Kurosawa Mode in PS4-exclusive Ghost of Tsushima transforms its colourful visuals into black and white akin to a 1950s samurai movie. The feature debuted during Sony’s State of Play event in May. In a recent interview with Entertainment Weekly, Sucker Punch creative directors Nate Fox and Jason Connell explained how it works and how it came to be.
It’s not just a black-and-white filter. Rather, the team at Sucker Punch took a look at various black-and-white samurai films and analyzed scenes from various times of day and weather conditions to track “how deep were the blacks? How bright were the whites?” claimed Connell.
“We actually did some research on the curves that may have existed on that kind of film that [Kurosawa] might’ve used,” he said. This is because current film-mapping technology isn’t advanced enough to translate that exact visual look to a game like Ghost of Tsushima.
In addition to this, a film grain was added to give it a cinematic feel while modifications were made to how wind and audio worked. The former is crucial as it acts as a navigational aid in the game, helping you reach your objective.
In the Kurosawa Mode, the wind is “cranked up,” said Connell. “And lastly,” he added, “we actually toyed with the audio a little bit. Our audio team have an internal tool that mimicked sounds of old TV and, specifically, megaphones, radios, TVs back to the ’50s.” It all makes for a game with the feel of theatrical entertainment.
Ghost of Tsushima’s Kurosawa inspirations
Suffice to say, the game has been inspired by the filmmaker’s works in ways more than one.
“I think one that is just crystal clear is the movie Sanjuro,” said Fox. “It’s a film that features, at the very end of it, a standoff between two samurai. The tension that those two warriors have, they wait for the other to make a first move and then one of them dies with just one stroke of his sword. We tried to translate that into the standoff in our game very directly.”
Aside from Sanjuro, Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai was another point of inspiration, “which defines my concept of what a samurai is,” Fox remarked. “The samurai in that film have a dignity and a heart that we really strived to capture.”
Originally, Kurosawa Mode was known as Samurai Cinema. It got renamed to Kurosawa Mode after the duo got the blessing of Kurosawa’s estate.
“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,” Connell explained. “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.’ In order to do that, we felt that we needed to reach out to the estate and see if that’s something they’d be interested in. We sent a short video showing what it generally looks like, what it feels like.”
Ghost of Tsushima is out on July 17.