Notes of Tsushima: A Game Diary

I finally finished Jin’s Journey and the Tales of Ghost of Tsushima. I actually get to count it as the first game I beat in 2021, because I finished the final tale on 1/1/2021. I’m only missing a few trophies (less than 5) to get the platinum (my second ever platinum). I really loved this world so I do plan on earning those last trophies and the platinum before moving on to my next game — Cyberpunk 2077 (I hope it works on my PS4 Pro).

I do occasionally read game reviews or rather quickly scroll through and check the final score. I don’t want to write game reviews because I don’t think I should be the person to tell anyone which games they should and should not play. Just like with movies, I enjoy most of the games I come across. Even with games I don’t like I’m pretty sure I can find a few positive attributes in many not so great games, unless of course it’s a complete unplayable dumpster fire of a game.

So, instead of creating reviews for games I beat this year, I will instead be writing my Game Diary based on some notes, features and cool things I found in each game. Please enjoy my first Game Diary for Ghost of Tsushima entitled Notes of Tsushima:

The Weather of Tsushima

Not only does Tsushima island offer every type of climate from hot sunny beaches to white snowy fields and even spooky burnt down forests. The weather is also drastically ever-changing in every region of Tsushima island. It’s kind of crazy to think of all of the different weather patterns you will encounter on this one large island as you progress through the story and unlock new territories.

The weather in this game is a lot like the weather in Fortnite. One minute it’s warm and sunny and the next thing you know there’s lightning and thunder. A storm is on it’s way and the world has become dark as night around you. As you ride through Tsushima Island the weather continues to change from region to region.

The Horse of Tsushima

Many games with horses have a quick call feature. Some allow it to work from anywhere on the map, others only allow you to call your horse when nearby. One problem I’ve always had with the “call your horse” feature in many games is that the horse will go directly to the spot where you called from. A neat feature in Ghost of Tsushima is that you can call your horse and continue moving and the horse will not only meet up with you, but continue running at your side for some time. An added bonus is mounting your horse heroically on the run, like in the video below. 

Another separate feature is the ability to grab items and objects off of the ground while riding your horse. In most games you’d have to dismount your horse, but not in Ghost of Tsushima. You can continue riding as you grab some bamboo. Another great mechanic in game design.

Follow Me Through Tsushima

A few months before playing Ghost of Tsushima I gave Red Dead Redemption 2 a try. Something I found annoying was that every mission was miles and miles away, and you had to ride slowly with your allies when traveling to any far away mission. Sure, that game was also beautiful to look at, but after a while I just wanted to get on with the missions.

Riding my horse (Sora) in the rain.

In Ghost of Tsushima, you are able to control the speed of whoever you’re following (for the most part) by running or sprinting on your horse. Doing so will cause the person you are riding with to also travel at a higher speed as you follow. There are times where the dialogue is important so the game doesn’t allow you to fully sprint for a short period, but other than that you get to travel at full speed with your companions. It makes traveling to a battle much simpler and less time consuming.

Title Screens of Tsushima

Each tale (even the minor ones) has a beautiful title sequence in this game, with stunning background imagery. Whoever was the director of photography for Ghost of Tsushima (if that’s a position that games have) did a stunning job. Watching this world through the lens of the game’s camera is already an amazing view, but the cutscenes for mission titles are just absolutely stunning. They truly make the game feel like a cinematic experience. Each Duel, each tale or mission feels like it’s own short episode in this one long Samurai film of a game.

Collections of Tsushima

No game is ever just one thing. Alright, maybe some games are just one thing (like Picross is just solving puzzles), but there are many mechanics, puzzles and mini games that may go into making a great story game even more enjoyable. I never got bored in Ghost of Tsushima because there was so much to do. Most days, when I had a longer time to explore this game, I would start off with a mission then search for some “?’s” on the map, or walk around aimlessly exploring.

I had so much fun searching for Hot Springs to skinny dip in, Shrines to conquer, Fox Dens to find and Haikus to compose. However, Bamboo strikes were pretty rare and definitely my favorites, since it was the most gamey of the collections. They reminded me of Fight Night’s pre-fight combo dummy training, or samurai guitar hero.

Jin “Drake” of Tsushima

The climbing of mountains in this game was great, and they continued to add to it with new mechanics as you advanced through the story. It started out with just searching for the next stone to jump to and grab (in the style of Nathan Drake from the Uncharted series). Searching for the next rock or ledge to grab was a little puzzle game of its own.

Once you receive your grappling hook for climbing and swinging (another Nathan Drake mechanic) the whole dynamic changes. You don’t just have to search for which rock to grab next, you also have to look around for branches you can hook with your grapple. Although the climbing felt very heavily influenced by the Uncharted series, it still felt kind of different while feeling very familiar.

Climbing heavily inspired by Uncharted games

Cinematography of Tsushima

Controlling the camera during fights, especially during duels added an extra layer to battles. Since I wanted to save some battle replays, I was very carefully controlling the camera during battles. It added an extra dimension to the whole thing.

First, there’s striking and hitting your enemy, but there’s also the parrying, blocking and dodging mechanics during battle. All which are very important when it comes to beating an opponent. If you add in trying to keep the camera in the best possible position that makes it even harder to win each duel, but leaves you with a better memory of the fight.

Ghost of Tsushima – Duel Under Falling Water

Health Meters of Tsushima

Although Jin has a health meter and in duels your opponent will also have a health meter, most enemies do not have a visible health meter. Not all games have health meters for enemies, but in this game it makes each fight more interesting. You never know if you’re going to take out your opponent in one single strike or multiple hits. It’s not about how many times you hit them, but instead about how you hit them. That’s how a real samurai duel would go. As I said before it’s about a combo of heavy and light strikes and dodges, parries and blocks. I really enjoyed taking out enemies in standoff mode before battles, as well as sneaking around and completing assassinations. It’s helpful to have a way to take out opponents quietly before a big battle.

Ghost of Tsushima – Standoff before battle.
Ghost of Tsushima – Silent Ship Assassin

The assassinations through doors were some of my favorite to execute in Ghost of Tsushima. The way the camera jumps through to the next room to catch the assassination totally reminds me of Mortal Kombat fatalities, every time.

Ghost of Tsushima – Door Assassination

Friendly Fire on Tsushima

Most battles with multiple enemies will have one to three archers shooting arrows from another area. One of the most satisfying moments in a fight was executing the perfect dodge on an enemy attack. While dodging the attack, their ally had launched a fiery arrow at me, that instead lit their own ally on fire. There were a few other times I created friendly fire among my enemies by dodging attacks, it’s so satisfying to make the Mongols take out their allies instead of me. Especially when using fire.

Ghost of Tsushima – Prepare for Battle

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Although I technically beat it in 2021, Ghost of Tsushima may have been my favorite game of 2020 (which is when I played through most of it). Yes, The Last of Us II is probably my favorite game of all time for all of the feelings it made me feel, but it’s a beautiful linear story that must be followed in a certain order.

The cool thing about Ghost of Tsushima is that it’s one large story, made up of many smaller tales. Lots of great characters come together and make up this whole war, but there are so many great smaller battles along the way. You are able to play through at your own pace. You get to choose which storyline to solve next. There’s tons of betrayal and drama in each of these smaller quests as well as in the large overlapping story.

BONUS NOTE:
My next Game Diary may be about The Last of Us Part II. I took many notes while playing through that game, and captured many screenshots too. I will hopefully begin working on that soon, and continue my game diaries as I continue to beat games throughout 2021.

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