Umihare Kawase is one of Japan’s hidden gems in videogaming. It isn’t anything particularly special at first look. It’s a series of games that involve a swinging mechanic much akin to Bionic Commando, set on the dreamy backdrop of a young girl’s imagination. After years of relative success in many generations of consoles in Japan, the West now has the chance to see what it was all about in a localized version now out on the 3DS, under the name Yumi’s Odd Odyssey.
The main goal of Yumi’s Odd Odyssey is the same as much of the games from the time the series began: get to get top of the stage, all the while avoiding enemies. Even in that limited scope, Yumi manages to draw out a fair amount of depth thanks to its chief gameplay feature of swinging through stages. Unlike the deceptively easy comparison to Bionic Commando‘s platforming style, Yumi‘s locomotion hinges on control of space and distance. While ‘Commando has you aiming for high speed and combat, Odd Odyssey awards your care and confidence with increasingly complex platforming levels.
Controlling your character’s fishing pole is as complex as it sounds. Not only can you control the angle in which you throw it in order to have it affix itself into blocks and obstacles, you are also tasked with measuring how far it can go. There’s also the matter of having to plan out or react to what can happen to pop up in your way as you swing, since your character can just as easily snap the line and fall to her demise. Obstacles do their job incredibly well. The level of challenge in this game is absurd, but ultimately very welcome for anyone remotely interested in good but demanding platforming games like I Wanna Be The Guy and Super Meat Boy. You won’t see any blood in this game, though, but tears might replace it instead.
Still, not all is paramount to reaching the end of a stage. Like its predecessors, Yumi’s Odd Odyssey features a lot of hidden secrets. Some levels can be skipped thanks to level warps, and much like games from the original release’s time, you can complete this game very quickly once you learn all of its nooks. Still, even knowing where a warp is doesn’t exactly guarantee your speedy finish, due to how some warps only take you so far, and the fact that many of them take you to different spots in the game. Level exits aren’t always apparent either and the highest door doesn’t always take you to the next level.
Regardless of which secrets you decide to go for in discovering, the amount of hidden depth in this game is ridiculous. Aside from the long list of stages to snap your way through, there are many collectibles to be found, as well as alternative characters to try out. The cute factor of its relatively simple graphics is deceptive too: while not nearly as pretty as half of the current 3DS catalog, they aren’t ugly either.
While combat isn’t as big of a focus, you’re still required to defend yourself against the army of fish that patrol Yumi’s Odd Odyssey‘s many levels. Fighting doesn’t get as far as our comparison piece Bionic Commando and never really gets as difficult as traversal, thankfully enough.
It’s amazing how long it took a publisher to bring such a cult series outside of Japan, but Natsume finally did it. They couldn’t have picked a better entry to introduce this brutal but fair franchise to its new mob of fans in the West. Yumi’s Odd Odyssey is a fun and challenging game that deserves every bit of the praise and reverence that it gets from its Japanese fan base.