Opinion

Ghost of Tsushima’s Setting is Surprisingly Unique among Video Games

Ghost of Tsushima seems to be my childhood dream come true. In my life, I have always gravitated to Japanese culture. My dad’s childhood best friend is a first generation Japanese-American. Growing up around him and his parents, I ate up the history and culture of his people thoroughly. He even taught me to speak Japanese fairly fluently by the age of seven. He introduced me to Japanese cuisine from a young age and helped reinforce my love of gaming. I didn’t even discover Anime and Manga until middle school, upon where those mediums simply became another way for me to step into the Japanese world. To this day, I still don’t watch much anime that isn’t slice-of-life.

This exposure, of course, granted me a special appreciation for Japanese game developers. I ate up every JRPG I could get my hands on from the time I could hold my SNES controller. However, as I got older I realized that I didn’t know many Japanese games that were actually set in Japan. And the ones I did know were too hard for me. Not only that but most of them liked to take on a gothic-medieval European aesthetic, such as Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest. These are, of course, fantastic games with uniquely wonderful worlds and settings. But rarely do games touch on the beautiful setting that is pre-industrial Japan. So it is a little strange that American based Sucker Punch is finally bringing the setting to us. Not bad, just strange.

A Setting Like No Other

At this point, I think I’ve watched the E3 reveal trailer for Sucker Punch’s upcoming Samurai epic Ghost of Tsushima about a dozen times. From the breathtaking cinematic landscape, lush Japanese fields and woodlands, beautiful Shinto gate, and so much more Ghost of Tsushima is my personal game of the show.

We all know that the Japanese legacy on video games is undeniably fundamental. The early days of console games were filled with ninja platformers like Ninja Gaiden and Shinobi. Later eras of games brought us the monstrous feudal-fantasy of Onimusha, and the Yakuza series has always had a uniquely Japanese flair. Despite the clout of these series, there has often been a disconnect when it comes to video games telling truly Japanese stories in a grounded setting. After all, the most iconic Japanese character is an Italian-American plumber. Even Nioh, which I adore, starred an English protagonist who fought demonic beasts and Shinto spirits. And Persona, my favorite role-playing series that places the player in the shoes of a Japanese high school student, is still filled with monsters, magic, and fantasy epic.

Don’t get me wrong, I love all of these things. Shinto mythology is one of the most unique and diverse casts of gods and monsters ever invented. The way it flows so thoroughly through Japanese history itself holds beautiful and poetic genius. But what I’ve always wanted was a space to explore and breath in the feudal Japanese countryside and villages in a way that was historical. Believe me, if there were monsters in this game I’d still be completely invested, but I think it is very brave of Sucker Punch to forgo that temptation, and instead will get to tell the tale of the time the Samurai defended Japan from Genghis Khan.

And now We Wait…

I know that it’s early, and this is just our first look at the game, but I think Ghost of Tsushima may finally be that game I’ve dreamed of for so long.  Sucker Punch knows how to make an action game. They have also told some great stories in the past. With Naughty Dog and Santa Monica as sister companies, it’s easy to become overshadowed. This is a fascinating piece of history and the aesthetic they’ve created is incredible. I haven’t been this excited about a title in many years, and I am eagerly awaiting any more news, hopefully from PSX in December.


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