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Chris Kavan's Video Game Reviews (494)

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A Hat in Time 3.5/5
Sunset Overdrive 4/5
The Vagrant 4/5
Honkai: Star Rail 3.5/5
MechWarrior 5: Mercenar... 4/5
Rage 2 3.5/5
Alan Wake 4/5
Riverbond 3.5/5
Dead Island 2 3.5/5
Saints Row IV 3.5/5
The Last of Us Part II 4.5/5
Torchlight III 3/5
Wolfenstein II: The New... 4/5
Ghost of Tsushima 4.5/5
Battletoads (2020) 2/5
Danganronpa: Trigger Ha... 4/5
Override: Mech City Bra... 3/5
Maneater 3/5
Door Kickers: Action Sq... 4/5
Spider-Man (2018) 4.5/5
Red Dead Redemption 2 4.5/5
Boot Hill Heroes 3.5/5
Control 4/5
Victor Vran 3/5
Katamari Damacy REROLL 4/5

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Ghost of Tsushima   PlayStation 5 

Kurosawa Would Be Proud    4.5/5 stars

Sucker Punch has been a boon for Sony and Playstation, mostly known for their InFamous series - as well as Sly Cooper - and Ghost of Tsushima is easily their most ambitious game to date - and one that stands out as, in my opinion, their best. And I was not alone as from July to November 2020 it sold over 5 million copies, becoming one of the fastest-selling new IPs in Sony history. Not only that, but since the game was based on true historical events, it even brought renewed attention to current-day Tsushima - and game directors Nate Fox and Jason Connell were made official ambassadors in 2021. Currently, Chad Stahelski - best known for directing the John Wick franchise films - is working on a film adaptation. All in all - the game made a lot of big waves.

Looks and Stuff: We've gone beyond the days when open-world games had to be all shades of brown or gray. Ghost of Tsushima is a visual feast - lush forests, waving fields of grass, creaking, cracking bamboo, rushing rivers leading to waterfalls, rustic villages, towering temples, stout forts - sometimes I just took time to look around and that's an achievement very few games ever reach. The Iki Island expansion is even more vibrant - the color really stands out here with the inclusion of more reds and yellows that really pop. Beyond the truly fantastic visuals, however, the game gives you some of the best-looking characters too - while many games go with making things as pretty as possible, the characters here are not super models, they are grounded in reality and show some real emotion along the way. It's gritty and bloody and the voice talent is outstanding - and while you can play in English, I highly recommend the Japanese to give it the most authentic feel. Daisuke Tsuji, Eric Steinberg, Sumalee Montano, Patrick Gallagher, François Chau, James Hiroyuki Liao, Eddie Shin, Lauren Tom and Earl T. Kim
all lend their talents - Kazuya Nakai, Akio Otsuka, Tsutomu Isobe, Mizuno Yufu , Shigeru Chiba and Mabuki Andou are the Japanese counterparts. Likewise, the music transports you to the era, Ilan Eshkeri composed the score and utilized both Western and Japanese instruments, but the result is truly a feast for the ears. Shigeru Umebayashi composed the game's exploration music. Sound effects from clashing swords to just the wind itself (a prominent feature) is likewise very well done. As for bugs, the few times I did get stuck in the environment, the game just faded out and reloaded you back to nearby where you were. I did have a couple of crashes, but the game auto-saves often, so I never lost any significant progress. There is some minor clipping with certain gear but very little of the jarring pop-in often associated with these type of games. Overall, nothing that would cause me to knock it down a point in my opinion.

Story: Based on the real-life Mongol invasion of the Tsushima in the 13th Century, the game takes the event but uses their own original characters. Jin Sakai (Tsuji / Nakai) has done his best to rise above his past - including watching his own father die at the hands of bandits as he hid nearby - becoming a Samurai under Lord Shimura (Steinberg / Otsuka) and looking to be one of the best warriors on the island. When the Mongols strike, however, the combined might of the Samurai is no match for the advanced technology and most are wiped out in the first battle. Jin nearly loses his life but is saved by Yuna (Montano / Yufu), a thief whom he once might have killed but finds himself helping - this is also his first step into becoming the Ghost of legend - as he finds stealth killing is necessary to survive, far from the honorable face-to-face battles the Samurai embody. Eventually he comes face-to-face with Khotun Khan (Gallagher / Isobe) who has taken Lord Shimura prisoner. The Khan is both bloodthirsty warrior and soft-spoken bureaucrat - he wants to take Tsushima but also wants to do so with the least amount of bloodshed he can manage. Needless to say, Jin finds himself no match and their showdown on a bridge ends with Jin taking a long plunge below. For the second time he manages to cheat death and realizes that in order to save Lord Shimura, he will have to do some un-Samurai things.

Most of the first part of the game is recruiting people to your cause. This includes legendary archer Sensei Ishikawa (Chau / Chiba) who was absent from the attack due to his former protege, Tomoe, betraying his teachings and is now teaching the Mongols his Way of the Bow. In order to gain Ishikawa's trust, Jin will have to help him track down Tomoe and stop her from teaching the Mongols. Lady Masako Adachi (Tom / Andô) is the last surviving member of the powerful Adachi clan. While her husband and sons were killed during the Mongol attack, many of her family members, including young children, were betrayed and murdered - Masoko managed to escape this betrayal and now seeks revenge on those who wiped out her legacy. In order to gain her trust, you will have to help her in this quest. Yuna is reluctant to help Jin, but will do so if he will rescue her brother, Taka (Shin) from the Mongols. While brave in his own way, Taka is not a warrior, but a skilled metal worker and the Mongols have taken him in order to forge their own weapons. Ryuzo (Leonard Wu / Yôhei Tadano) was once a close friend to Jin and both had a chance to prove themselves in Lord Nagao's tournament - a duel in which Jin one with his ferocity. Not coming from a noble family himself, Ryuzo's loss meant he turned to the life of ronin - and gathered up like-minded men to form the Straw Hats. While not present at the Mongol attack, the Straw Hats still fight back in their own way but have suffered great losses. Jin finds that Ryuzo will join him if he will just provide for this men - food and the like - as well as save those who have been captured. But going down this path will reveal Ryuzo's true nature in the end - and friend will become foe. Later in the story you will also befriend Norio (Kim / Mitsuaki Kanuka), a warrior monk trying to live up to expectations set by his brother and wanting to take back the Cedar Temple - but his journey, like Jin's, will have him questioning how far he is willing to go to achieve his goal.

The main story, from rescuing Lord Shimura to ending the Khan, presents you with choices that drive you further and further away from the way of the Samurai - including utilizing deadly poisons - one that drives a wedge between you and Lord Shimura and, eventually, becoming a wanted criminal yourself. While the Ghost is integral in reclaiming Tsushima, the Ghost also becomes too powerful in the eyes of the mainland - a mythic figure but for the wrong reasons. The Iki Island expansion delves into Jin's relationship with his father - as well as presents the Samurai in a much different light - far from the noble warriors - the Iki Island residents consider them monsters who slaughtered women and children with the Sakai family at the head.

Gameplay: As an open-world game, Ghost of Tsushima let's you explore a lot and there is plenty to explore. The main mechanic of the game is the guiding wind that you can change to target specific things as well as main or side quests. As long as you follow this wind, you will get to where you want to go. Combat is a mix of main weapons (katana) and stances as well as secondary weapons (bow or poison darts) and thrown weapons (kunai, bombs). Stances work better against specific enemies and you can switch between them at will. Wind Stance, for example, works best against spear-wielding enemies while the Moon Stance is best against the heavy foes. Using the correct stance gives you the best opportunity to stagger enemies and lead to a quicker death. You can also block and dodge as needed. Certain attacks cannot be blocked (represented by a red burst as they execute the attack) and must be dodged or you will be hit. Your resolve represents your overall strength - and in battle perfect parries and killing enemies will restore it. Resolve is important for healing in battle or, in the case of death, reviving as needed. Health is a different meter and you spend resolve to restore it during battle. The secondary weapons are most useful for avoiding battle - stealthy take-downs with the bow or poison, along with stealth kills, are a great way to whittle down enemies and avoid an all-out prolonged melee. Your thrown weapons are best as disrupting enemies or getting out of a tight spot. Kunai weapons, for example, instantly stagger up to three targets allowing for quick kills or escape. You can hide in tall grass and or go up high to take down enemies without being seen.

Almost everything can be upgraded in the game: weapons (across the board), armor, stances, health and resolve. This is why you explore. Bamboo Strikes, which involve a series of button inputs, will increase your resolve. Hot Springs will increase your health. You also collect various items: supplies, bamboo, leather, iron, etc. that let you visit merchants to improve your armor. High-level gear requires special items that are given for completing bigger quests, taking out bases or exploring shrines. Speaking of shrines, these and Fox Dens, let you equip charms. Charms - major and minor - give you plenty of things to tinker with for your play style. Charms can do a lot from improving resolve and bow damage to better stealth or just doing more damage. Likewise, certain armor you attain - be it through the main quest or certain side quests, also give you different attributes. Later in the game, for example, the Ghost Armor lets you build up a bar by killing enemies without taking damage. Kill enough enemies and you enter a Ghost Trance that allows you to insta-kill up to three enemies and terrify those around you.

Exploration also allows you to find cosmetic items you can wear (hats, masks and such) as well as dyes for your armor or designs for you sword or bow. Flowers can be collected all around the island to buy other cosmetic upgrades. You can also discover banners for horse armor as well as records and mongol artifacts that flesh out the lore and story. There are plenty of side-quests as well - and while some may say the rewards are a bit lack-luster, some of the stories are very compelling and showcase the horrors of war. Iki Island provides tougher enemies and some deeper stories and should definitely not be skipped.

Replay value: The game offers plenty of post-game content - the Iki Island expansion is great on its own and completionists have plenty they can collect. And while I didn't do much with the multiplayer mode, it's there for those who choose to enjoy it.

Final Verdict: Ghost of Tsushima is not just a showcase for the power of the PS5, it provides a compelling story and characters and plenty of content along the way.

Presentation: 5/5
Story: 5/5
Gameplay: 4/5
Replay: 4/5
Overall (not an average): 4.5/5

 

 


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Nelson Schneider

Nelson Schneider- wrote on 08/19/23 at 09:58 PM CT

 

Ha, ha, "Power of the PS5." More like, "Power of any computer with the equivalent of an RTX 2060 inside."

 
 
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