Ghost of Tsushima Review

Andrew Miller ’27 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer

Honor Died on the Beach.

Ghost of Tsushima, a masterful creation by Sucker Punch Productions, transcends the boundaries of traditional gaming, weaving an epic tale of honor, sacrifice, and the indomitable spirit of a samurai. Released in 2020, this open-world action-adventure game transports players to 13th century Japan, immersing them in the midst of the first Mongol invasion of the island of Tsushima. 

Players follow Jin Sakai, the last surviving member of his clan, as he transforms from an honorable samurai into a ruthless guerilla fighter, adopting the mantle of “the Ghost” to free his people from the brutality of the Mongol conquerors. Jin’s journey forces him to question the traditions he was raised to uphold as he walks the razor’s edge between nobility and necessity, integrity and flexibility. This internal conflict forms the emotional core of the narrative, adding nuance and depth to Jin’s character.

Jin Sakai stands as one of the most complex and memorable protagonists in video game history. His emotional journey forms the beating heart of Ghost of Tsushima‘s narrative power. We first meet Jin as a noble samurai, strictly adhering to an honor code passed down by his uncle, Lord Shimura. This rigid code of conduct clashes with the flexible, asymmetric tactics Jin must adopt to stand a chance against the Mongols.  

As Jin transforms into the Ghost, he struggles with the tension between honor and necessity. His innovative methods save lives, but Lord Shimura sees them as a betrayal of all he stands for. This places Jin in an impossible quandary between his upbringing and his evolving path. Few game protagonists have to reckon with such an intricate moral web. 

Jin also displays striking vulnerability underneath his warrior’s exterior. He is wracked with grief over the death of his father at the hands of the Mongols, and carries the heavy burden of being Tsushima’s last hope. The pressure cracks his stoic facade, revealing the human underneath the armor.  Jin’s complexity derives from his willingness to evolve. His values are not static, but deepen through painful trial and error. He retains his core honor even as he operates in the shadows, finding a way to reconcile two seemingly opposed ways of life. This nuanced characterization makes Jin feel profoundly human and relatable no matter the players’ choices.  

The world of Tsushima itself plays a starring role. Meticulously crafted down to the smallest detail, the island is a lush, vivid paradise rendered with remarkable beauty. Cherry blossoms flutter down wooded mountain paths, golden fields of grass ripple in the wind, and ancient temples peek through the mist, evoking the rich history and culture of medieval Japan. The landscape is Jin’s teacher, guide, and sanctuary, a living environment that viscerally impacts gameplay and storytelling. The game is downright beautiful, perfectly in line with the Akira Kurosawa films it was inspired by with orange sunsets, bloody battle scenes, and white fluttering flowers.

Side characters like Yuna, a thief whose cynical pragmatism clashes with Jin’s idealism, further enrich the human drama. Yuna acts as Jin’s gateway into the forgotten underclasses of Tsushima, expanding his perspective beyond the nobility. Complex characters like Lord Shimura also leave an indelible mark, representing the painful conflict between traditional codes of honor and the desperate violence of war. 

While Ghost of Tsushima pays homage to classic samurai films and historical fiction, it forges its own path as a profoundly cinematic, emotive experience. Players are given full control of how they choose to liberate Tsushima from the Mongols, either through direct combat or stealth and subterfuge. This freedom of approach combined with an intricately crafted world and impactful storytelling elevates Ghost of Tsushima as a shining example of interactive narrative design. It beckons players not just to play, but to inhabit a space of reflection, exploration, and connection across the centuries.

All of this comes to the head with the final apex of the story, in which the Mongols are finally beaten off by Tsushimabut at a cost. Jin, after using dishonorable ways to defeat the invaders, is branded as a traitor by the Shogun and is ordered to be captured. In this, Lord Shimura is forced to duel his nephew, in order to save his nephew’s honor and his own. Everything that makes this game truly a masterclass in visuals, gameplay, and storytelling all show within the power of a supernova in this final duel against two opposing viewpoints. Deep dramatic music slews as uncle and nephew fight to the very death as red leaves fall and waiver beside them. What makes this all the more tragic is that neither truly wants this fight, but rather they are forced to do so by each other’s hand. Lord Shimura is like nobody Jin has ever faced before, he’s fast, superhumanly agile, and can take a blade like any other. But there is another side to Shimura in this fightduring this entire story Shimura teaches Jin everything he knows about being a righteous and honorable samurai, and now he is forced to fight against his own nephew, who he raised like a son. That added anger towards himself makes him just a match to Jin. 

However, in the end, Lord Shimura is beaten as he falls to the ground with a thud. And in a last effort to cut down his nephew, he makes one final swing to finish him off. But unfortunately for him, Jin is fasterand hits his Uncle with the speed of a bullet. Nevertheless, Shimura still stands. Beaten and cut, but still alive. However, Jin asks for one final heartbreaking request: to honor him in death with a warrior’s death. At this, we are presented with a choice.  Kill him and honor his wish for death… or spare him, let him live and walk away. 

It’s a choice that could go either way, but in my opinionthe option that would make most sense for Jin’s story… is to Spare Lord Shimura. With that, he kneels to his uncle, with their eyes level. Jin would renounce all of his honor, but he vowed to never kill his family. With that, the Samurai within Jin dies not by a Mongol arrow or a blade, but with a statement to the man who taught his honor to him. It may be true that the Ghost will be hunted for the rest of his days. But Jin, now the Ghost, already knows that. And with a final bow to his Uncle, he leaves. Not as Jin Sakai the Samurai of Clan Sakai, but as…

The Ghost.

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