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‘Ghost of Tsushima’ review: A gaming homage to legendary director Akira Kurosawa

A screenshot from video game Ghost of Tsushima

A screenshot from video game Ghost of Tsushima   | Photo Credit: Sony Interactive Entertainment

One of most requested settings for the historical series of games, Assassins Creed, is in Japan. Yet, it was Sucker Punch who delivered on that request, not Ubisoft. Ghost of Tsushima is the spiritual embodiment of several games, from The Witcher to Sekiro, while forging its own somewhat untrodden path. The game releases on July 17, globally, so keep your sword — or, controller — ready.

Ghost of Tsushima
  • Developer: Sucker Punch Productions
  • Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
  • Price: ₹3,999 on PlayStation 4

History and homage

By the 13th Century, the Mongol Empire had taken over much of Asia, when they began their conquest of Japan with the island of Tsushima. Ghost of Tsushima is a fictional story set in those troubling times, centred around Jin, a lone surviving samurai holding out against the invaders. After a bitter defeat Jin, realises his honour as a traditional samurai does not work against an enemy that fights without those same rules.

Ghost of Tsushima is an homage to classic samurai movies, especially those of legendary director Akira Kurosawa (Seven Samurai, Rashomon, Throne of Blood), from the camera movements, to the lamp-lit noir lighting, to the exaggerated, pantomimic acting is a treat for a fan of such movies. There is even a Kurosawa Mode, which converts the game into this black and white classic film.

Press play (Above and below) A screenshot of the game in Photo Mode, (bottom) gear screen

Press play (Above and below) A screenshot of the game in Photo Mode, (bottom) gear screen   | Photo Credit: Sony Interactive Entertainment

Foregoing a queue of linear quests like most open world games do today, Tsushima’s narrative feels curated. The world recognises you as a noble and samurai, and does not assign you to merely handle people’s fetch-quests. People bow with respect as you pass or meet them. You feel like a warrior and a freedom fighter, and every bit of writing adds up. The world is reacting to you and never breaking pace, which adds a lot more to an already engaging premise.

An unpredictable system

The game sets itself apart in the action, and the biggest mistake is to take an Assassins Creed approach to gameplay, which is just a quick path to frustration. Put yourself in the mind of a patient samurai; anticipate enemy attacks, parry and slice, ending the fight quick. However, the lack of a ‘lock-on’ button is annoying, making evasions a fight to try and get the camera facing the right way — yet, when mastered, the fighting system just flows. By learning enemy tactics, you unlock new fighting styles that take classic samurai tactics and blend it with an unpredictable system.

Gear screen for video game Ghost of Tsushima

Gear screen for video game Ghost of Tsushima   | Photo Credit: Sony Interactive Entertainment

As the game progresses, your reputation as a ghost — a bogeyman, to those who fear you — grows too. The action and stealth do feel a bit stiff sometimes, with uneven enemy AI that seems to lose sight of you all too easily, and then hunts you down all too effectively, something which needs to be fixed.

The world of Tsushima is a treat to lose yourself in with everything set to maximum beauty. The Photo Mode is a button press away and you can capture motion stills of the world’s lush greenery, adding to its Instagram-worthiness. When you’re not mobbed by Mongols, the game is an ASMR feast, with its glorious particle effects comprising fireflies, petals, and autumn leaves.

Screenshot of the Photo Mode from video game Ghost Of Tsushima

Screenshot of the Photo Mode from video game Ghost Of Tsushima   | Photo Credit: Sony Interactive Entertainment

Once again, Sony has proved it is capable of making excellent first-party games for the PlayStation 4, and Ghost of Tsushima does push the PS4 Pro to its limit with quick loading times and excellent graphics.

Note of tribute: Akira Kurosawa

The people at Sucker Punch were so inspired by the works of late filmmaker Akira Kurosawa (1910 - 1998), they actually approached the legendary director and screen writer’s estate to use the Kurosawa name for the black and white mode, an impressive feat to get the stamp of approval of the house of Kurosawa.

Screenshot from video game Ghost Of Tsushima

Screenshot from video game Ghost Of Tsushima   | Photo Credit: Sony Interactive Entertainment

Famed for his use of light and shadow to create dramatic sweeping scenes, Kurosawa’s career spanned four decades, from the 1950s to the ‘90s. His employment of the ‘wipe’ transition effect between scenes is well known. His films have inspired world cinema until today and in some cases, have been remade and reimagined, but these have never quite captured the essence of the original. Something which Ghost of Tsushima seems to capture perfectly.

The writer is a tech and gaming enthusiast who hopes to one day finish his sci-fi novel

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Printable version | Aug 7, 2020 11:24:32 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/technology/gamespot-review-ghost-of-tsushima-2020-video-game-an-homage-to-akira-kurosawa-sucker-punch-productions-sony-interactive-entertainment/article32082394.ece

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