GHOST OF TSUSHIMA HISTORY REVEALED!
THE HISTORY BEHIND GHOST OF TSUSHIMA
While the opening cinematic had a lot of us thinking about Tenchu or Onimusha (or, in my case, Shogun Total War), the happiest part of the Ghost of Tsushima debut during Paris Games Week was the announcement that Sucker Punch would be developing the game. The studio’s been silent for three years since the last Infamous DLC, so we’re happy to see what the team behind Infamous and Sly Cooper has been up to.
And though there aren’t many details yet on what the game is actually like, the historic setting does give us a couple of clues.
The game is set during the First Mongol Invasion of Japan, which took place in 1274. The Kublai Khan had already established a dynasty in China and claimed Korea. Upon reaching the sea, his next target was the island of Japan. He made multiple demands to the Emperor of Japan, encouraging him to submit to Mongol rule. Anticipating the Emperor would reject these offers, the Great Khan was, at the same time, constructing an invasion fleet. When the rejections did come, the Khan set sail with thousands of soldiers and hundreds of boats.
He set his sights on Tsushima, a small island strategically located in the straits between Korea and the main islands of Japan. The island was ideally located for both trade and defense with regard to the Asian mainland, and was the nearest part of Japan that could be reached from the Mongol’s ports in Korea. On October 5, the Khan’s forces landed on Komodahama Beach, where they handily defeated the local governor and his cavalry. The Mongols subjugated the island and reportedly slaughtered its inhabitants.
The geographic and historic setting of the game is confirmed in that opening title, but also visually reinforced in the image of the map, shown as the speaker mentions he learned the samurai’s language. In the middle of the map, you can see Tsushima, labeled in Kanji. In the upper left, that bottom character suggests the term Goryeo (or Korea, as we call it). In the lower right the map lists the name for Hakata Bay, the northwest port of the larger island of Kyushu. This would be a focal point for the Second Mongol Invasion a few years later.
The Ghost of Tsushima is probably the game’s protagonist, a lone samurai left alive to wreak his vengeance on the Mongol invaders. The trailer voice over and the accompanying description that Sony released for the game emphasizes the adaptation of the samurai code and tactics, which also fits the historical narrative and is nicely reinforced by the image of the samurai’s armor literally burning away.
This invasion marked a turning point for samurai tactics, which seems reinforced by the few gameplay clips we got at the end of the trailer. Whether using the sword or the bow, the samurai code had previously emphasized single combat between individuals. It’s potentially a nice way to reinforce the lone wolf style approach that these types of open world games are known for, where the player, by him or herself, basically takes on an entire squad. It’s also a convenient reminder that the title of the game is Ghost (singular; no “s”) of Tsushima.
Historically, the samurai themselves would begin to adapt to the Mongol tactics of using massed volleys and formations over single combat. (It’s worth noting that this first Mongol Invasion encouraged the normally competitive and clannish samurai to set aside their conflicts and fight for all of Japan against a foreign invader.)
The Mongols also introduced the samurai to several weapon advancements. In addition to using gunpowder in rockets, the Mongols also used them in hand-thrown grenades, which were used to scare horses. You can see the samurai doing exactly that right at the end of the trailer.
To follow the story a bit further, the Mongols were eventually repulsed thanks to an unseasonable typhoon in late November of that year. The storm all but destroyed the Mongol fleet, effectively ending the invasion. The Japanese referred to this phenomenon as a “divine wind.” In Japanese, the word is “kamikaze.” It perpetuated a belief that Japan’s divine favor would keep the island from ever being conquered by a foreign power, a prediction that would hold true until World War 2. Toward the end of the Pacific Campaign, Imperial Japanese Navy pilots were even formed into kamikaze units to launch suicide attacks against Allied warships.
I still don’t know much about the actual story and game content of Ghost of Tsushima, but the game’s setting and the developer’s pedigree certainly have me excited to see more.