Your father's spirit resides within this blade. He is always with you.
― Lord Shimura
For generations, the head of the Sakai clan has wielded this matchless bade.
― In-game description
The Sakai Steel is a family heirloom. Jin inherited it from his father, Lord Sakai, after his death on Iki Island. As a samurai, the katana is his main weapon in fighting against his enemies.
The Katana can be upgraded for improved performance and can be customized with a Sword kit for cosmetic. Swiping right on the touchpad allows you to sheathe and unsheathe the katana.
The katana has a distinct curve with a single edge and consists of several different parts:
- Ito: The Braided Wrap on the handle
- Menuki: Decorative metal applications on the sides of the handle
- Sageo: The decorative Cord/Knot on the scabbard cover
- Saya: The Scabbard or Sheath of a katana
- Tsuba: The Guard between the handle and the blade
- Tsuka: The Handle or Hilt of a katana
The Sakai Katana and Tanto are the main melee weapon used by Jin throughout the game. No other melee weapons are acquired or used, despite the numerous other types that are seen such as Norio's naginata or the Mongol shields and spears. There are numerous different appearances for the set of swords, but they have no impact on gameplay. However, certain cutscenes will show the original Sakai set appearance while the others show that which the player has equipped at the time. The difference sets are acquired by exploration and locating Pillars of Honor.
Behind the scenes
Despite the blade being called a Katana in the game, the Katana actually did not exist during the event of the Mongol Invasion of 1274. The word "Katana" itself did appear as early as the Kamakura Period (1185-1333), but was uncommon for use in battle until the Sengoku Period (1467-1615). During the Mongol Invasion, the sword the Samurai used was called the "Tachi," which was forged as early as 900 CE. In the Japanese localization of the game, the blade is correctly referred to as a "Tachi" instead of "Katana."
The difference between a Tachi and a Katana is their typical length and how they were worn on the obi sash. A katana usually measures around 60 cm long and was worn cutting edge facing up. On the otherhand, a tachi measures around 80 cm long and was worn cutting edge facing down. In-game, Jin does wear the blade and its sheath cutting edge up.
Japanese swords and daggers were described as having exceptional quality. They are one of the most finely crafted weapons in history and works of art. A significant amount of care went into producing a Tanto (knife/dagger), Shoto (shorter swords like the Wakizashi and Kodachi) and Daisho (longer swords like the Katana and Tachi). They all have a very sharp edge and although the blades are quite thin, they are strong enough to withstand multiple battles if properly taken care of (as a samurai would be trained to do anyway).
While developing Ghost of Tsushima, the team at Sucker Punch Productions carefully design the combat mechanic, and weapons for the player to react to. This resulted in a combination of very fast player attacks and overlapping enemy attacks to create an intensity that was inspired by the 2010 film 13 Assassins.
The developers paid attention to the precision a samurai needs to have when wielding the Katana. Quick attacks need to be quick, while the strong but slow attacks were cancelable. Blocking also benefits from this precision. Holding will block, tapping as an enemy attacks will parry and after unlocking certain Techniques, pressing as an attack lands will result in a perfect parry, the latter two of which gain Resolve, the measure of Jin's samurai spirit that allows him to heal injuries he takes.
Sometime during the development of Ghost of Tsushima, the Sakai Katana had multiple parts that could be individually upgraded, including Sharpness, Balance, Tsuba, and Wrap/Blessings/Augments, with Wrap providing "better grip and [enabling] more advanced combat techniques". Sharpness and Balance could be upgraded at a Swordsmith. Most of this system has been simplified down to Sharpness being upgraded at the Swordsmith and the Blessings/Augments which became the Charms in the game. Elements such as Tsuba and Wrap were likely adapted into other features such as Vanity or Techniques, while Balance was likely scrapped.
- In terms of historical accuracy, true katanas were not invented during the Kamakura period (1185–1333) of which the game is set, as they didn't make their appearance until the Muromachi period (1336－1573), although very early but crude-prototypes of the weapon were theorized to have made during the dawning years of the Kamakura period. Despite this, the term katana was coined during the Kamakura period but was used to refer to a different kind of long sword instead (some believing it to be an elongated version of the tanto known as sasuga, which were considered the progenitors of the katana.)