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Umihara Kawase

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Umihara Kawase (海腹川背?) is a series of platform games, starring a nineteen year old Japanese school girl of the same name, who has somehow become lost in a world of mutated salt-water and fresh-water creatures. She wears her school uniform along with a bright pink rucksack.

The Umihara Kawase games' main distinction is their tranquil fish and bird infested worlds and the rope physics, which defines the gameplay.

The name is written as four kanji characters: umi, hara, kawa, se meaning sea, belly, river, back. This is an extraction from a Japanese kitchen idiom "Sea fish are fat in the belly; river fish are fat in the back.". Shun means "in season".

The protagonist was first seen in the eponymous Super Famicom release of 1994 and later the sequel and re-release of Umihara Kawase Syun (海腹川背・旬 Umihara Kawase Shun) for the PlayStation in 1997 and 2000.

Development

The game was an independent collaboration between developer Kiyoshi Sakai, illustrator Toshinobu Kondo, and several others.[1] It was released under the label TNN, "Think about Needs of Notice for human being".

Gameplay

The game world of Umihara Kawase is constructed from a set of interconnected levels known as fields. Each field connects to one or more fields deeper within the game via doors.

Fields are enclosed areas containing a number of static and moving platforms, ladders, spikes, enemy sea-life and one or more exit doors. The doors are often positioned in hard to reach places and it is the player's goal to plan a safe route to one. Each exit door in a field takes the player to a different field.

One completes the game by finding a safe route through the fields and finding a door to exit the world. Each of the Umihara Kawase games contains multiple routes through the fields and multiple exits.

The Umihara Kawase games have simple controls, she is able to run, jump, climb onto ledges, climb ladders and most importantly throw her fishing line.

Her fishing line when thrown will hook onto nearly all surfaces within the games. When the line is firmly hooked onto a surface or an enemy fish the line is able to take her weight. From here Umihara is able to swing between platforms, lower herself down to other ledges and swing herself up to higher ledges. Due to the flexible nature of her line she can also catapult herself great distances by stretching the line to breaking point. The line can also be used to stun fish and reel them in, once reeled in Umihara will store them in her rucksack and score points in doing so.

While the controls are simple and responsive, an uncompromising physics model means that graceful control of the game's swinging techniques will not come immediately. Out of this, though, comes great scope for advanced techniques through full utilization of the physics. Perfect execution of techniques such as the one- and two-step rocket jump are required both in later fields and for those who intend to improve their field completion times.

The games contain 1ups in the shape of Umihara's pink rucksack but no other collectibles are present.

Umihara Kawase

Umihara Kawase contains a total of 49 fields of which four are exit fields and six are boss fields. The game makes good use of the SFC's colour palette for digitized photographic backgrounds. The rope physics sometimes strain the Super Famicom's CPU, leading to slowdown, but this is rare. The game permits saving speedruns, establishing such play as a principle feature of the series.

Umihara Kawase Shun

The move to a 3D side-on game world with the PlayStation launch of Shun opened up the fields to more complex layouts using a great deal of angled and jutting blocks. The move to a 3D game world was not universally welcomed, however, as it decreases the ease with which the player can identify the exact point in space where platforms begin and end. Slightly adjusted line physics (the rope is shorter, but more elastic and springy), along with no presence of slowdown, are the other main notable changes from its predecessor.

Umihara Kawase Shun - second edition, Maruan series #1

The second edition was launched almost three years after Shun at a lower price as part of the Maruan series and contains some notable changes. This release contains five additional fields taking the total to fifty five. The game's cut-scenes have been removed however, due to the removal of all Mitchell branding.

Additional Fields

The defunct Japanese magazine TECH PlayStation Extra contained 3 new fields in each of its June, July and August 1997 issues' demo discs, along with guides to complete them.

Umihara Kawase Portable

Although based almost entirely on the level design and visual aesthetic of the Shun games, Umihara Kawase Portable nevertheless disappointed fans[2] and critics[3] alike on release, due to a bug-ridden physics engine, which differed in crucial aspects to its predecessors. Further criticism was levelled at the new visual perspective, which sometimes interfered with play. On July 14, 2008, it was announced that the game would be coming to U.S. under the title Yumi's Odd Odyssey.[4] As of September 2009, it has not been released.

Umihara Kawase Portable was not developed by Super Famicom and PS version developer, Kiyoshi Sakai, instead being developed by Rocket Studio. Many Japanese fans felt anxious about Umihara Kawase Portable prior to release, and were disappointed and angry afterwards.[5] Accordingly, they protested Marvelous Entertainment sales agency and Motion Bank, and staged a boycott.[6]

Umihara Kawase DS

The DS port of Umihara Kawase was released on October 29, 2009. Both the SFC and PlayStation games are present, along with some extra levels, and wireless exchange of data is also supported.[7] The development of the port was overseen by original designer/programmer Sakai Kiyoshi, with additional artwork from Kondou Toshinobu.[8] The DS port has been far better received by fans of the series than the PSP port, as it is much more faithful conversion.[9]

Additional Media

  • Umihara Kawase Super Famicom promotional poster
  • Umihara Kawase Super Famicom phonecard.
  • Umihara Kawase Hyper Technique guidebook (ISBN 4-7962-0273-0. Publication: 29 March 1995).
  • Stray Sheep Volume 5 - Happy Angel (Toshinobu Kondo Personal Works). This edition of the Japanese illustration magazine contains works by Toshinobu Kondo, many of which are of Umihara Kawase (cover included).
  • Umihara Kawase Syun second edition phone cards.
  • Umihara Kawase Syun Capture Guidebook (ISBN 4-900700-37-1. Publisher: T2 Publishing Co. Ltd. Publication: March 31, 1997). Full colour guide book includes gameplay basics, enemies, field maps with routes and "Toshinobu Kondo presents" artwork section.
  • Umihara Kawase Syun Perfect Guide Book (ISBN 4-88199-337-2. Publisher: Shinseisha. Publication: March 1997). Full colour three part techniques section, monochrome field maps and guide.
  • TECH PlayStation Extra CD-ROM magazine. The June, July and August 1997 issues (SLPM-80100, SLPM-80108, and SLPM-80117) of this Japanese publication contain 3 new fields each along with information on techniques required to complete them.

References

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