- Anti-Climax Boss: If Ryo's kung fu is high enough or maxed out by the endgame, the final battle against Ge Longqi ends within a matter of seconds.
- Contested Sequel: Although most people didn't expect the game to deliver the same impact its predecessors did on the industry years ago, both critics and fans are heavily divided whether the game is a fantastic continuation of the martial arts saga in spite of its flaws, or a disappointment that pales in comparison not just to the games before it, but everything else out there as well. While the gameplay has been criticized for sticking a bit too close to the old formula and throwing several modern aesthetics out the window, with many expressing that the game feels like a product made 15 years before, it's also been praised for that very reason, with many saying it wouldn't feel like Shenmue if it tried to become more like its competition.
- Ending Aversion: Several players began wondering if the 18 years wait was worth it for the ending, which does little but show how much further Ryo has to go to face Lan Di on equal footing, with a blatant Sequel Hook for a hypothetical Shenmue IV capping off an Unwinnable boss fight.
- Evil Is Sexy: Niao Sun. She's definitely a looker and she knows it.
- Narm Charm: The voice acting as expected. Although the game has an impressive English voice cast this time around, with several recognizable veterans involved, it doesn't hesitate to mimic the cheesiness of the previous games and Ryo's delivery sounds as odd and wooden as ever. And some couldn't be happier for it (those who aren't can still choose the Japanese vocal track, found in the main options menu).
- Older Than They Think: Some fans aren't happy with Shenhua's new design and see it as an Unnecessary Makeover, considering Ryo, Ren and Lan Di retain their original designs. However, when Sega was promoting the series when it first came out, Shenhua was depicted in a very wide variety of different outfits and was the only character to not have a Limited Wardrobe, not only to signify her importance to the story, but perhaps hinting that she would be wearing different outfits over the course of the series.
- Scrappy Mechanic:
- Unlike the prior games, Shenmue III opts to tie your daily stamina to your health bar. Whereas food and drink were just for burning money to see Ryo interact, here the player is forced to either rest and waste time or stockpile food to keep their health up, especially if they happen to stumble into a fight while their health is low just from walking around for the day. Even if you remain idle from forgetting to properly pause the game, you still lose health! Thankfully money isn't hard to earn, especially if you use Save Scumming on the gambling mini-games, but it does add far more tedium and uptake than simply trying to manage your daily schedule and interactions.
- QTEs are back, but the timing for them during cutscenes is much stricter than before, and you'll likely fail each and every one of them. Worse, one screw-up is all it takes to fail it and start over. Fortunately, most of the time you'll have to restart a section as opposed to the entire thing, with one exception toward the end.
- Fighting enemies does not grant any XP. Instead, you power up Ryo's skills via training minigames. This essentially means that any and all non-scripted fights in the game are more or less total wastes of the player's time.
- Tainted by the Preview: Following the Kickstarter campaign, concerns arose as months passed with the game showing little progress, and whatever was shown was usually limited to short teasers. It wasn't until 2018, close to its 2019 deadline, that actual gameplay footage was finally shown. Much of the game's early footage was also criticized for its graphics not being up to par with its big-budget competitors, especially in regards to the character models. Although the models have improved over time, the graphics in general remain a point of contention for some.
- They Changed It, Now It Sucks!:
- The combat system has received a complete overhaul, now requiring moves to be performed by face button combinations. Throws have been removed completely, and Ryo still receives damage by blocking. Although it's not without its fans, many fans have expressed their disappointment that the game loses the Virtua Fighter-based combat.
- Shenhua's new outfit has also drawn some criticism of fans of her original design, who believe it was just as much of an Iconic Outfit as the other characters who retained their designs, although it's not generally hated either.
- While it was inevitable that the voice cast of the previous games wouldn't return for both dubs, some fans of the English dub aren't happy that most of their replacements sound very different from them. Perhaps the worst offender is Nozomi, who has none of the soft, delicate innocence that Ruth Hollyman gave to her and sounds like a generic anime girl instead.
- They Wasted a Perfectly Good Character:
- Both Qiu Hsu and Lin Shiling play an important role in the climax, but neither of them receive enough focus or character development throughout the story to deliver the same impact that Ryo's allies did in the previous games. Unfortunately for them, they both stay behind in Niaowu in the game's ending and don't join Ryo, Ren and Shenhua as they journey further into the truth behind the Chi You Men.
- Niao Sun was advertised as an important character for several years, and while it took two decades to finally see her in action, she only appears towards the very endspoiler and doesn't receive a lot of screen time to flesh out her character.
- Win Back the Crowd: The Kickstarter Backer Trial Demo was meant to be this, to varying levels of success. For many fans, whatever concerns and criticisms they might have had were quickly laid to rest. With familiar mechanics and the improvements made to them, the new mini-games, and all of the small details put into the game, many fans found themselves playing the proper sequel they had been waiting for. On the other hand, there were many who, upon playing the demo, had the opposite impression; mainly, that instead of playing something up to par with the current year, they were playing a literal Dreamcast game made in the modern day with low-quality animations, semi-tank controls, poor voice acting (which admittedly was intentional), and a very unpolished combat system (It doesn't help that said combat system completely lacks throws, which were incredibly useful against aggressive opponents and are an established part of Ryo's fighting style, a mixture of Karate and Jiu-Jitsu).
YMMV / Shenmue III