A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Families need to know that Ghost of Tsushima is an adventure game exclusively for the PlayStation 4. Players take on the role of a samurai named Jin who's seeking to free his people and his uncle from invaders, who've launched an all-out assault on his lands. While Jin doesn't want to fight or compromise his morals in repelling the hordes, he's also realistic enough to understand that his tactics need to change to face an unconventional enemy. His attempt to be true to himself and his own code is what lets him help his allies when their emotions overwhelm them. Violence is frequent and graphic, with sword fights and other attacks launched against enemies. Arms and heads are often chopped off, blood sprays across the environment and characters, and gurgles can be heard when enemies die. People are also shown being set on fire or impaled, and bodies can be seen hanging from trees or stacked into piles. Jin's buttocks can be seen as he enters or exits the various hot springs on the island to reflect on his life. There's a scene in which Jin and another character drink sake before a battle, while another character constantly talks about sake and getting drunk. There's also occasional use of "bastard," "damn," and "s--t" in dialogue.
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What's it about?
GHOST OF TSUSHIMA is an action-adventure game set in 1274 as the Mongol Empire decides to launch an invasion on the island of Tsushima. The fearsome warriors, under the leadership of Khotun Khan, manage to destroy an initial counterattack on the beach by 80 samurai, and launch destructive attacks across the land. Players take on the role of Jin Sakai, one of the few warriors to have met the invaders on the beach. He barely escaped with his life. Even worse, Jin's uncle, Lord Shimura, has been captured by the Khan in an attempt to make him surrender his people to the empire. After a showdown that almost kills Jin, it becomes very clear that the honorable methods of the samurai will no longer apply against this unconventional foe. As a result, Jin will conduct a campaign of guerilla warfare against the invaders. With a small but skilled group of allies, Jin travels across the island, freeing peasants, destroying enemy camps, and acquiring legendary skills and armor to help him defeat his opponents. His actions will strike fear into the hearts of his enemies as he becomes more successful, and the people will find a new hero to believe in. With your help, Jin will become the Ghost of Tsushima.
Is it any good?
This adventure game set in feudal Japan grips you from start to finish with its visuals and its story, which make you feel like a samurai facing off against overwhelming odds. As Jin Sakai in Ghost of Tsushima, players quickly discover that his honor-bound warrior code simply doesn't match up when it comes to fighting the invaders. As a result, he reluctantly adopts unconventional methods and techniques to eliminate his enemies, such as using smoke bombs to vanish from sight, or stealthily infiltrating enemy camps. Over the course of the game, he'll merge and evolve these skills into a flexible fighting form, one that befits his new persona as the Ghost. It's incredible to watch Jin terrify enemies when he calls out opponents for a dueling stand-off, and then vanish before reinforcements can arrive. (Also: Duels highlight Jin's mastery of swordplay and feel pulled directly from a samurai movie.) It's interesting to watch Jin's evolving sense of what it means to be a samurai in these troubled times -- an evolution that isn't isolated to him. His allies, who have varying degrees of morality and honor, have their codes tested as well. Without spoiling any details, there are some dark quests for revenge and redemption, which serve as a warning to Jin about the hazards of giving into emotion, and about fully embracing the persona of the Ghost, as it could potentially doom him to a darker path. It's torturous for Jin, and it tugs on the player's heart to watch his complex struggles.
Countering the darker themes is simply how beautiful and atmospheric the game looks. Camera angles and shots look like they're plucked straight from a movie or a painting (and that's even without including the customized Kurosawa black-and-white grain filter). Whether you're galloping across fields of pampas grass, standing in a dueling ring as leaves tumble around you, or wandering through forests, the environment is simply breathtaking. Plus, the world directs players in a subtle and natural way, such as foxes that lead players to shrines that strengthen their personal resolve, or birds that lead players to points of interest. The game even encourages players to compose their own haiku at vistas that inspire reflections of hope or despair. Not only does this help to make the world feel more alive, but it makes Jin and his progress seem more alive and closely tied to the land. Overall, Ghost of Tsushima is an amazing story -- loosely based on the real invasion of Tsushima -- that makes players feel like a true samurai on an epic quest. If Akira Kurosawa had the opportunity to make a video game, Ghost of Tsushima would be the story he would tell.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about violence in video games. Is the impact of the violence in Ghost of Tsushima affected by the amount of blood shown from sword fights? Would the impact be lessened if there wasn't as much blood or gore shown? Would it seem as realistic or believable if the blood or gore wasn't included?
What are you willing to sacrifice for? Is there something that you wouldn't sacrifice, regardless of what the situation might be? How would you respond if someone questioned your actions in choosing to give up something you held dear, especially if it was for a good cause?
- Platforms: PlayStation 4
- Price: $59.99
- Pricing structure: Paid
- Available online? Available online
- Developer: Sony Interactive Entertainment
- Release date: July 17, 2020
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Topics: Sports and Martial Arts, Adventures
- ESRB rating: M for Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Partial Nudity
- Last updated: February 5, 2021
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.