Ghost of Tsushima: True to the history of feudal Japan? Response with an expert

Ghost of Tsushima: True to the history of feudal Japan? Response with an expert
This is a point that we touched on during our test of the game: the historical context chosen by Sucker Punch is part of the great strengths of Ghost of Tsushima. First of all for what it allows to do in terms of artistic direction (the fantasy of a video game blockbuster in feudal Japan) but also of storytelling, with issues specific to the world of samurai such as the notion of honor in combat . But is everything true or has the studio allowed itself a few side steps? We asked an expert.

"Our Tsushima is not an identical recreation of the original island," Nate Fox, Creative Director of Ghost of Tsushima told us in a previous interview. "The goal was to create a collection of different environments that audiences associate with great samurai movies." This is nothing new, a lot of titles take up a historical context and allow themselves freedoms according to their needs. Assassin’s Creed is arguably the all-round champion. But what about the latest game of Sucker Punch?

A legitimate question about a title that plunges us into a moment in history little known to the general public: the invasion of the island of Tsushima by the Mongols in the 13th century. In the midst of all this, the player takes on the role of Jin Sakai, a samurai who will have to put aside his credo to repel the invader. But what were the real motivations of the latter? And did all these stories of honor actually exist? Answer with Julien Peltier, specialist in feudal Japan and author of several books on the subject.

Tsushima has always been a link between the Japanese archipelago and the continent. Until the end of the samurai era in the 19th century, it is thanks to this mediation that trade between Korea and Japan (in the middle of which Tsushima is located, editor's note) will prosper.

But it is this geographical position that is going to push the Mongols to attack the island (logical route between the current South Korea, they hold at the time, and Japan, ed.) During their first expedition in 1274, they sailed to ports in south Korea to seize Tsushima.

David and Goliath

The year 1274, it is the date that appears at the beginning of Ghost of Tsushima, when Jin and his uncle to secure the fleet mongol approaching the island. Echoes, then, a sentence that will capture the attention of the player : “We are 80 samurai against an entire army” . And without surprise, the japanese forces are being crushed by the invader. But why were there so few warriors on the island in time of war ?

The fact of having a few hundred warriors to this territory, it is quite logical (...) This is a time where we see the rise of the samurai (...) and, overall, it is a small elite of professional fighters, which is numerically very low . So in terms of proportion of population on the island of Tsushima, this is not surprising.

moreover, the island and the terrain very bumpy and is very unlikely to be conducive to farming and will never be very populated . This is still the case now. Compared to the settlements of people that one can find elsewhere in Japan, the place remains wild and secluded.

Finally, the military regime of the time, the Shogunate is still young. It dates from the late 12th century. So when the Mongols arrive, it's been barely a century that the samurai's reign over the country (...) and their stronghold is rather located in the East.

Ghost of Tsushima - The introduction with the invasion of the island by the Mongols,

Loading the video Ghost of Tsushima Gameplay The motivations of the Mongols to invest in Japan are rather simple : their Empire - which has already reached a size that is phenomenal at the time, from Korea to Hungary - was intended to be universal. And Genghis Kahn, its founder, superstar death in 1227, believes that absolutely everyone owes him allegiance . “The Japan trade as much with China and the Mongols want to cut off all supply routes to this country,” says Julien Peltier, before adding that “rumors that the japanese archipelago had a lot of wealth” . In any case, the mongol army makes short work of the japanese defences. And it also, it can be explained by several things.

The samurai are pretty clueless in the face of the Mongols and that they have never fought, that use other methods of combat, employ tactics that are much more elaborate, more weapons variety, are much more seasoned than them who have no experience outside of the archipelago, while the Mongols were already a half-century of war against practically the whole world behind them .

In Japan, the fighting mass are completely unknown at the time. The samurai used to fight in small groups (...) And the combat training of the Mongols, who are capable of handling a hundred, a thousand, or ten thousand men, is very sophisticated for the time. It very far exceeds the skills of the samurai .

the fantasy of The samurai

For the kick, Sucker Punch is aimed right on this point. The japanese warriors are shattered in the beginning of the adventure, and it will take time to Jin Sakai to bring together the forces needed to face the Mongols. A long way of the cross that will push the hero to give up in spite of himself his values of the samurai , opting for combat methods more barbarous than his katana, which will lead to a whole bunch of consequences quite interesting - some of which are political - that we will describe in detail. But in fact, it was what a samurai in the 13th century ?

The samurai of the 13th century is above all a horseman archer , not a swordsman, he would later become. This is a warrior who fights in armour, on horseback, and of which the weapon first is the arc, even if it still has the tachi, the ancestor of the katana, to the belt.

already there are very important considerations on the honor. To be qualified, however, because it is an honor that requires to be seen, to be manifested, and in which one can make the witness (...) The Roll of the Invasions of the Mongols relates, for example, the life of a warrior of average rank who spends his time to say, “I have to hurry”, “if I'm not the first to load, it is the shame”, “if I'm not the first to take a head enemy, I am disgraced”. There is always this kind of obsession is highly correlated to the fact of asking a witness to attend, because if the weapon is not “saved”, it is as if it had not taken place. So there will be no reward or promotion (...) This is not the honor for honour, but to distinguish it from his lord in order to obtain compensation .

Ghost of Tsushima - Jin becomes the Ghost in spite of himself

Loading the video Ghost of Tsushima Gameplay And on the consequences for having deviated from the code of honor, it does not seem to me hardly reflect the reality. We feel that the important thing is to defeat, and that the medium is secondary (...) I imagine quite poorly given the disastrous situation that can be blamed for a samurai to be badly behaved having adopted the methods of the enemy. It is a design a little bit modern, which refers to a Bushidô, the "Way of the Warrior" much later. The important thing is to still achieve his purposes : shame ultimate for a samurai, it is to be defeated.

We will not leave the red card to Sucker Punch, which has never boasted of creating a game with historical reality copy. But, as Nate Fox explained in an interview, or rather, a menu maxi best of the modern imagery related to samurai inspired great films , both at the level of the scenario that the visual. “The equivalent of the castle on Tsushima at the time, it was a large house with a fence” notes Julien Peltier, then that Ghost of Tsushima is full of beautiful towers and great buildings. But not enough to spoil your fun in playing. Unless you are a historian.

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