What we hear in the West about samurai cinema, period action cinema where people make katanazos for honor or defense of their lands or vidas, has a concrete name in Japan: chambara. Cultivated in a particularly ostentatious way between the decades of the 50s and 80s of the last century, the best-known figure of the genre in the West is Akira Kurosawa, but he is such a well-fed one that the number of his own names, both directors and as protagonists, goes so far beyond the uniqueness that seems to exist in the eyes of Westerners to always put Kurosawa at the center.
Trek To Yomi seeks to capture the essence of this class of films and therefore the first is, where possible, to adjust expectations of what we are going to find. It is not a film by Akira Kurosawa hecha videogame, and who hopes to find the sardoneria and the obsession with the pulse of movement in space that the Japanese director has developed, well, will take a chasco.
For starters, where the influence of chambara in general is most noticeable is in the art department. In white and black, starting from the grain to record a cellular film, intends to capture at all times the essence of these Japanese mountain peoples who seem to be all rivers, secrets and forests among peoples who almost resemble Western border peoples; certainly because our imagination of what a people was like in the United States in the 19th century comes from spaghetti western, a subgenre heavily influenced by chambara. This is why the game feels, all the time, like watching a film by Kihachi Okamoto, Hideshi Gosha or, at its best, the master Masaki Kobayashi, something that confirms a style that goes beyond thing of white and black.
But it wouldn’t be a chambara if you didn’t have katanazos, aerosol dripping blood, blows whose effect is only seen after a few seconds past the two static containers and you’ll be challenged by any falling ends at the end of the fight. In this sense, Trek To Yomi has bet on an exaggerated violence and yet with all the style, which puts all its attention to ensure that the fight goes well.
The combat, at least in the first two chapters, which is all we got to play in this Insight, remember a cross between Nidhogg and Dark Souls. Everything transcends in a two-dimensional plane and it is important to know how to read the actions of our adversary, to know the difference between life and death to know when to block, when to parry, when to disconnect with a battery and when to attempt to connect a combo. Because if we do not survive a blow, our stamina bar, which is spent with each of our movements, will leave us completely undefined for a few seconds if we get agitated, favoring a more relaxed and explosive style of play.
Unfortunately, combat is also where the game’s problems are most apparent. Animations are unique and not always easy to read, sometimes the camera is so busy with the action that the result is always harder to read, combos don’t seem too useful when they’re too slow to execute and our rivals are very fast and live, and stamina has already resulted in jumping on the enemy in a combat system that already eliminates a fast and macho-bot style of play so that, first, we will be completely exposed if we fight an enemy who is particularly difficult or does not want to come out of the games where many enemies attack us from both directions at the same time. All the elements that do not break the game and that can result from it are non-existent as long as we continue to play and we are inside all its systems, but which a priori make the game a much more difficult game than it is should be.
Likewise, his story is very interesting, but it is slightly shocking in its claims. The story is purely a samurai movie and the selection of shots and its work on itself is pure sixties, even though its staging is much more reminiscent of contemporary anime, which is aided by gracefully carried environmental storytelling. and other levels that have more secrets and exploration elements than those that appear in the first place. Unfortunately, it is ultimately by producing that the game’s narrative leads us head-on in two upside-down directions: on the one hand, the main story asks us to move forward quickly, without fail, without failing; on the other hand, the only game we want to explore, think about and take our time to explore and help with the little missions and conversations the NPCs have. Two elements that make there is an obvious narrative dissonance, so that the game is constantly divided into two different things.
This makes Trek To Yomi, in these first two chapters, interesting results, but something torpedo. It’s not a disaster and its flaws can be fixed, but its two winning elements, interesting, thought-provoking combat and notable art direction, remain dissolved due to the constant gaps that exist between what each side wants to do. But, to be honest, there have been few games so far that have managed to capture the experience of seeing a chambara so accurately and with such interesting cinematography. Therefore, even with its flaws, it is impossible not to feel a great deal of curiosity for the end result of a title that, a priori, has captured the essence of a genre so misinterpreted so well. Although, from what we’ve seen so far, that’s outside of what he plays.