Monday, January 19, 2015

The Agony and the Ecstacy: Yumi's Odd Odyssey

Now it's time for another edition of Good Idea, Bad Idea. 

Releasing the beloved Umihara Kawase series in the United States for the first time, after twenty years of Japanese exclusivity. 

Releasing the LAST Umihara Kawase game in the United States, designed especially for players who've had twenty years to master the skills needed to play the series well (hint: not you). 

It isn't just that Yumi's Odd Odyssey is the ugliest game in a series already known for its jumbled, garish visuals. It's that the game makes unreasonable demands of players from the fourth stage on, forcing them through a gauntlet of ice blocks that both threaten to slide Yumi to her doom and stubbornly refuse to be caught with the title character's springy fishing line. I had to play this stage ten times before I could finish it. Ten times, for the fourth freaking stage! I know this because the game keeps count, shoving your failures in your face whenever the opportunity presents itself. Yes, I totally suck. Thanks for the reminder. 

Right now, I'm stuck at the boss, a massive tadpole perched on two creepily human legs. In past Umihara Kawase games, you could hang from underneath the stage and wait until the creature gets bored and hops into the surrounding water. That won't work this time... it will just poop out eggs until one of the hatchlings inevitably knocks you into the lake. Your only chance for victory (wait, wait, you're gonna love this) is to catch all of its progeny, then lure it to the left until it tries to charge you. Then a pan falls from the sky, hitting it in the head and taking away some of its energy. Do this three times and the tadpole shrinks and makes a hasty retreat. 

Ahem. HOW THE HELL DOES ANY OF THAT MAKE THE SLIGHTEST BIT OF SENSE!? Okay, I understand that the game takes place inside Yumi's dream, but even there, you'd think there would be some clue of how to fight the tadpole. There isn't. A pan just hits the damn thing after you perform a seemingly random sequence of actions. It's arbitrary and obtuse, in the "charming" tradition of early NES games, and there's no place for it in a title released in 2014.

There are rumors that Yumi's Odd Odyssey will be ported to Playstation Vita, with stages from the original Umihara Kawase on the Super Famicom. Frankly, this is what should have happened in the first place. Americans didn't have the luxury of playing the game for two decades, and needed a chance to familiarize themselves with its challenging, physics- heavy play mechanics. The 3DS version of Yumi's Odd Odyssey just unceremoniously drops them in the deep end of the pool and expects them to find some way to stay afloat. 

(Good Idea, Bad Idea images culled from various online sources) 


  1. Ha! I can't say I disagree with anything you've said here, Jess. I played through 7-10 of Sayonara's stages before becoming completely stuck, and after trying that stage over and over and over again, I finally just game up on the whole thing :|

    One word of "warning" about the Vita version: I believe it's basically just including the 3DS version of Sayonara (w/ some altered enemy placements and maybe some altered stage designs, too) as well as the original Super Famicom game. In other words, I don't think any of the SF version's stages have been reworked/remade using the Sayonara engine, if that makes sense. I may be wrong, though!

    Also, I don't know that I would say Sayonara drops players into the so-called "deep end" any faster than its PS1 or SuFami predecessors did. In my case, at least, I became as hopelessly stuck in those games as quickly as I have in Sayonara.

    1. I don't really agree with you about this. I found myself losing lives less frequently in previous Umihara Kawase games. Sure, they could be tough, but the stage designs were more lenient, with fewer obstacles. I don't think there was anything like the ice blocks in Stage 4 of Sayonara, which take extreme skill and timing to traverse. Later stages add spikes to the mix, which make it agonizingly tough to collect some of the hidden backpacks.

      You get unlimited lives in Sayonara, but I think in a way, that actually makes things worse. In previous games, once you exhausted your supply of lives, you had an excuse to quit. Being allowed to return to the same stage again and again leaves you feeling obliged to finish each one, so you never get a chance to pull out and cool off for a while. I mean, you COULD, but foolish pride usually overrides your common sense.

    2. Ah, OK, you got me with the ice and spikes. I hadn't thought of them. Also, I think I need to go back to the first two games soon. I've played both quite a bit, but not for some time--mainly because although I love the idea of these games, I completely suck at them. Before I go, though, I like what you have to say about how unlimited lives in such games can/could be detrimental to the experience. Interesting!