“Journey to Yomi”, poignant revenge in medieval Japan

In an atmosphere worthy of the best films of Akira Kurosawa, the player will have to cut his enemies to pieces according to the code of honor of the samurai. A title with original beauty and a great lesson in Japanese culture.

About to leave to defend his city, which is threatened by a relentless horde, the master-at-arms instructs his young samurai apprentice to stay at his dojo. Obviously, this one – whose name is Hiroki – does not obey and is forced to face the leader of the marauders … sensei save his own life, but at the cost of his own. Before he dies, he makes Hiroki promise to protect the city and its people at all costs. This oath will take effect years later, when the surrounding region is again set on fire and blood is shed. And this will be an opportunity for Hiroki to punish the one responsible for the death of his mentor…

On the paper, Trek to Yomi stands halfway between Ghost of Tsushima and Sifu. From the first it covers the universe of Japanese chivalry, and the theme of revenge inevitably reminds of the second. But when the aforementioned titles reflect the current trends of major video game makers with their free cameras on the backs of avatars, Trek to Yomi suggests a return to the canons of the production of the end of the last century. Fixed camera angles and infrequent movements pre-calculated according to our position on the screen: the title directly echoes the first one resident Evil Where Silent Hill. The heart of the game, the confrontation with the katana, belongs to the first Prince of Persia with the systematic adoption of a forced 2D perspective whenever Hiroki encounters intruders.

Simple in theory due to the fixed horizontal axis, the saber combat system nevertheless requires composure and careful study of enemy attacks. The player will have to demonstrate a certain sense of timing, dodging, parrying and countering. Because here death comes in a few seconds and the same number of cuts. While our progress allows us to unlock devastating chains and executions, the emergence of increasingly tough attackers equipped with state-of-the-art weaponry requires patience and tactical acumen to complete this half-dozen-hour journey.

Kurosawa and Shinto

But precisely because of his ornamental work Trek to Yomi immediately impressive. Passionate about Japanese culture, Italian creative director Leonard Menchiari has recreated the cinematography, pacing and atmosphere of post-war Japan’s best chanbara films with an obsessive (even morbid) mania, even in black and white. mono soundtrack.

Taking Hickory into your own hands is initially equivalent to controlling the fate of a distant relative of the militant and mythical ronin, embodied by Toshiro Mifune in Yojimbo and Sanjuro Akira Kurosawa. Before your surgery, take a turn to the fantastic by entering Yomi, the land of the dead in Japanese Shinto mythology. This journey into the afterlife shines with its unsettling strangeness and… the didactics of Japanese cosmogony elegantly integrated into a narrative that has not been without another myth, the myth of Orpheus. And Trek to Yomi emphasizes in its own way that it is cultural bridges that build great eternal histories…

R Trek to Yomi, Leonard Menchiari/Flying Wild Hog/Devolver Digital. Released May 5, 2022 on PC, PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series, Xbox One (included with Xbox Game Pass Ultimate).