Sea fish are fat in the belly: Sayonara, Umihara Kawase


According to the Internet, relaying a blurb from Weekly Famitsu, Umihara Kawase will be receiving a sequel for 3DS later this year.

This, of course, is the best news.

Umihara Kawase has long been one of the video games for which I tiresomely beat the drum of personal obsession. If you boil things down to their utter basics, my favorite game of all time just might be Bionic Commando for NES for the way it so cleverly reworked the budding platformer genre, turning the format sideways by maintaining its fundamentals but forcing players to learn a completely new skill set to succeed. Umihara Kawase, in turn, is basically Bionic Commando’s expert mode.

Umihara Kawase (J)_00000

Umihara throws out all the supplemental mechanics of Bionic Commando — the story, the gear, the level map, the rudimentary leveling system — in favor of pure platforming. Its stripped-down visual style and minimalist presentation exist entirely in service of gameplay purity: Climbing and grappling with an elastic wire.

The complex physics of Umihara‘s “rubbering” grapple are something I’ve yet to master, admittedly. But they’re amazing — the physics were so complex that the game often suffered slowdown on Super Famicom because of math. The game received a sequel and expansion on PlayStation, the latter of which is stupidly expensive. The whole series was compiled into PSP, where it was a glitchy mess, and again onto DS, which version seems pretty solid.

I’m eager to see what the new entry is like. Umihara is one of those games you don’t see often anymore — seemingly simple and whimsical on the surface, but harsh and demanding underneath its frivolous superficial aspects. Like Parodius, it only seems lovable and surreal with its clip art backgrounds and semi-realistic ambulatory fish. But deep inside, it wants to hurt you.

I just worry it’ll be surrounded by too much smut in the marketing as so often happens to niche games in the Japanese market these days. The character designer already put together some fairly risqué images of the heroine, and most of the fan art existing for the game online depicts her in less than family-friendly situations. I’d hate for that pandery crap to scuttle its respectability… but as long as the game itself holds up, we must soldier on. Please petition the White House for its localization now!

9 thoughts on “Sea fish are fat in the belly: Sayonara, Umihara Kawase

  1. I’m hoping too that it gets localized since the 3DS sadly is region locked. Besides, it shouldn’t be too taxing for localizers. I only ever played the DS version and absolutely loved it. And I’ve initially come to know this series thanks to your “drumbeat” Mr. Parish. So thank you.

    Additionally, if you can’t wait for the 3DS game, you can get the ps1 version through the Japanese PSN store.

  2. Ah yes, Umihara Kawase. There’s nothing more satisfying than to reel your way to a platform off the beaten path and take a warp door to a later stage. I don’t know what they were thinking when they added bosses, though… this game is SO not designed for them.

  3. That last paragraph is why I hope Compile never makes a new Guardian Legend game. Given everything else they put out these days, they’ll do the very same to Miria if she ever returns.

  4. “I’d hate for that pandery crap to scuttle its respectability… but as long as the game itself holds up, we must soldier on.”

    Mr. Parish, I must ask, what do you consider too pandery? What is the cut-off point where you just walk away, no matter how good everything else might be? You are a huge Etrian Odyssey fan, and that series is notorious for it’s loli character designs, yet you and many others on this forum (including me) put up with it because the actual game itself is so compelling. Is there ever a game/show/comic where the pandering was so noxious that you couldn’t feel right buying it?

  5. The uncomfortable character designs in Etrian Odyssey are few and far between, and — more importantly — they’re both optional and NOT presented as key art for the series. Atlus always puts one of the modestly clad girls forward as a mascot for each entry (Landsknecht 1 for EO4, Gunner 1 for EO2, etc.) and generally populates publicity art with a mix of character designs, which (so far as I can remember) never includes the mostly naked preteens.

    Compare that to a lot of other games which are promoted with phone cards and digital promo art of its characters in compromising situation. Funny you should mention Etrian Odyssey, because a game by series original creator Kazuya Niinou, Criminal Girls, definitely crossed that line. It looked like a solid RPG, but it was promoted by hypersexualized young girls and had minigames that involved spanking them. That crap does NOT fly.

    I’m a little nervous to hear Sayonara will feature unlockable costumes and let you play as young and old versions of Umi. So much potential for grossness.

  6. From what I remembered of playing Umihara Kawase it has no japanese story/dialogue to speak of if i remember correctly.
    If the 3DS version is like that, than this sounds like an ideal XSEED eShop release, amiright?

    I mean we got the distinctly average Unchained Blades and the randomness that comprised the majority of the Guild 01 game…

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