Date: May 6, 2022
When creating Trek to Yomi, Leonard Menchiari and Flying Wild Hog Rzeszów wanted to create a game that lets players feel like they’re in a Japanese movie from the 50s and 60s. To accomplish this, they made sure everything felt as authentic to that era as possible — this was reflected in the gameplay, the characters, the dialogue, and even details in the settings. The result is a game that can fully immerse you in being a Samurai during this era — but it is short-lived.
Story and Setting
The story of Trek to Yomi centers around Hiroki, a renowned Samurai in his village. Throughout the game, he is trying to stop the warlord, Kagerou. In order to do this, he must face his demons, both literally and figuratively. As you progress through the story, you can see how much Hiroki cares about his wife, Aiko, and the lengths he is willing to go to save both her and their village.
As far as character growth, the story mainly focuses on Hiroki strengthening his resolve to defeat Kagerou and stop his bandits. There will be a few points where you can choose what is most important to him, these choices ultimately affect the game’s ending. We don’t see much of the other main characters in the game, so there’s basically no development for anyone outside of Hiroki. You can learn a little more about Hiroki and Aiko’s backstories, but only if you pick up collectibles hidden throughout the game. In fact, there is a major piece of Hiroki’s backstory that you’ll only learn by picking up and reading these pieces.
There are pretty much only two major settings in Trek to Yomi: a village, and Yomi itself. The village feels like a fully populated place, as you can see many villagers and their families spread throughout — with many speaking to you as you approach them. Yomi takes full advantage of being a supernatural location: As you make your way through it, the environment will constantly shift, and many illusions will be made to try to confuse both you and Hiroki.
Gameplay and Exploration
Trek to Yomi’s gameplay is fairly simple. In combat, you can use light and heavy attacks, and you can press the same attack multiple times or combine the two to create combos. You can also block, sprint, and roll on the defensive side — you can even parry attacks if you time your blocks properly, giving you an opening to counter attack. As you progress, you will gain three ranged weapons and more combos that you can use in battle.
The combat encourages you to use a combination of offense and defense. If you swing blindly, the enemy will quickly get the upper hand on you, and you will run out of Stamina (which you can keep track of via a bar under your health). Instead, you will want to defend and wait for an opening to attack enemies. If you manage to stun them, you can even use a finisher on them, which will recover your health.
All battles will take place in a 2D plane, so you only have to worry about what’s in front of you and behind you. The fights you’ll be getting in will either consist of a wave of enemies, a general (which typically reveals a new type of enemy or mechanic), or a boss at the end of every level. Besides bosses, there are only around five different types of enemies in the game, meaning there isn’t a huge variety in the fights. Luckily, the majority of battles are really short, which prevents the game from ever feeling too tedious.
You will find shrines scattered throughout areas. They act as checkpoints, and will fully restore your health and Stamina on use — however, you can only use them once. This is never a huge issue though, as they are placed generously throughout the level. You can expect to find a new shrine after around every 2-3 battles.
Levels are fairly linear, so you won’t ever get lost while you make your way through the game. However, you are highly encouraged to explore as you make your journey. There will be many alternate paths you can take, and most of these side paths will give you extra things. This can include jugs that will increase your max health or Stamina, collectibles, and even scrolls to learn new abilities and combos. Occasionally, you will also find objects that you can interact with, that will instantly kill enemies that stand in your way.
The visuals in this game are beautiful. The entire game is in black and white, and the use of lighting and camera focuses makes every moment of Trek to Yomi feel cinematic. It makes excellent use of thunderstorms and buildings crumbling to make battles feel more epic, while seeing many parts of the village on fire as you make your way through help create a sense of urgency. You truly feel like you’re in the middle of a classic Samurai movie as try to stop the bandits and save your home.
For the most part, the game plays smoothly. There were a few times, however, when the framerate would drop a bit, especially in the middle of a fight. While it is noticeable when it happens, it isn’t significant or frequent enough to take away from the overall experience.
Longevity and Replayability
For all of the effort that was made in creating a fully authentic experience, Trek to Yomi unfortunately does not last very long. A normal playthrough of the entire game will take around 5-7 hours, meaning the story feels like it progresses pretty quickly. Once you complete it, the only real reason to replay the game would be to give yourself a greater challenge.
Completing the game unlocks the Kensei difficulty — in it, everything will kill you in one hit. There is no new game plus or alternate routes you can take to encourage a second playthrough outside of trying a different difficulty. While there are different endings, the only thing that influences them are a couple of dialogue choices, so there is no gameplay difference in getting there.
There are also collectibles you can grab, which give some extra backstory for Hiroki and Aiko, as well as give details on Japanese culture. It’s easy to track which ones you’re missing within each level, however, the game constantly blocks you from backtracking. This means that most of the time, by the time you realize that you skipped one, you won’t be able to go back to get what you missed.
On top of this, the game does not feature any kind of chapter select, so you will essentially have to play the entire game over if you want to find your missing collectibles. As you don’t gain anything in the game for collecting these, this could make the process of finding everything feel very tedious.
Trek to Yomi succeeds in creating a truly cinematic and authentic experience that hearkens back to classic Samurai movies. Every aspect of this game works well together to fully immerse you into the game. The biggest issue with it is that there simply isn’t much content outside of the short story, meaning there is little reason to keep playing this game on completion. However, if you have any interest in classic Japanese movies and Japanese culture, I would recommend playing this game, as you’ll certainly appreciate the attention to detail.