As successful as 2023 turned out for Sony, it didn’t have the widest variety of first-party releases for the PS5. This year already looks better with The Last of Us Part 2 Remastered in January; Helldivers 2 and Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth in February; and Rise of the Ronin in March. Developed by Team Ninja, the action RPG is unique for many reasons. Though previous titles like Nioh 1 and 2 have only been released on PS4 and PS5 before making their way to PC, Rise of the Ronin is a PS5 exclusive and published by Sony (with UK-based XDEV providing support).
Also, while those titles – and the more recent Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty – follow a level-based structure, Rise of the Ronin is open-world. It’s also been in the works for seven years, with development running alongside Wo Long. Before it began offering extensive details on what players could expect, Koei Tecmo expressed its desire to sell over five million units and called Rise of the Ronin one of the “important strategic pillars of the company’s mid-term growth strategy.”
It’s a big deal for the publisher, and even more so for Sony’s current-gen console, which hasn’t announced release dates for its other major announced titles after March. I’m looking forward to it not because of Nioh or Team Ninja’s pedigree but because I believe it will fill the hole left after Ghost of Tsushima.
Launched in 2020 for the PS4 before receiving a PS5 upgrade, Ghost of Tsushima is by Sucker Punch Productions of Sly Cooper and inFamous fame. It focuses on Jin Sakai, a samurai who fought to repel the Mongol Invasion of Tsushima Island in 1274. After the disastrous opening battle, Jin realizes that traditional tactics won’t work and subsequently employs subterfuge and assassination, becoming the fabled Ghost.
The combination of excellent combat, stunning visuals, a compelling narrative and characters, and a vast open world brimming with enjoyable content all made for a critical and commercial success. It’s Sucker Punch’s fastest-selling game to date, and after selling over 2.4 million copies in its first three days, it would also become the fastest-selling first-party original IP debut for the PS4 at the time.
Though it received an expansion, Iki Island, there’s been no word on a sequel or follow-up. I highly doubt there isn’t one in development, considering some of Sucker Punch’s job listings over time, but even if it’s announced this year, we may not see it launch until next year, if not 2026. From that perspective, Rise of the Ronin’s appeal as a hack-and-slash action RPG with open-world elements looks all the more appealing.
However, there are also several distinctions to be had (and not just in being able to use a gun in combat alongside a katana). Unlike 1274, when Japan was more united under the Shogunate, Team Ninja’s title is set in a time of division and chaos – the Bakumatsu.
The Tokugawa Shogunate was slowly crumbling. The isolationist policy that Japan followed came to an end, but it didn’t immediately result in peaceful trade with other nations – see the “Arrival of the Black Ships” in 1853, noteworthy due to Commodore Matthew C. Perry’s arrival in Edo Bay and subsequent shelling of buildings to force negotiations. While modernization and extensive opportunities followed, so too did unemployment, famines, and even a cholera outbreak followed. There was also the internal conflict between pro- and anti-Shogunate factions that led to extensive bloodshed.
Ghost of Tsushima’s cast had their share of conflicts, and the island itself was a hotbed for intrigue, betrayal and secrecy. Several of its Ronin even forsook their people to work for Khotun Khan. Based on historical figures, Rise of the Ronin’s factions reflect the ideologies at the time.
There’s the pro-Shogunate Sabaku, with characters like chief minister Naosuke Ii and geisha Taka Murayama. The Tobaku comprise the anti-Shogunate front, with the likes of Ryoma Sakamoto and Kogoro Katsura. Finally, you have the Obei of the West, with characters like Matthew Perry (yes, the same Commodore of the Black Ships) and diplomat Rutherford Alcock. All three factions have their goals and seek to achieve them through almost any means necessary.
As a ronin referred to as a Veiled Edge, you won’t have any particular allegiance to these factions. The story can go in different directions depending on your decisions. You develop bonds with famous figures, and they have related side quests. Dialogue choices are available throughout the game, some even determining a character’s fate. Interestingly, helping out characters in Bond Missions can also lead to unlocking new endings.
From the outset, this is a massive advantage over Sucker Punch’s title. Characters like Sensei Ishikawa, Lady Masako, Norio and Yuna are very well-developed, but you can skip their Tales without any consequence to the overall narrative. They’ll still join you in the major battles, as Jin offers reassurance that he’ll help them as soon as his business concludes. Since the invasion is a matter of life or death for the island, it’s not completely unreasonable. I’m not asking for the side content to be mandatory to finish the story – just for different decisions to have meaningful consequences, which Rise of the Ronin appears to offer.
How well it does this remains to be seen, but the prospect of major characters dying and unique endings becoming available, not to mention allying with opposing sides, is already more freedom than simply deciding whether to stealth kill my enemies or call them out and fight honorably. I still enjoyed the narrative of Ghost of Tsushima and Jin Sakai’s journey and the conflicts between upholding the samurai code and doing whatever he could to defeat the invaders. If the Veiled Edge has a fleshed-out backstory as fully realized as Team Ninja promises, then it should be interesting to see how this plays into various decisions.
On top of this, you can also develop bonds with different locations if you help out the people in them, thus motivating exploration and engaging in the side content. Ghost of Tsushima’s open-world activities and side content is great and provide techniques, armor and upgrade materials for those who travel off the beaten path. Hopefully, Rise of the Ronin offers the same while using its bonds with the different lands to impact the narrative. After all, becoming a hero and helping the people or acting as a reviled figure would fit well with the era.
Many other things divide the two games, from the presentation and production values to the combat. The latter seems to employ Styles but offers different weapon types like dual swords, naginatas and staffs. Both allow for traversing the open world on horseback, but Rise of the Ronin also features a glider for sailing through the skies (and executing sick dropdown assassinations). They both also have grappling hooks, though you can grab a barrel and throw it at enemies for a massive explosion in the latter.
There’s still a lot we don’t know about Rise of the Ronin ahead of its launch on March 22nd, from the structure of its side quests and open-world activities to the progression system and how the mysterious Karma works. It doesn’t have to totally excel over Ghost of Tsushima – more than anything, I’m excited to see how it complements the latter while showcasing Team Ninja’s open-world chops. The fact that it improves on the one thing that stuck out the most to me is a bonus.
Note: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, GamingBolt as an organization.