Ghost of Tsushima opens with a somewhat unique first choice: do you play with English, Japanese, or in the so-called Kurosawa Mode? Language options are nothing new to games, of course. But the phrasing here is strange. English is simply “Standard.” Japanese with English subtitles is “Samurai Cinema.” And finally “Kurosawa Mode” has a more visual impact on the experience. But which version is best? Which actually provides the best, most cinematic, or usable experience for players? Find out in our guide to the language options in Ghost of Tsushima!
The short and sweet answer is also the most boring one: English audio with your choice of subtitles or not. But you can always experiment later by changing it on the fly.
Japanese language audio, or the so-called Samurai Cinema mode, at first seems like it be the more accurate version. I’m immediately reminded of the odd Western performances in Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice for comparison. But that’s not actually the case in Ghost of Tsushima. Actor Daisuke Tsuji does a fine job as the stoic protagonist, Jin Sakai. The rest of the major players are also voiced by actors of Asian (though not necessarily Japanese and Mongolian) descent.
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The problems only appear when you switch to Japanese audio. The actual actors might be more recognizable to some. Jin is instead played by Kazuya Nakai, the prolific anime VA best known for portraying Roronoa Zoro in One Piece. After playing with both language tracks for a bit, Nakai presents a more boisterous (perhaps a more classic samurai movie version) of Jin than Tsuji’s uncertain warrior.
Except that in the Japanese voice, neither Jin nor the rest of the cast have their factional animations synced to the audio.
For the time being, the “lip flaps” on each character only match the English audio. Cutscenes often feel much less natural as a result. Even some of the facial expressions and emotional responses to certain events don’t really match up to the vocal direction of the Japanese actors. That makes it hard to recommend, unless you just super cannot stand the English voices for some reason.
Then there’s Kurosawa Mode… An obvious nod to the legendary director, Akira Kurosawa, the option puts the game into black and white with film grain and muffled audio. It’s meant to replicate more of the feel from classic samurai films like Seven Samurai and Throne of Blood. There’s a lot of debate about how successful it is at that. From a gameplay perspective, though, it’s also hard to recommend.
Ghost of Tsushima is a visually very busy. Autumn leaves fall from trees in avalanches. Streaks of wind (which mark your objective) tear through forests. Removing the contrast of color just makes it damn hard to see. Not to mention many visual cues are color coded. Map markers use gold, white, and gray to show what you’ve accomplished, for example. And Ghost of Tsushima is very dedicated to a diagetic user interface.
That is to say, a lot of vital information is conveyed by things in the world. There’s the wind, of course. But you’re also expected to follow golden birds to secret locations. Enemies are visible through walls using “Focused Hearing.” Normally that outlines them in red. But it’s much harder to see in black and white.
All of this is a roundabout way of explaining what I already said. Native English speakers should just play in English — preferably with the normal color scheme. Ghost of Tsushima is already a somewhat difficult game. The much-discussed Kurosawa Mode just adds unnecessary layers to the challenge. Meanwhile, the Japanese audio isn’t as natural as it should be.