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Action Game



Super Famicom

Umiharakawase is the first in a series of 3 games. The others being Umiharakawase Shun and Umiharakawase Shun Second Edition. These last two were released for the PSone in 1997 and 2000.

Umiharakawase is a platform game where you play as a schoolgirl wearing a pink backpack and carrying a fishing line. Your goal is to get to one of the exit doors on each level. You can jump, crouch, pull yourself up on ledges and climb ladders. For all your other moves you have to rely on your fishing line. Might sound a bit basic but I'll go into more detail later on.

All the enemies that will cross your path are marine based. From squid to sharks, goldfish, horse mackerel, slugs and frogs. A multitude of these creatures have legs so they can move around on the platforms. This will no doubt raise a couple of eyebrows when encountering them for the first time.

Touching most of these enemies will mean losing a life instantly, while other enemies will only make you dizzy for a couple of seconds. When you're dizzy you will stumble backwards a bit when walking, or if you're swinging on your fishing line, it will snap, making you tumble down. Enemies can be defeated by throwing your line at them, making them dizzy. And then touching them while they are still hooked, or you can haul them in by simply pressing down when you have hooked them.


So far there's nothing that stands out too much, maybe making you think that this is another nice little platformer like so many others. This is where first impressions don't even come close as to grasp the brilliance of this title. The thing that makes this game stand out from all others is the way the fishing line is used.

It can be compared to the arm in Bionic Commando or the whip in Super Castlevania 4, only with a major difference. The techniques behind the fishing line are much more complex than in these 2 titles. Besides being able to use the hook for defeating enemies, you can also use it to connect to walls, ceilings and floors. When throwing your line onto a wall or ceiling, the hook at the end will stick to it until you let go of the button.

When playing this game for the first time, it's impossible to grasp all the nuances and possibilities this holds. Instead you will probably be struggling to come to grips with how it is best used. But don't worry, once you had a while to practice the swings, jumps and loops you will no doubt fall in love with your new means of transportation.

There are so many creative ways this fishing line can be used. The simple reason for this lies in the physics that were programmed into it. Your line has a very elastic quality to it, which allows you to catapult yourself from platform to platform. That is, after you have gotten to grips with using it. Otherwise, chances are you'll just fling yourself head first into the first pool you come across. -__^

Once your hook is secured into a ceiling you can swing by pressing left or right. Pushing up will extend your rope, while pushing down will shorten it. This is where it gets tricky. While swinging from left to right you can increase your swing by making the rope longer. While if you want to swing to a platform that's far away, you will have to increase your swing and then pull on the rope at the right time so that it's elasticity will make you fly forward.


It might sound complicated, but small animated examples before each stage explain the massive amount of techniques that are possible in this game.

The graphics of the SFC version, especially the backdrops are a bit basic. They consist of gray digitalized photos of streams and rivers. While the blocks and platforms are a bit more colorful, they all have chessboard patterns, which does the job but could have been a bit more detailed. The characters on the other hand are all very stylish and animate beautifully. The levels are brought to life by trees and bushes in the background and other small and not so small details, like tiny birds which inhabit the levels, flying around, looking for food. The music is very beautiful and matches the feeling of the game perfectly.

A big difference between the Super Famicom version and the PSone versions is that all the levels are unique to the SFC game and have not been ported to the PSone. Also the physics of the game differ between the 16-bit and 32-bit versions. In the SFC version the fishing line seems to be a bit more elastic, while in the PSone game the line feels a little bit more rigid. It's not that one of these is superior to the other, they are just different. Just enough to alter the feel a bit. Also when you touch a slug in the SFC game, you automatically lose a life, while in the PSone game it only makes you dizzy.


Another example of why this game deserves to be named with the best of it's kind lies in it's replayability. When you're relative new to the game, you will automatically follow the normal path that's been created for you. Looking for ways to avoid the obstacles that are in your way and defeat the enemies you come across. But once you feel comfortable with using the fishing line and some of the more advanced techniques that come with it you will start looking at other ways to tackle the levels. Ways that you would never have dreamed of before or seemed completely impossible to pull off.

Once you get to this point, you will start to understand what this game is all about. Shaving seconds from your best times by using unconventional ways to tackle the levels. Using your own creativity to reach places that seem unreachable. You will start to discover that the levels include more doors that lead to many other places, instead of having to go from 1 to 2 to 3, etc. Of course to reach these doors, your skills will constantly be put to the test, challenging you to use even more advanced techniques.

I personally would place this game at the top of the food chain, along with classics like Chippoke Ralph No Daibouken (Adventure Of Little Ralph), Super Mario Bros 3, Super Castlevania 4, Gunstar Heroes, Yoshi's Island, etc.

Andy De Wilde

Japanese - English