Born from the mind of Leonard Menchiari, a passionate developer of auteur cinema in the mid-20th century, Trek to Yomi was born thanks to the collaboration with Flying Wild Hog and over the last few months he’s managed to impress us with his refined style, clever use of fixed cameras and – quite clearly – the inevitable black-and-white clashes between samurai (as evidenced in our Trek To Yomi review). When the opportunity presented itself to interview him we didn’t hesitate and we think it turned into a very interesting conversation. From meeting his “accomplices“Searched from Devolver Digital to the sources of inspiration behind the project, here’s what we discovered about Hiroki’s journey.
The beginnings of the project
Everyeye.it: A young samurai determined to keep his promise to his lost master in a feudal Japan imbued with a supernatural aura: how was Trek to Yomi born?
Leonard Menchiari: Trek to Yomi was born from a desire to create an immersive interactive experience takes place in 19th century Japan. The idea of being able to experience an adventure in the shoes of a character inspired by the samurai of the time has always fascinated me and that’s also why I decided to carry out this project.
Everyeye.it: Flying Wild Hog is known for Lo Wang’s wacky and gory adventures, but with the Trek to Yomi project she had to create a warrior’s journey to the antipodes of Shadow Warrior’s swordsman. How did you meet them and what did they think of your idea?
Leonard Menchiari: The project grew out of a demo I made with a friend, then I presented the demo to Devolver Digital who liked it a lot and for that reason I was given the choice to continue working alone or to work with a team. The Polish developer collective was an offshoot of Flying Wild Hog, which at the time only made a demo for Devolver called DevolverLand.
When I pitched the idea to them, they were immediately interested in trying something like this because it was new to them. And so, at the beginning of the global pandemic, about 8 months after presenting the project at Devolver, Development has finally started. Completely remote, never meeting anyone in person. I can’t say it was easy, but with a lot of perseverance and dedication, we finally managed to finish the game after about two years.
Inspired by cinema and historical fidelity
Everyeye.it: Japanese history and belief – the presence of “yomi” in the title tells us – are two fundamental elements of the experience: What kind of research has been done to characterize the game world?
Leonard Menchiari: One of the most important aspects of this project is its historical realism. From the style of architecture to the folds of clothing, every single detail has been analyzed by experts to ensure an authentic and accurate experience. For example, one of the challenges was related to the creation of bandits at a time when villains were running low.
The ideology of demons and the concept of spirits from beyond the grave were fundamental to explain this development without deviating from the idea of historical fidelity or the basic concept: a journey into the world of the dead, through the Shinto mythology of the Japanese Edo -Time. .
Even the music written by Yoko Honda, a 12th-century Japanese composer of samurai origin, plays a very important role in this game. Sounds from certain regions of Japan have very different instruments and scales than we are used to in Western culture.
The gagaku was recorded by experts in Tokyo to symbolize the world of the dead, while one of the flutes of a noble samurai family was used to represent the vein of love and lineage in the main story. The whole thing was finally double-checked by Aki Tabei, a historian and expert on ancient Japan, to make sure there weren’t any inconsistencies. The collaboration was very interesting and definitely one of the parts of the project I am most proud of.
Everyeye.it: From the style of the shots to the photographic setting, Trek to Yomi is inspired by mid-20th century genre cinema. Which films influenced you the most? And what solutions did the team choose to bring its aesthetic to the game?
Leonard Menchiari: In the beginning the main idea was to emulate the old silent movies of the 1920s (Buster Keaton, for example), due to the theatrical shots that are almost reminiscent of a limbo or inside-style side-scroller.
However, after some time I realized that the quality would benefit a few decades later and so we concluded that the Japanese cinema of the 50’s and 60’s was perfect for what we wanted to achieve. Yojimbo and Hidden Fortress are two examples of films that we considered and used as reference during development, but animations like Ninja Scroll were just as important in inspiring the team to create a unique and powerful atmosphere.
Between combat and the supernatural
Everyeye.it: During the battle, Hiroki performs a graceful dance of death like a real samurai. Watching the gameplay videos, it’s impossible not to be mesmerized by the spectacularity of his moves: what goals did you want to achieve with the protagonist’s moveset and what challenges did you face to make it happen?
Leonard Menchiari: For the moves of the katana, we did a lot of research for much of the game’s development. My goal was not only to achieve a precise and correct form, but also to bring out the power typical of real samurai combat. In this sense, We saw some recordings of the repertoire on VHS about the old masters and even movies.
This material helped us quite a bit and gave us ideas for real and decent fighting styles for samurai mixed with other more outlandish ones for demons and bandits.
Everyeye.it: In addition to aesthetics and combat, there will be room for the supernatural in the adventure. Can you give us a little foretaste of that?
Leonard Menchiari: In order not to spoil anything, I’d rather not reveal too much information about it. I can assume that the Yomi inspired game will be about the balance of the protagonist through the 4 faces of the Mitama spirits.
As you try the game, you will realize that everything revolves around this concept and that the story will undergo subtle changes based on the choices made.
Everyeye.it: Trek to Yomi is coming to Xbox Game Pass for day one and we saw it recently at the Xbox ID Showcase. How far has the collaboration with Microsoft gone and why the decision to get on the service right away?
Leonard Menchiari: It was actually Microsoft who contacted us. After seeing the first trailer they asked us if we were interested and of course we said yes. However, I believe this game is suitable for all types of platforms and I hope that whoever tries it can enjoy the experience as much as we did during development.