Sayonara Umihara Kawase Plus Review

Umihara

 

Title: Sayonara Umihara Kawase +
Developer: Agatsuma Entertainment
Game Type: PlayStation Vita
Download: 433 MB
NA Availability: 
Digital Download

EU Availability: Digital Download (Starting April 30, 2015)
PSTV Support: Yes

Puzzle Platformer games have been around in the game industry for a long time.  Games that use puzzle elements as well as platform elements to give you stages or areas to go through in very specific ways.  They are games that have the very platforms and progression to get from one side to the other as a puzzle for you to look at and think on in order to get to the next stage.

I have reviewed a few titles like this on the site, and some very recently.  Games like Nihilumbra and Element4l are puzzle platform games.  You could also argue that games like The Firefly Diary are also in this genre.  However, this genre isn’t new.  It is actually quite old, going all the way back to the Super Famicom and older.

One such franchise of this genre is called Umihara Kawase.  This was a Japan-only franchise about a young girl with a fishing pole in a world full of platforms and mutated fish monsters.  The original game got a sequel on the PlayStation and a third game on the 3DS, which recently made it over to the West called Sayonara Umihara Kawase.  Now, on the PlayStation Vita and PlayStation TV, that game has been re-done and bundled with the original game for the first time in the West.  Here is my official review of Sayonara Umihara Kawase +

Story

The story of the series stars a young Japanese schoolgirl named Kawase Umihara.  In her travels, this young girl has become lost in a strange world full of mutated fish monsters.  She then goes on a journey to move through this world, catching these monsters with a fishing pole and collecting backpacks laying around the world.

The story of the series may as well not exist.  The game shows no stories as you play through the game and it also doesn’t show it in any of the menus.  Not even the in-game manual talks about the plot of the series.  You’re just a schoolgirl in a fish world armed with a grappling fishing pole.  Unless you research the game online, you won’t know there even is a story.

Gameplay

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Like the previous games in the series, Sayonara Umihara Kawase is a side-scrolling puzzle platform game.  As you go through each stage, you will be jumping, grappling, and swinging around areas to reach doors to the next area.  There are also some mild combat elements involved when you encounter enemies and bosses.  All in all, though, it’s a puzzle platform game.

The thing to note at first is how different this Plus version of the game is compared to the 3DS version of Sayonara Umihara Kawase.  The PS Vita release sports 10 new stages and an increase in performance to run at 60 frames per second.  The biggest addition, however, is that this version of the game is bundled with the original Super Famicom game, which has never released in the West before, allowing this game to be two games in one.

When you play the game, you will traverse in various stages as one of the 4 playable characters.  Your main goal will be to reach a door, which will allow you to proceed to unlocking the next stage.  To get there, however, you must defeat enemies, collect backpacks, and use your grappling fishing rod to get you from one area to another.

The rope physics have always been the aspect that makes this series unique.  Most platforms cannot simply be jumped to.  While some can be jumped to and can be jumped to climb on top of, many of them do not.  For this, you have to launch and grapple your fishing rod onto walls to pull yourself or swing yourself over to that area.

The rope physics have a few things in play.  Various lengths will move you in different ways, so you have to experiment around until you find the right kind of length and angles for certain situations.  The game does instruct and clue you into how to do this in earlier stages, but you have to figure things out for yourself further into the game.  Every stage is a new physics puzzle from getting from one another to the other.  You also use your rope to stun and collect enemies.

One thing to note about is the difficulty.  Since the original game released, the gameplay and progression haven’t really changed that much.  One hit from an enemy will kill you and force you to restart the stage from the beginning.  While none of the stages last a particularly long time, it can be frustrating to be right at the end of a stage to accidentally graze an enemy and have to restart.  It was like that in the original game and it’s like that in this game.

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The original game plays in the same way as the new game.  However, when you play the original, the pacing is a lot different.  The movements of you, the enemies, and overall pacing is a lot faster.  Because of this, you can run through stages quicker but also need to be more on-your-toes than in the base game.

All in all, the game can be long or short, depending on what you do.  If you go into the game, you can do stages and reach the end credits for the “story” in as little as 20 or 30 minutes after only about 10 stages.  However, the game encourages you to find hidden doors, and that is how you open up new paths to unlock all 60 stages.  The game can easily last several hours past the 60 stages of the base game and 55 stages of the original game.

Controls

The controls for this game aren’t incredibly hard to get used to, though the way the configuration is set up is not optimal for use on the PS Vita.  First of all, you don’t need to worry about touch controls.  The controls are set for physical controls.  There are no touch controls for the game’s stages.

The control scheme has a few different setups.  There is the new scheme as well as a scheme to match controls from the original game.  You will be using the D-Pad and Left Analog Stick to move as well as aiming your fishing line.  However, this is not set up optimal from the get-go.  The Left Stick is a lot easier to set up angled shots, but it’s disabled and must be enabled by going into the Settings Menu.  Another noteworthy thing is that there is an option to quickly retry a stage, which isn’t set to anything by default.

You can jump with the X button and launch your fishing line with the Square and R buttons.  The L button can be used to freeze time to give you a moment to think about what to do next.  All in all, the controls are pretty easy to figure out.  They’re just not set to their optimal settings from the get-go.

Presentation

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The visual presentation of the game is the same as the presentation was on the Nintendo 3DS.  The environments, character models, and enemy models look decent, but don’t look great.  There are a lot of jagged edges to be seen on the models.  On the other side, the original game looks the same as it did when it first released.  There are a few jagged edges here and there, but it overall looks better, in my opinion, than the 3D models in the base game.

Performance, however, runs very well.  As the game is advertised, the frame-rate is really solid and never slows down, be it in the original game or the base game.  There are some higher load times than the original game, but it’s nothing to get frustrated at.  The game plays very well, overall.

Summary

Sayonara Umihara Kawase + is a puzzle platform game that is faithful to the series it comes from.  On the downside, the visual presentation is full of jagged edges, the controls are not set to their optimal settings by default, and there is no story to be seen in the game.  Outside of this is a unique puzzle game and the addition of the original game is a nice improvement over the 3DS release. 

7/10

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