Hands on With Trek to Yomi – Superbly Cinematic Samurai Action

Spoiler warning: This article contains spoilers for the introduction of Trek to Yomi.

Over the years, there have been plenty of games that attempted to ape the style of movie genres, or even specific titles. Think L.A. Confidential’s influence on L.A. Noire, or how GTA Vice City lifted its ending sequence straight from Scarface’s final scene. Despite all the myriad attempts, I’m not sure if I’ve ever played a game that so thoroughly nails its desired aesthetic as Trek to Yomi. This samurai action-adventure from Leonardo Menchiari and Flying Wild Hog isn’t just drawing inspiration from classic Japanese cinema from the 50s and 60s — it’s like the developers did some occult ritual and are now mainlining Akira Kurosawa’s spirit.

trek to yomi bring it on boys
This doesn’t seem like a fair fight — I’m the only one with clothes

The premise is a fairly standard one: an orphaned boy is taken in by a powerful warrior (in this instance a samurai), and within the opening 15 minutes or so, that powerful warrior is killed, leaving the orphan to carry on the warrior tradition. In a surprising change of pace, the killer of your character’s mentor isn’t the main villain; he actually dies a few seconds before your sensei. Instead, the story fast forwards to your character fully grown, facing all-new threats — well, it’s still bad guys with swords, but not the same bad guys with swords.

I found the characters compelling, and the Japanese voice acting seemed convincing (although since I was reading the subtitles I don’t think I’m really in a position to judge). The plot feels secondary to the game’s visuals, however, and they’re what really blew me away.

trek to yomi cool waterfall
Sightseeing and fighting

The game’s setting is beautiful, and the world is alive with movement: villagers selling wares, trees swaying in the wind, dust floating across beams of sunlight. When not in combat, you’re free to roam around the game’s relatively linear levels. While you’re exploring, you can find secrets which include collectibles, projectiles, or ways to raise your health and stamina — but I would have explored every nook and cranny just to see all there was to see. The world also feels authentic; the developers visited Tokyo and consulted with Japanese experts in building Trek to Yomi, and it shows.

trek to yomi 2d thrivin community
What a pleasant town! I sure hope bandits don’t set it on fire…

While exploration is free-roaming, combat is done old-school, Prince of Persia 2 style, with only two dimensions to worry about. Because each combat section is framed in one specific way, it allows for fantastic set pieces, and I often found myself dying because I was too busy staring at the scenery. Combat starts out relatively simple, with the fundamentals being something of a rhythm game, but it gets complex quickly once you’re surrounded. The game does a good job balancing the 1v2, and it never felt unfair when I died. If anything, the combat got a little too easy near the end, and the final boss of the preview was a bit of a pushover, but frankly it didn’t bother me. I was enjoying just soaking in the atmosphere, and the fact that my samurai character was easily cutting down bandits made sense.

trek to yomi cool framing
Many scenes are framed in interesting ways — I’ve never fought under dried fish before

The sound, the visuals, the attention to detail – all come together to create an incredibly compelling experience. I’m usually a gameplay first, aesthetics distant second kind of gamer, but Trek to Yomi is the first game I’m excited to play just to look at all the pretty scenery. The brief preview I got to play only whetted my appetite for 19th century Japan, and I can’t wait to get my hands on the final release.

Do you think it’s weird the game is black and white? Will you refuse to play it if you can’t turn off the letterboxing? Do you have a favorite Kurasawa movie? Let us know in the comments!

Share this article:

Unabashed FromSoftware fanboy still learning to take his time with games (and everything else, really). The time he doesn't spend on games is spent on music, books, or occasionally going outside.

Articles: 2397
Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments