Ghost of Tsushima – Ilan Eshkeri, Shigeru Umebayashi

The gaming console PlayStation 4 is nearing the end of its life cycle, with its successor, the PlayStation 5, coming out at the end of 2020. One of the final games for the current console is Ghost of Tsushima. Many game critics were amazed by how beautiful the game looks and how well it performs on hardware that is around seven years old. Some also mentioned they liked the music in the game a lot. This makes it interesting to look at the soundtrack, written by British composer Ilan Eshkeri and Shigeru Umebayashi from Japan.

While both composers worked on the music for the game, they focused on different parts of it. Ilan Eshkeri was responsible for helping the story of the protagonist Jin Sakai on his journey from an inexperienced samurai to the anti-hero “Ghost,” who is heavily involved in fighting off a Mongolian invasion on the island of Tsushima in the 13th century. Eshkeri’s approach is using an orchestra and many Japanese instruments, including a biwa, to create an emotional score full of rich melodies, which are based on a superb main theme. The theme can be heard for the first time in “The Way of the Ghost,” which is a track that carries a lot of emotion. You can hear the sadness in the whole cue. It appears in two solos: one at the beginning and one at the end of the track, but also in the broad-sounding middle part with the full orchestra. From there, Eshkeri keeps using the theme in various ways in other magnificent tracks to add that extra emotional layer to that specific point of the story. At the end of Eshkeri’s tracks, we are treated with another “The Way of the Ghost,” which is a song based on the theme sung by Clare Uchima. Her voice gives the theme even more emotional impact, which I thought was not even possible.

After this song, it is Shigeru Umebayashi’s turn to present his music with his “Tsushima Suite” of around 50 minutes. The suite is divided into five parts, and the music is used to depict the environment of Tsushima when the protagonist is doing other things instead of progressing the main story. While he also uses an orchestra with Japanese additions, his musical style is quite different from Eshkeri’s. Each part belongs to the suite, but they can be very well enjoyed on their own, with each one having its own melody and style. Personally, I like the second part “Shuraii” the most with its theme and the battle cries.

Having two composers working on different parts of the same project does not always work. The music can be very dissimilar, since it is not composed by one person and is meant for different aspects of the game, creating very different environments. This is definitely not the case for Ghost of Tsushima. I have not played the game but I can see the music by both composers work very well together. After giving the music a good listen, and watching parts of the game on the Internet, I can totally see why the critics are praising the game and its music. The whole album is a pleasure to listen to on its own, allowing me to see how it contributes to a great experience for the player.

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1 Ilan Eshkeri 2 Shigeru Umebayashi

The highlights are in bold.

  1. The Way of the Ghost1 (4:14)
  2. Jin Sakai1 (2:51)
  3. Komoda Beach1 (3:31)
  4. The Way of the Samurai1 (3:19)
  5. Lord Shimura1 (2:15)
  6. No Mercy1 (4:10)
  7. Lady Masako1 (4:01)
  8. A Reckoning in Blood1 (4:35)
  9. The Last of Clan Adachi1 (3:12)
  10. Heart of the Jito1 (4:15)
  11. The Tale of Sensei Ishikawa1 (4:36)
  12. Forgotten Song1 (2:11)
  13. Khotun Khan1 (4:01)
  14. Honour to Ash1 (2:34)
  15. The Fate of Tsushima1 (3:15)
  16. Sacrifice of Tradition1 (4:29)
  17. The Way of the Ghost1 (3:32)
  18. Tsushima Suite: I. Seion2 (9:28)
  19. Tsushima Suite: II. Shurai2 (8:54)
  20. Tsushima Suite: III. Bushido2 (10:17)
  21. Tsushima Suite: IV. Kodoku2 (9:50)
  22. Tsushima Suite: V. Seiiki2 (9:40)

Total length: 1 hour and 49 minutes
Milan (2020)

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