Ghost of Tsushima

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Ghost of Tsushima
Ghost of Tsushima.jpg
Developer(s)Sucker Punch Productions
Publisher(s)Sony Interactive Entertainment
Director(s)
  • Nate Fox
  • Jason Connell
Producer(s)
  • Brian Fleming
Programmer(s)Chris Zimmerman
Artist(s)Jason Connell
Writer(s)
  • Ian Ryan
  • Liz Albl
  • Patrick Downs
  • Jordan Lemos
Composer(s)
Platform(s)
Release
  • PlayStation 4
  • July 17, 2020
  • PlayStation 5
  • August 20, 2021
Genre(s)Action-adventure
Mode(s)Single-player, multiplayer

Ghost of Tsushima is a 2020 action-adventure game developed by Sucker Punch Productions and published by Sony Interactive Entertainment. The player controls Jin Sakai, a samurai on a quest to protect Tsushima Island during the first Mongol invasion of Japan. Jin must choose between his warrior code to fight honorably, and pragmatic but despicable ways that can repel the Mongols with minimal casualties. The game features a large open world which can be explored either on foot or on horseback. When facing enemies, the player can choose to engage in a direct confrontation with enemies using Jin's katana, or become a legendary warrior known as "the Ghost" which use stealth tactics to assassinate opponents. A multiplayer mode titled Legends was introduced in October 2020 and made available separately in September 2021.

Sucker Punch began developing the game after shipping Infamous: First Light in 2014, as the studio wanted to move on from the Infamous franchise and create a game with a heavy emphasis on melee combat. The studio collaborated with Japan Studio and visited Tsushima Island twice to ensure that the game was culturally and historically authentic. The team was heavily inspired by samurai cinema, in particularly those directed by Akira Kurosawa, as well as comic book series Usagi Yojimbo. The game's minimalistic landscape and art style was influenced by Shadow of the Colossus, and locations in the game were designed to be "the perfect photographer's dream". While the in-game landmass is geographically the same shape as that of Tsushima Island, the team did not intend to create a one-to-one recreation. Ilan Eshkeri and Shigeru Umebayashi composed the game's soundtracks.

The game was released for PlayStation 4 in July 2020, and an expanded version for PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5, subtitled Director's Cut featuring the Iki Island expansion, was released in August 2021. The game received generally positive reviews upon release, with critics praising the game's melee combat, story, characters, performance and music, though it received criticisms for its stealth gameplay and open world structure. The game was a commercial success, selling more than 9.73 million copies by July 22 and became one of Sony's fastest-selling original games. It was nominated for several end-of-the-year accolades, including Game of the Year at The Game Awards 2020. A film adaptation is currently in development.

Gameplay[edit]

In Ghost of Tsushima, the player can traverse the open world of Tsushima Island on horseback.

Ghost of Tsushima is an action-adventure video game played from a third-person perspective. The player has a variety of options to approach their objectives. They can engage in a direct confrontation with enemies using their katana, called a standoff, which can chain a series of fatal strikes against a set number of enemies.[1] In combat, Jin needs to adopt different combat stances when facing different types of enemies: Stone stance for hostile swordsmen; Water stance for shielded enemies; Wind stance for spearmen; and Moon stance for brutes.[2] Ultimately, the player will unlock Ghost stance, which makes Jin invulnerable and allows him to kill enemies with one hit for a limited period of time. To use Ghost stance, players must kill a number of enemies without taking any damage, or assassinate Mongol leaders.[3] The player needs to stagger enemies or land a successful parry to break their defense before attacking to deplete their health.[4] Additionally, the player has access to bows, which can fire different types of arrows. At certain points in the game, Jin has to duel other non-playable characters, which serve as a boss characters with unique offensive tactics and attack animations.[5] The game's highest difficulty is a more realistic mode in which the player and enemies do massive damage to each other, with all non-boss fights ending in one or two successful cuts.[6]

Alternatively, using stealth allows the player to evade enemies and strike them silently. As the player progresses in the game, they can unlock chained assassination, which allows Jin to strike several enemies consecutively. For the stealth approach, players are recommended to hide in pampas grass, on rooftops or under buildings, and use Focused hearing, which allows Jin to detect the location of enemies. In addition, Jin has a large arsenal of Ghost weapons. These include firecrackers and wind chime bells to create distractions, smoke bombs to disorient alerted foes, kunai for striking multiple enemies, and explosives to kill groups of enemies.[7] Eventually, players will also unlock a blowgun, which allows them to shoot poison darts, causing enemies to hallucinate and attack their peers.[8] When the player needs to restore Jin's health or use special combat techniques, they need to consume "Resolve", gained by performing feats of finesse such as assassinating or parrying an enemy.[9]

The game features a large open world which can be explored with or without guidance by wind direction.[10] The three islands of Tsushima are unlocked gradually as the player progresses. The island of Izuhara is unlocked first, followed by Totoyama and Kamiagata.[11] Players can travel to different parts of the island on horseback, and use an item that acts as a grappling hook to access difficult-to-reach areas.[12] As the player explores the world, yellow birds will guide Jin to locations of interest. These include hot springs which increase Jin's maximum health, Bamboo Strikes which increase Jin's maximum resolve upon completion, Pillars of Honor, which contain additional cosmetic designs Jin's weapons or armors, and locations in which Jin will meditate and compose haiku[a] based on different themes. By following torii gates and completing a subsequent platforming challenge, the player will find Shinto shrines and unlock Charms that grant the player passive perks, such as decreasing damage taken, reducing enemy detection speed, or increasing how much health is recovered from healing.[14] Foxes will also lead Jin to Inari Shrines, which can increase the number of Charms Jin can equip.[15]

The game features side quests and non-playable characters with whom the player can interact.[16] Players can also liberate Mongol-controlled villages and camps by eliminating all the enemies stationed in the area. Combat stances will only be unlocked after Jin had observed or killed Mongol leaders.[17] Completing side quests or helping other NPCs grant players minor charms,[18] as well as gifts which can be collected at altars.[19] In particular, completing Mythic Tales will unlock unique armors and special combat techniques.[20] Each armour set has different properties that provide benefits in combat. Some armor reduces damage taken, while another increases total health or melee damage. Most sets of armor and clothing can be upgraded, by collecting materials found in the game's world. Jin's appearance can also be further customized with masks, helmets and headbands.[21] As the player progresses in the game and completes quests and encounters, they will earn technique points allowing them to unlock additional skills and abilities. Jin's maximum health and Resolve will also be increased when his legend as the Ghost grows on Tsushima.[22][23] Player can also experience the game in Kurosawa mode, which is a black-and-white visual filter with a film grain effect. This mode also features altered audio and stronger wind effects.[24]

Multiplayer[edit]

A multiplayer mode titled Legends was released in late 2020. Player can access this mode from the menu, or by reaching Gyozen the Storyteller in the single-player campaign, who will then transport the player to Legends's multiplayer lobby. Unlike the single-player campaign, Legends is based on Japanese folklore and mythology, featuring otherworldly realms and supernatural enemies. Legends features four classes: The Samurai is the group's tank character who can deal and sustain a large amount of damage; the Hunter is the group's sniper who specializes at using ranged weapons such as bows and arrows; the Ronin has the abilities to summon dogs to aid combat and revives the group; the Assassin can deal a massive amount of damage with one attack, and has the "Shadow Strike" ability which allows them to teleport short distances.[25] As the player plays more matches and progresses in the game, they will earn "rank" which allows them to unlock class-specific upgrades and cosmetic items. A player's combat performence is dictated by the "Ki" level of their gears. The higher the player overall Ki level, the more lethal they are, making them more capable in completing missions with higher difficulty levels.[26]

  • Story: In story mode, two players can complete narrated quests and objectives together.[27] As the player progresses in the game, they will be able to unlock additional difficulty levels, new objectives and rewards. In October 2020, the team introduced "The Tale of Iyo", a three-chapter raid mode described as the "culmination of the story" in Legends.[28] Designed for experienced players, this mode only supports a squad of four players and stresses teamwork and coordination, and introduces puzzles that need to be solved cooperatively.[29]
  • Survival: In survival mode, four player can work together and fight against 15 waves of enemies.[27] As the player's squad survives and completes objectives, they may gain access to powerful abilities such as summoning a spiritual bear to assist combat, or ignite the enemies.[25]
  • Rivals: In Rivals, two teams of two players must compete against each other in Survival mode. The objective is to progress through the level faster and kill more enemies than the other team. As one team of players defeat enemies, they will earn Magatama, an in-game currency which can then be used to purchase perks and Curses that can disrupt the progress of the other team. Once a team has spent enough currency, the final wave will be unlocked and the team must complete it faster than the other team in order to win a match.[30]

Synopsis[edit]

Characters[edit]

The protagonist Jin Sakai (Daisuke Tsuji / Kazuya Nakai) is the head and sole remaining member of Clan Sakai and a samurai warrior. He is the nephew and ward of Lord Shimura (Eric Steinberg / Akio Ōtsuka), the jitō of Tsushima. He has several friends and companions he meets, including a thief named Yuna (Sumalee Montano / Yu Mizuno) and her blacksmith brother Taka (Eddie Shin / Kappei Yamaguchi), a female warrior named Lady Masako Adachi (Lauren Tom/Mabuki Ando), renowned Kyūdō archer Sensei Sadanobu Ishikawa (François Chau / Shigeru Chiba), merchant and con-artist Kenji (James Hiroyuki Liao / Setsuji Sato), Buddhist warrior monk Norio (Earl T. Kim / Mitsuaki Kanuka), Clan Sakai's elderly caretaker Yuriko (Karen Huie / Yuri Tabata), and Jin's childhood friend and leader of the infamous Straw Hat rōnin, Ryuzo (Leonard Wu / Youhei Tadano). The main antagonist is the ruthless and cunning general Khotun Khan of the Mongol Empire (Patrick Gallagher / Tsutomu Isobe), cousin of Kublai Khan, grandson of Genghis Khan.

Plot[edit]

In 1274, a Mongol fleet led by Khotun Khan invades the Japanese island of Tsushima. Local samurai Lord Jin Sakai and his uncle Lord Shimura lead the island’s samurai in an attempt to repel the invaders. However, the battle ends in disaster, with the samurai killed, Shimura captured, and Jin severely wounded and left for dead. He is found and revived by Yuna, a thief, who informs him the island has fallen. Jin storms Khotun's stronghold at Castle Kaneda in an attempt to rescue Shimura, but is defeated by Khotun in combat and thrown off the castle bridge.

Realizing he cannot defeat the Mongols alone or with traditional samurai tactics, Jin travels throughout the island to recruit allies and learns guerilla warfare. He recruits Yuna, her blacksmith brother Taka, merchant Kenji, master archer Sadanobu Ishikawa, female samurai Masako Adachi, and his old friend mercenary Ryuzo and his Straw Hat rōnin. As Jin disrupts Mongol activities and liberates villages across the island, the people begin to revere to him as "The Ghost", a samurai spirit risen against the Mongols. Taka crafts a grappling hook for Jin to scale Castle Kaneda’s walls, and Jin strikes with his allies. Destitute and starving, Ryuzo and the Straw Hats betray Jin to collect the bounty issued on him by Khotun. Jin manages to fend them off, free Shimura and retake Castle Kaneda. Despite their victory, Khotun has already left to conquer Castle Shimura alongside Ryuzo.

To retake Castle Shimura, Jin recruits Norio and his warrior monks and the Yarikawa Clan. On Shimura’s behalf, he also recruits local pirate Goro to carry a petition for reinforcements to the Shogun, as well as a request for approval to adopt Jin as his heir. With a new army being assembled, Jin recovers his family's ancestral armor from caretaker Yuriko, who teaches him how to craft poison. Under orders from Shimura, Jin and Taka try to infiltrate a fortress where Ryuzo is located but are ambushed and captured by Khotun. When Jin refuses to surrender, Khotun kills Taka. Jin escapes with Yuna’s help. The Shogun's reinforcements arrive, and Shimura leads the assembled army in an assault on Castle Shimura, driving the Mongols into the inner keep. However, as the Mongols retreat, they detonate the bridge leading to the inner courtyard, inflicting huge casualties on the advancing samurai.

Knowing that another frontal attack would only result in more losses, Jin decides to infiltrate the keep and sneak poison into the Mongols' airag. He also encounters and kills Ryuzo when he refuses to surrender. However, he again misses Khotun, who has left to campaign further north. Despite the castle being taken with the samurai suffering no further losses, Shimura is furious with Jin, as his action severely violates the samurai code. Knowing the Shogun will have Jin executed for insubordination, Shimura urges him to scapegoat Yuna, but Jin refuses and embraces his persona as "The Ghost". Shimura has him arrested, but he manages to escape captivity. Jin travels north, and learns that the Mongols have learned how to craft his poison, which they intend to use in their assault on the Japanese mainland. Before gathering his allies and assaulting Khotun's final stronghold in Port Izumi, Jin leaves a note for Shimura in his castle asking him to join the effort with the samurai, which he does. With the bulk of the Mongol forces distracted, Jin infiltrates the port and kills Khotun on his flagship.

With Khotun dead, the Mongol invasion loses its momentum and the tide turns in favor of the samurai. Shimura informs Jin that the Shogun considers him a threat to the island's stability and status quo of obedience of the people to their leaders. He has therefore disbanded Clan Sakai and ordered Shimura to kill Jin. Reminiscing about what they have both lost, Jin and Shimura reluctantly duel each other, with Jin emerging victorious. Jin has the option to either kill Shimura to give him a proper warrior's death, or completely abandon the samurai code and spare his life. Regardless of the decision, Jin becomes the enemy of the Shogun.

Iki Island[edit]

Sometime after his duel with Shimura, Jin comes across a community of villagers who have been driven insane by a poison described as "sacred medicine". It was administered by a scouting party of Mongols whom Jin has never previously encountered: members of the Mongolian Eagle tribe, led by Ankhsar "The Eagle" Khatun. Defeating them, Jin learns that The Eagle is engaged in a conquest of Iki Island, where his late father Kazumasa had once led an unsuccessful campaign to pacify its raiders. The samurai withdrew from the island after Kazumasa was ambushed and killed by the raiders. Jin was there during the campaign as a boy; he witnessed his father's death and still blames himself for not saving him. Made cognizant of this new threat to Tsushima, Jin sails to Iki to stop The Eagle and face his past.

A thunderstorm destroys Jin's boat, but he is able to survive and arrive on Iki. Discovering the Eagle's base to be his father's former stronghold, Fort Sakai, Jin storms the fort but is subdued and captured by the Eagle's second-in-command, Khunbish. He and The Eagle force Jin to consume the "sacred medicine" in an attempt to convert him into one of the tribe’s shamans. The poison causes Jin to frequently hallucinate The Eagle, his deceased father, and many of his other past failures. He is rescued by the raider Tenzo, who reluctantly accepts Jin's help and takes him to the raiders' leader, Fune. Jin works with the raiders to weaken The Eagle’s hold over the island, eventually retaking Fort Sakai, killing Khunbish in the process. After fending off retaliation by The Eagle’s forces, Jin hears Tenzo say "May your death benefit all beings" to a dying Mongol - the same phrase a masked raider spoke to Kazumasa before killing him. Realizing that Tenzo killed his father, Jin nearly kills Tenzo before controlling his anger. He then proposes re-enacting the ambush that killed his father, in order to lure out and kill The Eagle. Although suffering from near-continuous hallucinations, Jin overcomes the effects of the “sacred medicine” by acknowledging his father's faults and at last coming to terms with his death. Jin kills The Eagle in a duel, turning the tide in the raiders' favor. Jin and Tenzo forgive each other before parting ways.

Development[edit]

Nate Fox served as the game director of Ghost of Tsushima.

Ghost of Tsushima was developed by Sucker Punch Productions, which had a staff count of 160.[31] Development of the game started in 2014 after they had completed Infamous Second Son and its expansion, First Light. After working on Infamous for nine years, the studio believed that it was time to create something new.[32] During the conceptualizing phase, the studio set out to release an open world game with a heavy emphasis on melee combat. Before deciding on the setting, Sucker Punch considered various other settings and themes such as pirates, Scottish outlaw Rob Roy MacGregor, and The Three Musketeers, but they kept coming back to feudal Japan and telling the story of a samurai warrior. They would later find a historical account of the Mongol invasion of Tsushima in 1274 and "the entire vision clicked into place."[33] In 2020, a cancelled prototype for one of Sucker Punch's cancelled project, Prophecy, was leaked. Set in a steampunk setting, Prophecy features gameplay elements that were later carried over to Ghost of Tsushima.[34] Sucker Punch worked on the game for six years, longest ever for a game developed by the studio.[31] The game's development was completed on June 22, 2020, with Sucker Punch confirming it had been declared gold, indicating it was being prepared for duplication and release.[35] Nate Fox served as the game director,[36] while Jason Connell was the creative director and art director.[36][37]

Setting and narrative[edit]

The game is set during the first Mongol invasion of Japan in 1274, in which the Mongols first landed on Tsushima Island.

The Mongol invasion of Tsushima was chosen as the setting because the conflict was "easy for people to immediately conceptualize". As the Mongols at the time had the world's most advanced military, there were real stake that required Jin and therefore, the player, to intervene.[38] To ensure that the game's world is authentic, the team consulted SIE Japan Studio, a fellow Sony game development team, early during the game's development. Japan Studio was excited about the idea and helped flew about 10 members from Sucker Punch to Japan and Tsushima Island for a 10- or 11-day guided tour with a historian.[39] The team visited Japan twice to research on Tsushima, one in summer and another in November, during the anniversary of the invasion.[40][41][42] Japan Studio also helped connect Sucker Punch with historians who consulted on the team the history of the invasion and local Japanese customs and traditions. Experts were also consulted on Japanese dialect, religions during the 13th century, and the recreation of 13th century Kanji.[41][43] The team also invited Ide Ryusetsu and Kuwami Masakumo Shike, experts from a samurai martial arts school to perform motion capture for the game and advise the team on sword-fighting.[44][39] Seattle-based historical sword-fighting expert David Ishimaru was also invovled in the creation of the game's combat style.[45] While the team initially considered introducing real-life historical figures into the game, they refrained from doing so after being told by experts that it would be insensitive.[46] Jin's samurai armour and katana were not historically accurate. Jin's armour were based in those from Sengoku period during the 16th to 17th century. According to Chris Zimmerman, Sucker Punch's cofounders, samurai armor in the 13th century looked "jarring looking" and did not align with players' expectations of what a samurai would look like.[43] The katana was also kept since it was considered to be the "quintessential icon of samurai".[47] One of the game's Japanese localizers also suggested to the developers that the game's "haiku" side-quest be replaced with a less anachronistic waka side-quest, but this was rejected based on the relative recognizability of haiku outside Japan.[48]

One of the core objectives was to have a strong character fantasy.[49] Unlike the Infamous games, Ghost of Tsushima does not have a karma meter. Its absence allowed the team to tell a more singular and cohesive story which better reflected Jin's "transformation" from a honorable samurai to a legendary warrior who must sacrifice everything he knows about honor and tradition and defy expectations in order to save Tsushima. Instead of having binary choices like Infamous, the world and characters react to Jin's choices in the story, either disapproving his actions, or lead him further down the path.[39] The team believed that the story would be relatable, as they considered Jin's journey of relinqushing who he was to "become something new" a universal message that can resonate with modern-day players.[45] Despite this, the player can still switch between the Ghost style and samurai warrior style seamlessly in gameplay because Jin's roots as a samurai would not change despite his transformation to become the Ghost.[50] While the game does not have a karma meter, the weather in Tsushima Island will become more stormy when the player uses Ghost techniques more frequently.[51] The game's antagonist, Khotan Khan, does not undergo any transformative change. While he is a ruthless invader, he has a "bureaucratic aspect" as he attempts to conquer Tsushima Island with minimal bloodshed. Voice actor Patrick Gallagher joined the cast in 2017. To prepare for the role, Gallagher watched The Godfather and drew from his experience portraying Attila the Hun in Night at the Museum.[52]

Films directed by Akira Kurosawa, including Seven Samurai, inspired the game.

While Fox said that the game was "entirely grounded in reality", the team took the liberty to create a fictional narrative. The initial Mongol invasion was foiled by a hurricane, and the team acknowledged this with Jin's katana which is engraved with storm wind designs.[38][53] 13 Assassins from Takashi Miike and films directed by Akira Kurosawa such as Seven Samurai, Sanjuro, Yojimbo, Red Beard and Ran, served as the team's major sources of inspiration.[54] The ending of Sanjuro directly inspired the game's "standoff" gameplay feature, in which a warrior must wait for their counterpart to make their first move and then kill him with one strike. The team tried tried to replicate the samurai code depicted in Seven Samurai in Ghost of Tsushima. The team reached out to the Kurosawa Estate so that they can use the director's name for their black-and-white gameplay mode.[55] Comic book series Usagi Yojimbo, which features a soft-mannered rabbit samurai helping ordinary citizens to solve various problems, also influenced the team. Fox read this comic series when he was working on the Sly Cooper games.[56][57] The last name of the game's protagonist was a tribute to Stan Sakai, the creator of Usagi Yojimbo.[49] A number of video games also inspired the development team. Many of the game's transversal items were inspired by Tenchu, while the option to play as both the Ghost and a honorable samurai was influenced by Onimusha: Warlords. Karateka and Red Dead Redemption were also cited as sources of inspiration.[54]

Gameplay[edit]

Ghost of Tsushima was designed to be a challenging game. Jin is frequently outnumbered, and basic enemies can kill Jin fairly quickly. The team hoped that through the game's difficult combat, players would grow more appreciative of minor incremental growth. Fox added that the three pillars of the game's combat were "mud, blood, and steel". It needed to be grounded, visceral and challenging.[56] Fox added that they have strived to keep swordfights deadly, so that each combat encounter would be reminiscent of those seen in samurai movie.[58] The combat system was the most difficult feature to implement in Ghost of Tsushima. as the team had to build multiple versions of it and reiterated its design frequently during the game's development.[59] Early playtesters initially complained that the enemies were "sword sponge" in which they absorbed a large amount of damage before they died, thus breaking immersion. The team responded to this criticism by adding "hit points" and "armor points", but ultmiately decided that all enemies must be defeated within a certain number of hits. Health of enemies would not change regardless of the selected difficulty. Instead, they would adopt more defensive tactics such as parrying and blocking. Early prototypes of this design was described to be an "overkill", in which they would deflect all attacks. As a result, the stagger system, which allowed players to break their defense and remain offensive, was introduced. The team broke the "lethal contact" doctrine when creating the 1v1 duels, as players likely expect them to be boss fights and these encounters cannot be over too soon.[60] The Ghost weapons were designed to be "exceedingly lethal" and generally more effective than samurai weapons. This further complemented the story and Jin's emotional struggle of maintaining samurai honor or saving the island through despicable ways. While players may enjoy playing the Ghost path, the narrative would remind them that these techniques are dishonorable and loathed upon.[47] The game did not have a "lock-on" mechanic at launch. Fox compared the Mongol enemies as packs of wolves which attacked the players from all sides. He further likened the game's combat to dance, in which the player must seamlessly "weave between Mongol swords" as multiple enemies are attacking simultaneously.[61]

One of the goals of the studio was to create a "beautiful, serene, and nature-filled open world feudal Japan". Connell, during the game's reveal at Paris Game Week, went off the script and announced that the game would not feature any waypoint and that the game's exploration would be mostly driven by player's curiosity. This announcement was unexpected for the team, and they had to add additional features in order to fulfill Connell's promise.[31] Sucker Punch strived to ensure that the game had moments of calm in which player can slow down and be fully immersed into the world. This is achieved through having a minimalistic head-up display, nature-guided objectives, and relaxing open world activities that are not tied to progression or the overarching story.[62][63] Side-quests in the game were likened to an anthology of stories, and Jin will meet other characters who are trying to survive the brutality of war.[38][56] Connell added that ultimately, the studio wanted players to get lost in the team's recreation of feudal Japan.[32][38]

Art and world design[edit]

Bold colors were used when the team was creating different parts of Tsushima Island.

The team decided early on that "wind blowing around literally everything in the world" would be Ghost of Tsushima's "visual calling card". This was inspired by early Chanbara samurai films, which always have incidental motion and movement in the background by dust, smoke and wind. The team took one and half year to ensure that objects and foilage would react to wind. The team initially added icons and a compass to the game to aid player's navigation, but they realized they spent an excessive amount of time looking at them and ignoring the actual game world. The team then decided to use wind to guide players to their objectives, thus forcing them to look and observe the world. They used about a week to experiment with the feature and spent about a year to further refine it.[39][64] While implementing the feature, they were inspired by Shadow of the Colossus, in which the player would be informed of the direction of their objectives when they hold up their sword. Connell added that "nature is a symbol for Jin's home", and guiding wind served as an important tool for players to "connect" with Jin's home. According to Fleming, guiding wind also evoked a feeling that "nature herself is on [the player's] side".[41] This also aligned with real-life history, as Mongol forces were decimated by a typhoon, seen by the Japanese as the "divine wind" sent to protect their home.[65][66] A lot of the game's particle effects and systems were brought on from previous Infamous games.[32]

"The fern forest has tons of ferns. Not a fern and a bush and two trees, it's just "Let's flood it with ferns first, like make that be the big read." And I think that that whether it's pampas grass, or ferns, or gingko trees, or spider lilies, or beech trees—this is a theme we went back to countless times."

—Jason Connell, creative director and art director[37]

The team did not intend to create a one-to-one recreation of Tsushima Island. While the in-game landmass is geographically the same shape as that of Tsushima Island, Sucker Punch took the liberty to create the game's biomes, ensuring that each area is artistically distinct. This allowed the team to create a unique identity to each area, allowing players to recognize them easily even when viewed from afar.[67] This is achieved through the use of bold and vibrant colors to nature. The team also chose the dominant foilage in an area and significantly exaggerated its presence, so that the team can create "little pockets of massive boldness and beauty".[68] For instance, the team focused on orange and yellow hues for the trees when they were creating the Golden Forest, one of the game's locations, instead of having all types of trees that would realistically grow there.[69] Connell described these locations as one's imagination of what an area would look like and "the perfect photographer's dream".[37] Fox added that the landscape featured in the in-game island is more diverse than its real-life counterparts,[47] as the team also incorporated the aesthetics of mainland Japan while they were recreating Tsushima Island.[69] In an early iteration of the game, the world was filled with dense foresty and trees. However, this proved to be problematic because players would get lost if they were not provided with an in-game mini-map or a compass. Having inspired by Shadow of the Colossus, the team added a lot more open spaces and fields into the game to have a more balanced terrain.[70]

According to Fleming, "everything in Japan tends to celebrate negative space". As a result, the team pushed for having "simplicity", from the design of the game's architecture and its interiors, to the minimalistic HUD.[44] Connell added that the art and environment teams had a hard time switching to Ghost of Tsushima after working for nine years on the Infamous games, which features a "punk rock" visual style.[31] Shadow of the Colossus and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild both inspired the game's minimalistic landscape and aesthestic, though the team strived to have more photorealistic visuals to highlight the game's setting.[71] Much of the game was designed to be "serene" and "tranquil", so that they can subsequently juxtaposed with sharp moments of violence through the game's combat and story.[47] The game also features a black-and-white filter mode named Kurosawa mode to pay tribute to the late director. To design this mode, the team playtested the game repeatedly using features commonly found in accessibility modes designed for colorblind individuals.[72]

Jin's armors were significantly inspired by the armor design from Kamakura and Heian periods. These armour were designed to be bulky and colorful, radiating "a sense of regality", while contrasting with the darker, more agile Ghost outfit. The team intentionally avoided the traditional assassin design in which characters are dressed with black and fully-cloth clothings for the Ghost outfit so that it would look more realistic. Parts of outfits, such as capes and tassels, respond to wind, which further connected the player and Jin to the game's world. Compared to samumrai, peasant recruits wear leftover armour and have a more ragtag appearance. Peasants frequently wear clothes with geometric patterns that reflects their origins. For instance, people living on Northern Tsushima wear clothes with snowflake patterns. The game's antagonist, Khotan Khan, has two armours, with one being completely void of colors and more angular in shape, further signifying his oppression and brutality.[73][74]

Audio and music[edit]

Eshkeri composed the game's music, while Umebayashi was responsible for the exploration music.

Brad Meyer served as the game's audio lead. To record the sound of swordfighting, the team used sword blanks previously used in recording sessions for God of War, which was developed by Santa Monica Studio, another fellow Sony developer. According to Meyer, the team spent a lot of time "scraping them against each other, clanging them together, swinging them, suspending them from the ceiling and spinning them around" in order to record interesting sounds. The team also used them to cut through fruits, vegetables and cloths to recreate the sound of a sword cutting through a human body. Combat sounds will be deemphasized when the players are exploring and not in actual combat. Jin's wind chimes were recorded using a Japanese furin. The black-naped oriole was chosen as the game's guide bird because it can be found in Japan and Meyer had the opportunity to record its sound during a vacation in Sri Lanka in 2018.[75] The audio and music system was initially based on the one from Infamous Second Son, in which combat music will gradually intensify over three different states. However, due to additional gameplay elements featured in Ghost of Tsushima such as Ghost Stance and standoff, the team was required to create additional states for the combat music.[76]

British composer Ilan Eshkeri wrote the game's music. Eshkeri researched extensively on Japanese musical styles in the 13th century, including Gagaku, Shōmyō Buddhist chanting, and the biwa hōshi.[77][76] A group of consultants also helped translate lyrics written in English to Japanese. Eshkeri was approached by the team after they listened to his work on Coriolanus. The team was particularly impressed by how he was able to recreate Japanese music using western instruments. Eshkeri was initailly hesitant since he was not familiar with scoring music for fighting games, but he became convinced when he was briefed the game's narrative.[76] Eshkeri learnt Japanese scales, played Japanese instruments and listened to music from Tsushima Island. He also met with Junko Ueda, one of the few surviving musicians who can play a biwa, an instrument used by samurai in the past. It was then used in the recording of "The Way of the Ghost", Jin's personal theme.[78] Certain ancient Japanese melodies, including The Tale of the Heike, were also quoted and rearranged by Eshkeri.[79] However, he deliberately avoided listening to musical scores of Kurosawa's films in order to keep his music original. The most difficult track for Eshkeri to write was the one for the final battle, as the track needed to be action-packed and emotional concurrently.[77] Eshkeri ultimately wrote twice as much music than what was actually needed.[78] The game also features five musical suites by Japanese composer Shigeru Umebayashi, who was responsible for creating the game's exploration music.[77][65] The full soundtrack of the game was released on July 17, 2022. A four-track remix EP, titled "Sound of the Storm – Ghost of Tsushima Soundtrack: Reimagined", features contributions from TOKiMONSTA, Tycho, The Glitch Mob and Alessandro Cortini. It was released on July 10, 2022, via Milan Records.[80]

Release[edit]

The game's marketing campaign began in October 2017 when a reveal trailer was shown at Sony Interactive Entertainment's Paris Games Week press conference.[81] Sony opted not to announce the title too early since many of the game's systems were tentative and subject to change.[82] A gameplay demo was shown at E3 2018 and a live shakuhachi performance was delivered by Cornelius Boots.[83] The game was released for PlayStation 4 on July 17, 2020,[84] having been delayed from its original June 26 release date due to the COVID-19 pandemic.[85] Sucker Punch announced four editions: standard, digital deluxe, special, and a collector's edition.[85] Different editions come with different collectors' items as well as items, equipment, and unlocked abilities in the game, in addition to a bonus for pre-ordering the game.[85] Sony also partnered with the Tourism Board of Tsushima Island and the Nagasaki Prefecture to launch a website that educates readers about the history and culture of the real-life Island.[86] Art prints, produced by Cook & Becker, were released in November 2020.[87]

A multiplayer expansion titled Ghost of Tsushima: Legends, was released on October 16, 2020, alongside the addition of a new game plus feature to the base game.[88][89] Unlike the main game, Legends features prominent supernatural elements drawn from Japanese folklore and mythology.[88] While Legends was introduced as a post-launch update, Sucker Punch decided early on that some form of cooperative gameplay be included with the final game. Development of the mode started in 2016, and the studio experimented for six months to a year when designing the multiplayer mode.[90] The team ultimately chose Legends for its supernatural elements, which gave the team more creative freedom when they were designing the characters and their abilities. The Storyteller was introduced so as to tie the mode thematically back to Jin's journey and the world of Tsushima. According to Darren Bridge, senior game designer leading Legends development, the visual style of Legends was unrefined until the final nine months of the game's development. The final boss fight was also completed fairly late in the game's development, with the team once considering delaying or completely removing it from the game.[91] In December 2020, Legends introduced four outfits based on other PlayStation franchises: Bloodborne, God of War, Horizon Zero Dawn, and Shadow of the Colossus.[92] Legends received a standalone release on September 3, 2021.[93] It was one of the free games offered to PlayStation Plus subscribers in March 2022.[94]

Sucker Punch released Ghost of Tsushima: Director's Cut on August 20, 2021, for both PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5. The PlayStation 5 includes exclusive features such as full Japanese lip sync, haptic feedback and adaptive trigger support, 3D audio support, dynamic 4K resolution and improved loading times.[95] The new version also includes an expansion in which Jin visits Iki Island to stop a Mongol tribe led by a shaman named Ankhsar Khatun. The size of Iki Island was similar to act one of the main game, and players can access the island once they have reached act 2 of the main story. Iki Island was drastically different from Tsushima Island, as it was mostly populated with bandits, raiders and criminals. When designing Iki Island, the team continued to use bold colors, though it used a different color palette so that players can easily differentiate it from the main Tsushima Island.[96] According to the team, the story also delves into Jin's past and the history of clan Sakai, and explores a different viewpoint of the Mongol invasion.[97][98] Iki Island also added new combat skills, such as the ability for the horse to charge at enemies, new sidequests and open world activities, including visiting animal sancturies where Jin can pet various animals,[99][97] and featured music composed by Chad Cannon and Bill Hemstapat, both of whom had previously worked with Umebayashi for the arrangement and orchestration of "Tsushima's suite".[100] An armor set inspired by Aloy from Horizon Forbidden West was added to Director's Cut in February 2022.[101] In April 2022, Sucker Punch announced that they have stopped working on further patches and updates for both the main game and Legends, as the studio shifted developmental resources to other projects.[102]

Reception[edit]

Critical reception[edit]

The game received "generally favorable" reviews, according to the review aggregator Metacritic.[103] It received a combined 40/40 score from four editors of the Japanese video game magazine Famitsu,[106] the third Western-developed game to do so.[b] It also received high praise from Toshihiro Nagoshi, the director of the Yakuza series, who applauded Jin as the game's protagonist, adding that Japanese studios were unlikely to greenlight a game starring a middle-aged man due to marketing reasons.[116] Fox and Connell were named as tourism ambassadors to Tsushima Island in March 2021, as those "who has spread the name and history of Tsushima through their works".[36]

The story received a generally positive reception. Matt Miller from Game Informer wrote that Ghost of Tsushima offered "a tale about the contradictory ideals of honor and revenge", and enjoyed the side quests for offering a sombre contemplation on the brutality of war and how it affects the everyday life of ordinary peasants.[107] IGN's Mitchell Saltzman praised Tsuji's and Gallagher's performance. He described Jin's struggles as "compelling", and Khan as a memorable antagonist whose "soft intensity" is "oddly calming despite his terrifying intentions". Critics applauded the game's cast of side characters, and added that their personal stories impacted the overall story and Jin's own character development.[109][107][110] The side-quests, however, were largely considered to be repetitive and forgettable.[111][109][110] Eurogamer's Chris Tapsell compared them unfavourably to The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt and considered them to be an "afterthought", criticizing their basic framework and inadequate rewards for completion.[117] While the performance of the voice cast was praised,[114][110][109][117] several reviewers noted the lack of lip-syncing for the Japanese audio, which was later rectified in the Director's Cut version of the game.[112][110][108] Edmond Tran, writing for GameSpot, noted the characters have "noticeable lack of bodily expression", hindering the delivery of certain emotional scenes, but remarked that the emotional impact of these scenes were frequently heightened by the game's musical score and its cinematography.[108] In a negative review, Keza MacDonald from The Guardian felt that the story lacked intrigue and wrote that Ghost of Tsushima adhered "so closely to the tropes and storylines of classic samurai fiction that it sometimes forgets to have a personality of its own".[111]

The gameplay received generally favourable reviews. Miller enjoyed the enemy variety, and added that combat remained challenging and riveting even when the player were approaching the end of the game. He felt that the game's two playstyles were both satisfying, and lauded Sucker Punch for allowing players to freely choose their approaches to objectives and missions.[107] Writing for GamesRadar, Rachel Weber agreed that the game was challenging. He added that it "flowed like a dance", and remarked the combat had a large emphasis on the timing of attack and parry.[109] Standoffs were particularly praised for evoking the feelings of Japanese samurai movies.[112][110][108] Saltzman appreciated the combat system and compared it to the early Assassin's Creed games, the Batman Arkham series and Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice. He also enjoyed the progression system, as players were not required to grind for experience to level up, and difficulty would not suddenly ramp up as the player progresses.[110] Mike Williams from USgamer felt that combat was "decent", but the camera angle and the lack of a lock-on system meant that player cannot easily control the battlefield as opponents swarmed in on Jin from various directions with different styles of attacks.[112] Several critics were disappointed by the stealth gameplay as they felt that it was too basic and rudimentary.[110][117][113] Both Williams and Satlzman noted that the artificial intelligence was inadequate.[110][112]

The world received mixed reviews. Its art direction received critical acclaim from critics. Weber described the game's world as a "work of art",[109] Miller described it as a "painter’s vision of feudal Japan",[107] and Saltzmann wrote that its visual landscape was one of the best ever for an open world game.[110] Critics particularly praised how the game used elements of nature, such as wind and birds, to guide the player to their objectives,[110][109][108] with Williams describing the guiding wind system as its "major innovation".[112] Tran wrote that Guiding Wind encouraged players to explore the game world and made them more likely to "follow winding roads around mountains and along river bank" instead of simply choosing the most direct route.[108] Critics also enjoyed how the game offered moments of relief and calmness.[107][109][105] Miller also liked the world design for encouraging players to explore, but lamented that some of the platforming sessions were too static and limiting.[107] Chris Carter, writing for Destructoid, enjoyed some of the open world activities, singling out the composition of haiku and bathing in hotsprings as examples of unique optional content.[105] Many critics, however, were disappointed by the game's open world structure and found it to be unimaginative and outdated.[117][105] Tapsell added that the side content and points of interest lacked variety and a sense of mystery.[117] Andrew Webster from The Verge felt that these repetitive open world activities undermined the game's innovative ideas.[118] Kirk McKeand from VG247 also criticized its open world activities for hindering the pacing of the story, and deemed the structure of some quests "archaic".[113]

Sales[edit]

Ghost of Tsushima was the best-selling physical game in its debut week of release in the United Kingdom[119] and sold 373,473 copies in the country by the end of 2020.[120] It was also the best-selling physical game in July 2020 in the US, and became Sucker Punch's fastest-selling game there.[121] The game also topped the download charts in both Europe and the USA.[122] It went on to become the seventh best-selling game of 2020 in the US.[123] The Director's Cut version was the best-selling game in the UK in its week of release,[124] and the second best-selling game in the United States in August 2021, only behind Madden NFL 22.[125] Worldwide, the game sold through more than 2.4 million units in its first 3 days of sales, making it the PlayStation 4's fastest selling first-party original IP debut.[126] It was reported in November 2020 that it has sold over 5 million copies.[127] By July 2022 the game had sold 9.73 million copies.[128]

In Japan, the game was also the best-selling game during its debut week, with 212,915 copies being sold.[129] The game was out of stock in some stores in Japan during its launch month.[130] The game remained in the top 30 best-selling video games in Japan for over 15 consecutive weeks, totaling over 412,000 copies sold.[131] It had the second-highest lifetime sales for a Sony first-party video game, only behind Marvel's Spider-Man.[132]

Awards[edit]

In addition to the following awards, the game was selected by PlayStation Official Magazine – UK and Hardcore Gamer as their Game of the Year.[133][134]

Year Award Category Result Ref
2020 Golden Joystick Awards PlayStation Game of the Year Nominated [135][136]
Best Audio Nominated
Best Storytelling Nominated
Best Visual Design Nominated
Studio of the Year Nominated
The Game Awards 2020 Game of the Year Nominated [137]
Best Game Direction Nominated
Best Art Direction Won
Best Narrative Nominated
Best Performance (Tsuji as Jin Sakai) Nominated
Best Audio Design Nominated
Best Action/Adventure Game Nominated
Player's Voice Won
Titanium Awards Best Narrative Design Nominated [138]
Best Art Design Nominated
2021 24th Annual D.I.C.E. Awards Game of the Year Nominated [139][140]
Adventure Game of the Year Won
Outstanding Achievement in Original Music Composition Won
Outstanding Achievement in Art Direction Won
Outstanding Achievement in Audio Design Won
Outstanding Achievement in Story Nominated
Outstanding Technical Achievement Nominated
Outstanding Achievement in Game Design Nominated
Outstanding Achievement in Game Direction Nominated
Visual Effects Society Awards Outstanding Virtual Cinematography in a CG Project Nominated [141] [142]
Outstanding Visual Effects in a Real-Time Project Won
17th British Academy Games Awards Artistic Achievement Nominated [143][144]
Audio Achievement Won
Best Game Nominated
Game Design Nominated
Multiplayer Nominated
Music Nominated
Narrative Nominated
Original Property Nominated
Performer in a Leading Role (Tsuji as Jin Sakai) Nominated
Performer in a Supporting Role (Gallagher as Khotun Khan) Nominated
EE Game of the Year Nominated
21st Game Developers Choice Awards Game of the Year Nominated [145]
Best Audio Nominated
Best Design Nominated
Best Narrative Nominated
Best Technology Nominated
Best Visual Art Won
Japan Game Awards 2021 Game Designers Award Runner-up [146]
Award for Excellence Won
Grand Prize Won
Golden Joystick Awards 2021 Best Game Expansion (Iki Island) Won [147]

Film adaptation[edit]

On March 25, 2021, Sony Pictures and PlayStation Productions announced the development of a film adaptation of the game, with Chad Stahelski directing. The film will be produced by Stahelski, Alex Young and Jason Spitz of 87Eleven Entertainment, and Asad Qizilbash and Carter Swan for PlayStation Productions; Sucker Punch will serve as executive producers, with Peter Kang overseeing production on the studio's behalf. On April 12, 2022, Takashi Doscher was brought on to write the screenplay.[148][149]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Waka in the Japanese version[13]
  2. ^ The first two Western-developed games to receive a 40/40 score from Famitsu were The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (2011) and Grand Theft Auto V (2013).[115]

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