Saturday , April 13 2024

‘Trek to Yomi’ Review: A Samurai Epic That Transcends Its Medium

Originally I was to check out Trek to Yomi at PAX East, but keys for the full build dropped early so as soon as I returned I started playing the game. Aside from a few screenshots I had no idea what to expect; what I got was a fairly standard 2.5d adventure that is made incredible thanks to its presentation and story.

Throw away any perceptions from the great Ghost of Tsushima; the only similarities between these games is the samurai era they are set in. Trek to Yomi is a linear, supernatural story-driven experience that follows a young apprentice named Hiroki (voiced by Masayuki Katou) on his quest for vengeance.

Developed by Flying Wild Hog, under the direction of Leonard Menchiari, Trek to Yomi began as a 2,000-word script inspired by Japanese movies of the ’50s and ’60s. Authenticity was of utmost importance to their team, and everything they did was carefully crafted to uphold that desire.

The team carefully researched an observed Japanese culture, from religious beliefs to the way a sword is supposed to be hung on the wall, or the way a kimono is supposed to be tied. A lot of material was inspired by exhibits at the Edo Museum in Tokyo, and the team had a lot of help from native Japanese experts in order to make sure every decision they made remained coherent.

The result is an experience that felt, to my North American and untrained eye, incredibly authentic. I have watched my fair share of Kurosawa films and Trek to Yomi felt like an interactive version of his movies. The unwavering commitment to a black and white and heavily film-grained presentation and a cinematic widescreen aspect ratio further enhanced this authentic and movie-like experience.

While the game is fairly linear in nature the developer took amazing advantage of the 2.5d navigation by framing every scene with a completely amazing camera angle. The only time the angle is fixed is during battles and even then sometimes it is close and intimate, other times framed from far away.

Gameplay in Trek to Yomi is essentially exploration and sword-based combat with some ranged weapons mixing up the action. This is the only part of the game that is not exceptional; it has fairly standard combat mechanics that slowly develop as the game progresses.

As enemies are defeated or the world explored (small side paths are the only variant on the linear journey) new combos and ranged weapons are discovered. Enhancements to ammo quantities, stamina and health are also found on the journey.

The combat is smooth, looks great and there is some fantastic animations especially on execution attacks on stunned enemies. However the combat can get repetitive and I found myself performing the same late-game combo over and over as it was incredibly effective.

Standard combat mechanics aside, Trek to Yomi is a game that must be experienced. The story centers around the tragic Hiroki and his childhood love Aiko (voiced by Sarah Emi Bridcutt) as he grows from apprentice to defender of his village. Mid and late game there are choices that affect the remainder of the story and it is one I think about a lot. This slight branching of the narrative adds a personal touch to Hiroki’s journey.

The presentation of the game is unique and stunning and adds a cinematic feel that has to be seen and played to understand. While the experience is relatively short and the combat is fairly standard Trek to Yomi is a must-play experience and one that had me hooked from start to finish.

Trek to Yomi is out now. I was given a Steam code for review purposes and the game can be found on PC via Steam, Xbox (will be part of Game Pass) and PlayStation systems.

About Michael Prince

A longtime video game fan starting from simple games on the Atari 2600 to newer titles on a bleeding edge PC I play everything I can get my hands on.

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