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Ghost of Tsushima, one of the last games coming to PS4, will it honor the tradition of the samurai?


There is no shortage of movies or games that draw some form of influence from samurai culture. And for “Ghost of Tsushima,” heavily steeped in references to classic samurai movies and intended to be one of the last major games to be released exclusively for Sony’s PlayStation 4 console, the developers aren’t shying away from the comparisons.

Bellevue, Washington studio Sucker Punch, working in a historical genre known for the way it has shaped action-adventure films, fully embraces the history of samurai culture. However, “Ghost of Tsushima”, released on July 17, is not a retro work.

With new consoles from Sony and Microsoft expected later this year, “Ghost of Tsushima” aims to bring the PlayStation 4 era to conclude with a work that shows the evolution of the emotional complexity of interactive media. It just happens to do so while reaching out for a shared and cross-cultural nostalgia. The developers, for example, have spent a lot of time creating a grainy black and white mode for the game, one that they intend not to be a gimmick.

“Classic samurai movies define many people’s expectations of what it is to be a samurai. That’s how we fell in love with the genre, “says Nate Fox, Creative Director of the game.” To honor that, to give people the same experience they have watch “Yojimbo”, we wanted to be able to affect the graphics, put them in a black and white film grain scratch. We even adjusted the audio to sound more like one of those classic movies. For people who are really purists, they will appreciate it. It is recognizing us that these are the roots that we draw from and we want to honor it. “

Framegrab from the video game “Ghost of Tsushima”, coming to PlayStation 4.

(Sucker Punch)

While the cinema and the games increasingly appreciate a symbiotic relationship, which works well in the interactive space does not always give lessons for more passive support and vice versa. Yet, when it comes to “Ghost of Tsushima,” an adventure set in the late 13th century in which a samurai named Jin Sakai hopes to protect his island from a Mongol invasion, Fox believes the games still have room to translate. the emotions and emotions of the film. the story beats in the interactive space.

It is often a matter of tone and rhythm, elements that are created by game designers but, once a work is published, are manipulated, controlled or ignored by players. One scene studied by Fox, he said, was a duel of Masaki kobayashi“S 1962 film “Harakiri”, where preparing for a fight is just as important, if not more, than the action that follows.

“In ‘Harakiri’ there is a duel and the preamble to the duel lasts five minutes,” Fox said. “It’s just two men walking through a cemetery, then up a windswept hill. Then they look at each other and slowly draw their swords and the music finally begins. It’s so thick with tension and expectation. The violence is actually not very long. But because of the landscape that struggles around these two men, who are still like statues, it’s electrifying. It is something that could, should be, put into an interactive medium. Movies like this are packed with items to try out and transport from cinematic medium to interactive medium. “

Video game

Framegrab from the video game “Ghost of Tsushima”, coming to PlayStation 4.

(Sucker Punch)

While a game doesn’t naturally allow for such organized direction when a player is in control of the action, Fox says the Sucker Punch team tried to create a fight in a way that forced players to take a measured approach. This partly allows players to plan engagements with a heavy emphasis on stealth, but also allows players to traverse landscapes and study enemies. If Sucker Punch is successful, Fox says, “Ghost of Tsushima” will put an extremely strong emphasis on timing, as the fight hopes to be right, and a misreading of a stunt should be fatal.

“There are two things that make a samurai sword fight look like a samurai movie. One, ”says Fox,“ is to respect the lethality of the sword. With one or two hits, you can drop an opponent; with one or two hits you can be killed yourself. It’s typical of the movies and makes the fight very deadly.

“The second thing,” he continues, “that really makes a fight feel like a samurai battle is stillness. Warriors don’t just attack madly. They wait and observe everyone’s movements. There is anticipation. When the swords move, the sword moves with precision. The game rewards watching what an enemy is doing, pushing the attack if it is right, or waiting to respond if it is not. When you make your move, Jin our hero does not breathe heavily and does not move. He remains still and moves his head slightly. There is a total economy of movement. “

The fight, unsurprisingly, is perhaps where the team at Sucker Punch drew inspiration from the most modern influences. In Sword Play, Fox quotes Takashi Miike’s 2010 story of “13 Assassins”, a The Times film hailed for its ability to “Juxtapose cruelty and beauty.”

“When we were fighting, we said three words: mud, blood and touch. We want the fight to be incredibly visceral, dirty, and deadly. If you watch “13 Assassins”, that’s the touchstone. They treat swords with respect. These swords are sharp and people are fighting for their lives, ”says Fox.

He can browse a number of his favorite samurai films and trace their impact on “Ghost of Tsushima”.

Take Akira Kurosawa’s 1961 film, “Yojimbo,” in which a master swordsman stumbles upon a town and manages to take on several evil factions. “Ghost of Tsushima” hopes to capture that feeling of being a solo traveler who can stumble upon characters and conflicts outside of the main story, for example, by following a forest creature that can lead to new narrative currents. .

“’Yojimbo’ is a good representation of what it’s like to walk the countryside and go on adventures. “Ghost of Tsushima” is a great game, and while there is a tale of Jin’s transformation into a warrior, you can step out of the main narrative path and get to know these other characters who have their own issues, “Fox says. . “The game is a great anthology of stories. “Yojimbo” shows how it would work. ”

Toshiro Mifune in

Toshiro Mifune in “Seven Samurai” from 1954, directed by Akira Kurosawa.

(Toho / Kobal / Shutterstock)

Then, of course, there is maybe the most famous samurai movie of them all: Kurosawa’s 1954 classic, “Seven Samurai,” which manages to tell a number of personal stories amid its dominant history of mercenaries hired to protect a farming village. Here, like other action-adventure games that alternate calm and contemplative moments with those of violence, “Ghost of Tsushima” attempts to show the personal toll that such actions can bring.

“Seven Samurai” is the most important movie for me, personally, “says Fox,” because it shows the samurai treating everyone with intense respect and feeling like it is their duty to protect people. . They selflessly sacrifice themselves and hence you feel they are operating on a higher level. It is something that is directly put in “Ghost of Tsushima”, this sacrifice. “

Jin, says Fox, will have to rethink what it means to be a samurai, getting involved in “all kinds of awful business because the odds are stacked against him.” If he does nothing, if he just protects his own conception of himself, the inhabitants of his island all die. So this is the story of sacrifice.

Of course, Fox doesn’t deny that he and his Sucker Punch collaborators are a “bunch of Americans who love samurai movies.” Since the game was announced a few years ago, Sucker Punch has spoken of the studio’s parent company, Sony, as offering easy access to Japanese studios and artists who could either correct the mistaken assumptions of the Pacific Northwest developers. , or lead them to experts who could put them on the right cultural path.

Fox hopes this helped imbue “Ghost of Tsushima” with a respectful and genuine tone. As an example, he says the studio aimed to reflect the meaning behind any Japanese imagery it shows in the game. He cites the reddish-orange torii gates that Westerners are often introduced to via postcards from Japan or from Japan. other tourist accessories, which serve as gateways to sacred Shinto shrines.

“This gate is something that has all this meaning attached to it, and I didn’t know that when we first started this game,” Fox says. “And now that’s something that we put into play, and they all lead to Shinto shrines. Players who play this game will get that extra quality of transport by learning the things we learned while making the game. ”

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