Review: Sayonara UmiharaKawase + (PSV)

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Extras:

  • PlayStation TV Compatible Yes
Title: Sayonara UmiharaKawase +
Format: PlayStation Network Download (394 MB)
Release Date: April 21, 2015
Publisher: Agatsuma Entertainment
Developer: Agatsuma Entertainment
Original MSRP: $19.99
ESRB Rating: E
Sayonara UmiharaKawase + is also available on Nintendo 3DS.
The PlayStation Vita download version was used for this review.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

Gameplay:
Sayonara UmiharaKawase + is a port of the 3DS title Sayonara Umihara Kawase (localized as Yumi’s Odd Odyssey in North America). This port contains ten extra levels over the 3DS title and also adds in a bundled version of the original Super Famicom game, Umihara Kawase, making this the first time that game has been released in English if I’m not mistaken. Sayonara UmiharaKawase + is about Umihara Kawase, a sushi chef who finds herself in some strange world of mutated fish. With only a fishing line and hook, Umihara must try to escape the odd nightmare land.

The game is, for the most part, a fairly traditional 2D platforming game. Umihara must run and jump between various platforms searching for the door to the next level. However, the franchise adds one big wrinkle into the plat-formula: Umihara’s fishing line. Umihara can throw her fishing line out and the hook will grab most surfaces like a grappling hook. However, unlike the grappling hook in most games, Umihara’s line acts more like a bungee cord. Umihara also has a very limited ability to stop time but this mechanic isn’t nearly as important as the fishing line.

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The added bounciness gives the fishing line a variety of extra uses. In the hands of a skilled player, Umihara can use her line to slingshot herself over a pit or gain a ton of speed in addition to the normal hook uses. In the hands of a less skilled player like myself, however, Umihara just gets her bass handed to her. This is because the game’s physics engine can be difficult to learn. Even after passing three quarters of the game’s sixty stages, I felt like I was overcoming challenging stages more through brute force rather than the grace I could see in some of the YouTube videos of the game.

… the game’s difficulty level is very inconsistent …
When I say “challenging stages,” I really mean it. I found many stages in the game to be very difficult. Some of them for requiring me to use a technique I hadn’t fully understood, others for simply requiring exceptional precision. Fortunately, the stages are pretty short so usually when I managed to overcome a challenging section of a stage, I could then complete it. On the downside though, the game locks out the “quick restart” button until after that stage has been passed. Before that, the game will kick the player back to the stage menu and require loading again for each attempt.

The stages in the game are very open, which was something I liked. Many seemed like they had an easier route and a faster but harder route (good for speedruns). On top of that, many have a second door in them which lead to alternate stages. The game has a variety of different routes and five different “endings,” which was nice for the challenge. If I felt like I was getting stuck on one stage, I could go play some different levels or search previously played levels for alternate exits.

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On the downside, the web-like array of stages means the game’s difficulty level is very inconsistent. One level could take me a dozen attempts and then the next two levels I might pass in a single try. Even the stage numbers didn’t seem to give a clear indication of that stage’s difficulty. A clearer progression might have made it easier to learn the game’s physics. Another place the game flounders is boss stages. These come at the end of the game’s five routes and they felt a bit out of place to me.

… fish with legs or giant frogs …
I mentioned speedrunning and that clearly seems to be a focus in the game. Each stage tracks its individual record time and any stage attempt, successful or not, can be saved as a replay. There’s also a Survival Mode which starts the player at the first stage with a set number of lives. In this mode, the game’s optional collectables, the backpacks, become extra lives. A pair of Umihara’s friends can also be played in the game, both with a special ability.

I also played a bit of the Super Famicom version of the game. Despite one game having 2D graphics and the other 3D, the two are very similar, even down to the enemies and their attacks. Surprisingly though, I felt like the Super Famicom version has more approachable physics than the new game. However the older game only has Survival Mode. The Practice Mode in that game can’t be used to progress to new stages.

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Visuals:
Despite the 2D gameplay, Sayonara UmiharaKawase + has a 3D visual style. The style in the game is very strong as the game has very unique and interesting visuals. The stages feature a lot of everyday items such as erasers or classroom desks, but meshed into the level design in odd ways. This gives the game a dream-like feeling. The enemies are equally strange, most of them being based off fish or other water animals but with mutations: fish with legs or giant frogs.

… The fishing line is an alluring mechanic …
While the game is solid on style, the actual graphics are a clear indication of a 3DS port. The models and levels look a little fuzzy, like they were meant for the lower resolution of the 3DS. Some aspects of the stages also stick out in front of the actual playing platforms, which might work better when viewing the game in 3D but on the 2D screen of the Vita, they only obscure some of the game.

The original Umihara Kawase maintains the 2D graphics from the Super Famicom and are similarly stylistic with the enemies. The environments are not quite as dreamlike as the newer game, perhaps because of limitations of the original hardware. Still, despite their age the original game makes the jump quite well and looks good on the Vita‘s screen.

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Audio:
The soundtrack in the game is pretty decent. The music is very upbeat and happy, perhaps to counteract some of the difficult stages. There aren’t very many different tracks in the game though, so despite enjoying the music to at first, I became less enthralled with the songs as I listened to them over and over again. It never got to the point where I stopped caring for the music all together though.

Online/Multiplayer:
The only online feature in the game is the ability to view a leaderboard of the fastest times for each stage and share replays.

Conclusion:
Sayonara UmiharaKawase + is a good game. The fishing line is an alluring mechanic for a platforming game like this and it has plenty of enjoyable and interesting stages. That mechanic alone managed to hook me, even for the stages that were not as fun. The odd difficulty curve, or at least lack of progression, is one of the biggest failings that keeps it from being a great game though. Still, those looking for some challenging platforming or a skill-testing speedrun game on the Vita might want to give this game a look. And coming as a package deal with the original Umihara Kawase just adds that bit of extra value.

Score:
7.0

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Vita’s built in screen capture feature.

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