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Video Game / Ghost of Tsushima

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Honor died on the beach.

"Samurai... you are a warrior, I can see that. You trained your whole life for this, and you have won battles that lesser men have called unwinnable, yes? But while you were sharpening your sword, do you know how I prepared for today? I learned. I know your language, your traditions, your beliefs. Which villages to tame, and which to burn. So I will ask you once again, Samurai... do you surrender?"
Khotun Khan

Ghost of Tsushima is a Wide Open Sandbox Action-Adventure game developed by Sucker Punch for the Sony PlayStation 4. It was released on July 17, 2020. At the time of this writing, it is the final first-party game released for the PlayStation 4.

It is 1274, the height of the Kamakura period. By the law of the Shogunate, the island of Tsushima — located between mainland Japan and the Korean peninsula — is ruled by Samurai lords, who act as both soldiers and nobility in accordance with their Code of Honor. Their word is law, and they have brought rigid order to the once-lawless island.

But this is about to change. Kublai Khan, ruler of the Mongol Empire, has sent his cousin Khotun Khan to conquer the Japanese archipelago, beginning with Tsushima. He is a ruthless tactician, and in his first battle he goads the Samurai into a reckless charge, slaughtering them and capturing the Jitō of Tsushima, Lord Shimura.


Only one Samurai survived the battle — Jin Sakai, nephew of Lord Shimura. Nursed back to health by a commoner who found him while scavenging corpses, he sets out to rescue his uncle and drive the Mongols from his home. But with so few allies remaining, and the Mongols seemingly unstoppable, Jin may have to sacrifice everything for this fight... including his honor.

A teaser for the game can be seen here, and an extended gameplay video here.


Ghost of Tsushima provides examples of:

  • Actual Pacifist: Healers you encounter will criticize any type of violence. Of course Jin being a lord and the healers still having a realistic outlook of the war they are not gonna demand him to not attack Mongols
  • Actually Pretty Funny: During a mission with Sensei Ishikawa hunting his renegade protege Tomoe, Jin is ambushed by Mongols laying in wait, but during the battle, Ishikawa doesn't intervene to help him, despite being a master archer. After the battle, when Jin presses him on it, Ishikawa brushes it off saying that if Jin can't defeat a half-dozen Mongols on his own, how can he hope to fight an army? Jin's response is pretty solid, which elicits this trope from Ishikawa.
    Jin: I can see why [Tomoe] turned on you.
    Ishikawa: Beat (Laughs)
  • Aluminum Christmas Trees:
    • Some have claimed that the presence of prominent Action Girls like Masako, Yuna and Tomoe who aren't treated as anything unusual is anachronistic. However, studies of Samurai diaries from the Kamakura era have revealed that, while many courtiers were dismissive of the practice, it wasn't uncommon for the women of a Samurai clan to be trained in combat for the purpose of home defense, with some clans even bringing them to battle as support archers.
    • Some players expressed disbelief and felt that Jin is Exceptionally Tolerant when informed of two instances of same-sex relationships (one male-male and the other female-female). While attitudes towards them were very different from today, same-sex relationships weren't uncommon in feudal Japan, even among samurai and nobility.Specifically...  It wasn't until the 1800s that attitudes towards same-sex relationships began to sour significantly. Indeed, Shintoism has multiple deities associated with gay love and sex.
  • Anachronism Stew:
    • Jin wears a daisho (katana and wakizashi set) tucked into his obi, edges up. This practice only came into vogue during the Tokugawa Period, a little under four centuries later. In fact, it was the Mongol invasion itself that revealed the flaws in Japanese swords that would eventually lead to the katana's development and they would not see regular use until the Muromachi Period in the 14th century, or become widespread until the Sengoku Period. The standard sword-wearing practice of Jin's day would have been to wear a single tachi (with a much longer blade-to-grip ratio, much different fittings, and different style of curvature) suspended from the obi, edge down.
    • There is also a nice Haiku writing mechanic. About 400 years too soon!
    • The samurai armor shown in the game is a mishmash between boxy, period-correct ō-yoroi and the more streamlined tosei gusoku worn in the Sengoku period, over two centuries after the game's time frame. The devs highlighted this as an intentional design choice and a throwback to popular samurai movies set in the latter period.
    • The Mongols use the Korean hwacha multiple rocket launcher two centuries before it was first documented in real life (though earlier rocket weapons were indeed used by the Mongols).
    • There are houses in both the Jomon and Yayoi period styles. The Jomon period ended around 1000 BCE, while the Yayoi period ended around 300 AD, centuries before the invasion.
    • The naginata carried by several characters have the wide, dramatically curved blades that developed in the later Muromachi period, rather than the narrower, straighter blades of the Kamakura period.
    • While samurai did have loose codes of honorable conduct during the 13th century, there was no universal agreement on what that entailed, and since the Mongols did not adhere to it anyway, there was little debate about samurai warriors abandoning their codes to repel the invaders. The ideals stressed within the story vaguely resemble "Bushido", which didn't exist as codified ideology until the 18th century at the earliest, and while it wouldn't be impossible for a lord with views similar to Shimura's to have existed in the 13th century, he would hardly be representative of the class as a whole.
  • Annoying Arrows: Zig-zagged. Arrows are devastating against enemies whereas for the player they — depending on the armor you’re wearing — can do negligible damage.
  • Anti-Frustration Features:
    • By default, the only warning of an incoming arrow is the archer yelling (in Mongolian) for his allies to duck. First, this yell is loud and clear no matter how chaotic the battle. They even keep shouting warnings even if they are the only one left fighting. Second, hard of hearing players (or just those who brains are wired to expect a visual cue) can turn on the genre-standard icon prompt in the accessibility options.
    • When summoned, your horse will automatically appear by your side no matter where you are, even if you're high up on a cliff halfway across Tsushima from your steed.
    • Bonus objectives during Open-World segments are completed once you have done them, that is to say, even if you die during the mission, the objective remains cleared, leaving you to focus on another bonus objective or the main one.
    • If you're having trouble with the bamboo-cutting minigame, you can turn off the time limit in the options menu. The button prompts still turn invisible after you start inputting them, so there's still some challenge.
    • If you fall in such a way that you get stuck in the animation the game will teleport you back to a stable space.
    • Unlike other games, you can collect items on horseback with no need to dismount.
    • When clearing a Mongol camp, once you clear the majority of the enemies, the game will give you an option to call out any remaining enemies so they will home in on you, saving you the time of scouring the entire area to hunt down any stragglers you missed.
    • If a hostage is killed it's a "game over" just like if Jin falls in battle. However, the only way enemies can actually hurt hostages is by entering a lengthy animation that acts as a countdown (and the attacker will be marked with a red skull-and-crossbones icon the moment they decide to do so), giving you plenty of time to stop them. Otherwise, civilians are completely invincible to both the enemies' random attacks and your own.
    • The map is revealed as you travel through Tsushima but it is enormous and exploring every corner can take hours. You can wear the Traveler's Attire to increase the reveal ratio or liberate territories and outposts which reveal their surroundings, and liberating an entire region will fully reveal the map of said region, undiscovered areas included. Additionally, the location of every Mongol camp is revealed on the map after the completion of the main story, so you don't have to meticulously hunt for every last one.
    • After reaching places that have very involved climbing sections, you’re given the option of fast traveling back.
  • An Arm and a Leg: The one-hit kills Ghost Stance affords always involve cutting a limb off the unfortunate victim.
  • Artificial Stupidity: In hostage situations, the enemy AI will start attempting to execute prisoners once Jin has been found. The key word there is '"found"'. If the enemy know that Jin is there, but not his exact location, then they will never leave "Alerted" status. No matter how many times they find a dead comrade or Jin snipes someone in the head from the shadows in front of them, they will never start threatening the hostages. This can easily be exploited by the player to thin out herds of enemies close to a hostage without ever putting them at risk.
  • Artistic License – Geography: Prefectures are much larger areas than the game would have you believe (in real life, the whole of Tsushima Island is just part of one prefecture (Nagasaki); they also didn't exist until about 600 years after the game's timeline. Tsushima Island is also not nearly large enough that it would be temperate and borderline summerlike in the South while the North would be covered in ice and snow.
  • Artistic License – History:
    • The Mongol landing on the beaches of Tsushima is portrayed as a complete slaughter with little resistance provided by the Japanese. In reality, the Japanese initially held an advantage, with their archers killing Mongol soldiers en masse. The Japanese held out for the better part of an entire day before the Mongols finally overwhelmed them.
    • In less than a fortnight, the Mongols had almost complete control over Tsushima; in fact, they had already moved on to Iki island before the invasion began to meet any true resistance. The contested occupation we see in the game does not reflect the reality of how the occupation of Tsushima went in reality.
  • Artistic License – Military:
    • The Mongols were famous for fighting primarily from horseback; horse archers would rain arrows down on army formations, then mounted lancers would be sent to mow down any survivors en masse. In fact, the combination of mobility and heavy damage was explicitly what made them so successful against contemporary armies. They could fight on foot if forced to (such as during a siege), but were reliant on recruiting/conscripting conquered peoples for any dedicated infantry. However, presumably for gameplay reasons, Mongol horsemen will all dismount to face Jin, and even during sieges and major battles, Mongol cavalry tend to be largely absent. Additionally, the invasion force's dedicated infantry are all portrayed as ethnic Mongols, even though in real life, they would have probably been primarily Han Chinese and Korean levies.
    • Samurai were not primarily swordsmen during the Kamakura period; swords were little more than backup weapons to be wielded in tight quarters. Most samurai of the era were known as mounted archers, with the samurai art primarily known as kyuuba no michi: "the way of the horse and bow". While there were reports of individual swordsmen challenging (and winning) against Mongol warriors, they were exceptions and definitely not the rule.
  • Ascended Meme: During a State of Play showcase for the game, fans jokingly referred to the black-and-white grainy-film style visual of one of the modes players can use as "Kurosawa Mode" (named after Akira Kurosawa, famous for his film The Seven Samurai), only for this particular feature to actually be called as such when starting the game. What makes this significant is that Sucker Punch had to get permission from Kurosawa's estate first, meaning they approved it!
  • Attack Animal: The Mongols use bankhars (a breed similar to Tibetan Mastiffs) as attack dogs, and hunting eagles to track Jin down.
  • Automaton Horses: Jin's horse has unlimited stamina, teleports to him at a whistle no matter where he is, and can't be hurt in normal gameplay, even when leaping off of cliffs. The worst that'll happen if he takes damage is he'll buck you off and run until the battle is over.
  • Awesomeness by Analysis:
    • Khotun Khan employed this before his invasion of Tsushima even started. He spent a long time studying the Samurai so that he knew how they fought, what their code was, and how to properly counter it. Failing that, he just resorted to straight-up Combat Pragmatist tendencies by not caring about honor, using said honor against Samurai who rigidly stuck to it even when it became clear that their code wasn't working.
    • Jin himself is a quick learner when it comes to swordsmanship. He can learn his opponents' move and use it against them in one fight. In one notable instance, he masters the Heavenly Strike maneuver — a mythical maneuver that takes great skill — simply by studying the movements of the man he's currently fighting, who himself has just mastered it.
  • Bait-and-Switch: Norio's final mission is set up as both him and Jin raiding a Mongol camp like many other missions only for Norio to sneak off and do it himself. By the time Jin gets there the entire camp is already burning to the ground and the mission ends after another cutscene.
  • Battle in the Rain: The duel with Yasuhira Koga is scripted to take place during a storm with lighting falling nearby. Koga even dies struck by lightning after you defeat him.
  • Battle Amongst the Flames: Happens occasionally when fighting in still burning towns. Special mention goes to the duel to learn the Heavenly Strike, where lightning strikes the grass surrounding the dueling ring and sets it ablaze during the staredown.
  • Bears Are Bad News: Bears in the wild aren't extremely aggressive as they won't pursue and even run if they get too much damage, but they are still able to toss Jin around in one hit. Bears will also attack Mongols and bandits, and some Mongol camps have bears in captivity. Once released from their cage, the bears will attack anyone nearby, including Jin.
  • BFG: Some elite Mongol soldiers carry three-barrelled hand cannons.
  • Bilingual Bonus: No matter the language settings, the Mongol soldiers speak in Mongolian, with subtitles only appearing if they use "Japanese" words. That said, the Mongolian spoken is correct: a fluent player can understand them just fine.
  • Bittersweet Ending: On one hand, Jin kills Khotun Khan and thwarts the Mongol invasion. On the other hand, the Shogunate declares him a traitor for throwing away his samurai honor with his "dirty" tactics (even though they are a necessity given the Khan's terrifying knowledge of samurai codes of war) and sends in Lord Shimura to force them into a duel, and whether Jin spares his life or gives him an honorable death after winning, he knows he will have to spend the rest of his life on the run.
  • Blade Lock: This is a common occurrence in the game during duels, usually in time for Jin and his opponent to trade a few words.
  • Blade on a Stick: Some of the Mongol enemies wield a variety of Chinese-style polearms, like the trident halberd (fangtian ji) and crescent moon glaive (yanyuedao). Notably, while they'll stab with them at a distance, up close they place their hands at either end of the pole and try to push Jin back back to the spear's effective range.
    • Norio uses a naginata, which is traditionally associated with warrior monks.
  • Blood Knight: A mythical quest is about the straw hat Kojiro challenging Jin but not before he tested himself on his five ronins. He has killed thousands before and enjoyed each death. Most of his ronins are also excited to fight Jin
  • Book-Ends: The tutorial on combat at the beginning of the game takes place in a flashback near Jin and his uncle's home. His uncle, Lord Shimura, serves as the final boss at the same location at the end of the game.
  • Boom, Headshot!: Archery version, an arrow to the head will kill an enemy instantly. Higher-ranked enemies wear helmets that block arrows from the regular half-bow, but the longbow's heavier draw weight and bigger arrows can pierce them.
  • Boring, but Practical:
    • The fully upgraded stealth kill is Jin stabbing his target through the throat with no struggle.
    • The bows aren't as sexy as some of the other ranged weapons/explosives but it can be upgraded to incredibly efficient weapons that save you a lot of trouble.
  • Boss in Mook's Clothing: In Act 2, the Straw Hat Ronin become regular enemies that can be encountered alongside Mongol warriors and Bandits. Unlike the aforementioned mooks, don't expect to mash heavy attacks and simply break their guard over and over — each one of them is like fighting in a Duel, with many of the same techniques, but generally less health.
  • But Thou Must!: Throughout the game, other than a few scripted missions, Jin generally has the option to play honorably as a samurai, or rely on stealth and cunning as a Ghost. Lord Shimura will express distaste at Jin's Ghost tactics but ultimately tolerates them. However, in the mission to retake Castle Shimura, the player has no choice but to follow Jin's plan to poison the Mongol garrison, thus losing Lord Shimura's respect and effectively making Jin an outlaw.
  • Celibate Hero: While Jin can express a desire for female company during some optional hot springs thoughts he never so much as glances at a woman throughout the course of the game. Tomoe offers for him to spend the night at her house at one point, with the implication of sleeping together, and he coldy refuses her. It could just be that he doesn’t trust her, however, given that she spent all the prior missions before that as an ally of the enemy.
  • Central Theme: Conflict between a rich upper class and a poor peasant class form the bulk of many of the game's plot. Many of them revolve around the desire to escape one's class or the struggle against the other class.
    • Shimura is presented as this paragon of honor early in the game. We later learn he cares nothing about his peasant, and that the honor he and the Shogunate cling to is all about keeping the Peasants in their place.
    • Lady Masako's entire plot turns out to stem from her younger sister's jealousy of Masako marrying up to a Samurai Lord, something that, as the older sister, she felt she deserved and she became bitter over Masako "robbing her" of her chance to move up in the world. Furthermore the marriage Masako arranged for her to a retainer of another clan left her saddled with a husband who in private was abusive and a drunkard.
    • Ryuzo resents Jin beating him at a tournament, solely because he couldn't consider going easy on his childhood friend, because it'd have meant "Lord Sakai" would've lost to a commoner. For Ryuzo, that tournament was his only chance to prove himself to one of the lords of Tsushima and become a Samurai.
    • Jin ultimately uses the tricks he learned as The Ghost to empower and arm the peasant class to repel the invaders. The Shogunate, threatened by this as peasants who can defend themselves would make them obsolete and threaten their position of privilege, brands Jin a criminal, ordering Shimura to kill him.
    • Sensei Ishikawa is a perfectionist, willing to look beyond gender and class for the perfect pupil, which he found in Tomoe. Unfortunately his strict discipline and abrasive perfectionism turned the girl into a killer who sided with the Mongols.
  • Charles Atlas Superpower:
    • Jin after some upgrades is capable of practically flash-stepping, obtaining Improbable Aiming Skills via Bullet Time while drawing his bow impossibly fast, and launching armored men fifteen feet and through the air with his kicks. He also stabs through iron lamellar with a katana as if the armor was paper.
    • All of the Elite Mooks are capable of sending Jin flying with their strikes, among other things.
  • Chevalier vs. Rogue: The player can choose between these two styles of play, the honorable Samurai or the "cowardly" Ghost.
  • Clothes Make the Superman: Your various outfits radically change your abilities and potential gameplay style. Proper samurai armor makes you a tank that regenerates resolve when you take damage, massively boosts your health and decreases damage taken. The "ronin" armor is little more than a kimono and straw hat, but it turns you into a stealthy glass cannon, greatly magnifying your melee damage and helping you hide more efficiently. When not in combat, the Traveler's Garb helps you find collectibles and reveals more of the map (and has a really cool cape.) Other armors can be found as you progress, some of which have mythic qualities, like a legendary archer's armor that is so flexible you can fire arrows with great ease.
  • Color-Coded for Your Convenience: Armored Mongol soldiers wear colored clothing that roughly matches their difficulty levels. The order goes Unarmored < Red < Blue < Yellow < Green. Starting with Blue, each tier has unique abilities:
    • Blue archers fire in bursts of three arrows, and blue bombersnote  throw blinding flash bombs.
    • Yellow shieldmen and archers can light their weapons on fire, yellow brutes can be armed with a hand cannon that ignites whatever it hits, and yellow bombers throw incendiary bombs.
    • Green archers fire poison arrows.
  • Combat Pragmatist: The "Ghost" gameplay style, natch. Some characters such as Yuna employ this since the Mongols have great knowledge of the samurai code. Jin himself becomes this when he realizes traditional samurai combat won't be enough to push the Mongols out of their homeland.
    • This is how the Mongols are largely able to deliver the Samurai such a vicious Curb-Stomp Battle; they do not play by the rules, meanwhile when the Samurai insist on following the honorable course of action the Mongols exploit it for all its worth. This can be seen immediately in the game's opening - when Lord Adachi tries to invoke Combat by Champion against the Mongol horde, the Khan simply douses the man in alcohol, sets him ablaze, and decapitates him while he panics. Mongol Mooks totally avert Mook Chivalry and will happily gang up on Jin, they will rush off to execute captives if tipped off to Jin's presence, and won't hesitate to use not just bows, but throwing knives, bombs, and hwacha rockets in open combat.
    • Ishikawa being a samurai that favors the bow, is not going to signal his presence and will make his arrows deliver the most damage possible, on top of being fine with manipulation and deceit. While he doesn't like Jin's methods he won't hold it against him like Shimura.
  • Context-Sensitive Button: R2 has many different functions in this game, depending on context. By default, it's used to slow the game and switch the stances and ghost weapons that Jin currently has equipped. However, it is also used to interact with objects in the environment, from doors to items to plot-based materials. If L2 is being held down to aim a ranged weapon, R2 is also pressed or held down and released to fire said weapon. It can lead to some confusing moments, such as accidentally entering slow mode while trying to use things or vice-versa.
  • Cuffs Off, Rub Wrists: When Jin cuts off the cuffs of the prisoners he rescues, their animations have them rubbing their wrists.
  • Cutscene Incompetence: During act 2 Jin — who up to that point has likely been hit with arrows, swords, spears, cannon fire and wild animal attacks in addition to killing fortresses full of enemies by himself — is snuck up on by a lone ronin and instantly knocked out with one hit of a wooden sword during a meeting with Ryuzo.
  • Damn You, Muscle Memory!:
    • Most open world games have entering/exiting transportation mapped to the triangle button, whereas Ghost of Tsushima has mounting your horse mapped to the R2 button. Cue many players attacking their horse the first few times they try to get on it.
    • Most games make their Context-Sensitive Button the X button, while that function is assigned to R2 here. Cue many players jumping around like idiots while trying to interact with things or, worse, while trying to move stealthily around enemies. This is doubled down with the "squeeze through tiny gap" mechanic, which was present in another hotly anticipated PlayStation 4 game released only weeks prior, but used a different input for executing it.
  • Deconstruction: Of the principle of Honor Before Reason cherished in samurai culture. As Jin finds throughout the story, "honor" means little when the enemy does not fight by the same rules, as the Khan demonstrates when he lures the defenders of Tsushima into abandoning their defensible chokepoint and get them slaughtered. Furthermore, the samurai code was built on the oppression of the lower classes, and that the Shogunate's displeasure with Jin's "dishonorable" tactics is ultimately little more than a fig leaf for the fact that he managed to inspire the commoners to stand up to the Mongols without depending on their samurai masters.
  • Deliberately Monochrome: "Kurosawa Mode" puts the game in black and white, with added film grain. More than other modes however, the black and white values change to match the lighting of Kurosawa's films, the audio is put through a filter to sound like a 1950s film, and the Dramatic Wind is cranked Up to Eleven.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: In the flashbacks, Jin is expected to fight off attacking rebels as a child, and later, as a young teen, he executes a would-be assassin without hesitation, with no-one considering it strange - after all, he is a samurai in training.
  • Developers' Foresight:
    • NPCs and Jin's allies will react accordingly depending on how Jin combats the Mongols. For example, using stealth extensively will cause some enemies to panic and flee in terror the moment they do see him.
    • Finishing the main quest before doing the sidequests will alter the dialogue in many instances.
    • If players attempt to enter certain Mongol territories before they're supposed to such as Komatsu Forge or Azamo Bay, the game will prevent them from making any progress in those areas. For Komatsu Forge, players will find the area devoid of Mongol enemies while territories such as Azamo Bay will have the player be met with overwhelming Mongol forces. If you're trying to find a way inside, good luck not getting shot to death by seemingly endless spawning Mongol archers.
    • Jin has a surprising number of context-sensitive voice lines for using the "Honor" gesture (a short bow), everything from apologizing to dead peasants he failed to save, to thanking merchants for their work. NPCs will also return the bow and make comments appropriate to their station. It can also causes gusts of wind or flocks of butterflies to stir up when paying respects to a grave.
    • If Jin tells sidequest NPCs to retreat to a settlement like the Golden Temple, they can almost always be found there after the quest, and will thank Jin for ensuring their safety.
  • Difficult, but Awesome:
    • Stand off once fully optimized can kill up to five enemies and, as an additional bonus from Sakai's armor, give a chance to terrify those witnessing Jin cutting down five men like nothing. The difficult part is that as the game progress enemies are harder to read and striking too early takes all but a sliver of life from Jin's health bar, but pull it off and the enemies who charge at you afterwards are a piece of cake by comparison, letting you slaughter entire scouting parties.
    • Perfect Parry and Perfect Dodge allow a player to completely deflect or dodge an enemy's attack and then follow up with damage. As the game progresses (or the user picks higher difficulties) the timing window for these abilities grows narrower.
    • The half-bow and longbow allow Jin to snipe enemies at range. This is easier than it sounds, however, as Jin cannot remain hidden, his aim has a slight sway, arrows make noise when they strike something, and arrows drop off with distance (this is more readily apparent with the half-bow than the longbow). In addition to this, later enemies start wearing armor and shields that can make them immune to arrow damage unless the player aims very carefully at weak points, and ammunition becomes harder to come by. If a player masters archery, however, they'll be able to take out single targets from anywhere without ever being seen.
  • Disc-One Nuke:
    • One of the skills Jin can learn early on is the ability to parry arrows. It makes several areas in the game less challenging, as this game thoroughly averts Annoying Arrows.
    • Standoff Streak allows Jin to add multiple targets to a standoff and kill them all in one hit. It can be fully upgraded as early as a few story missions into the game, allowing Jin to sometimes clear an entire random encounter if there are 3 or less opponents and significantly reduce larger groups' numbers regardless. Furthermore, since there are ways to control which enemies participate in the standoff, Jin can call out more troublesome enemies like archers, brutes and even Mongol warlords and kill them instantly.
    • The longbow is one of the best weapons in the game, capable of killing most enemies with a single headshot, and it can be found as soon as Jin reaches the Golden Temple for the first time. It comes with Explosive Arrows to deal heavy damage to groups. Its sole weakness is its incredibly low ammo capacity, which does little to detract from how useful it is to snipe troublesome enemies from a great distance.
  • Divided We Fall: In the gameplay trailer, Jin's companion Masako attempts to kill the monk he's trying to save due to a familial grudge against the man. He tells him to run and says that the Mongols win if they fight each other. She replies that the Mongols have already won, and after a tense stand-off, they begin a duel.
    • Happens repeatedly throughout the story, as the Mongols exploit the existing divisions and grudges between the island's inhabitants to turn them against each other.
  • Dramatic Wind: In a flashback at his father's funeral, Jin is told that his father is the wind at his back. The wind thus forms a recurring motif in the game, especially when Jin faces setbacks. When he was defeated at the beginning of the game, the wind flows around the family sword. When he's again defeated in his first combat with the Khan, Jin looks at the rising breeze
    • In the Kurosawa Mode, the wind is cranked Up to Eleven in order to fit the aesthetic of he legendary filmmaker.
  • Dressing as the Enemy: Jin can wear the Mongol commander armor after recovering its scattered pieces. Fittingly, wearing it greatly decreases enemy detection speed when out of combat, as the Mongols naturally assume that Jin is one of them.
  • Dude, Where's My Respect?: Thoroughly averted. All the peasantry recognizes Jin as their feudal lord and will pay him the proper respect. His exploits are heard of, and people will leave gifts for him at shrines. Only fellow Samurai, being his social equals, and certain anti-establishment NPCs won't defer to him - and of the latter, almost all who don't respect Lord Sakai come to respect the Ghost's actions.
  • Duel Boss: All of the boss fights are one-vs-one affairs, including a cutscene with dramatic camera angles before the duel begins. Notably the game forces you to fight fairly and disables both the bow and all ghost weapons. (You can, however, initiate Ghost Stance provided you saved up your gauge beforehand and get a few good free hits in before reverting back to normal.)
  • Duel to the Death: A major gameplay mechanic for boss fights, with Akira Kurosawa-esque cinematography and buildup leading up to the duel. Also, Standoffs have Jin call out a specific enemy and slash them down one-on-one. Truth in Television, as Japanese combat at the time was usually initiated by one samurai calling another's name and challenging them. What isn't truth, however, are all the Mongols who duel as well. While there are accounts of Mongol warriors battling (and even losing) in single combat against samurai, most Japanese records indicate that Mongols usually held the practice in complete contempt and openly laughed at the samurai who attempted it. The real Mongols even made Khotun Khan's moment of Combat Pragmatism at the start of the game look tame by comparison; when Real Life samurai bravely stepped forward to duel, the entire Mongol army swarmed him and cut him down with spears and lances.
  • Early Game Hell: Early on, Sakai lacks any of the tools or stances that makes exploration and combat easier. In particular, fighting against shieldmen, spearmen and brutes (especially if they gang up on you) can be outright aggravating, since Stone stance is ineffective against them. He will also lack other helpful abilities such as Chain Assassination, gear that grant extra Resolve/Health, and locations like Bamboo Strikes and Hot Springs which permanently upgrade his stats. By the time the player leaves Izuhara (assuming they've been allocating Technique Points and taking opportunities to explore), Sakai will be a much stronger combatant.
  • Earn Your Fun: Some aspects of the gameplay are locked behind progression, such as being able to perform Chain Assassinations or snipe enemies with arrows (especially Uchitsune's Longbow, which isn't unlocked during the main questline). Jin accepting the title of Ghost, the armor set on the game's cover, and the eponymous gameplay mechanic aren't unlocked until halway through the main plot.
  • Elaborate Equals Effective: Upgrading Jin's weapons and armor adds additional visual flair in addition to increased functionality. Also applies to the enemy, with more dangerous enemies being more ornately equipped - lowly bandits and mongol grunts are wearing barely more than rags, mid-tier enemies at least look battle-ready, and the mongol Elite Mooks stand out in Bling of War.
  • Empathic Environment: The game's weather system is scripted to generate storms whenever Jin switches to his "Ghost" ways. The ending chosen also determines whether the epilogue starts on a stormy night (kill Lord Shimura) or a sunny morning (spare Lord Shimura).
    • The developers have since confirmed that the game is designed to generate more bad weather if the player favors dishonorable tactics.
  • Enemy Mine: It takes stopping an entire siege but Jin eventually manages to convince the Yarikawa — the same family that attempted a coup when Jin was a child and killed his father — to fight alongside their hated enemy Lord Shimura against the Mongols.
  • Equal-Opportunity Evil: While there are no women in their ranks, the Khan is much more open than Shimura about accepting anyone willing to fight for him, as fitting with his belief in Pragmatic Villainy. Commoner women like Tomoe or even Ronin like Ryuzo and his straw hats are welcome so long as they can fight and contribute. One letter comments that the Mogol genuinely treats the skilled prisoners well but those they have no use are treated worse than their dogs.
  • Evolving Title Screen: The game's title screen gradually changes the further you progress through the story. Initially, the screen shows Jin's sword stabbed into the ground in grasslands. After completing "Ghosts of the Past" in Act 2, the Sakai Clan mask will be shown dangling from the sword's hilt. Near the end of Act 2, the Sakai Clan mask will be replaced by the Ghost mask after Jin obtain the Ghost armor.
  • Eye Scream: In the gameplay trailer, Jin pushes the monk out of the way of Masako's arrow at the last second, but it still passes close enough to take out his eye. Subverted in the game proper, however: when the two of them catch up to him afterwards his eye is just fine.
  • Fake Aristocrat: The sidequest "The Other Side of Honor" has a man impersonating a Samurai, simply to impress women. When Jin confronts him, the man goes so far as to challenge him and be a Duel Boss. The dramatic cutscene plays and as soon as the duel starts, he immediately surrenders and begs Jin to spare him. When Jin tells the women the truth, they reveal they knew it all along but liked him so they were just playing along and are glad if Jin spares him.
  • Fantastic Foxes: Fox Dens dot the world which requires Jin to follow the den's fox to a shrine of the goddess Inari. Praying at enough shrines allows Jin to add more charms to his swords. And he can occasionally pet the foxes and they will bounce with joy as they leave after being petted.
  • Foregone Conclusion: A quick glance at any history detailing it will tell the viewer that both the first and second invasions of Tsushima island failed, so the Mongols are losing no matter what.
  • Flaming Sword: Some enemies can light their swords on fire for unblockable attacks that deal fire damage. Jin will eventually be able to learn this technique himself.
  • Full-Boar Action: There are boars in the game, and if you cross them, they will mess you up (though they are equal-opportunity murderers and will attack your enemies as easily as they will attack you).
  • Fundoshi: One of the armor sets in the game consist of Jin wearing only a fundoshi, acquire by bathing in all of the Hot Springs in the game. It's mostly a Joke Item, with the only effect being it allows Jin to run without making sound.
  • Gameplay and Story Segregation: Jin spends all of act 3 as a fugitive after poisoning the Khans at the final act 2 mission. Initially you are forbidden to go back to the earlier areas (the map says "Cannot fast travel while Exiled") but completing a mission to link back up with your allies undoes that restriction and nobody seems to really care where you go, despite Jin still being technically on the run from the law.
    • One mission has you kill a large group of Straw Hats with both Jin and Ryuzo stating that the entire group died there. Doesn’t stop random groups of them from appearing in both side missions and free roam afterwards.
  • Genius Bruiser: Khotun, appropriate for an accomplished Yuan general.
    Khotun: But while you were sharpening your sword, do you know how I prepared for today? I learned. I know your language, your traditions, your beliefs. Which villages to tame, and which to burn.
  • Global Currency: "Supplies" are used in place of whatever money might be found on enemies or in treasure chests. This means Jin can get as much from a Mongolian camp as from a Japanese bandit hoard. Also it's a good excuse for why blacksmiths still charge him despite him technically being the lord of the land; they just need the "stuff" you need to build the armor.
    • Given that supplies are likely to be things like food, medicine and other necessities this is justified. Both Mongols and bandits would have those in stock with little difference for the people receiving them.
  • Gondor Calls for Aid: An act 2 mission involves Jin and Lord Shimura making a diversion so a boat containing a message from Shimura to the Shogun asking for reinforcement can escape the Mongol blockade of the island.
  • Harder Than Hard: Ver 1.05 of the game introduces Lethal mode difficulty, in which enemies do more damage to Jin (But Jin does more damage in turn), the Parry window is even tighter, the AI in combat is more aggressive, and are much more intelligent when trying to find Jin if you go for the stealthy approach fighting them.
  • Helmets Are Hardly Heroic: Helmets are entirely cosmetic, Jin can wear anything from an armoured Samurai helm to a headband to his bare noggin and be no less protected. The same goes for masks, which can be anything from a bandanna to a ceremonial menpō to a fairly practical sheet of metal. Jin automatically removes the latter during cutscenes, so his facial expressions aren't lost from the scene by keeping one equipped.
  • Homage: You can play the game with a stylized monochrome filter to make it look like an old samurai film and it is called Kurosawa Mode. Also, the concept of a samurai gathering allies to Train The Peaceful Villagers, and the criticism of feudal class systems inherent in such a concept, brings to mind The Seven Samurai — one of Kurosawa's most famous films.
  • Hopeless Boss Fight: Jin's initial fight against Khotun Khan ends up being this. During this point of the game, Jin has inadequate equipment or abilities to fight the leader of the Mongolian invasion leading to him being beaten and thrown over the bridge. This defeat makes Jin realize he can't defeat the Mongols by himself or with samurai fighting techniques, and his quest to find new allies and develop new skills kicks off the game.
  • Iaijutsu Practitioner: Jin's "Stand Off" ability involves performing a killing slash straight from the sheath. Enemies that use katanas are able to perform iaijutsu attacks as well. When they sheathe their swords, their next attack or series of attacks are unblockable.
  • If You're So Evil, Eat This Kitten: After Ryuzo defects to the Mongols, Khotun makes him prove his loyalty by burning a Japanese hostage alive to force a castle's defenders to surrender.
    • Seems to be a favored tactic of his given that he tries to do the same to Taka by forcing him to kill Jin to stay alive. Unlike Ryuzo, he refuses and gets killed for it.
  • Improbable Aiming Skills: Mongol archers, true to their reputation, are incredibly good shots and will hit Jin almost every time unless he listens for their call-outs and dodge or block in time. The player can also do things like headshotting an enemy across a field, especially with the use of Focus Mode.
  • Interface Spoiler: When you play the first part of the "Tale of Sensei Ishikawa" quest line, you're told by a tutorial cut - in something to the effect of "Hold L2 to swap Ranged Weapons". At that point in the game you were just given the Half Bow. Holding L2 as instructed and noticing that the tool tip said "weapons" in plural tells you there will be at least three more ranged weapons.
  • Japanese Spirit: Downplayed and deconstructed. True to Real Life, the phrase "Yamato Damashii" didn't exist during this era, but a lot of the cultural values that would become codified within that trope are demonstrated. Being willing to risk sure death for one's principles is seen as the highest value a samurai can display, and the many tales told by Yamato about legendary warriors amounts to inhuman acts of resolve and bravery revealing or inspiring equally-inhuman feats of strength and talent. However, the events of the game deconstruct the notion as Jin begins to question how useful such beliefs and convictions are in the face of complete annihilation.
  • Kick Them While They Are Down: If you're defeated, enemies will sometimes kick you a few times before delivering the finishing blow.
  • Killing Intent: "Ghost Stance" invokes this by putting all enemies in terrified state while allowing Jin to quickly execute enemies in a single strike. Aside from this, it puts the game in Deliberate Monochrome mode, causes the Dramatic Wind to go wild and makes the screen flash red whenever you kill an enemy.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: During his death scene, Khotun Khan claims that he will be remembered forever. Jin says that he will be forgotten. This may be a reference to how Khotun is a Canon Foreigner - implying that he was "supposed" to be a real historical figure, he's just been forgotten (note that, from the Mongol side, the invasions of Japan have comparatively little documentation, only being covered in summary during the Yuanshi).
  • Leitmotif: "The Way of the Ghost", the games somber and melancholic main theme, is used throughout the game, such as with Jin Sakai's theme for the Opening Title, and Sacrifice of Tradition, the theme of the final Tragic Duel between Jin and Lord Shimura.
  • Les Collaborateurs: The Straw Hats become this to the Mongols after their leader, Ryuzo, takes up the Khan's bounty on Jin in return for food for his men.
  • Let's Fight Like Gentlemen:
    • Khotun Khan, the man in charge of the invasion of Tsushima, studied the ways of the samurai extensively to the point he learned of its many weaknesses, owing to the Curb-Stomp Battle that occurs at the start of the game. He does however accept Jin's later challenge and dominate him fair and square.
    • The stand off mechanic is Jin challenging a Mongolian among the group in a duel. Killing one enemy with one blow but giving up the element of surprise.
    • Duels enforce this with the player being unable to simply pull out their bow for an easy headshot or use ghost weapons.
  • Magikarp Power: The two Inari charms, received by finding a certain number of fox shrines. Initially, they only provide small bonuses to attack, damage, and resolve gains. However, going through the game and finding every fox shrine will boost their abilities to the same level as Gold charms, with "massive" or "major" bonuses across the board. Combined with a samurai armor set that boosts damage, individual sword strikes can almost one-shot lower tier enemies and do huge damage even to higher level ones.
  • The Many Deaths of You: If Jin's health empties out in melee combat, the nearest foe will go in for a finishing blow, often dealing a stab or even decapitating him; bosses and unique foes get their own exclusive animations. The game does attempt a sort of Gory Discretion Shot by flashing the screen red immediately after the kill and then fading to black.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: Though ostensibly historical, the game does have some supernatural elements.
    • Yuriko says that Jin's father will be the wind at his back, and the wind serves as the navigation system, always blowing towards your target.
    • Likewise, she calls his mother's soul "the birds in the trees", and occasionally, birds will lead Jin to various places of interest.
    • Jin's mother called Inari his guardian spirit, and indeed, foxes will often lead Jin to the Inari shrines.
    • Another has Jin search for a maneuver said to be invented to fight creatures borne of lightning. When Jin finally performs the move (on a man who murdered the previous master of the maneuver - the last in a line of master and students stretching back to the move's inventor), lightning immediately strikes Jin's opponent dead. The player is left to interpret if this was from the Heavenly Strike itself, or the Kamis' actions, or the spirit of the inventor of the maneuver or because they were fighting in a thunderstorm.
    • The longbow is treated as an Artifact of Doom with its own tale about its creation and blood-soaked history. It's never stated if it actually is a mythological weapon or if that's simply the story that sprung up around it. When you're searching for it, an archer will shoot at Jin at each temple and tell him it's not worth the trouble. After touching the bow, Jin seemingly gets transported to another location with the ground soaked in blood and crows circling in the sky for a trippy miniboss fight against him... but there's also some incense sitting on the mantle where the bow was, so there's the possibility that Jin is just hallucinating the new location (according to Word of God, that is indeed the case).
  • Mêlée à Trois: Jin can stumble upon Mongol troops fighting Japanese bandits (or bears). Both sides are hostile to Jin, resulting in this.
    • Kenji's second quest ends with a fight between Jin, Mongols, Straw Hats, and a bear all fighting each other.
  • Mercy Kill: The prompt for executing wounded enemies is actually called "End Suffering." You get rewarded with more Resolve, and they get a swift, less-painful death, so everybody wins.
  • Monochrome Casting: A downplayed example; the game portrays the invasion force as being comprised mostly of ethnic Mongols, though in real life, the bulk of the Mongol invasion force seems to have been made up of Korean and Chinese levies, with ethnic Mongols primarily forming the elite mounted contingent alongside the Jurchen.
  • Mook Chivalry: Enemies on horseback will dismount to fight Jin on foot. Averted in every other instance where enemies will frequently attack you in packs and can quickly overwhelm a careless player.
  • Mook Horror Show: Using certain moves during combat can terrify enemies and leave them crawling or even running away. Justified given that these special moves involve chopping off limbs and taken up to eleven when entering ghost stance
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Ryuzo suffers buyer's remorse pretty soon after throwing his lot in with Khotun, who forces the ronin, as a show of loyalty, to burn hostages alive in front of Castle Shimura to coax them to surrendering the castle. He suffers a breakdown after lighting just one, begging for the castle to open the gates before he has to immolate the other two prisoners - fortunately for him, the defenders comply soon after.
    • After Jin’s scathing "The Reason You Suck" Speech Shimura turns around and slaps him in a moment of anger. It's clear that he regrets it afterwards and attempts to apologize but Jin decides then and there that it's over between them.
  • Nerves of Steel: While they can still be momentarily shocked and leave themselves open to an attack, Mongol Commanders are immune to being terrified.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: Jin poisoning the Khans at the end of act 2 might have saved numerous soldiers’ lives but it also leads to Khotun getting the idea to use the same poison manufactured en masse in order to attack the mainland. A bit of background conversation between two traders also notes that one merchant used the same poison in order to kill a business rival of his. The flipside is, as Jin points out, that he was forced to use poison by Shimura's refusal to abandon dogma. Morality aside, wars are lost when you get all your soldiers killed.
  • Nice Guy: Despite his stoicism Jin shows kindness to many he meets, saving them from Mongols and bandits without being asked. His uncle even comments on it when a teenage Jin is asked what being honorable is and he responds it means protecting the innocent.
    • A side quest where he finds a man pretending to be a samurai has Jin simply giving the man a talking to. Given the time period and the events of Kamoda beach, many other Samurai in his place likely would’ve killed the man outright.
  • Ninja: The word is never actually used in the game, because there just aren't any. Jin has to basically invent being a ninja as a form of adaptation to the Mongol invaders, as fighting fair will get him and others killed quickly. So such weaponry are called "Ghost" weapons and tactics are called "Evolving Tactics." Considering he's on the run from the law by the end of the game, but has many allies among the peasantry, he may just have to create his own ninja clan from among the farmers and whatnot in the future.
  • No "Arc" in "Archery": Averted. You have to aim a little higher when aiming for something farther like with real archery.
  • No Hero Discount: Averted. It's made clear that the peasant workers, even skilled ones like swordsmiths and bowyers, aren't charging "Lord Sakai" for their services. The amount of Supplies "charged" is an abstraction of Jin supplying the necessary materials for the work to be done, what with the Mongol invasion breaking down the usual supply chains.
  • Not So Stoic: Despite Lord Shimura's emphasis on samurai stoicism, a lot of samurai are shown losing control of their emotions in times of stress.
    • Jin's father begging his son to save him. It has more to do with him panicking than rationally thinking an unarmed boy can rescue him.
    • Jin's stoicism erodes as the story progress, unable to hide his anger toward the Mongols. Taka's death makes him scream in a rage and grief. After many men died in the failed siege of Shimura castle due to poor tactics, he finally loses his temper and rages against his uncle about all he's given up in order to fight the Mongols while Shimura "did nothing" and just stubbornly clings to honor.
    • Following the above, Shimura smacks Jin in a moment of anger. Doubly notable considering he was just lecturing Jin on losing control of his emotions.
    • Ishikawa immediately kills a Mongol in anger when he reveals why the Nagao family really cast him out, and tells Jin to forget what he heard.
  • Obligatory War Crime Scene: Almost every mission dealing with the Mongols will show them having murdering and enslaving civilians or, at best, stealing their supplies and/or holding them for ransom. The end of Act 2 counts as one for Jin as well, dependent on how you view him poisoning all of the Mongols in the castle.
  • Offscreen Moment of Awesome: Norio's final mission has him destroy a Mongol camp by setting it on fire and killing every soldier inside. We only see the aftermath by the time Jin gets there, though.
  • Off with His Head!: Once Jin unlocked Ghost Stance, he is able to stealth kill Mongol leaders by brutally decapitating them (and instantly filling his Ghost Stance meter). Prior to this he could only do a "critical strike" on the heavily armored leaders.
  • One-Hit Kill:
    • If Jin instills enough terror into the Mongols, they will drop their weapons and run, or fall to the ground and try to crawl away from him. In either scenario, they die in one hit.
    • The Ghost Stance, unlocked in the second act of the game. When Jin slaughters a Mongol leader in stealth or kills seven enemies without taking any damage, he's able to kill several enemies with only one blow for a period of time, with a high chance of terrifying any who witness the kills. The Ghost Armor reduces the number of kills needed to enter the stance. note 
  • One-Man Army: Jin slaughters his way through what must be the entire Mongol army throughout the game. Some villagers even speak in awe and fear when they see him in action, noting that he's a 'demon' and no other samurai fights like he does.
    • Jin's companions are downplayed versions. While they won't kill nearly as many as he does they're extremely competent combatants and can kill a decent number of enemies on their own.
  • Outside-Genre Foe: In-Universe. The Mongols don't just ignore the principles of samurai warfare, they actively exploit the Samurais' rigid adherence to play them for fools. Jin is quickly convinced that the only way he'll get anywhere is to start breaking the rules himself.
  • Perfect Poison: Averted. In fact the utterly horrifying effects of a poison dart strong enough to quickly kill a man (which include howling in pain and vomiting blood) are part of their use. The display causes allies to come running, as a distraction or setting them up for an explosive.
  • Politically Correct History: Downplayed. The game doesn’t shy away from showing the classism and hypocrisy of the samurai with common citizens being looked down in from those in power, but it does exaggerate the levels of tolerance that feudal Japanese society held for warrior women and homosexual relationships.note 
  • Phony Veteran: "The Other Side of Honor" sidequest deals with a farmer pretending to be a samurai survivor of the initial Mongol landing wearing a stolen saddle and armor.
  • Practical Currency: Nondescript supplies serve as currency as the island is back on a bartering system.
  • Pragmatic Villainy: The Mongols are stunningly brutal against those who oppose them, but they're also willing to avoid unnecessary fighting by persuading local collaborators to join their cause instead. A good example is how they deal with Ryuzo's men where they received good food after being taken prisoner. Considering they had no food prior to this it helps convince Ryuzo to turn against Jin later in order to feed his men.
    • Emphasizing the villainy part of this, Khotun makes it clear that any who surrender will either be used as Cannon Fodder for the inevitable mainland invasion or as producers of food and other supplies they need. Numerous citizens who surrendered to the Mongols are only marginally better off than those who resist. A letter notes that the Mongols treat the skilled slaves with a genuine respect for their craft, but if they have no skills they see them as lower than their dogs. People who can't work at all (the sick, injured or elderly) get executed out of hand.
  • Reality Ensues:
    • If a Mook sees Jin as the Ghost mowing down multiple Mongols in seconds, they'll do what any sane man would do: drop their weapons and flee for their lives.
    • Holding a bow drawn actually takes quite a lot of effort. Jin can only hold a full draw for a few seconds before his aim starts to wobble and the bowstring slips through his fingers.
    • While you can play Jin like a One-Man Army, there are spots that will chew you up and spit you out regardless of health or gear marked as "overwhelming forces" which are only removed by plot missions.
    • During "The Undying Flame," Jin is climbing a mountain in the middle of a harsh winter and needs to stop by fires to warm himself up or he'll take damage, eventually leading to death.
    • Jin's first stealth takedown is noticeably crude with the sentry even managing to let out a small scream before Jin remembers to cover his mouth.
    • In a nation like Japan where honor is so significant, especially for the Samurai who are essentially defined by it, Jin's gradual abandonment of his honor repeatedly earns him harsh criticism for abandoning the very code he was raised to uphold as he spreads this pragmatism to the peasantry for seizing back their lands. This becomes so much of a problem that even after saving Tsushima, the Shogunate calls for Jin's death because his pragmatic, shinobi-style ways could undermine the Samurai and ruling caste now that there's an entire region of people following Jin's example, while using the Samurai code of honor as a socially-justified excuse to execute him.
    • Lord Shimura's dedication to fighting honorably predictably blows up in his face at the start of the game, but it really hits him in the second act. He decides to attack a fortified position head on, and even after suffering severe casualties, he is insistent on finishing the job. Predictably, Jin and Yuna are horrified at the death toll and urge time to rest the soldiers.
    • Jin develops wolfsbane poison as a potent weapon against the Mongols. However, it's only natural that a cunning and resourceful leader like Khotun would find a way to reverse engineer it himself and subsequently use it against Jin and his people. It's noted later on as well that knowledge of the poison has spread among the populace with one silk merchant using it to take out his only competition and a farmer using it against another he was feuding with.
  • Revenge Myopia: All of the conspirators involved in the massacre of Clan Adachi blamed them for their decline in fortune/stature even though they were being punished for cheating, stealing, being an abusive husband/father, etc.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: When Taka is murdered, Jin, upon freeing himself and reclaiming his gear, goes on a murderous rampage against the Straw Hats, shouting "Kill them all!", "Bastard traitors!", "You deserve death!" and "No mercy!".
    • Masako and Norio's quest chain also involve them getting revenge on the people who killed their family and monks, respectively.
  • Ruleof Symbolism: Some of the plants that dot the landscape as Jin goes about both story and side quests, occasionally hinting at the ending results. The red maple leaves symbolize strength and endurance, the white magnolia symbolizes nobility alongside respect for nature, Lycoris spider lilies for death and memory loss, and the ginkgo leaves not just for endurance but also duality (in particular Jin using ninja-like tactics and equipment alongside his samurai blades).
  • Sacrificial Lion: Harunobu Adachi, the first samurai to face the Mongol invasion at the start of the game, gets butchered to show how ruthless the Mongol are and how out-of-their-depth the samurai are in facing such an army.
  • Scenery Gorn: As beautiful Tsushima is it's currently in the middle of a war mutilating the view.
    • The Endless Forest area in the Kamiagata region has been burned down by the Mongols leaving behind a huge wasteland of charred trees and ash and little else.
    • Komoda's beach is still red and littered with the corpse of samurai. Masako's sons were even strung at a nearby tree.
    • Mongols are big fans of Dead Guy on Display, with heads or bodies on pikes and trees full of hanged men all across the map.
  • Scenery Porn: The game's rendition of Tsushima island is gorgeous regardless of the weather or the time of day, and the movie-esque cinematography will not let you miss out on it.
  • Schmuck Bait: There are random encounters where strangers on the side of the road will ask Jin to walk off with them to give him some information and then jump him.
  • "Scooby-Doo" Hoax: One sidequest involves people warning Jin not to go into a forest that has killed not just other civilians, but Mongols that are cut down by blades and their swords taken. Ghosts would have no need for blades and after investigating, finds out they're just a group of bandits that he kills. A new story afterward is told that the vengeful ghosts of the samurai claimed those bandits' lives.
    • This pops up a few times, as various calamities (murders, unexplained thefts, and so on) are frequently blamed on spirits or monsters. Sometimes it's the perpetrator masking their true nature (The Spirit of Yarikawa's Vengeance cloaks themselves in supernatural pageantry), and sometimes it's just a case of the victims being convinced they're beset by supernatural forces — such as the woman who believes Kappa attacked her father.
  • Screw This, I'm Out of Here!: If Jin mows down Mongol soldiers as a Ghost, and a Mongol witnesses him slaughtering their comrades, they'll fear for their lives, drop their weapons and run away as far from Jin as possible. Notably, a retreating Mongolian soldier does not need to be killed in order for him to count as "defeated" for an objective; that guy is outta here and not coming back.
  • Seldom-Seen Species: The golden birds are black-naped orioles, which are definitely not common in popular media.
  • Sequel Hook: Jin is on the run, stripped of his clan and status, and Khotun claims with his last words that killing him will only invite more Mongol conquerors. We know that historically there was another, much larger Mongol invasion of Japan just seven years later.
  • Sexy Surfacing Shot: Jin strips naked when going to the hot springs, with a shot of him surfacing out of the water when it's over. He's only seen from the back and the camera cuts away just before his crotch comes into view.
  • Shield-Bearing Mook: In-game, there are two varieties of shieldbearer: Lighter armed and armored soldiers with small round shields and larger, more heavily armed and armored soldiers equipped with tower shields.
  • Ship Tease: Jin and Yuna in certain scenes. One moment has them drinking together at night and opening up about their pasts, another has Jin inquiring about Yuna's relationship with a hunter she knew, sounding a little jealous, and before the final mission she tells him that she can't lose him after all they’ve been through. She even suggests that they both take a boat and escape "somewhere quiet" while Shimura fights the Khan instead, though Jin refuses. He still chooses to spend his possibly last night with her, however, and they share a tearful reunion in the ending.
  • Short-Range Shotgun: The Mongol hand cannons fire a cloud of flaming projectiles that only reach out to several metres but can set everything it catches on fire. Before the invention of fast-combusting corned gunpowder, most early proto-guns were similarly short-ranged in real life.
  • Shout Out:
    • You get the "Cooper Clan Cosplayer" trophy for dressing Jin up like Sly.
    • A headband you can find in Omi Monastery is the Band of the Second Son, the description saying "The colors of a warrior from a distant place and time."
    • The trophy for completing every duel is titled "There Can Be Only One".
    • Similarly, the achievement for completing the game is called Mono no Aware.
    • The developers have stated that Usagi Yojimbo was a big influence on the creation of the game, so it is believed that Jin Sakai's surname is a shout out to the comic's author, Stan Sakai.
  • Shown Their Work: Lord Shimura is referred to by the period-correct term jitō, rather than daimyo as in popular samurai media set in later periods.
    • Some of the stealth-related equipment that Jin uses — the rope and hook called kaginawa, smoke bombs, black powder bombs, firecrackers, kunai — was actually used by real-life shinobi. The wide straw hats that Jin receives was also utilized by shinobi as part of their disguise.
    • Japan did had two different sized bows, the short bow hankyū ("half bow") and the much longer yumi.
  • Slashed Throat: Gameplay footage shows that even Jin drawing katana from the scabbard can be fatal if he immediately hits the enemy's throat in the same move. Notably, it is neither quick nor clean, as we see the enemy stagger around while choking on their own blood for a good five seconds before finally collapsing.
  • Space Compression: The Tsushima island in the game is 25 times smaller than the real island.
  • Stance System: There are four stances to use in sword fighting. Stances after the default are unlocked in order by observing and/or killing a certain number of Mongol leaders. You can also unlock moves in a certain stance.
    1. Stone Stance: The default stance; effective against single and dual sword-wielding enemies.
    2. Water Stance: Effective against shield-bearing enemies.
    3. Wind Stance: Effective against polearm wielding enemies.
    4. Moon Stance: Effective against brute enemies.
  • Super Hero Origin: The crux of the story, as over the course of the game Jin embraces the identity of the Ghost, particularly how it galvanizes and inspires the people of Tsushima. By the end of the game he is practically Batman: an almost mythical figure who always arrives when there are people in need while shunned by the nominal law in the country.
  • Sword Plant: After Jin defeats Masako in a duel, she kneels, awaiting death. He instead takes her katana off the ground and plants it in front of her, living up to his earlier adage that "if we fight, the Mongols win".
  • Swipe Your Blade Off: In cutscenes, Jin cleans his blade on the inside of his elbow before his fight with Khotun Khan (both of them). In gameplay, the player can swipe right on the touchpad to do this after a fight, where a more traditional swipe can be used as well. In fact, this command isn't available until after the Khotun fight, implying that Jin was saving a fresh blade the entire time for the monster who deserved it.
  • Take It to the Bridge: The first confrontation with Khotun Khan takes place on a long bridge; predictably, Jin ends up falling right off it.
  • To Be Lawful or Good: The internal conflict that Jin has, abandoning Samurai precepts of honor to save lives. He fully decides on the latter after poisoning the Mongols at the end of Act 2, even declaring that he’s The Ghost to Shimura.
  • Trademark Favorite Food: Or drink, as the case may be. Kumis, fermented mare's milk, is the drink of choice for Mongolians, because coming from a society of nomads, they didn't really have the time to have vineyards or ranches and instead used what they brought with them, their horses.
  • Translation Convention: The game was developed with English as its primary spoken language (as reflected in the lip animations), even though it takes place in 13th century Japan. However, there is a Japanese dub that's available in the English version if you so choose to play it that way. Characters speaking Japanese is represented with the language the player selected, meaning that (for example) Khotun Khan speaks it to a Tsushima local because he learnt it (and if a character is speaking it poorly, they can't speak it very well). This is extended to the bandit characters: they're Tsushima locals, so the player can understand them too! However, the bulk of the Mongols only speak Mongolian no matter which dub you play, as the Japanese characters aren't supposed to be able to understand them.
  • Travel Montage: When Jin and Yuna travel to rescue the former's uncle near the start of the game, their journey is shown as an ink line travelling on the map from the beach to the castle, since the player doesn't have access to the open world yet.
  • Trojan Horse: Jin and Yuna hide in a sake vendor’s cart to sneak into a Mongol fortification to save her brother. Another side mission for the same sake vendor has Jin sneaking into a Mongol camp by hiding in an empty sake barrel.
  • Undressing the Unconscious: After Jin loses consciousness during the Action Prologue, he next awakens somewhere else much later, having had his armor stripped and his wounds treated. He finds it soon after waking up, heavily damaged but still wearable, along with Yuna, the woman who nursed him back to health. In a later scene Yuna reveals she stripped the armour because it made Jin hard to carry, and she had to move him outside the village in case he was found by a Mongol breaking into her home (which does in fact happen).note 
    • Happens again when he's captured while trying to find Ryuzo. Regardless of what he was wearing prior he'll wake up tied to a post wearing different clothes and no weapons.
  • Universal Ammunition: Jin can pick up Mongol arrows to shoot from his half-bow, despite the dialogue pointing out that they're different from Japanese arrows. Jin can also pick up kunai from enemy Mongols.
  • Unreliable Expositor: Yuriko is old and somewhat senile, making it debatable about how much of what she says (mostly about her relationship with Jin’s dad) is true.
  • Video Game Caring Potential:
    • There's a button to pet the foxes. It doesn't actually do anything but grant you an animation of the little guys jumping around in joy after.
    • Some side mission can be done without bloodshed retrieving food from bandits or sparing a fake samurai with minimal change.
  • Villain Ball: Khotun Khan spends an inordinate amount of time attempting to "break" Shimura, Jin and the Japanese people in general to force their surrender and compliance. The in-universe justification is to make it easier for his armies to invade the mainland. However, in Real Life, the Mongols didn't give one wit about the compliance of their foes.note  All of this results in Khotun being killed in Tsushima before he can even reach the mainland, which is a far cry from his historical counterparts.
  • Worthy Opponent:
    • In the gameplay reveal, it is shown if you stick with the Samurai Playstyle, Jin will respect his opponents and face them head-on. After defeating everyone, you can perform a quick bow out of respect.
    • Khotun Khan deeply respects Jin and his uncle, as they are warriors known for winning battle against great odds. He wants to convince them it's not going to happen this time. Later on, it becomes more and more apparent that it's largely a facade to make himself seem more palatable and privately he's furious that Shimura won't crack.
  • Wrecked Weapon:
    • Or armor in this case. While Jin’s katana is in perfect condition after the intro, his armor is damaged beyond repair and most players will ditch it as it's the only armour not to give bonuses for wearing it. You can however effectively replace it by purchasing another armour's first upgrade and completing a side-mission that rewards the same armour dye as the original.
    • In the final showdown against Khotun Khan Jin eventually manages to break his polearm, forcing the Khan to wield it like a sword while brandishing his shield.
  • You No Take Candle: Khotun Khan and a few other Mongol leaders are fluent in Japanese. His rank-and-file soldiers... not so much.
  • Your Princess Is in Another Castle!: Every time it seems like you'll finally get to the Khan, you find out he left and headed for the next part of the map just before you arrived. Jin has to time the final assault with a storm just to make sure the Mongol ships are landlocked and the Khan can't just escape again.


Video Example(s):


Samurai Duels A Mongol Warlord

A Samurai tries to challenge the Mongol leader to a honorable duel and ends up being brutally immolated and beheaded by him instead, to the horror of his fellow Samurai.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (24 votes)

Example of:

Main / CombatPragmatist

Media sources:

Main / CombatPragmatist