By Trevor Hsia
Northwest Asian Weekly
Gaming enthusiasts are eagerly awaiting the release of Ghost of Tsushima. The first gameplay trailer for the upcoming PS4-exclusive premiered on June 12 at the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) news conference in Los Angeles. The developers, Bellevue-based Sucker Punch Productions, are known for their other Playstation-exclusive titles, such as the Sly Cooper and Infamous games. One of those, Infamous: Second Son, even takes place in Seattle. Unlike the previous two franchises, Ghost of Tsushima takes place in Japan in the year 1274, during the Mongol invasion of Tsushima Island, a land mass located in the middle of the Tsushima/Korean Strait, halfway between Korea and Japan. While the basic premise of the game was explained in 2017, actual details about the gameplay were unknown until Sucker Punch Productions released its first gameplay trailer for the game at E3 and sat down to talk with executive producer of The Game Awards Geoff Keighley about their upcoming game.
In Ghost of Tsushima, you play as a samurai named Jin Sakai in an open world action game set on Tsushima Island during the Mongol invasion of 1274. Sucker Punch wants to capture the character fantasy of being a wandering samurai.
“We wanted to do something extremely ambitious,” Art/Creative Director Jason Connell stated during the panel, “bringing people to feudal Japan … we wanted to try it and we’re really excited how it’s now showing so far.” Many games and media that explore feudal Japan usually focus on the Warring States period and Sucker Punch wanted something different.
“What could we do that would be fresh.” Founder/Programmer Chris Zimmerman talked about the game’s development, “Looking at the first Mongol invasion … all the details were lining up perfectly.” The setting, Tsushima Island, was well-suited for an open world environment and the Mongol invaders provided an obvious antagonistic force for the players.
While Ghost of Tsushima is inspired by a real world historical period, Creative Director Nate Fox clarified that the game’s plot is fiction. They are not doing a recreation of history, but they do want to “transport players back to 1274 and give them the feeling of being there … [and] discover feudal Japan on [their] own terms.” The game will be completely open-world, with the goal of having the entirety of Tsushima island explorable to players.
Immersion will be an important aspect of the game. Sucker Punch Productions went to Japan two times in different seasons to reference the real life locations and environment for their game.
“We are creating a time machine,” Environments Lead Joanna Wang explained. “We wanted people [to] feel [that] this is real, this is [an] actual place, that I went there.” The gameplay trailer showed off the level of attention to detail, including an expansive field of “half a million” Pampas flowers, all individually rendered and swaying in the breeze as the city in the bay burns from the destruction wrought by the invading army. The overall aesthetic of the game is a love letter to Akira Kurosawa, a famous Japanese film director and screenwriter who directed classics such as Seven Samurai and Yojimbo. In a separate interview on the Playstation blog, Cinematics and Animation Director Billy Harper mentioned that those two movies were childhood favorites of his. These influences are plain in the cinematics of Ghost of Tsushima.
Sucker Punch Productions developed new tools and technologies to help enable their artistic vision in the game. In previous titles, they would pay attention to detail by hand-placing street trash in the game environments and other such minute details. But Ghost of Tsushima demanded a different approach, Chris remarking with an amused smile, “We can’t place a half-a-million pampas flowers by hand.” The many artistic touches in game were showcased in the trailer, such as dynamic mud that stuck to the player as they fought Mongol warriors in a damp forest, stalks of grass and bamboo trees swaying in the wind, and fallen leaves flying up into the air around the active feet of two dueling warriors.
The gameplay footage featured a side quest in Ghost of Tsushima that isn’t even part of the main storyline. Sucker Punch Productions wanted to show the depth of the game, even away from the story’s focus, as well as many of the game’s features, such as travel on horseback, dynamic combat, stealth mechanics, NPC companions, and one-on-one duels.
All were presented beautifully and in a style that is evocative of classical Japanese films.
Chris remarked as the panel came to a close, “We can’t wait till we actually let you play it.”
Ghost of Tsushima will have both Japanese and English voice lines upon release. There is currently no set release date.
For more information on Ghost of Tsushima, visit Sucker Punch Production’s official website at suckerpunch.com.
Trevor can be reached at email@example.com.