VG247 has praised Ghostwire: Tokyo’s “authentic representation” to Japanese culture, dismissing Ghost of Tsushima and Sifu as cultural appropriation in the process.
On March 24th, VG247 published an opinion piece by contributor Alan Wen in which he offered praise to the former game and scorn to the latter two in the same hand, beginning, “Ghostwire: Tokyo’s authentic representation makes a mockery of Ghost of Tsushima and Sifu’s cultural tourism.”
“All of these things make Ghostwire’s world come alive – ironic for a game where everyone has been spirited away,” writes Wen, admiring how the game’s various side activities and environment help draw the player into the world.
“It’s also a kind of cultural specificity that could have only come from a Japanese developer like Tango Gameworks, a studio that runs wild revelling [sic] in its Japanese identity and all of its nuances,” he continues. “A welcome departure from trying to play towards Western audiences hungry for more Shinji Mikami survival horror.”
Wen then asserts, “The richness of Ghostwire’s setting only shows up the shallow representation of the likes of Ghost of Tsushima and Sifu, games set in Asia but made in the West, primarily by white folks.”
“Regardless of their intentions,” he proposes, “what we get is superficial cultural tourism (at best), and games that play into ‘pre-existing stereotypes and cliches,'” citing Uppercut’s own review of Ghost of Tsushima to support his point.
As countless other journalists had done before with Sifu and Ghost of Tsushima, Wen then took issue with their sheer existence, as they came from developers who were not 100% born and raised in the cultures featured in their respective games.
Wen first lambasts Ghost of Tsushima, decrying how it had “the audacity” to name “one of its modes after legendary filmmaker Akira Kurosawa… because it happens to be in black and white, and it has Japanese audio (which was botched in the original release since the lip-sync was made for the English dub).”
As for Sifu, Wen voiced frustration with how the game”only added Chinese audio post-launch.”
“Subs and dubs may be ultimately down to personal preference,” he says, “but it’s still telling that Ghostwire has the Japanese audio as the default, which it also largely stuck to for its marketing.”
“Suker Punch [sic] and Sloclap seem to be thinking of representing cinema first, rather than the actual culture itself,” Wen criticizes before turning to Sifu specifically, opining that it “is not so much a game set in China so much as it’s a fusion buffet comprising different aspects of Asian cinema.”
“But even comparisons with Hong Kong martial arts flick are at odds with the game’s serious revenge plot and hardcore mechanics,” he adds. “There’s none of the slapstick of Jackie Chan or anything quite as imaginatively bonkers as what you’d get in the genre (and if Sloclap did care about representing Hong Kong cinema, perhaps it should have prioritised a Cantonese dub over a Mandarin one…)”
Likewise, he chastises Ghost of Tsushima and Sucker Punch for how the developer “conveniently ignores how Kurosawa’s films, besides including the later ones made in colour, also had plenty of humour.”
“Indeed, that balance of heavy and light tones is something you find more obviously in Ghostwire, where you can be helping quell the cursed rage of a tragic spirit one moment, then help another spirit’s unfinished ‘business’ in the loo the next,” he argues.
Even Ghost of Tsushima’s use of Japanese culture in its in-game collectibles do not escape Wens ire, as he claims that they “often feel like a Japanese cultural pick-n-mix: upgrade your skills at Shinto shrines! Increase your max health at a hotspring! Compose haiku a few centuries before it was even invented!”
Conversely, Wen justifies Ghostwire: Tokyo’s “usage of cultural elements” as being “more considered – rooted in Japaense [sic] society and beliefs, and logical (if you think about it).”
“Their placements even serve a purpose, such as a Japanese sword that you find in an abandoned construction site,” he explains. “It seems quite random, until you learn that this was also the site of an old samurai manor.”
According to Wen, the highlight of Ghostwire: Tokyo’s collectibles is how they are accompanied with descriptions explaining their significance – a “thoughfullness” the VG247 contributor also observes in the game’s mechanics, such as how Kuji-kiri hand gestures are used to seal corrupt spirits and the protagonist Akito Izuki’s bow is tied to Shinto rituals.
“I don’t doubt that Sucker Punch and Sloclap love the cultures they want to represent and did their research properly, but there’s a limit to how faithfully you can represent something when your team lacks people with that lived experience and heritage,” he eventually relents. “Let alone then taking that knowledge and giving it a unique twist like Tango Gameworks has here.”
In short, along with objecting against the ethnicities of Sifu and Ghost of Tsushima’s developers, Wen seems to take issue with the developers’ research not being 100% accurate, praising unique twists on traditional elements by those native to the culture while condeming similar ones made by ‘outsiders’ as disappointing anachronisms.
Like Wen, some outlets who had previously berated Sifu and Ghost of Tsushima for its use of Japanese culture and environment have praised Ghostwire: Tokyo’s doing the same, including The Verge, Shacknews, GameByte, The Gamer, and Inverse.
Despite these criticisms from journalists, both Sifu and Ghost of Tsushima have drawn widespread praise from players.
Former Sega Chief Creative Officer and General Director of Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio (Yakuza) even stated in an interview, “It’s the kind of work made by non-Japanese people that makes you feel they’re even more Japanese than us.”
What do you think of Ghostwire: Tokyo? What about Sifu and Ghost of Tsushima? Let us know on social media and in the comments below.