Over the past few years, we have been blessed with great samurai and martial arts games such as Sifu, Ghost of Tsushima, and Sekiro. Well, now you can add Trek to Yomi to that list. While the games I mentioned above are all 3d environments, Trek to Yomi shook it up a bit with 2D combat and 3D exploration.
Before I go into the story and scenery in the game, I do want to preface with saying I know very little about Japanese culture. With that out of the way, let’s start off with the story and cinematics. When I first saw this game, I thought it was going to be a simple story of saving a village with minimal cutscenes and atmospheric story telling. I can assure you that isn’t the case. It’s much deeper than I imagined.
The game starts you off with practicing your swordsmanship with your master. The main character, Hiroki, is much younger at this point and still quite the novice with the blade. While you are in your lesson, there is word about an invasion that reaches your master. The training is over, but there’s a whole lot on the job training that’s about to begin. Even though Hiroki is instructed to stay put, the courageous boy knows he can’t just sit still. I don’t want to divulge too much of the story that isn’t said through previews and blogposts, so I’ll keep it fairly simple. As stated through the game’s description, you have to fight through hell and back.
As I found out from playing this game, Yomi, is the land of the dead and a good chunk of the game takes you through it. It’s there where most of the story themes, such as your duty to your countrymen and love progress the most. There are a couple of parts where you get to choose what your character says, but one moment changes the ending. For my playthrough, I chose the love path and I wasn’t disappointed with it. It felt complete and a perfect way to end the game. There are two other options available, and I can’t wait to go back and see the different endings. The only downside is that there is no chapter select, so if you want to see all the endings you have to either save scum or start from scratch.
I thought the scenery in Trek to Yomi was going to wear thin on me after a while, but that’s not the case. With clever use of camera angles, exploring in both 3D and 2D, and having different environments, Trek to Yomi is quite the sight to behold. There are so many times I thought either, “Man, I can’t wait to see what screenshots people take” or “This is desktop background material”. Honestly, there aren’t many games that can match the cinematography of this game. The black and white aesthetic is done extremely well, and I don’t think adding color would have helped at all. They made all the right decisions to make the game look gorgeous with also bringing it life.
Trek to Yomi also delivers with fantastic gameplay. The mechanics aren’t very deep, but it’s all very well done. You have your typical block and parry move followed with light and heavy attacks. The part that is most interesting is using your combos to stun enemies. There is no automatic health regeneration or potions in the game, but you can earn back some health by using finishing moves on an enemy. The only way to do this is by doing combos that stun. Mastering when and where to use each combo is key, and it also makes the game a heck of a lot more cool.
There are also three ranged weapons in the game. I’m going to be honest and say it rarely added anything for me. You always wrestle with do you really need to use it in this scenario or should I save it. I ended up saving it most of the time and always having my capacity full for the next ammo pickup. Everyone plays differently though, and maybe you’ll decide to use it more than I did.
I played it on the hardest available difficulty, Ronin, and there are definitely times that will frustrate some of the players. I kind of went in with a defensive mindset, like Sifu trained me to be. Trek to Yomi actually encourages you to be more offensive and to find the balance between defending and attacking. It works really well, and it made the game much easier. For the most part, the Ronin difficulty is very fair, but the bosses could be a bit ridiculous at times.
Each chapter has its own boss at the end of it. At first, I thought the second boss was a bit ridiculous, but the game really forces you to learn their different attack patterns and learn when to strike. Most of the bosses were excellent and a great change of pace to the normal gameplay. However, the last boss and one of the other later bosses I felt were a bit much. While you do have to “get good” at those fights, it felt a bit unfair to go from full health to death in the span of 2 seconds. It’s still manageable, and you will get through it, but there will probably be a time you want to throw the controller. Regardless of what I just said about those two bosses, anytime you get through a difficult section of the game, there’s a sense of accomplishment followed up with a “that wasn’t so bad” mentality.
The overall gameplay is great, but there are a few qualms I had during the game. As I mentioned before, there isn’t a way to heal outside of finisher and I’m totally okay with that. However, when you die you go back to the last shrine you found. It kind of has a Hotline Miami feel to it with having to start a whole section over again, but I think Trek to Yomi is a little bit more forgiving. The shrine checkpoints don’t sound bad and they aren’t. Typically they are great and fair, but there are sections of the game that felt unbalanced with how spread out the shrine was. The other gameplay gripe I had, was that I felt that some combos were a bit touchy on the execution side. I’d be in a battle and do a stun move, but I apparently missed a button or something because it wouldn’t always finish the combo. It didn’t always happen, but sometimes it meant the difference between life and death.
The sound is also well done in the game. Whether it’s the soundtrack or the sound effects, everything plays a role in the game to make it feel more immersive. There’s almost nothing better than hearing the parry sound of the 2 metal weapons clanking off each other. The game also features Japanese voice overs. I’m not a Japanese speaker, but it sounded convincing and someone who knows the language will have to help me out with that department. I’m sure other outlets will let everyone know if it’s appropriating Japanese culture to have a Polish developer do a game like this.
Overall, the game is fantastic. Outside of a few gameplay elements, the only other complaints I really had is the lack of chapter select, new game+, and all the collectibles disappear with a new playthrough. Those last things are small though, and I’m sure they can fix that in future updates. What’s there now is a complete package that is well worth the asking price. It will probably take 5-7 hours depending on the difficulty you choose, but there is never a dull moment. Leonard Menchiari and the Flying Wild Hog team deserve high praise for what they were able to build in 20 months.