Xbox One, PS4, PC, PS5, Xbox Series X
May 5, 2022
Flying Wild Hog
Hear me when I say that I am a BIG fan of Japan. Throw almost anything with a Japanese flavour in front of me, chances are I am going to enjoy it, or at the very least give it the time of day. Needless to say, when I first saw the reveal trailer of Trek to Yomi, I was instantly interested in what the game had to offer. A gritty, ultra-stylised, cinematic journey through the rich Edo period facing off against deadly samurai, with a hint of the supernatural? I’m in like Flynn, baby. Presented in a fixed-camera, 2.5d-ish perspective, Trek to Yomi is a gripping title with insane production value that just bleeds style, polish, and attention to detail on every screen.
In Trek to Yomi you play as Hiroki, a young samurai on a quest to avenge his fallen master, to protect those he loves, and drive back the evil threatening his community. The trek takes Hiroki through villages, rural countryside, luscious mountainsides, and perhaps a passage through Yomi itself – for those who don’t know, Yomi is the Japanese word for the underworld.
“…Trek to Yomi doesn’t overstay its welcome nor feel too fleeting…”
The story unfolds naturally through gameplay, as well as through highly curated and exquisitely directed cutscenes. The attention to detail and superb quality of the cinematic sequences, and context and world building offered as you play, work together seemlessly to create an immersive and gripping narrative. Not overly long, a mere 5 or 6 hours, Trek to Yomi doesn’t overstay its welcome nor feel too fleeting; the game is a perfect length and spares no expense in being a riveting experience throughout the entire runtime.
The game utlises a black-and-white colour pallette that echoes the revered Kurosawa-style of cinematic presentation. The quality of the visual presentation is among some of the best I have ever seen, especially in a game of this style. The facial experessions, character animations, and enrvironmental details are top-tier, and the developers did an amazing job in making the visuals dance off the screen with the confines of the monochromatic colour range.
While much of the game is presented in a fixed-camera, side-scrolling perspective, there are frequent perspective shifts that allow players to explore and get amongst the nooks and crannies of the well-realised feudal Japan villages. Herein lies some of the best time spent in Trek to Yomi: the immersing of the player into a world that feels authentic and true-to-life.
One of Trek to Yomi’s standout qualities is the combat, which anchors the game as the main gameplay feature. Weilding a katana, Hiroki executes progressively deeper and more intricate combos as you progress through the game. These start out as simple 3-slash flurries and evolve into devastating and complicated techniques that each have their ideal use-case. Combat is always performed on a 2D plane, so utlising well-timed stance changes is essential to stay on top of things. Battle is augemented through the implementation of parrys, stance shifts, and ranged weapons such as shurikens and a bow and arrow, which expand the options of violence while cutting down hoardes of bandits.
Enemies in the game range from standard bandits to armoured samurai warlords, so having a knowledge and mastery of combat is essential to get through the more intense combat situations, especially on the higher difficulty setting. Through exploration, Hiroki can learn some additional unique abilities that definitely give an edge in combat, and make exploring the gorgeously realised world worthwhile. As the game is fairly linear, some light deviation from the main path shouldn’t prove too difficult to acquire most of the abilities and collectibles in Trek to Yomi.
Perhaps the best feature in the game, and that I wager will go fairly understated, is just how brutal and gut-wrenching the ambient audio is. As you battle your way through burning villages and pillaged farmland, the audio landsacape is filled with screams of anguish, cries of the survivors, and dialogue moments that drive home the legitimate horrors of what is occuring on screen.
“…the small snippets of voiced dialogue that you encounter as you play through the game are some of the most intense and visceral I have ever experienced…”
In particular, the small snippets of voiced dialogue that you encounter as you play through the game are some of the most intense and visceral I have ever experienced, and truly bring the nightmarish events to a whole other level. There are no voice language options, so the whole game is played in Japanese and I think this is essential in nailing the tone and character of Trek to Yomi. I believe with English voiceovers the game would have suffered and lost its impactful edge, so Flying Wild Hog did a stellar job in this regard. Exploring side areas often result in interactions with hidden NPCs who provide some excellent world-building and scene-setting, so I found myself exploring every house, side path, and hidden area I could find.
“…when running on the maximum graphical settings, I experienced some light frame drops when there was a lot of chaos on the screen.”
I honestly do not have many critiques of the game; Trek to Yomi is an expertly crafted experience that I truly enjoyed. My only mild complaint is that when running on the maximum graphical settings, I experienced some light frame drops when there was a lot of chaos on the screen. I’m talking 4+ enemies, NPCs in the background, and fires roaring in the fore-and-background – an issue I remedied by dropping the settings from Epic to High for these screens. While this can be jarring in the throes of combat, it happened so fleetingly that I did not feel it greatly impacted the experience.
Additionally, I think the fact that the game is so authentically Japanese in its style with true-to-form language and cultural representation could cause casual players and those who don’t have an express interest in Japan’s history to be turned off. The game is perfect for me, but objectively speaking, it could be a hard pill to swallow for some. The game is brutal, emotional, and visually striking in a way that many will love, but hyper-stylised titles can often be divisive. That, combined with the relentless pace at which the game is delivered, could prove to be a turn off.
- Visual style is excellent
- Gripping, emotional revenge tale textured with harrowing world building
- Audio experience is next level
- Layered combat that is a joy to master
- Game is unapologetically Japanese and could set a high barrier of entry
- Some occasional frame drops
Trek to Yomi is, for me, just shy of a veritable masterpiece. Looking at it purely subjectively, I think this game is bloody brilliant, and certainly one of the finest non-AAA games I have played in a long time. Rich combat, striking visuals, a gritty narrative, and dynamic audio experiences blend together to make this game a true stand out of 2022 so far. Unfortunately, I feel the hyper-stylised tone and fixed Japanese language setting may prove a turn off for some and cause this game to be overlooked. However, if you have even a passing interest in Japanese culture, cinema, or just plain solid gameplay, then I implore you to give Trek to Yomi a look.