Hi, you should read this

Every once in a while, I have the chance to put together a story that makes it all worthwhile. This time around, it’s a huge retrospective on the Umihara Kawase series. This isn’t much in the way of a gameplay description or level breakdown, though; instead, it’s based on a lengthy interview with the series’ creator (Kiyoshi Sakai) and focuses on the inspiration for the series, its development, and its place in the Japanese games industry. As a small bonus, it represents (so far as I’ve been able to find) the only English-language conversation with Sakai that’s ever been published.

I met long-time game dev heroes at Tokyo Game Show this year — Yasumi Matsuno, for one, and Hideo Kojima — but my meeting with Sakai was actually the one I was most excited and anxious about. I think it turned out well. Now we just have to wait for the mystery U.S.-based publisher who picked up Sayonara Umihara Kawase to announce a release date.

Other random tidbits not included in the article: Sakai was unaware until we spoke that his games have a small but enthusiastic group of fans overseas already; and while he was aware of the Game Center CX episode about Umihara Kawase, he had no idea that the Akihabara Super Potato retro game shop uses drawings of Yumi as “shelf talkers” to promote interesting games.

I’m sure this article will only be read by a few thousand people at most, and that the traffic doesn’t at all justify the time I sank into putting it together. That’s bad business. But, you know, every once in a while I just have to write an article for my own benefit. Hopefully a few others out there get something out of it as well.

7 thoughts on “Hi, you should read this

  1. Excellent article and interview. I really hope you get more chances to meet with older creators. Especially as they are becoming less fearful to discuss their projects from the past.

    I’m curious about his comment ” I’m good at making complex game systems”. Do you think he was commenting on his programming and math prowess? Or is he equating his physics engine to a game mechanic? Or something else?

    Also good to hear some love for Roc’n Rope. That one sticks with me too.

  2. Sounds like a good article. I’m glad that you have the chance to express yourself creatively from time to time; makes for a happier workplace.

  3. Great work!

    I discovered the Umihara series around 10 years, and I was fairly obsessed with it for a while. I even wrote a review of the first two games for a gaming mag (that unfortunately went defunct after two issues). But that was well before the GDRI, game historians, etc. were documenting who developed obscure Japanese games, so I was left wondering who/what was behind the games.

    This definitely confirms my suspicions that it was primarily one person’s vision, and that it was a labor of love. I also like that he mentions DK and Roc’n Rope as inspirations. Makes sense, since Umihara has more in common with single screen platformers than linear 2D Mario-style action games.

  4. Really the only thing I know about this game is that it’s invariably expensive when I find it in Japanese game shops.

  5. Page views or not, I seriously cannot think of anything I’d rather see than people seriously talking to people nobody ever bothers to interview about incredibly novel games.

  6. I’ve never played any of the games in this series, but after reading your article I want to give it a try. Your recommendations rarely disappoint. I ignored the Castlevania series after playing Simon’s Quest as a child and Retronauts inspired me to go back and play all the other games. Now it’s one of my favorite series. I picked up the Klonoa remake for Wii on your recommendation and loved it. Maybe the same can happen for Umihara Kuwase. Keep up the great work!

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