Ghost of Tsushima
Ghost of Tsushima (2020) game review
Ghost of Tsushima is a new game from Sucker Punch Productions set in 1274 during the attempted Mongol invasion of Tsushima island, as the first phase of their planned invasion of Japan. In Ghost of Tsushima, you take control of Jin Sakai, a samurai who, after a major defeat, must adapt a new way of fighting in order to drive the Mongols from his home and save his uncle from captivity. The PS4 exclusive was released just this past July to outstanding reviews, and thought I myself got it just after its release, this game captivated me so much that I simply didn’t want it to end. (Thus the very tardy review…)
Now if you are reading this and wondering why the heck I am reviewing a video game, well first of all, this actually isn’t the first video game I’ve reviewed! Way back in 2017 I reviewed The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, which I gave an outstanding 9/10 to, as it was easily one of the greatest if not THE greatest game I’d ever played. Second thing to know about me: I don’t play that many games, so I don’t exactly have the experience to rate these games fairly if I am being honest. That said I am going to do my best to talk about probably the single best game I’ve ever played here. And hey if you want to see the vanity gear (or outfit basically) that I settled on, I’ll leave a screencap at the end of the review! (Apologies if it’s bad, I’m new to things like the PS4…)
So let’s talk about the reason I bought this game: It is an open world samurai game. Now seeing that this game was essentially Akira Kurosawa’s Assassin’s Creed set some extremely high expectations. Now having finished the game, yeah Ghost of Tsushima is one truly fantastic samurai film that you are a part of. Now I’ll get to gameplay don’t worry, but I just really want to talk about Tsushima’s compelling story for a second here (without giving anything away of course.) So you take control of protagonist Jin, a samurai learning how to fight an overwhelming force by any means necessary, even at the expense of the samurai way. So you have a protagonist sacrificing his own honor for his people. What an incredible character arc. With it comes a storyline that, while not totally unpredictable, had me as invested as any great movie I’ve watched and then some. I laughed, I cried, I was on the edge of my seat more than once; heck I kept thinking about how I needed to put Khotun Khan on my Best Villains of 2020 list, and I had to keep reminding myself that this was a video game. My point is, the story is just so immersive and emotional that it made me want to finish the game as soon as possible just to find out what happens to the characters that I grew to invested in!
Fortunately there is plenty to do in this game besides watching the film happening around you, one of which is watching the world happening around you, cause Tsushima is stunning! Granted that’s arguably because feudal Japan is stunning, but this- literally started to write film instead of game- sorry this game’s render system or whatever games all the leaves so pretty is just stunning. Every time I got to the top anything tall I just had to stop and look around to take in the beauty of the island. Part of that beauty also came from the score by Ilan Eshkeri and Shigeru Umebayashi, who use a perfect blend of orchestration and traditional style (in a Last Samurai, 2003 sense at least) to craft one of the most thematically compelling samurai scores I’ve had the privilege to listen to an unhealthy amount of times. I even watched the credits to listen to the music…
Okay enough about the looks, let’s get into gameplay! So I am not very good at video games if I am being honest. I still get my butt handed to me in Smash Bros. despite having played almost every version of it, and I recently tried a few fighting games with a friend of mine only to learn that I can’t do two things at once. Tsushima probably made me a better gamer, and I don’t know if that is because I didn’t have it on hard, or because of how the learning curve takes you by the hand like a mother in a busy supermarket, gently teaching you how to walk then forcing you to adapt without warning. I thought the progress system was just great though! The use of stances and various weapons to adapt to different situations kept me to engaged in the combat instead of just shooting my way to victory. I just recently beat Skyrim (2011) with a bow because I like bows. Tsushima was a little more merciless, as I was constantly having to think fast when the enemies learned as I did. On top of that, I really liked the advancement system! You can really customize the way you want to play: the way of the ghost or the way of the samurai! And it’s not always one or the other either…
Another element that really contributes towards the personalization of the gameplay is the armor you wear. There are one or two sets that are better than others, but for the most part, each armor set represents a different way you play the game! For example, I wore the archery armor for a little while because I love bows in games (as I mentioned.) However I quickly realized I kept hitting L3 and throwing off my aim, so I stopped wasting the a good bonus. Charms also help if say you find armor that you love but that doesn’t help you quite the way you want to play. The open world element also plays into the personalization wonderfully, allowing you to focus on the hardcore depression that is the storyline, or just chase adorable foxes around and forget the death and destruction around you! My gosh I do have a strange little complaint. So golden birds are great and you should follow them. I did get annoyed when I was following the wind to a quest and a bird took me to that quest. Great, thanks bird. Thanks for leading me to the place I was already going. Wind as a quest tracker though? LOVE IT.
Shoutout to Dr. Pierre Change himself François Chau, who along with the rest of the cast, completely kill it! Eric Steinberg might have been the best of the cast, but everyone does such an incredible job that singling anyone out would be injustice to the rest of the cast. Now I have no idea how many of the Japanese voice cast was replaced since I only had it in Japanese for a few minutes. I do know that my next playthrough will be Japanese audio, in Kurosawa mode (black and white), hard difficulty, no enemy health (turned that off after a while too actually), and whatever else I can do to make this as close to a classic samurai film as I can. Cause as much as I enjoyed that one Assassin’s Creed game I played for a few hours, this game hit the spot for everything I could want in a game AND a film.
So unless you are bound to the idea that a game can only be like a movie if you strip away the open world and make it as arguably lifeless as the Last of Us: Part II (2020), put on your headband and whatever sword matches your armor, and get ready to embark one the single most emotionally investing games I have ever played! (Which isn’t many…) The gameplay is so incredible that I learned how to actually play the game well, not just hone one skill so I could use that to coast my way to victory; the- almost wrote film again- game’s visuals are breathtaking; you don’t have to hunt 50,000 Korok seeds; and the act structure- I didn’t even talk about the use of the three act structure! Ugh you know what, I put so many hours into this game that I could just go on and on about out. I don’t need to; I know how I feel. Ghost of Tsushima let me be apart of a classic samurai film, and for that, I am thankful. So I’m going to go reflect and write a historically inaccurate haiku about this game. 10/10. Oh and as promised, the outfit I finally settled on is just below!
So Ghost of Tsushima? Have you finished it yet? What do you think so far? And what is your favorite vanity gear? Post a screenshot below and let us know! And if you liked this review and you’d like us to talk about games more often, let us know what video games to talk about next in the comments!
-review by Ryan Prince, Lord of Clan Prince