In 2020, Sucker Punch Productions and Sony Interactive Entertainment took us to a world filled with invading armies, beautiful scenery, and ancient traditions. Released exclusively for the PlayStation 4, Ghost of Tsushima was highly regarded by critics and fans. The samurai action-adventure game put us in the armor of Jin Sakai as he sought to liberate Japan from the Mongolian army. We write some Haikus and behead some traders in this Ghost of Tsushima review.
Ghost of Tsushima Plot:
Ghost of Tsushima is filled with ancient Japanese lore with characters who live and die by their beliefs of honor and traditions. The story is the best part of my Ghost of Tsushima review and enjoyed living through the dramatic scenes and scenarios that unfolded as I played through the game. I wouldn’t say Ghost of Tsushima is historically accurate but some fabrics to it are legit.
Starting in 1274, a Mongolian army begins to invade Japan. Jin Sakai is an honorable samurai who is fighting to defend his homeland led by his uncle, Lord Shimura. As they begin their battle with the Mongols, it’s clear that the samurai’s traditional and “honorable” way of fighting is ineffective in defeating the ruthless and savage Mongols who don’t follow the rules of war. During a beach battle, all of the samurai is killed in a bloody mess. Lord Shimura is captured and Jin wakes up in a cottage nearby.
A woman named Yuna nurses him back to health before instructing him to escape the area with her. Together, they escape the Mongol territory and flee to safety. With his armor and sword back, Jin heads toward the Mongolian fortress where Khotun Khan, the ruler of the Mongols is holding Lord Shimura captive. Jin faces Khan in a one-and-one battle on a bridge before being knocked off falling into a deep river.
Jin wakes up on a beach and begins to devise a plan of freeing his uncle from the Mongolians who are holding him captive in hopes that he’ll surrender his army. The traditional methods of how he battles begin to fade away as he becomes something of a legend to the locals. No longer does Jin fight face-to-face but instead hides in the shadows, uses poison, and other in-direct methods to killing Mongolian units.
He recruits a few warriors to help his cause. Yuna who helped rescue him agrees to fight along so she and her brother can leave the island. There’s an archer named Ishikawa who once served Lord Shimura. A female samurai named Masako wants revenge on the Mongolians for killing her family, and there’s Norio a warrior monk who uses a long spear to battle. With a rebel army assembled, Jin seeks out the help of Ryuzo a childhood friend who commands the Straw Hat Ronin warriors. Ryuzo is jealous of Jin and the reputation that he is quickly growing but agrees to help Jin take down the Mongols.
Jin and his army arrive at the attack point and frees Lord Shimura. Khan heads North with his army to continue the invasion and Jin discovers that Ryuzo betrayed him after making a deal with the Mongols. Ryuzo and Jin battle but Ryuzo runs away before being fatally wounded. With Lord Shimura free, they begin planning an all-out attack on the Mongols and Khan.
Lord Shimura continues to express distaste for how Jin has grown away from the Samurai ways despite Jin saving his life. With flashbacks throughout the game, it’s revealed that Jin’s father and mother were killed in the war when he was a teen. Lord Shimura takes him in and treats him as his own son which has put a strain on their relationship after Jin has moved on from the traditional battle techniques of the samurai.
With more warriors recruited, Jin and his uncle look to take a large castle back from the Mongols. Jin finds Ryuzo and the two duel with the result of Ryuzo dying. Together, Jin and Lord Shimura finish defeating the Mongols and clearing out the castle. After the battle Lord Shimura continues to express displeasure over the tactics that Jin uses to which he responds he saved hundreds of lives doing it his way instead of fighting the Mongols head on. Lord Shimura asks Jin to become his adopted son and help lead the army to which Jin declines. He surrenders to Lord Shimura and is taken, prisoner.
That doesn’t last long as Jin’s friends help bust him out but he is now exiled from Lord Shimura’s territory and hunted in Mongol territory. With nowhere to go, Jin hides in a small fortress as he figures out his next move to defeating Khan. Before his final attack on the Khan, Jin writes his uncle a letter and sneaks into his castle to deliver it on his dresser. The hope is that Lord Shimura will join Jin and together they will defeat the Khan in one last battle.
Jin arrives and begins attacking the Khan and his remaining army. Lord Shimura shows up and assists in battle with his troops and Jin is able to kill Khan in a duel. After the battle, the two go their separate ways to recover. Some time passes and Lord Shimura writes Jin a letter asking to meet where they used to spar when he was a teen. Jin meets his uncle and they reminisce about their time together and ride around the lake. Lord Shimura has been ordered by the new Shogun to kill Jin as he is seen as disrespectful and disobeys authority. They sit down and write haikus on their relationship before drawing swords. Jin defeats his uncle and it’s up to the player to spare or execute Lord Shimura.
Ghost of Tsushima Gameplay:
The plot of Ghost of Tsushima was entertaining and at some points it made me appreciate my Ghost of Tsushima review. There are a lot of great things about the gameplay of Ghost of Tsushima, but there are a few things that I couldn’t ignore during my Ghost of Tsushima review. The scenery and nature that surrounds Jin on his adventure are gorgeous. There’s plenty of vivid and picturesque landscapes as you ride your horse. Lakes, mountains, and autumn trees sprinkle around the map and flowers are everywhere. It’s an immersive environment that will keep you turning your head to see what else is there. Sucker Punch Productions gets full credit here but unfortunately, there are small details that erase some of the magic to this game.
Jin is called the Ghost of Tsushima and while that’s his nickname, sometimes he acts like a literal ghost as he walks through shrubs, bushes, and tree branches as they go through his body. The developers did a lot of work into making this game feel like a cinematic experience even including a black-and-white cinematic mode like old samurai movies, but the magic disappears when Jin interacts poorly with his environment. He isn’t the only one. Some enemies and allies of Jin’s get stuck on trees or rocks as they move toward you. One mission during my Ghost of Tsushima review had Ishikawa stuck by a tree branch unable to move. I couldn’t complete the next objective until he reached a dead horse but he couldn’t travel. I ran away and left the mission area for it to restart again.
There’s a difficulty curve within the first five hours. Jin is relatively weak, and there are different battle stances you need to learn to defeat enemies. At first in my Ghost of Tsushima review, it was difficult in battle (I played on normal) but then after about five hours, I got the hang of it. I countered a lot during a battle but by the end of the game, I was just running into the battles and being wreckless having learned what techniques are effective against who.
Jin has plenty of tricks up his sleeve including secondary weapons. I enjoyed the hallucination darts that made enemies fight each other and I never got tired of throwing my Kunai. It offered a different way of defeating enemies which were welcomed. Defeating enemies earned you experience to which you could level up some of Jin’s equipment and abilities.
Battles were fun at first during my Ghost of Tsushima review but once you encountered one town full of Mongols or a mission to rid the Mongols from an area, you didn’t see anything special or new afterward, and that included the main missions. The best part of the game was the duels. These one-on-one battles were the most cinematic and felt special as Jin dueled another samurai, enemy, or friend in a small area. It felt important and it was often the most challenging. There were a few times I died during these duels but I discovered that after you critically strike them, they’ll say something and leave their guard open again for you to drain it. It worked against every opponent.
Another complaint in my Ghost of Tsushima review is the camera. There were plenty of times that I found myself looking through a wall or window Jin battled just outside it. I grew frustrated when I was pushed to small corners where the camera continued to show less and less visibility. For all the emphasis they put on telling a great story and for all the work they put into making the world a dramatic and immersive area, it sure was unpolished. There were scenes where Jin’s armor was shaking uncontrollably which made him look silly as he spoke calmly.
There were a few characters I connected with during my Ghost of Tsushima review. I thought Kenji was a terrific character who added much-needed humor. Norio was a great character arc, and I even enjoyed Yuna’s loyalty to her brother and Jin. I didn’t care for Masako and wish that after she turns on Jin that you had the opportunity to kill her. (I would have)
I enjoyed the ending of Ghost of Tsushima quite a bit. The struggle between Jin and his uncle was well-written. Once I defeated him, I chose to honor him with a warrior’s death. I didn’t kill him out of hate, but I believed that his beliefs were so entrenched in tradition and honor that not killing him would make him live a miserable existence without the honor that he so desperately sought. It’s what he would have wanted.
Throughout the game, Jin can travel throughout the land freely as he gains more experience. I didn’t mind doing these small tasks but after a few weeks of playing Ghost of Tsushima, I grew tired of the same objectives over and over. I can only write so many haikus, find fox dens, honor shrines, and liberate villages before it becomes boring. I felt that Ghost of Tsushima never had that “wow” moment during any of the missions to make it memorable.
There was a ton of hype around this game when it came out and I remember every arguing it should be game of the year. I think I went into this experience thinking it was going to blow my mind away and in the end, was a bit disappointed by the actual gameplay. The story was terrific and if there’s a miracle chance that it could become a series or a movie I’d be interested in seeing it.
Ghost of Tsushima Review Score:
Ghost of Tsushima has every reason to be an incredible game. It does the big things right, but the small things go left unpolished. There were too many instances where a glitch ruined a cut scene or battle for this game to be considered a masterpiece and I played it almost a year after its release so any patches should have fixed those issues. The story of Jin and his uncle was the best aspect and I thoroughly enjoyed playing through it but there were a few things that weighed this game down from becoming an all-time great.
Ghost of Tsushima scores an 8.8 out of 10.
What would you write in your Ghost of Tsushima review? What decision did you make at the end? What was your favorite character? Do you believe Ghost of Tsushima is game of the year worthy? Let me know your thoughts and comments, I’d love to read them. If you’d like to own a used copy of Ghost of Tsushima for the PS4 you can purchase a used copy of it on eBay for $40.