Umiharakawase Shun is a not just remake, it's a remake with a twist. First off, I would like to explain why this review includes 2 games, namely Umiharakawase Shun and Umiharakawase Shun Second Edition. The Second Edition is basically a re-release of Umiharakawase Shun which was released in 1997 for the PSone. This games are more or less the same except that there are 5 extra levels hidden away in the levels of Second Edition. This and some minor tweaking set them apart.
Like I said before, Umiharakawase Shun is a remake in the sense that it takes everything from the Super Famicom original: Umiharakawase. But instead of simply making the game prettier, the developers have opted to replace all the levels from the original with original ones, thus making it more of a sequel then a remake. ^_^ You may find small familiar places here or there when you're used to the Super Famicom game, but parts like this are merely used as building blocks to set up much more elaborate platforming puzzles.
The first thing that will strike you is that the graphics are absolutely beautiful. Everything is very colorful and bright. The platforms look like they have been oil painted. The character art has also been updated and is looking better then ever. the levels themselves have a semi 3D look, just like how the floors used to scroll in the Street Fighter 2 games. This effect is applied to every platform in the game and gives it a very unique look. One thing that has remained is the music. But you won't hear any complaints from me, since I love the music. It's very relaxing and dreamy.
One thing that might look weird is that the Super Famicom game was made by TNN in 1994, while these games are made by Japan Clary Business/Jacpot. An explanation for this could be that TNN changed it's name or merged into one of these companies, but I can't confirm this.
In all these games the principle stays the same, you are a Japanese schoolgirl and the only object that will help you get through the levels is your trusty fishing line. This line can be used to capture enemies, which are all underwater creatures. You simply throw your fishing line at them and once you hit them, you keep them hooked by holding down the button. You can pull them in by pressing down or simply touch them while you have them hooked.
Your fishing line also acts as your most important (and only) gadget to get though all the levels. It can be thrown in 8 different directions, either while walking, jumping or falling. A great addition to the PSone versions is that by using the L and R buttons you can now throw your line diagonally up or down without having to press the directional button in a specific direction. This will save your tail more than once when you are swinging from platform to platform with only milliseconds to react and throw you hook.
Levels are full of various obstacles that will need a different approach to get past them than in the normal run, jump, duck platformers. There are floating platforms, shards of broken glass, conveyor belts, ladders, giant pistons, huge gaps and the ever present pools of water. And that's not even considering the enemies that stand in your way.
The goal of the game remains to reach the exit door of each level as quickly as possible. A novice player will start out traveling through the levels by jumping over small pits and using ladders to reach higher up places. Occasionally using the fishing line to hold onto a wall and swing from a ceiling, but mostly just to capture enemies for which you receive points. This is just scratching the surface of what this game has to offer. You see, your success will depend on how well you'll learn to use your fishing line. This line can be used to grab onto something while plummeting down from a failed jump, hereby saving your life.
Your line can hook onto almost any surface in the game, and it's here that you'll find what makes this game so very special. Your line is not just an ordinary rope, instead it has elastic properties.
When you're hooked up to an object, you can extend the rope by pressing up and shorten the rope by pressing down. When hanging from a ceiling or wall, you can use the physics to bounce up and down but also to swing from side to side. It still sounds pretty simple, but believe me, some of the acrobatic tricks you can pull off with this are simply breathtaking. You can catapult yourself from one platform to the next or swing from the bottom of a block around it so that you end up on top.
Lots of techniques are explained by short intermission movies between each level. Other crazy ways to take on the levels can be seen by viewing the intro movies. It's great moment when you realize that you can get to the same door in mere seconds by hooking onto a ceiling and shooting yourself over a wall using the elastic properties of the rope, while normally it would mean that you had to take a journey around the whole level just to reach that same point.
That doesn't mean that once you learn a couple of tricks, whole levels become nothing more then one shot wonders. Oh no. Once you reach this point, you will probably notice that many levels have various doors. Each one harder to get to than the next. The game keeps challenging you to learn even more advanced techniques and try to perfect the ones you think you've mastered. It will take many, many hours to finally complete the 50 or so levels. And after that it could take months or even years to learn all the nuances this game has to offer. There are just so many perfectly placed objects and platforms in each level that can be tackled and used in so many innovative and challenging ways that you never have to play a level the exact same way as before. All that you need is a bit of imagination and lots of perseverance. :)
Something that is sure to help is the Practice mode, which wasn't available in the Super Famicom Umiharakawase. Here you can play the levels that you have already cleared over and over and over again to hone your skills and perfect your time laps.
Like I said before in another review, I believe that Umiharakawase together with Chippoke Ralph No Daibouken (Adventure Of Little Ralph) and Castlevania Symphony Of The Night are the pinnacle of what the PSone has to offer in terms of 2D platforming games. They are not just timeless classics, but can serve as examples for generations to come, when it comes to showing what 2D platformers should be about .
Andy De Wilde