Hello and welcome to P-Vock's Music Box. I've covered a lot of happy, energetic, and otherwise bubbly games of late. Relatively low-stakes titles with simple or fun plots that don't warrant much in the way of analysis or critical thought (excluding Mother 3). I think we've had enough positivity.
Let's get DRAMATIC.
In 2020, we were gifted an absolute gem from the brilliant minds at Sucker Punch (the icons behind Sly Cooper and inFAMOUS) when Ghost of Tsushima dropped onto store shelves and into the hearts of the thirty people that actually bothered to play it.
The premise is straightforward: What if we made an Akira Kurosawa samurai film into a video game?
All the twists and turns of a high-stakes plot with societal pressure, global conflict, inner-familial drama, and more sweet samurai action than Yojimbo all combine into a wonderfully unforgettable game with a phenomenal OST.
We are introduced to our anti-hero, Jin Sakai, as he rides into battles atop his steed with this bombastic and melancholic masterpiece enveloping our eardrums and captivating our senses. The slow build, the devastatingly powerful drums, the dramatic woodwinds, the crescendo at 2:25 that delivers the title.
It is masterful. It is familiar, yet different. It is exactly what Ghost of Tsushima is all about.
While Ghost of Tsushima allows you to feel powerful and destructive, it never makes you invincible. It teaches you early on that every fight could be your last. That one false move means you're done (for as much as a video game can deliver that feeling).
Despite this, it expertly trains you to feel a sense of rhythm and flow that makes you feel almost untouchable. It affords you a progressive and steady increase in your abilities that makes every moment of intense power, every time you get a good rhythm going, and every time you slay a large number of enemies feel earned.
The Way of The Samurai absolutely nails that exact feeling. When you hear it, you feel as fearless, noble, and protective as a real samurai.
Or does it . . .
Ghost of Tsushima sees a man so burdened by a desire to protect his home that he turns his back on the ways of his upbringing and forges his own path (becoming more shinobi than samurai by the end of the game).
The tail end of the game sees a climactic clash between nobles and affords the player a choice of reclaiming who they once were and killing someone they love for the sake of honour, or truly abandoning the ways of the samurai and allowing someone to live in disgrace.
Whichever choice the player makes does not make this sensational and emotionally devastating piece hurt any less as the credits roll.
As many classic samurai and war films show, not every story has a happy ending, and not every character may have a happy resolution.
It genuinely sucks that Ghost of Tsushima never achieved the heights it deserved. Maybe it's my love of the studio, adoration of the Kurasawa films that inspired it, or my PlayStation upbringing causing a bias, but I honestly think it is a modern masterpiece and I am heartbroken that it isn't talked in the upper echelon of recent beloved titles like God of War, Elden Ring, and Xenoblade Chronicles 3.
Anyone who appreciates samurai films, intense and heartbreaking action, or just good stories should absolutely give Ghost of Tsushima a shot as soon as they can!
Thank you so much, as always, for checking out my nonsense. I hope to catch you back here next time with another suggestion from my Music Box.
PS. This game was once shown off at E3 with a Shakuhachi performance that is absolutely one of the greatest performances I've ever experienced, so have a look and enjoy!