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Ghost of Tsushima release date, gameplay, trailer and platform

The last time Sucker Punch Productions took more than two years off between games, it was right after the third Sly Cooper game on PS2, after which they came back with the first Infamous on PS3. It's now been four years since their last game, the still-underrated Infamous: First Light. What they're coming back with this time is unlike anything they've ever done. What they're coming back with is Ghost of Tsushima.

Even compared to its closest tonal neighbor, FromSoftware's critical darling Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, Ghost of Tsushima feels like the first truly expansive samurai epic we've seen this gen, a playable tale of blood, blades, and betrayal stretching across the vastness of feudal Japan. This is a very different beast than we've seen from this genre, to say nothing of this studio, and we've got the info on what to expect from Ghost of Tsushima and when to expect it.

Ghost of Tsushima's release date

Out of all of Sony's first-party heavy hitters that they've been talking up for the last two years or so, Ghost of Tsushima is now the one lonely straggler without a locked-in-place release date. That's saying something, considering the brilliant but flaky-as-hell Hideo Kojima is managing to bring Death Stranding in with only one notable delay to its name.

Still, as said, Ghost of Tsushima is a big question mark as far as the when of it all is concerned. The best we've got is a reply tweet from Kotaku's Jason Schreier — admittedly, a pretty rock-solid source — saying early 2020 is the likely target. Probably not too early in 2020, considering the mind-boggling traffic jam that has The Last of Us Part 2, Final Fantasy 7 Remake, Watch Dogs: Legion, and Animal Crossing: New Horizons launching within two weeks of each other, but a game full of cherry blossoms would make for quite a lovely springtime title, wouldn't it?

The trailer for Ghost of Tsushima

We've only gotten two notable looks at Ghost of Tsushima since it was announced. The first is from the Paris Game Show back in 2017. It's a moody little teaser that's more of a statement of intent than anything. The other is a gameplay trailer from E3 2018 that plays out like a trailer for a Kurosawa film that never happened. It loses something without the awesome foreboding live pan-flute performance that prefaced it, but, real talk, most things lose something by not having an awesome foreboding pan flute performance.

The gameplay trailer is probably the more impressive and vital part. For some reason, open-world samurai games where you get to have random adventures aren't very common, with samurai often relegated to self-contained killzones or linear killing. Tsushima feels like the kind of thing that could and should've happened in an Assassin's Creed title a long time ago, but oh well, Sucker Punch got there first, and it's beautiful.

The story in Ghost of Tsushima

The game takes place in 1274, the Kamakura era of Japan. It's a comparatively peaceful time for the country, which changes in a heartbeat the second the Mongols show up. 

See, this is around the time Kublai Khan is on his biggest roll as a conquerer, and after sending a bend-the-knee letter to Japan twice with no response, Khan says to hell with it and sends a massive army to Japan to snatch the place up. Their first stop just so happens to be the island of Tsushima. A couple hundred of the island's best samurai attempt to defend it, upholding the code of bushido and honorable combat along the way. Those samurai were utterly steamrolled by an army numbering in the thousands who absolutely, positively do not give a damn about bushido.

One of the soldiers still left standing after the massacre is Jin Sakai. After the Mongols have laid waste to everything he loves, he finds himself in need of a new way of fighting off the invaders. Adopting "the way of the Ghost," he sets out for vengeance and to take back his homeland.

The bad guy in Ghost of Tsushima

One of the more intriguing elements from the footage seen thus far is the game's villain. To put it mildly, the Mongols weren't exactly known for their restraint and gentleness, so it's a bit of a shocker when the cool, calm, and collected voice in the game's teaser turns out to be the man who just burned Jin's village to the ground. That seems to be the very intentional carpet pull here by Sucker Punch, though it's probably no surprise from the folks who gave us Brooke Augustine from the Infamous series.

Here, the Khan has a sort of Thanos-lite composure about him, having studied and respected his enemies just enough to know exactly how to destroy them. Sucker Punch themselves state they're looking for far more than just a cardboard cutout villain here. Expect the game to not just be a bloody rampage up to this guy's doorstep. Expect this guy to hit back in ways you can't even imagine.

The gameplay in Ghost of Tsushima

Ghost of Tsushima is far from the only game to delve into Japanese history and wartime tradition for inspiration, so anyone who's played the likes of Nioh, Onimusha, Tenchu, or, hell, even more stylized takes like Samurai Shodown or Bushido Blade have at least some idea of what kind of experience they're bound to have. Like all of Sucker Punch's stuff, the game is third person. Combat will be based around parries and finding moments of vulnerability. Grappling hooks will allow Jin to take to the trees and rooftops, killing from the shadows when able, which is likely what Sucker Punch means by "the way of the Ghost." They also mention in previews a means of traversal directly inspired by Infamous. Pretty sure that doesn't mean riding neon signs up buildings this time around, but weirder things have happened.

Where Ghost of Tsushima most differs from other games set around this era is in the scale. The game's rendition of Tsushima island will give players complete freedom to roam the countryside on foot or horseback. Anyone who's ever had a fantasy of riding through golden fields with the wind blowing the cherry blossoms through the air, this is your best chance.

Who is developing Ghost of Tsushima?

Let's dive into that idea that Sucker Punch might have a few surprises up their sleeve, because, for those just tuning in, that's kinda their MO.

When Sucker Punch started out, they were just a bunch of ex-pats from Microsoft before they got into the Xbox business. Ironically, their first game was an N64 title called Rocket: Robot on Wheels, which had a focus on using the physics of a world for traversal and puzzle solving. It's one of the factors that made that game hard as nails, in fact. They move on from that to the Sly Cooper games on the PS2, which are still the best of the PS2's platformers; they featured a legitimate platform-puzzle-stealth style with a, well, sly sense of humor.

Sucker Punch went from that to the Infamous series, and while the first two games are fairly interesting open-world experiments, Second Son and First Light on the PS4 were where the company's ambitions truly got big. Knowing how they took advantage of the freedom afforded by the PS4, it's not out of the question that Ghost of Tsushima has got ambitions beyond just being a historical samurai fantasy.

Too much samurai for one console?

Of course, when a system is as far into its lifespan as the PS4 is — and wow, those years kinda flew by, didn't they? — it's not hard to believe that developers might start bumping up against the edge of what that platform is capable of. And there's a distinct chance that Sucker Punch might be looking to the future.

It has, indeed, been awfully quiet for the game since 2018's E3 showing, which is the kind of silence that starts people talking. And the talk for Ghost of Tsushima, sourced primarily from a NeoGAF leak, has rumors flying that the game might wind up being a PS5 game. It's not out of the realm of possibility, given how incredible the game looks already, and how expansive the finished product might be. Reports indicate that Sony's president was gobsmacked by how gorgeous it is. Considering the next system will be backwards compatible, a dual release isn't out of the question whatsoever.

What to play before Ghost of Tsushima comes out

Until Ghost of Tshushima is finally in your hands, there's plenty out there to quench your thirst for bushido-style justice. Naturally, Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice is still very much out there for your perusal, and if nothing else, besides sharpening your parry skills, it's long enough where you'll probably be done with it by the time Ghost of Tsushima hits. Besides that, though, there's also a pretty great Samurai Shodown reboot out there that deserves a lot more love than it's gotten. Beyond returning the series to the patience and visceral thrills of the original two games — before the series went a little too far down a King of Fighters-style rabbit hole that didn't suit it — it's got a jaw-droppingly gorgeous sumi-e aesthetic. Between those alone, you should have enough to keep you busy until 2020.