REVIEW: ‘Ghost of Tsushima’ is a Stunning Samurai Story (PS4)

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Ghost of Tsushima

Ghost of Tsushima is an open-world action-adventure game developed by Sucker Punch Productions for the PlayStation 4. It also bears the hallmark of being the last exclusive for the PS4 before the launch of the PlayStation 5 this holiday season.

Set in the late 13th century, Ghost of Tsushima centers on Jin Sakai (Daisuke Tsuji), a Samurai who survives the brutal Mongol invasion of his home of Tsushima. When his uncle Lord Shimura is kidnapped by the Mongol leader Khotun Khan, Jin forges alliances with several warriors including the thief Yuna and his old friend Ryuzo who now leads a band of ronin. As the battle for Tsushima rages on, Jin finds himself having to use unconventional methods to fight the Mongols. He also earns the moniker of “The Ghost”, as many believe he is the spirit of a vengeful Samurai.

Sucker Punch Productions previously developed the inFamous video game franchise, which put a creative spin on the superhero genre by having the player’s choices affect the game narrative. Ghost of Tsushima offers a choice of combat: players can face their enemies head-on or sneak up behind them and kill them. This gameplay mechanic offers a variety of choices. You can bravely charge headfirst into battle, or use stealth to overpower your foes; I found that mixing the two works.

This dual approach to combat also influences the story. Jin was raised to be a Samurai by his uncle, and follow a certain set of rules. By literally stabbing his enemies on the back, he is turning away from the traditions that shaped his life. This helps fuel the narrative and leads to one of the most surprising endings I’ve ever seen in a game. It must be seen to be believed, but it is utterly heartwrenching.

Combat consists of a hack and slash method, with light and heavy attacks. There are also light shooter elements when using a bow; you can pick enemies off from a distance. Jin also has projectile weapons he can use in battle. These range from kunai that can stun an enemy to bombs that literally stick to your opponent. I found the use of these projectiles especially effective when dealing with large groups of enemies.

Perhaps the best aspect of the combat system is the Standoff mechanic. This allows Jin to kill an enemy with a single stroke by pressing the triangle button. This leads to a beautiful (and bloody) image of your blade carving through flesh and bone. Later, you can chain these kills together and clear the field of opponents.

Another area that Ghost of Tsushima excels in is its side missions, which put the open world to good use. These missions range from freeing sections of Tsushima from Mongol occupation to collecting various weapons and armors. You can even follow foxes and golden birds to ancient shrines, which unlocks additional cosmetic designs. What makes these side missions stand out is that they add a touch of mysticism to the proceedings. Not only that, but they are also steeped in Japanese folklore. Unlike other media of recent memory, Sucker Punch Productions uses the history of the Samurai and Japanese myth to create a world that feels authentic.

As you explore the world, you can collect supplies and visit various vendors to upgrade your armor and weapons. Some of these changes are purely cosmetic such as color and sheath shapes. However, certain armors can reduce damage, and altering your sword can improve your combat prowess. For the majority of the game, I chose to go with Jin’s Clan Sakai armor. This increased my melee damage, making me a killing machine.

The game is also visually stunning. From picturesque sunsets to rolling storms, you’ll want to stop and bask in the sheer scope of the game. The details for the characters are also amazing, down to the droplets of blood that often adorn their faces. Another way to get mileage out of the visual elements of the game is by playing in Kurosawa mode. Named after legendary director Akira Kurosawa, this shifts the game into a black and white mode resembling his films. Though I only tried the beginning using this mode, it felt like I was dropped into the middle of Seven Samurai.

The only flaw with the game is the audio; specifically the Japanese with English subtitles. While the dialogue is perfect, you can clearly tell that the characters’ mouths are forming English words. For a game that is attentive to detail, this feels like a rather large misstep.

Ghost of Tsushima is a visually stunning and heartwrenching experience that pays homage to the era of the Samurai. Fans of open-world gaming or Kurosawa’s filmography will definitely want to play it. Sucker Punch Productions has produced another stellar gaming experience, and I hope we don’t have to wait long for their next project.

Ghost of Tsushima is currently available for the PlayStation 4.

Ghost of Tsushima
  • 9/10
    Rating - 9/10
9/10

TL;DR

Ghost of Tsushima is a visually stunning and heartwrenching experience that pays homage to the era of the Samurai. Fans of open-world gaming or Kurosawa’s filmography will definitely want to play it. Sucker Punch Productions has produced another stellar gaming experience, and I hope we don’t have to wait long for their next project.