Before becoming an artist for Invision I had never played a real “Japanese” game. You all know what I mean, a game which disguises itself as a meaningful, deep, action packed RPG, hack n slash adventure that when stripped back (literally) you’ll find inside a cowering female adolescent wearing barely anything. So since my arrival I’ve jumped at the chance to review these games, not because I’m a perv (not a massive one anyway), but because I was incredibly intrigued about how needlessly sexy games need to be to appeal to the male market. The few I’ve had the chance to play have actually been good fun, Senran Kagura for example is one of the best Vita games I’ve ever played, so when a game fronted by a big bosomed girl handling a floppy rod in her hands I thought “Phwoar this looks great” … turns out it’s just a boring game about fishing.
Sayonara UmiharaKawase+ is the latest instalment of the 2D platforming Umihara Kawase franchise which began its life over 2 decades ago on the ole SNES. The game features a 19 year old girl (Kawase) who is lost in a world of mutated fish and salt water monsters. Using her trusty fishing rod, she ‘scales’ these terrifying fish infested realms in hopes of getting home, though the game doesn’t tell you this one can only assume it’s the reason she’s doing it. The main focus for the game is its ‘rope physics’ which promise to be unparalleled in any other game on the market, which surprisingly is the only bouncy part of Kawase’s arsenal. The aim of the game is to guide the schoolgirl to the level’s exit whilst avoiding the dangerous walking fish that roam the map and trying not to drown yourself in the perilous waters below. Using your fishing rod, you’ll find yourself swinging, hooking and pulling yourself across the field to complete each chapter and narrowly dodging death. With the franchise’s original Umihara game also available to play from the start it sounds like it could be fun, but 10 minutes in I want to rap that fishing line around my neck.
I don’t mean to sound brutal, but Sayonara UmiharaKawase+ is a game that just doesn’t need to exist. As soon as the game was fired up I’m taken to a basic menu screen that does nothing to entice me into playing so I’m surprised I even got to sample the game. From the get go the game is an incredibly slow and gruelling task that isn’t helped by its lifeless opening levels and tutorials. Within the past 12-24 months we’ve seen some remarkable looking handheld and mobile games hit the market, and it still bewilders me to find that in 2015 studios still churn out poor looking games. Knowing full well that visuals aren’t everything, I do know that there is a level of decency that needs to be applied here and calling it ‘retro’ for me isn’t enough to let it just slide. There isn’t a lot to look at in each level, a few ladders here and there, fish, street signs, loads of water, so you can understand my annoyance that all of these look crap and do nothing to enhance my playing experience. Adding to the game’s poor visuals, there is no encouraging push to keep you playing, you just complete each level in a really anticlimactic fashion only to start the next one in a just as boring way. Granted it’s supposed to be a ‘retro’ game and in the ole days it wasn’t about flashy presentation, but come on, at least update it a little for today’s gamers.
Amidst the negativity, Sayonara UmiharaKawase+ is, believe it or not, challenging without making you feel as frustrated as you may initially think. Sure it may not be invigorating enough to keep my attention up all the way through but despite its simple look it can be a rather difficult game to breeze through, especially seeing as it took me over a dozen attempts to complete level 4. What it may lack in presentation and appeal, the game does provide a decent level of difficulty that did catch me off guard rather quickly, and in turn it captivated me a little to keep going; I may have been bored playing the game but I wasn’t going to be beaten by it. This re-release also features the original SNES version of the game which almost sent me into cardiac arrest at how much better it is then the latter release. Umihara Kawase, though over 20 years old, is a much faster, more difficult and overall much more fun game to play than its successor that finally gives the game value. I found myself playing this version a hell of a lot more than the latest instalment, which honestly isn’t a good sign of where the future lies for the series.
Overall Sayonara UmiharaKawase+ is a rather unremarkable and disappointing release for the Playstation Vita. Everything about the game’s visuals, sounds and gameplay are poor and though it may have once been a popular franchise, you can’t help but feel that it has no place in this generation of gaming. With a very tedious, repetitive yet nicely challenging campaign to play through, you can’t blame yourself for struggling to keep your eyes open for longer than a few levels at a time; if you stick with the game’s difficulty you will eventually get some enjoyment out of it. Umihara Kawase maintains everything from the Super Nintendo port and makes for a much more fun and puzzling play experience that sadly cannot be mimicked 2 decades later. It’s this glimpse into the past that makes a once promising platforming franchise look more like a one hit wonder. Sayonara UmiharaKawase + isn’t what I hoped it would be and it well and truly had me hook, line and sinker.
Disclaimer:All scores given within our reviews are based on the artist’s personal opinion; this should in no way impede your decision to purchase the game.