Ghost of Tsushima was a slice of heaven – a soulful and incredibly stylish-looking swan song for the PS4. Though it only took me 17 hours to clock, the bolt-on updates of a photo mode, 4 player co-op and an NG+ option ballooned my “number of hours played” to read: 69.
That comedically fortuitous number aside, I have to say I was sad when it came time to sheathe my Ghost of Tsushima disc back into its case. But hey – now that Sucker Punch is making the sun rise yet again on this, in the form of a PS5 Director’s Cut, I’ll take any excuse to quick-draw back into it.
As you’d expect, the usual PS5 stuff has been stitched in; adaptive triggers, haptic feedback, and 3D Audio support. The framerate has also been bumped up to 60fps. Truly, the biggest lure for return tourism to Ghost of Tsushima is the lovely day trip to a whole new playspace and storyline.
Ghost of Tsushima Director’s Cut Review
The plight of Iki island has our titular ghost, Jin Sakai, haunting a new antagonist. Calling herself The Eagle, this warlord is dishing out her own unique Mongolian slam on the local populace. When her victims ask our favourite samurai/ninja hybrid if he can help, Jin cooly responds: “shur-i-ken”
So let’s talk Iki. In terms of landmass, it’s slightly smaller than the first island you explore in the Tsushima group. It’s a touch more tropical than that sandbox you know, and as you’d expect this place continues the Sucker Punch virtues of chromatic vibrance and gore-geous violence.
The base game looked a treat on PS4 already, now it all looks razor-sharp and amazing in the 60fps mode.
Iki tourists beware, though; before you rush down to the boat ramp with your luggage, you’ll need to hit Act 2 in the main game. Personally, I just used my 100% save file and simply opened up my Journal, rode to a point on the map, and then I was whisked overseas.
Upon arrival, it’s business as usual. Allow me to samurais that: you’ll either freely explore and uncover a wealth of side diversions, or stick to the main thread that has Jin fighting a new Mongol franchisee who favours mind-altering drugs as a means of subjugation. Her product – the “stickiest of Iki’s” – can send people insane.
As if hallucinogenic flashbacks into your childhood trauma isn’t bad enough, Jin also has to effectively go undercover and form a jagged alliance with some locals who would gladly disembowel any Sakai on sight.
You know what? I’m not going to detail much more of the plot than that. Mostly because my focused run through on Lethal difficulty only took me 3 hours. I’m of two minds about that. On the one hand, what’s here provides a fascinating look into what makes Jin tick and is sharply written. On the other hand, people paying 30 bucks to upgrade may be miffed when the main quest isn’t katana length when fully unsheathed – rather, it’s a bit more tanto-sized.
Mind you, to 100% complete Iki island will require a great many more hours. For starters, when I finished there were still a handful of minor and optional story missions to do. It’s also worth mentioning that a few of the old Ghost of Tsushima activities can be found in Iki. For example, there are an additional 20+ pieces of vanity gear to earn, two hot springs, three pillars of honour, two lighthouses, three haikus, four bamboo strikes and another Shinto shrine to desecrate with your (half-naked cosmetic skin) presence.
Even better, there are completely new things to collect and attempt. Kleptomaniacs will delight over the search for 30 Sakai banners, 25 records of Iki, 3 “helping hand” tasks and a bunch of Deer sanctuaries. The above tasks don’t provide very many surprises – beeline to the 8 archery challenges and 4 bokken tournaments if you’re after bonafide new challenges.
Unfortunately, there’s not a lot to say when it comes to new wrinkles in the core gameplay loop. The two biggest mechanical changes are these new recurring enemy types called the Shaman. There’s also a focus-draining horse charge function on L1 that can be upgraded a few times. It’s mildly amusing to play bowling for idiots with it, but it’s not a game-changer that makes horse combat viable.
As for Shamans, typically these incessant chanters will hang at the back of any battle, and this will make every other Mongol tougher, plus they won’t stagger when you land a hit. If you want your katana to reclaim right of way again, you’d best quick-snipe those buggers or goosestep through the traffic and take them out of the equation.
Shamans – along with special Mongols that constantly switcheroo their weaponry to force you to adapt in kind – are novel at best. While I certainly think Sucker Punch could have been more creative, I do have to admit these uninspired archetypes provide a new tactical wrinkle. Even my maxed out Jin had to be quick on sandals.
Moving on, the archery challenges and bokken tournaments are new bits of content that are well worth investigating. The former asks you to get your Robin Hood on in a series of time-based accuracy tests – you’ll need some serious hand-eye and a good grasp of the bullet-time mechanic to succeed here.
Bokken tournaments are the non-lethal Iki equivalent of Ghost of Tsushima’s duels. You need to square off against a few opponents who have very distinct fighting styles and tactics. Every solid hit earns you a point and triggers a short break, with five points getting you the win. Honestly, this is less a SoulCalibur-style mash and more of a puzzle game. You need to trial and error your way through Jin’s extensive moveset to find the sure-fire counters to shifting attack patterns.
Doggedly stick to your usual main game combos, and you’re gonna get block bokked off.
When it comes to pros and cons, there are still a few legacy issues that I wanted to be addressed, but they just weren’t. The Mongol AI still has a ways to go when it comes to convincingly hunting down a ninja-leaning Jin. There are still little immersion-breaking moments when Jin doesn’t have the animation set to track and hit an enemy who’s on a slightly different plane to him, be it slightly below or above.
To its credit, Sucker Punch did at least try to fix moments like the aforementioned by adding in a lock-on function. Placing it on “D-pad up” by default is kinda weird. I tried using it for a while but wound up going back to the free-flowing default system. After 69 hours, that’s just what my brain expects from this game now, minor imperfections and all.
Bottom line; I think the Iki island chunk of Director’s Cut is worth the 30 odd ryo. Yes, the main quest may be bite-sized, but it’s well-designed, fun and it’s at least as emotionally engaging as any act in the main game. I’m very glad I hitched a ferry and went on this trip — but that could be seven straight weeks of lockdown talking.
Likewise, there are just enough new wrinkles here in terms of combat, kleptomania and mini-games. Taken as a whole, I can see it nudging the runtime of this new content into the double digits. More importantly, the act of discovering those diversions – having a legitimate reason to once more explore this achingly beautiful, Kurosawa wet dream – is pleasure enough.
Ghost if Tsushima Director’s Cut isn’t as revolutionary as its invasion-thwarting subject matter, but it’s still a damn nice slice of samurai escapism. If nothing else, Sucker Punch has secured a solid new-gen beachhead to (hopefully) launch a multi-sequel assault.
Ghost of Tsushima Director’s Cut was reviewed on PS5 using a digital code provided by PlayStation Australia.