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Analysis and opinion of Trek To Yomi, the indie game that pays homage to samurai cinema

The Trek To Yomi review demonstrates an incredible love for classic samurai movies. A bloody story, in rigorous black and white, that pays homage to Akira Kurosawa’s films starring Toshiro Mifune.

I’m not going to deceive you Trek To Yomi is a dream come true. Not even in my wildest fantasies would I have imagined that one day a study would yield such homage to classic samurai movies (especially Yojimbo, Sanjuro and Akira Kurosawa’s The 7 Samurai).

It is true that Kurosawa way (in black and white) left us with a very similar experience in Ghost of Tsushima. But Flying Wild Hog Studios, the same Polish team that brought us Shadow Warrior 3, has gone one step further.

As its name indicates (Trek to Yomi means “journey to hell”) is a step in the direction of revenge, honor, life and death by the sword. It’s like starring in any of the movies we’ve mentioned.

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Trek To Yomi – Analysis of the game based on the samurai cinema

And like a good “chambara” (as samurai movies are known in Japan) Trek To Yomi begins with a dramatic event. The death of our sensei, Sanjuro, at the hands of a group of bandits… and the need to take up the sword since Hiroki was a child.

Is a reference to the story of Miyamoto Musashi, the legendary warrior who never lost a fight and who killed his first opponent when he was only thirteen years old. And he is not the only one that we are going to find in the game; his fighting strategy in the rice fields also appears.

From this moment on, what awaits us is a simple development (combining numerous 2D combat with free-motion exploration zones). After all, samurai cinema is a genre very similar to westerns.

The scenarios that we are going to visit alternate small villages and rural areas in the real world with castles and majestic constructions of the Underworld. A perfect backdrop to test the edge of our sword.

The katana is the soul of the samurai

The clashes in Trek To Yomi faithfully recreate the use of the katana as taught in kendo, iaido and kenjutsu schools. A simple cut of our sword can kill a rival -or with us-, so you have to “play” with the opportunity, the distance and the posture.

We never have to face more than two enemies at the same time, and the key is to provoke their attacks, deflect them -with a parry- and leave them vulnerable for a moment to launch our counterattack.

It is a system similar to what we saw in Sekiro Shadows Die Twice and in Ghost of Tsushima itself, and is completed with the use of ranged weapons -shuriken, a yumi bow and an ozutsu musket- with very limited ammunition.

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To give the fights more depth, we have different combos, which are executed by alternating fast and strong attacks, with a somersault or with the change of posture, to place ourselves behind the opponents’ backs. If we leave them helpless, we can execute them with a finishing move.

And as in the “reference” games, we have an energy bar that limits the hits we can link or parry. In general, the feeling is great. They are not frenetic combats, but, as in a samurai duel, what prevails is the tension and the study of the rivals.

We may get stuck at some point, but the checkpoints are numerous, and the satisfaction of overcoming an area without failures is worth it.

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Like we have already said, sword duels take place with a fixed camerabut during our progress, the frame changes, like in a movie.

When Hiroki sheathes his katana, we have the possibility to move more freely, move towards the bottom of the screen and explore the scenarios in search of collectibles or alternative routes.

This second aspect is not as careful as the confrontations, and there are hardly any puzzles, but it gives the game a very cinematic air. And speaking of movies, the artistic aspect is one of the most powerful -and elegant- that we have found in the “indie” scene.

Art in Motion

Trek To Yomi plays with a lot of resources reminiscent of classic cinema: First of all, it’s a completely black and white game, with a high contrastlike in the movies of the 50s and 60s. Small scratches and a filter that imitates celluloid also appear on the screen.

The retro look is very successful, thanks to the use of the Unreal Engine, which reaches 4K resolution and 60 FPS on “next gen” consoles. The combat animations are very well executed, but the models can be improved.

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On the other hand, the Flying Wild Hog game takes advantage of depth of field, blurring elements that are in the foreground or far away from the subjectand use framing that mimics classic camera movements.

We especially like how it takes advantage of backlighting, with several moments where we struggle with silhouettes, or shadows on the shoji doors. In fact, the lighting is a very remarkable section, and mimics dynamic “natural” sources such as the moon and torches.

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But all of this happens during gameplay; Just because Trek To Yomi is a cinematic game doesn’t mean it’s riddled with CG sequences.

To finish off the artistic section, the voices in Japanese and the music performed with traditional instruments, such as the koto, taiko or shamisen, are a perfect complement.

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Trek to Yomi is 5 hours long, spread over 7 levelsand it is recommended to raise the level of difficulty that it offers by default -too simple- to achieve a more challenging experience.

It offers elements to replay it, such as a couple of choices that determine our path at different times in the game, and collectible items. However, the experience is enjoyed more in the first round, because setting and history are its strong points.

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Is it a game for everyone? I have already started the text saying that it was my fantasy come true. But of course, the references and his combat style freak me out. What if we are not familiar with this type of cinema?

I am sure that there are many players out there who have not yet dared to try these classics of Japanese cinema, and perhaps the aesthetics and theatricality of the game seem strange to them.

But Yomi has such a careful combat style and such a special aesthetic that even in that case, worth try it.

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