Trek to Yomi preview: stab, stab again

Like a living samurai movie, Trek to Yomi borrows the aesthetics of Seven Samurai or Thirteen Assassins to bring you the same sword-wielding drama you love so much. I sat down and played the first two levels of Trek to Yomi, an upcoming side scrolling action game. While I expected to be thrilled with the looks, I was also pleasantly surprised to find that Trek to Yomi had an interesting game under the hood, with some promising action combat with a variety of moves and matchups to explore.

Seamlessly shifting from free exploration to side-scrolling in fixed-camera environments, Trek to Yomi makes the most of its cinematic influences, taking the dramatic lighting and understated duels of Akira Kurosawa’s films and incorporating the more cinematic violence of directors like Kenji Misumi and Takashi Miike during the action fight.

Hike to Yomi images

Trek to Yomi sounds as good as it looks, the crackling and popping of fire overlaid with a dramatic soundtrack and the clash of swords from backlit silhouettes. Using sound is key to making the genre work, and it seems like Trek to Yomi understands that. The voice actors also gave a pretty solid performance in what I was playing, with all dialogue in Japanese with English subtitles.

A lot of the environments reminded me of the better scenes from the original Final Fantasy VII.

I can’t say enough about how much I enjoyed the environments of just two levels. Although the title and story promise at least some connection to supernatural events, the environments I saw were very mundane rural and wooded places. It didn’t matter: they were generally rich, well-composed scenes that used the fixed camera angle to deliver a truly cinematic experience. Effects like lighting were well placed, as was background motion. The blustery and flashing thunderstorm that came during one section was put to wonderful use. A lot of the environments reminded me of the better scenes from the original Final Fantasy VII.

Of course, none of this would matter much if the fights weren’t good. The dramatic, tormented protagonists of samurai movies are great, but the other half why they’re great is the swordsmanship. Protagonist Hiroki is a master of the blade, but only as far as you can take him. Your health is very limited and the stamina-based combat system encourages you to be more active than your opponents.

Protagonist Hiroki is a master of the blade, but only as far as you can take him.

A lot of fights have been about planning your blocks as parries, choosing the right attack set for the situation, and reacting quickly. For example, you might want to swing from below at enemies holding their swords high, or stab at enemies with a horizontal sword ready to block. Slow enemies require heavy stun combos and then execution. Spearmen are easiest if you stay in their cover.

If this sounds familiar, yes, it’s a lot like other current action games. You’re going to die and die and die and die and then finally finish off that one guy you died to in a very satisfying way. Luckily, the save points were well distributed and generous. There was also a cinematic difficulty in experiencing the story, along with a hard mode… and a harder mode.

I can’t say the combat was perfect in my preview build. Animations sometimes didn’t line up smoothly, especially when parrying. It wasn’t always clear why certain inputs were combined and others were not. But those were the things I expected to be smoothed out ahead of release. So far at least developers Leonard Menchiari, Flying Wild Hog and Devolver Digital have created the basis for a very fine action game. Trek to Yomi preview: stab, stab again

Fry Electronics Team

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