As a fan of older Japanese samurai movies, I was seriously smitten with Ghost of Tsushima’s ‘Kurosawa’ mode, that allowed the player to apply a filter on the screen that resembled the black and white art style, made famous by the Japanese filmmaker Akira Kurosawa, from which the mode gets its name.
Kurosawa was a pioneer of Japanese film making. He pioneered the style after spending time as a painter before transitioning his palette skill onto the big screen as an assistant director at first, then going on to direct stand out movies such as Seven Samurai and Yojimbo, both still considered today as some of the most influential films of all time. Kurosawa was famed for using the ‘Wipe’ transition between scenes, something that would be used by many films that followed. What stood out most about Kurosawa’s techniques was his use of black and white film and the music and sound effects he chose for each scene. He used something called ‘image-sound counterpoint’ in which the music or sound effects appeared to comment ironically on the scene rather than dramatising it. This could be as a simple as a Japanese harp being used to emphasise the raindrops in a single scene or a sudden, sharp single note as the scene cuts to a character’s face close up.
You’re probably wondering at this point, why is this piece called ‘Don’t sleep on this game’ when I’ve only mentioned a different game which is most likely one everyone has played. Well, I’m getting to that. Be patient. Only joking, the reason I’ve just delved into Japanese cinema history is because recently I’ve been playing a game published by Devolver Digital called Trek to Yomi. Without any hesitation, I can say it’s one of the most jaw dropping games I’ve played in quite some time. The most shocking part of that sentence? The entire game is in black and white. Absolutely no colour whatsoever. I will mention though, turn off the naff film grain option. It’s not film grain, it’s just distortion and you don’t need it. Despite this, it has some of the most gorgeous visuals I’ve ever had the pleasure of witnessing.
That’s exactly what I felt as I played it four to six hour story. Witnessing a beautifully put together story of Hikori on a journey through love, loss and revenge. I refuse to give any more story details as this game delivers the story perfectly and the pacing is totally in the players control. Sure, you can skip dialogue and just blast through levels, but I implore you not to do so. What appeals to me so much about this game is not just how good it looks, but WHY it looks so good. That’s down to the black and white Kurosawa art style.
Pretty chuffed with that segue. The Kurosawa style, in my opinion, is done so much better in Trek to Yomi than what’s delivered in Ghost of Tsushima. I’m not saying that mode wasn’t good, it was brilliant, but because Trek to Yomi is a side scroller it encapsulates the dramatic side on camera angles that Kurosawa movies used during duels and times when the background was more important than the foreground.
This game nails it for me. The soundtrack is perfect and the sound effects work on every occasion. For me, Trek to Yomi is not just a beautiful game, it’s a beautiful piece of art. Let me know in the comments if you have played Trek to Yomi. If not you should definitely as it’s free with Xbox Game Pass!