The films of Akira Kurosawa are amongst the most iconic samurai movies out there. Movies like Seven Samurai and Yojimbo are highly regarded, so it is no wonder they have been an inspiration for many projects in the decades since their release. Trek to Yomi is one such creative endeavour, a black and white action adventure title that uses a similar art style to Kurosawa’s movies.
The story of Trek to Yomi follows young Samurai Hiroki who sets out on a journey to protect his town against a powerful warlord that threatens all that he knows. The story has a standard kind of revenge set up, but the journey takes Hiroki into places that very few can travel through. There are some choices Hiroki has to make which have an impact on how his story unfolds across the seven chapters that make up Trek to Yomi. The whole game can be completed in around five hours.
Trek to Yomi’s gameplay has a simple loop. It is mainly a side scroller where players have to dispatch enemies that challenge Hiroki in each scene. Hiroki can often be surrounded, so blocking parrying and moving around enemies helps to survive their attacks, as does backing up to the edge of the screen so that enemies have to approach you one at a time.
On a surface level, the combat seems deep and complex, relying on blocks and parries to succeed. It soon becomes clear that the majority of enemies can be dispatched with just a couple of heavy hits, leaving a lot of the moves you unlock underutilised. There are different tiers of enemies, with stronger foes equipped with better armour and weapons such as spears or bows, but they are all pretty straightforward to defeat, while boss fights do add some more challenging encounters into the mix. Really the main thing to keep an eye on is Hiroki’s stamina, as running out leaves him completely vulnerable until the bar is filled up again.
Unfortunately, beyond the core mechanics, Trek to Yomi’s combat often feels clunky and unresponsive. There can be moments where there seems to be a delay in reactions such as when blocking. Block perfectly and you will parry an enemy attack which slows the action down so you can counter, but even during that slowdown there can be a delay so Hiroki does not actually attack in time. For a game where combat is a core element, it fails to shine and is a bit of a disappointment.
The visual style and acting is much better though. The black and white visuals and film grain effect give it a real classic film feel, and the environments you progress through look great, especially later into the game as you venture into new areas. The enemy designs are pretty easy to distinguish, so you can prepare for the attacks they will use. The voice acting is good too using Japanese language to really plant you within the era of cinema Trek to Yomi wants to imitate.