Trek To Yomi Review

Stroked with the influential dabbing brush of classic Japanese cinema from the 1950’s and 1960’s, Trek To Yomi is ready to sharpen its shiny blade, and sink it into the hearts of gamers with its faithful black and white presentation, its timing-centred sword-slashing, and an emotionally compelling story steeped in honour and revenge. Wrought from the iron-clad collaboration between developer Flying Wild Hog and creator Leonardo Menchiari, Trek To Yomi is primed to offer up an authentic and classic Japanese slice of sword-slashing for the ages. Does Trek To Yomi pay its respects to good videogame design, or does it get slain by its own ambitions?

The story tells a personal tale of a youth samurai called Hiroki. Learned under the tutelage of his sensei Sanjuro, Hiroki is taught to act swiftly in the face of imminent danger, whilst protecting the lives of the innocent. One day after a dojo training session Sanjuro hears of unrest and runs off to encounter an imminent threat. Panicked by the sudden absconding, Hiroki runs after him. Determined to sought retribution on those responsible for this massacre, Hiroki travels far in search for answers and to find his lost love Aoki.

Trek To Yomi doffs its Jingasa to mid-century Japanese films by moulding a faithful videogame-stylized ode to Akira Kurosawa’s classic samurai films. Tropes of honour, revenge and duty are laid out before you like the freshly slaughtered carcasses Hiroki leaves in his wake, but they’re carefully etched into Trek To Yomi’s framework, keeping your purpose fulfilled.

Moreover, a meticulous and thorough attention to detail enriches the experience of Trek To Yomi’sstory. Details, whether seismic or subtle, have been given a pristine furnish that elevates the game above its contemporaries. Whether in regard to the way in which a sword is meant to be hung on the wall, or the tradition of how a kimono is meant to be tied, Trek To Yomi is impressively faithful, which deserves kudos and commendations. 

The way in which Trek To Yomi emphasizes the panic and hysteria of civilians is also praiseworthy. The pillaging of innocent village folk and witnessing the audible horror of women screaming in anguish, provides more than enough motivation to seek retribution against the hostile forces you come up against. Fearless and with plentiful resolve, Hiroki is out to deal death to the glut of insidiously demonized men, and you will relish the chance to restore balance and put an end to tyranny.

Geared towards precision and timing, Trek To Yomi’s gameplay balances accurate sword-swinging with a satisfying arcade-like momentum. There is a button for a light attack and another for a heavy attack, both of which are adorned with mild complexity by way of combos that can break the enemy’s guard, helping you to strike with a brutality and quickness that runs parallel with Hiroki’s astute samurai abilities. You will no doubt feel like a badass and the slew of new skills you pick up as you play only enhance this.

Keeping a close and keen eye on your opposition’s stance is the surest way to deal damage. Hapless button bashing is possible to some degree, but isn’t advised, so choosing a methodical approach will ensure less deaths and restarts. You won’t find many frustrations playing Trek To Yomi as it is a comfortable and accessible experience, unless you crave a challenge then there are harder difficulties available if you feel like game is too easy for you.

Besides a sword, Hiroki will gain access to a bow, a kunai-like weapon, and an explosive option that packs a mighty boom. All three of these require ammo, but they will be a welcome crutch to lean on when you want to dispose of enemies quickly. The bow is easily the best and most satisfying, as it requires little set up, and it will feel satisfying to plant an arrow into your opponent’s head. The explosive option is pretty good, but waiting for it to load makes you susceptible to attack, so you need to find space to adequately use it to dispatch foes.

Thankfully checkpoints are generously strewn throughout levels by way of lit shrines, so if you fall in battle, you can quickly regain lost ground. Activating shrines will also restore you to max health and save your progress, therefore you will never have to worry about locating them.

Levels are linear, sending you down a mostly prescribed path with Onimusha-style fixed camera angles, where you will encounter and battle a small number of enemies, before moving on and doing the same thing over and over again, until you reach the end, where you may happen upon a boss and then the chapter will end.

The simplicity of the levels is a bit too rote and plain, especially when enemy compositions become overly familiar. Trek To Yomi doesn’t do a good job of diversifying encounters. By the end of your adventure, you will have grown weary of fighting the same apparitions and those ghostly samurais who keep disappearing and then reappearing again. It’s not until later in the game where you happen across puzzles – and even they are basic, requiring you to line up symbols on a lit area of a wheel to solve.

Collapsing structures, faster pace sections and a section of the game where you’re up against lumber undead-like shambling grunts do prove to be highlights that give Trek To Yomi more zest, but with the relatively short length of the game these moments don’t have time to grow and expand into something truly memorable, as they take a backseat to the engaging combat and the presentational flourishes.

There are momentary ways you can deviate from the set path, so you can grab hidden collectibles, and ammo tucked inside small rooms and out of the way areas. It’s a shame these moments of deviation are bland and the game doesn’t encourage you to search every nook and cranny for anything other than little collectibles, so the chance to uncover enticing world building titbits is missed, though the letters and messages you can access in options menu does breathe some insight into the goings on of its world.  

The black and white aesthetic Trek To Yomi graces players with is dripping in inspired intent to immerse players in that classic Japanese cinema style. Environments tinge with life too and they drip with a smorgasbord of auras from the claustrophobic dread of narrow caves to the foreboding uncertainty of the underworld. Trek To Yomi certainly does its best to ensnare and captivate you with the diverse landscapes it presents to you.

Keeping with the authenticity, the voice acting is entirely in Japanese, with English subtitles for you to read so you can fully grasp what is going on. Similarly, the music has plenty of inspirational odes, with instruments that are compatible with the feudal Japanese era like the shamisen lute and the Taiko drums. Suffices to say, Trek To Yomi is one all-encompassing tribute to Japanese cinema in videogame form and in this respect it’s very successful.

Conclusion

Not too many games go above and beyond to pay homage to the past like Trek To Yomi does. From top to bottom it is drenched in a dedicated and unshakable inspiration of Japanese cinema, which does its absolute best to make players spellbound by its sheer level of deftly crafted artistic intent. Similarly, the combat is super slick, stylish and gratifyingly nuanced, that it will please many who beg for a finely-honed, lethal and precise katana-thrusting gameplay core. Unfortunately, the repetition of enemies and their compositions do get in the way as there isn’t enough diversity in the enemy variety nor the deviation to manipulate curiosity in interesting ways, but ultimately if you want a brief, beautiful and brutal action game, you should certainly take this trek.

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This game was reviewed based on Xbox S|X review code, using an Xbox S|X console. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version. Game provided by publisher.

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Good
  • A fantastic audio-visual treat
  • Engrossing precision-based combat
  • Checkpoints are generous
Bad
  • Repetitious enemy types and compositions
  • Short even if it is mostly sweet
  • Doesn’t blaze its own trails
8.3
Great
Written by
Although the genesis of my videogame addiction began with a PS1 and an N64 in the mid-late 90s as a widdle boy, Xbox has managed to hook me in and consume most of my videogame time thanks to its hardcore multiplayer fanaticism and consistency. I tend to play anything from shooters and action adventures to genres I'm not so good at like sports, RTS and puzzle games.

1 Comment

  1. Fair play that you liked this but I found this game to really struggle to inspire me.

    The combat has a lot of easily exploitable moves, especially by Chapter 5.

    As for the story, I found that it paid tribute to the visuals of Japanese cinema during this period but thematically it felt pretty limp. Kurosawa’s views on Samurai was complicated and often condemning of this warrior class. Trek to Yomi doesn’t really have any insight and ignores how Samurai were often viewed as brutal and cruel masters of the peasant class.

    The visuals are very good though

    Reply

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