Head to this marker, kill all the enemies that spawn, uncover more of the map, head to one of the new markers that just spawned, talk to an NPC, go to the next waypoint , fight other enemies, return to quest giver, get your reward. Rinse and repeat. Breakdown Ghostwire: Tokyo to its core gameplay fundamentals and you’ve got an open-world game that’s as stereotypical as it gets.
But activities take on new meaning when, instead of clearing towers, you uncover more of the map by clearing corrupt Torii gates. Their locations aren’t just random either – they’re often located at the entrance to a Shinto shrine, and in rare cases they literally become gateways to another dimension. Just outside the shrines you’ll also find stalls where you can buy charms or snacks, but given the unearthly fog that swept through the city, some of them seemed in better shape.
Likewise, these rudimentary fetch quests take on added significance as they lead you to discover the many yokai from Japanese mythology that have interwoven into Japanese society. In Ghostwire: Tokyo, they take on different roles – from threats to collectibles, from merchants to quest givers. Then there’s also what it all looks like: a beautiful recreation of a next-gen Tokyo that would make Yakuza’s RGG Studio sweat. All of these things bring the world of Ghostwire to life – ironic for a game where everyone was swept away.
It’s also a kind of cultural specificity that could only come from a Japanese developer like Tango Gameworks, a studio that goes wild in reveling in its Japanese identity and all of its nuances – a welcome departure from trying to play towards Western audiences hungry for more Shinji Mikami Survival Horror.
The richness of Ghostwire’s setting shows only the superficial depiction of Ghost of Tsushima and Sifu; games set in Asia but made in the West, mostly by white people. Regardless of their intentions, what we get is superficial cultural tourism (at best) and games that play on “pre-existing stereotypes and clichés” (at worst, for example). Uppercut).
Consider Sucker Punch’s samurai game, which has the audacity to name one of its modes after legendary filmmaker Akira Kurosawa…because it happens to be black and white, and it has a Japanese sound (which was botched in the original version since the lip-synch was done for the English dub). At least having authentic language options as an option is an improvement over Sloclap’s martial arts game Sifu, which only added Chinese audio after launch. Subtitles and voiceovers may ultimately come down to personal preference, but it’s still telling that Ghostwire has Japanese audio as the default, which it has also largely adhered to for its marketing.
Suker Punch and Sloclap seem to be considering representing movie theater first, rather than the culture itself. Sifu isn’t so much a game set in China as it is a fusion buffet featuring different aspects of Asian cinema, with the first level paying homage to both The Raid and Oldboy. But even comparisons to the Hong Kong martial arts film are at odds with the game’s serious revenge plot and hardcore mechanics – there’s none of Jackie Chan’s slapstick or anything like that. imaginative than what you would get in the genre (and if Sloclap did anxious to represent Hong Kong cinema, perhaps he should have favored dubbing in Cantonese rather than Mandarin…).
Why are these depictions so awfully austere and po-faced anyway? Sucker Punch conveniently ignores how Kurosawa’s films, in addition to including the later ones in color, also had a lot of humor. Indeed, this balance of heavy and light tones is something you find more obviously in Ghostwire, where you can help quell the cursed rage of one tragic spirit one moment, then help the unfinished “business” of another. mind in the toilet the next day.
More importantly, the intent and use of cultural elements in Ghostwire are more considered – rooted in Japanese society and beliefs, and logical (if you think about it). Collectibles in Ghost of Tsushima often feel like a Japanese cultural mix: Improve your skills at Shinto shrines! Increase your maximum health in a hot spring! Compose haiku centuries before they were even invented!
Sure, Ghostwire has a bunch of collectibles that might seem incidental – daruma dolls and hanafuda cards and the like. – but they also come with detailed descriptions explaining their cultural significance. Their locations even serve a purpose, like a Japanese sword you find in an abandoned construction site – it seems pretty random, until you learn it was also the site of an old samurai mansion.
These collectibles and descriptions even extend to what seems mundane; Descriptions can explain the popularity of a certain supercar model, why certain magazines feature fashionable handbags as bonuses, or give you information on your favorite Japanese snacks while you gobble them up and get healthy. Perhaps one of the most ironic observations of the game is the widespread use of plastic bags in Japan, even when carrying a single item.
This same attention that Tango Gameworks applies to its tet object can be seen in the mechanics. Using your hands to make gestures (Kuji-kiri) to seal corrupted spirits aligns with the hand gestures found today in Shugendō and Shingon Mikkyō, and there is even logic behind having a bow as the only conventional weapon, since archery has a connection with a Shinto ritual in Momote-Shiki.
My favorite aspect comes from how you save all the spirits floating around Shibuya using a Katashiro. In Japanese lore, these paper dolls act as a human substitute for self-purification, so you can see the logic of using it to absorb the spirits of humans who have lost their bodily forms. But that’s only the first step, as you then take these Katashiro to a specially wired phone booth that can transfer minds out of the fog-ridden capital.
I have no doubt that Sucker Punch and Sloclap love the cultures they want to represent and have done their research correctly, but there’s a limit to how faithfully you can represent something when your team lacks people with that lived experience and that legacy – not to mention then taking that knowledge and giving it a unique twist like Tango Gameworks has here.
I hope Ghostwire gets the audience it deserves, but I fear it will eventually be sidelined as a niche, much like Yakuza – another franchise that has always embraced its authentic portrayal of culture. Japanese – has done so for most of her life. Still, while there are fair reviews that its open-world design is on the side of routine, I don’t quite recall the same consensus for Ghost of Tsushima’s average open-world design (which has was removed from Assassin’s Creed 2).
Instead, Sucker Punch not only won awards, it even won over Japanese audiences, including Yakuza creator Toshihiro Nagoshiwho described it as “the kind of work done by non-Japanese people that makes you feel like they’re even more Japanese than us” (I think he meant “people who have bigger budgets and resources important than us”, but hey, I’m not a translator).
If you are fascinated by Japanese culture and want to see it faithfully represented and beautifully executed by a Japanese team, then you owe it to yourself to play Ghostwire: Tokyo. Ghost of Tsushima may have scratched the surface of the nation’s rich heritage, but nothing beats a team that knows it inside out when it comes to authenticity and wit.