The influence of legendary Japanese film director Akira Kurosawa is felt across the entire medium, even to this day. With a career that spanned 30 films and almost 60 years, his works such as Seven Samurai, Rashomon, and Yojimbo continue on as timeless examples of a style and genre that were the director’s signature. This influence is especially felt in gaming, as it’s impossible to look at games such as Tenchu, Sekiro, and the soon to be released Ghost of Tsushima and not see the master’s hand at work. Said influence is so important to Ghost of Tsushima that Sucker Punch revealed “Kurosawa Mode” back at the State of Play in May. Entertainment Weekly recently discussed the special samurai cinema mode not only inspired by Akira Kurosawa, but named in partnership with his estate.
Kurosawa died 22 years ago in 1998, but his influence very clearly lives on. While trying to make this special mode that mimicked samurai cinema and respected the influence, it became clear that it needed to honor Kurosawa directly. While the mode wasn’t developed with the Kurosawa estate, the development team pitched the idea to them to get the “official blessing” on the name, which was granted.
“We have this great game that transports people back to feudal Japan and Akira Kurosawa was one of our reference guides, especially early on about how we wanted it to feel,” Ghost of Tsushima Creative Director Jason Connell explains. “As we got closer and closer to making that a reality, we were like, ‘What do we call this special mode that we created, this black-and-white throwback?’ We threw out a bunch of different words and we thought, ‘What would be awesome would be if we could call it Kurosawa Mode.’
The mode is more than just a simple filter meant to emulate the classic style of Kurosawa. According to Connell and Nate Fox the team looked at the works of Kurosawa and picked apart how the director used varying curves and extremes of black and white to show depth, shade, times of day, and more. The mode also amplifies a major gameplay mechanic: The wind. The protagonist, Jin, uses the direction of the wind in-game to find objectives and move across the game world, and according to Connell that effect is “cranked up” while in Kurosawa Mode.
But it’s not just visuals that get adjusted with the Kurosawa Mode. “We actually toyed with the audio a little it. Our audio team have an internal tool that mimicked sounds of old TV and, specifically, megaphones, radios, TVs back to the ’50s.” Finally, a film grain ties the entire mode together. And for even more immersiveness, you can change the voice audio to Japanese with English subtitles.
Ghost of Tsushima releases on July 17th exclusively for PlayStation 4.