By Daniel Shaw:
At one time, people looked down on film as mere escapism and not in any way an art; the same was then said about video games. Simply saying the words out loud – “video games” – is enough to evoke vague images of a child’s plaything, nothing that anyone would connect to the art world. However, the video game industry has grown by leaps and bounds since the dawn of companies like Atari and title favorites such as Pong. We’ve seen major developments in a game’s conception, design, marketing, and, most recently, its presentation to the public. Today, there is an extraordinary emphasis on a game’s identity and what it’s capable of accomplishing as a storytelling device. Today, the public has one of the largest venues for showcasing video games, and it was at this year’s event that one game in particular stood out among the rest.
The Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) was officially inaugurated May 11, 1995. As the premier gaming convention, everyone, from industry leaders to individual developers, can take the opportunity to showcase their upcoming titles. Over the years, the presentation for industry giants such as Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo have been getting more and more elaborate. This year was no exception for Sony, as they unveiled The Last of Us Part Two and Ghost of Tsushima. The latter is brought to us by developer SuckerPunch Productions. Their previous outings include hits such as the Sly Cooper series and the many installments of Infamous.
The game’s plot is set during the Mongol invasion of Japan in 1274, in particular the slaughter of many Japanese on the eponymous Tsushima Island. We then follow a single character, Jin Sakai, as he stealthily takes on invading enemies. The game will play in third-person perspective with combat utilizing a variety of period-accurate weapons. Following the developers’ previous installment of Infamous Second Light, the game will feature a completely open world for players to explore. Guided objectives, such as “waypoints,” have also been removed in order to further give players a true sense of wandering the land and making their own story.
SuckerPunch’s E3 presentation for Ghost of Tsushima was packed to the brim by anxious fans and featured a live shakuhachi performance. The game’s composer, Shigeru Umebayashi, utilized a variety of classical Japanese instruments to further immerse the player in the game’s setting. Although the shakuhachi player was met with a small amount of whitewashing controversy, in the end it proved to be just another method of unveiling SuckerPunch’s incredible attention to detail.
Ghost of Tsuhima’s art and animation teams also deserve recognition for their hard work. The visuals shown at E3 were nothing short of stunning. Vivid colors pop right off the screen as Jin walks through the aftermath of a lost battle. Their ability to perfectly capture the movement of grass fields being blown about has to be seen to be believed. The open-world exploration was then demonstrated as Jin mounted his horse and began riding through the countryside to a point seen in the distance. Combat was fast paced, featuring swords, spears, and shields, and appeared to require genuine strategy on the part of the player. Each round of combat was punctuated at the end with a cinematic final move from Jin, raising the game’s movielike quality. The demo was capped off by a samurai vs. samurai duel amid raining arrows and hordes of Mongol soldiers closing in. The framing, lighting, and use of color during this final fight had viewer’s jaws agape. Red maple leaves covering the ground created a visual feast for the eyes possibly not seen since Jet Li’s Hero.
With a mere eight-minute demo, Sony and SuckerPunch had many fans already searching for ways to preorder. However, as this was just a reveal presentation, development on the game is still ongoing, and an official release date is yet to be determined. A more salient question is whether or not what we were shown will actually translate to the final product. E3 has endured controversy in the past regarding “gameplay” that was either downgraded or left out of the final product entirely. Gaming giant EA (Electronic Arts) has been notorious for this practice as well as the insertion of micro transactions and entire segments of the game being sequentially released for smaller payments. To this date, SuckerPunch has maintained a very healthy relationship with their fans. They readily accept positive and negative
feedback and have consistently taken that into account with each new product. If Ghost of Tsushima is any indication, that trend seems to be continuing; however only time and a much-anticipated game will tell.