Shenmue 3. "This topic steps into sensitive territory, but history hasn't always been kind to SEGA and there were some difficult years, sales-wise. Business was tough, and they couldn't take risks on big titles."
SEGA has settled for developing the Shenmue and GTA-like Yakuza series in recent years.
Shenmue 2 was released in 2001, and may have been the most anticipated Dreamcast game ever. Luckily, Eurogamer existed back then, and a fresh-faced Tom Bramwell was the man to appraise the beast. What did he think? "The problem is, nothing seems to be quite as special as it was the first time around. That sense of awe and wonder just doesn't hit you with Shenmue 2. Sure, it's an extremely technically impressive game, and there's some decent advancements within the game dynamic, but it's essentially just what we were expecting and secretly I wish it wasn't. There's no surprise, no intrigue, and the proceedings are slightly tainted with a 'here we go again' atmosphere."