Ghost Of Tsushima

A progress report on the games we just can’t quit

- Developer Sucker Punch Production­s Publisher SIE Format PS4, PS5 Release 2020

Legend tells of the dread pirate Black Hand Riku – a bloodthirs­ty tyrant who sliced up his victims and fed them to his pet monkey. Having survived an attempted poisoning by a mutinous crew thanks to his Sarugami armour, he is said to still haunt a coastal area of Iki Island where the sea assumes an ethereal glow at night. Naturally, we head there immediatel­y, trekking through a winding cave before a duel in the (curiously well-lit) Pit Of Darkness. Within minutes his toxinwardi­ng gear is ours; this will, we assume, lessen the frequency of the hallucinat­ions Jin has been suffering since being poisoned by The Eagle, a mysterious new foe. We dip into the menu to better understand the power of this mythical armour. Ah, yes: ‘Resolve gains are increased by a Moderate amount.’

After such an evocative intro it’s an anticlimac­tic finish, with even the duel failing to capture the drama of those beautiful ink-wash paintings. This missed opportunit­y to tie a sidequest into the wider narrative isn’t Ghost Of Tsushima Director’s Cut’s lone storytelli­ng sin. Beyond the increasing­ly irritating visions (which largely involve the antagonist goading Jin about his past), it plays as homage to The Last Of Us Part II.

Yes, it’s an attempt to retell a story from a different perspectiv­e, as the islanders force Jin to confront the role his father played in their massacre. You might argue it represents a form of progress that games are beginning to reckon with their violence, but here it rings hollow after 50-plus hours of classic samurai power fantasy. As ever, the resolution is to slaughter many more enemies, albeit this time fighting alongside the settlers still traumatise­d by your father’s actions.

Plot aside, Director’s Cut on PS5 boasts several improvemen­ts, from near-instant fast travel to optional Japanese lip-sync and haptic feedback that proves particular­ly delightful when your horse is galloping over hard ground. But it’s when it slows down that Iki Island is at its most appealing. Liberating animal sanctuarie­s lets you tame deer, monkeys and cats via a simple but charming flute-playing minigame. Forgive the anachronis­tic poetry and there’s something to be said for a triple-A game in which the words ‘wisteria haiku’ greet your arrival at a quiet glade. And there’s even a self-aware nod to Jin’s humourless­ness in the epilogue, as one character says “it only hurts when I laugh… so I should be fine around you.” It doesn’t quite earn the ‘Legacy Redeemer’ title we’re granted at the end, but this expansion proves that Sucker Punch should follow Jin’s lead more often, and have the courage to step away from the path set out by its predecesso­rs.

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