The word haunted has a special meaning in Ireland. For us, it often means being lucky.
So when it comes to, the PlayStation 4’s swansong, we can say we’re haunted in more ways than one.
Ghost of Tsushima flew under the radar, like a spectre in the wind, after its announcement a few years ago. Now, we understand why — Sucker Punch Productions promised the ultimate samurai game, based on the works of Japanese cinema, and that’s exactly what they have delivered.
As it turns out, there were no hidden features to announce, no twists in the tale, no micro-transactions, or multiplayer modes. The purpose of this game is as blunt and stoic as its samurai protagonists.
If you are a fan of stone-cold samurai films, where the code of honour must be upheld and a warrior will stand and face death without flinching, then you’ll love. (There’s even a ‘Kurosawa’ mode, black and white.)
The hero, Jin Sakai, vows revenge as the Mongol army overruns his home. Will he honour the code in his efforts to turn away the Mongols? Or will he do whatever it takes to win?
Although Jin’s story is not directly affected by your actions, his journey feels entirely your own.
Most of the game involves roaming the beautiful island of Tsushima at will, taking out bandit camps, and doing combat sidequests as you see fit.
How you approach most of the combat situations is entirely up to you. As you approach a bandit camp, you can choose to ‘stand-off’ by pressing triangle, which means Jin will face combat like a true samurai, with his sword drawn, with the benefit of one-swipe kills.
However, if you prefer to play more like a ninja, the stealth option is mostly available too. Jin can sneak in the long grass, use smoke bombs to distract and poison enemies, jump down from rooftops on unsuspecting foes, and generally stay hidden.
As you take Jin on his journey, his legend will grow through your achievements. He will hunt down rare boss characters, some almost mythical in nature, collecting new armour.
He will become more revered by the island-folk, who wish for him to succeed against the Mongol army. He will become the Ghost of Tsushima.
Our worry about this game was that it would be too simple. We worried it would be a low-budgetwith samurai.
Thankfully, there is a level of art to Tsushima that elevates it greatly. The combat never gets tiresome, and the island itself is one of the most beautiful worlds on the PlayStation, flowing with wind, colour, calm, and violence.
The story is a little too serious and heavy on the samurai themes, but it fully suits the gameplay and ‘long gunslinger’ role than Jin plays. If you are on the fence, we suggest you draw your wallet, slowly, and make the purchase.
It is the samurai way.
Meanwhile, speaking of shelling out paper, we’ve only seen a few hours of, but it was more than enough to want more.
This Mario spin-off series has seen plenty of evolutions over the years, but one thing always stays the same — the superb writing and charm.
This time around, the premise is that Mario’s ‘paper’ world has been invaded by the Origami King, who wants to fold the world into his own image.
This leads to lots of very clever hidden objects in the world, as the ‘paper’ theme gets used to full effect in the gameplay.
To be clear, however, Paper Mario is not a traditional Mario game in which you jump from one end of a level to another, or collect stars.
Instead, this is an adventure game, where our favourite plumber explores the world, talks to quirky, brilliantly-written Mario characters, and sometimes fights enemies in an RPG-style, turn-based system.
Neither the exploration or combat seemed particularly challenging in the time we spent with The Origami King, but the world itself was a riot.
Characters speak in self-referential tones, wink at the camera, make all kinds of clever quips, and generally made us laugh — a lot. This is Nintendo’s equivalent of, such is the level of wit and charm.
We’re looking forward to spending more time with Paper Mario — even if the gameplay is a little paper-thin.