FEATURE

Ghost of Tsushima Pays a Nod to the Samurai Film Genre

Omae Wa, Mou Shindeiru

Clement GohMay 15, 2020

Ghost of Tsushima was showcased in the latest PlayStation State of Play livestream, revealing more details behind Sucker Punch Productions' samurai action-adventure game.

Set during the Japan and Mongol war in 1274, players control Jin Sakai, a fallen samurai who is resurrects as The Ghost to terrorize his enemies in the island of Tsushima. The setting itself is guided by a real-time weather system that also brings an open world to life. A large draw distance lets players see bright horizons as they tread along tall grass. Sakai's steps rustle through different terrain as birds watch with curiosity. Wind also bellows through cloaks and trees while acting as a visual waypoint for Sakai to follow (the game incorporates its HUD in the environment).

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Ghost of Tsushima - Sucker Punch Productions

Navigating through Tsushima is just as visually striking on horseback. Players have access to a noble steed to power through Ghost of Tsushima's landscapes. Along the way, Sakai can also pick up colourful flowers and resources such as bamboo to craft new items and skills. These can make the difference in the game's fights while catering to three different play styles: Exploration, Combat and Stealth. Players can lean towards one or multiple types for a personalized experience while the game offers multiple ways to beat segments.

According to Sucker Punch, going off the well worn road can be a rewarding experience. Its video showed a variety of animals and strangers Sakai can stop to interact with. These can also bring up locations in which players can find rare flowers and resources to craft with. Special shrines can be paid with respects, while honouring enough of them can boost stats and unlock more skills. Plants also shimmer as players speed through them on horseback, letting Sakai pick them without dismounting.

The subtle details let players find their own ways to reach objectives without a fixed pacing. If the environment wasn't alive enough, birds and foxes can also guide the player to hidden areas of the game. Following them can unlock new side missions and uncover more shrines. In local folklore, foxes (Kitsune in Japanese) served as intelligent messengers who were thought to have embodied the soul of humans. They could also shape shift while their spirits carried human companionship and wisdom - a few things that could aid Sakai along his journey.

Mongol territory can stop players from their journey. But confronting them also deepens the story in Ghost of Tsushima. Combat drives Sakai's sword into the hearts of Tsushima's most powerful enemies. Players face different enemy types which can be easily beaten by shifting from brute force or silent precision (or vice-versa).

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Ghost of Tsushima - Sucker Punch Productions

Sucker Punch pays homage to some of history's iconic samurai films by letting players make every confrontation personal. Sakai can step into enemy territory to confront a boss, glancing at them before fighting them one-on-one. However, it's worth noting they can go down with a swift and fatal blow. The tradeoff of an intense battle comes from winning a lethal standoff. After the duel, other Mongol soldiers can cower or step in to avenge their commander. Players can spark a chain of one-hit kills or counter each enemy for a fatal opening blow. These can be done by changing a fighting stance to match other enemy types in order to land the right attack.

Sakai can also use his bow and arrow to whittle down enemy groups for a sizeable close-quarters match. Enemy archers can also distract players, who must deflect incoming fire with their swords. It's a detail that adds to Ghost of Tsushima's stylish animations. Enemies freeze, holding onto their throats after a fatal blow before collapsing. In a true honourable fashion, Sakai prays over corpses to show a sign of respect before moving on.

As the titular Ghost of Tsushima, Sakai can use "every dirty trick in the book" to incapacitate enemies without confrontation. The demo showed him taking on the same group of enemies in the shadows, creeping up behind them before delivering a stealth kill. Bows are also silent as players can take out unsuspecting scouts to avoid detection. Sakai has an access of throwable objects and firecrackers to distract enemies with as well as grouping them together for chained assassinations.

Finally, Ghost of Tsushima lets players customize Sakai with different robes and gear. Certain dye flowers picked in the wild can colour clothes for personalized cosmetics. Each robe, armor and cloak also give Sakai specific abilities and perks to enhance his skillset. The demo showed Sakai a different outfit in each play style. "Charms" such as the Charm of Okuninushi give Sakai health recovery out of combat. The Charm of Toxic Demise discharges poison gas which kills nearby enemies.

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Ghost of Tsushima - Sucker Punch Productions

The demo ended with an additional reveal for Photo Mode and a black and white game filter (complete with moving film grain) to emulate old-school samurai films such as Zatoichi, Harakiri and Seven Samurai. Players can also replace the English voice cast with a Japanese voice dub for an authentic experience.

Ghost of Tsushima is coming exclusively to the PlayStation 4 on June 26. Players can pre-order the game and pick up to five editions including the $219.99 CAD Collector's Edition.