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 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 Shun (海腹川背・旬 Umihara Kawase Shun) for the PlayStation in 1997 and 2000.
The game was an independent collaboration between developer Kiyoshi Sakai, illustrator Toshinobu Kondo, and several others. It was published by TNN, "Think about Needs of Notice for human being".
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, and the goal is to find a safe route through the fields and arrive at a final exit door (at which point the credits scroll and the game is over). Each of the Umihara Kawase games contains multiple routes through the fields and multiple final exits. Using shortcuts and optimised door routes can allow the game to be completed within minutes in the hands of a skilled player; however, enjoyment of the game typically lies not in merely making it to the first or easiest final exit door, but in exploring the game's many routes and mastering the challenging rope physics.
The Umihara Kawase games have simple controls. The protagonist is able to run, jump, climb onto ledges, climb ladders and, crucially, throw her fishing line. When thrown, the fishing line 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, and 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 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
|Umihara Kawase Shun|
|File:Umihara Kawase Shun Coverart.png
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 replaced with scrollable, static art of the protagonist, however, due to the removal of all Mitchell branding. The defunct Japanese magazine TECH PlayStation Extra contained three new fields in each of its June, July and August 1997 issues' demo discs, along with guides to complete them.
Umihara Kawase Portable
|Umihara Kawase Portable|
|Publisher(s)||Motion bank/Marvelous Entertainment|
Although another re-release of Shun, Umihara Kawase Portable nevertheless disappointed fans and critics alike on release, due to a bug-ridden physics engine, which differed in crucial aspects to its predecessors. Further criticism was leveled 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, however, this release never came about. It would have been the first Umihara Kawase game to have been released outside of Asia.
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. Accordingly, they protested Marvelous Entertainment sales agency and Motion Bank, and staged a boycott.
Umihara Kawase Shun ~second edition~ Kanzenban
|Umihara Kawase Shun ~second edition~ Kanzenban|
|Media/distribution||Nintendo DS Game Card|
A DS Umihara Kawase compilation 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. The development of the port was overseen by original designer/programmer Sakai Kiyoshi, with additional artwork from Kondou Toshinobu. The DS port has been far better received by fans of the series than the PSP port, as it is a much more faithful conversion.
Sayonara Umihara Kawase
|Sayonara Umihara Kawase|
|Media/distribution||Nintendo 3DS Game Card|
A third game in the series was announced in March 2013, likely a response to the more successful DS release of the first two games. The original staff is confirmed to be involved in all aspects of development. The game will include a cast of playable characters including a younger Umihara Kawase, her 20-year old self, her future descendant named Yokoyama who can affect time, and her childhood friend Emiko who can restart a level. The gameplay will be similar to past games with a few tweaks. It has been set for a Summer 2013 release.
The game is also planned to be released outside of Asia; it will be the first game in the series to do so.
- 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 Shun ~second edition~ phone cards.
- Umihara Kawase Shun 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 Shun 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.
- Forum thread discussing Umihara Kawase Portable
- 1up review of the game
- Yumi's Odyssey announcement
- Umihara Kawase Portable Yobo Matome wiki Problems page (Japanese)
- Umihara Kawase Portable Yobo Matome wiki (Japanese)
- Umihara Kawase DS (Japanese)
- details on the game
- Japanese fan site
- Hyper Education -Umihara Kawase SHUN A Japanese site providing field by field howtos for Umihara Kawase Shun.
- Twin Dreams - Umihara Kawase Shun A review of Shun.
- Umihara Kawase game review Alan Kwan's Umihara Kawase page.
- Umihara Kawase Shun PlayStation.jp product page.
- Umihara Kawase Shun second edition PlayStation.jp product page.
- Umihara Kawase at Tasvideos.org - A site containing detailed info on Umihara Kawase's inner workings, maps, and Tool Assisted Speedruns.
- Umihara Kawase Runs Game play videos showing paths through every level to every exit.
- UmiharaKawaseTube Gameplay videos showing various tricks and glitches.
- Umihara Kawase Portable Yobo Matome wiki Report on Umihara Kawase Portable's bugs and corruption page.
- Umihara Kawase Instruction manual (Super Famicom) at Giant Bomb
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