Ghost of Tsushima by Jake Kontou

Admittedly, we were late to the Ghosts of Tsushima party. As positive review after positive review for the Sucker Punch game was being dropped, we avoided the hype and did not even fire up the title until a year and a half after it was released. Once we got into the game though, we were irrevocably hooked.

The game tells the story of Jin Sakai and his journey to help Tsushima fight off the Mongol invasion and Khotun Khan. It’s a deep game that explores themes of tradition, honor, and the necessity of adapting to overcome overwhelming odds. It’s also a gorgeous game, as others have noted, that emphasizes natural beauty, with dynamic weather and a day-night cycle.

While the quests can devolve into fetch quests and go here and kill this person, what kept me coming back again and again was the excellent combat and duels. Sure it was repetitive, but the feeling one gets when dueling and striking down enemies, while adeptly dodging incoming attacks… it’s hard to match that satisfying gameplay. Needless to say it quickly became a recent favorite that we put over 70 hours into and completed. 

Not too long after the credits rolled we came across Jake Kontou’s jaw dropping artwork for the game. The private commission group, which was started back in September of 2020, had long since opened and been filled within a few months of the game being released. Dropping of the AP’s was going to be our only option for getting one of these beautiful prints onto the wall and into the archives. Secondary market prices were sure to be very expensive. When the APs were finally released we were fortunate enough to be able to snag one.

It’s these little details and thoughtfulness in the artwork that really elevate it to another level.

The artwork prominently features Sakai, the main protagonist, ready for combat. He is depicted wearing a traditional samurai armor with a distinct mask, emphasizing the game’s historical and cultural setting in feudal Japan. The background includes elements like red maple leaves and a red-tinted forest, that evoke the game’s dramatic fall setting on Tsushima Island. The artwork also includes the Golden songbird and the fox, references to some of the games creatures that guid you to specials and enhancements. It’s these little details and thoughtfulness in the artwork that really elevate it to another level. The print from Lady Lazarus is superb, the artwork is printed on Legion Japanese Bamboo paper, with glitter effects on the leaves. The “Ghost” regular edition is a 9 color screen print, there is a “Sakai” variant of the print as well, with some slightly different artwork and color, but this one is our favorite of the two. Seps were handled by Juan Saniose.

The monochromatic and red tinted color palette is striking and is often used in the game’s visuals to represent beauty and bloodshed, reflecting the duality of the Sakai’s path between peace and violence. The typography for the game’s title is stylized to fit the theme, with a font that resembles brush strokes, which is fitting for the game’s aesthetic that draws heavily from Japanese calligraphy and artwork.

The print is hands down one of our top pieces of the year as it was one of the few that gave us this “had to have” feeling. It captures the feeling and aesthetic of its source material better than any other print we can think of this year. Kontou has become a force in the alternative movie poster space and we can’t wait to see what he has cooking up for 2024 and beyond with his new venture Apollo Gallery.