[The following observations were originally posted to my Twitter account on August 22, 2020. However, as the character limit is no longer a concern, I have chosen to elaborate on certain points in order to clarify my arguments. I discuss some MAJOR SPOILERS BELOW; YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!]
I usually try to avoid these kinds of negative comparisons, but I need to get this off my chest: Ghost of Tsushima does a significantly better job of exploring the “cycle of violence” than The Last of Us Part II. Despite Naughty Dog’s lofty ambitions, the conflict between Ellie and Abby comes off as shallow and simplistic—mostly because their character development feels stilted and unnatural. Sucker Punch, on the other hand, tackles the theme with complexity, nuance, and depth. As the battle against the Mongols drags on, the protagonist’s methods grow increasingly brutal—to an excessive, borderline unnecessary degree. And yet his justification for resorting to such desperate measures—that adhering to a rigid “code of honor” will only sabotage Japan’s efforts to defeat the invaders—is undeniably valid.
The small but vocal minority of critics that have made it their mission to disparage the game for its alleged failure to depict the sociopolitical climate of feudal Japan with 100% accuracy are—to put it mildly—pissing me off. It’s a work of historical fiction; if you’re looking for a “just the facts” account of the Mongol invasion of Tsushima, there are plenty of documentaries, scholarly essays, and Wikipedia articles available. And even leaving that aside, anyone claiming that the story glorifies bushido or the samurai class obviously hasn’t played past Act I. Jin’s sympathy for the peasants sets him apart from the rest of the nobility; indeed, when he’s given the opportunity to blame his “shameful” actions on a lowborn thief in order to “save face,” he adamantly refuses, effectively renouncing his titles and knowingly making himself an enemy of the shogun.
On a related note, the naysayers insist that Ghost of Tsushima’s artistic integrity is inherently tarnished by the fact that it was produced by an American company. Rest assured, a Japanese adaptation of the same subject matter would feature no fewer creative liberties. For evidence, look no further than the country’s heavily embellished interpretations of its own folk heroes, including Miyamoto Musashi, Araki Mataemon, and the Loyal 47 Ronin.