Developed By: Studio Saizensen Published By: ININ Games and Strictly Limited Games Categories: Platformer, Party, Fishing Reel Simulator Release Date: 10.30.20
Umihara Kawase is a series I’ve been a huge fan of for quite a while. Being mostly Japan only releases, I discovered it around the time the PSP port of the Playstation game came out off of the website Hardcore Gaming 101. Since then, I was always enthralled with the series. A cute tomboy main character, comparisons to Bionic Commando, a series I’ve always been a fan of, and the allure of an import only series had me intrigued. The series would probably get a bit more popularity after subtitles of the Game Center CX episode that featured it would be put online, but Natsume releasing the 3DS title Sayonara Umihara Kawase in the west was what seemingly started all of the games coming over since then, though they all seem to have different publishers. The latest being Umihara Kawase BaZooKa, published by ININ this time as opposed to Natsume or Nicalis.
For the most part, the Umihara Kawase series is a bit of a non-linear puzzle platformer series. You have these abstract avant-garde looking stages, full of sea life enemies, using your trusty fishing rod to both protect yourself and also navigate. You can find hidden alternate exits to get to different stages, different bosses, it opens the game up to a lot of replayability. BaZooKa is not quite that.
Looking at BaZooKa at a skin deep level, it does have all of the trademarks of the series. It has the weird looking levels, the fishy enemies, cute girls with fishing rods, but this time it’s not the non-linear level series it was. Reminding me of something like Viewtiful Joe Red Hot Rumble, BaZooKa is more of a party platformer. The game has you defeating every enemy in waves with stages ending once the required number of coins is acquired. This can for the most part be done by playing the game like you would in any other Umihara Kawase game, but you can now shoot enemy out with your bazooka. This can be use to just dispose of them one by one, but the game rewards you for getting combos and shooting the canonball that’s formed through a group at once. There’s different elemental canonballs you’ll find in stages which you can use to your advantage like ones that shock, black hole forming ones, or even ones that leave a nice explosion. These can also hurt you quite a bit if you’re not careful. That’s another change, you now have health bars instead of just dying in one hit. However, getting hit is often more frustratig than dying at times as you’ll be knocked back and stunned for seconds, unable to do anything. There’s quite a bit of enemies, but also quite a bit of simple recolors or size changes of them too, which differ their stats, how much health they have, how much it takes to stun them, what their attacks are, and even the size of the canonball they create. You’ll get 36 stages of this and four bosses. The gameplay never really changes, only the environment and boss fights. The game is fun, but it can get very stale if you’re playing it all at once.
There is a very vast cast of characters to play as. From the titular Umihara, to characters from the sequels, to new characters, a dog, a Japanese Lets Player, and even Cotton from the Cotton series. It’s a colorful cast of characters in an already bright and colorful game all with their own unique fishing rod. Each character has their own stats and their own special abilities, so the variety is definitely there. Stats are usually the standard, more HP, faster, well balanced, etc…, but the abilities are the more drastic differences. Umihara has a move that can shoot out burgers to heal slightly, (insert her name here) can even just shoot enemies. I appreciate how the cast all plays a bit differently and it can change runs up, but at the end of the day the stages all sorta feel the same.
Challenge Mode has co-op thankfully, even with A and B type modes that allow you to either play with friendly fire or not, however this is offline only. There is online multiplayer! But only in a versus battle mode and not in the challenge mode going level by level. There’s a bit of variety in stages to play with the goal being the same for each one, make sure you’re the last one alive. You’ll be against people who are slightly less pattern based than the CPU, so it’s a bit spiced up. You can actively take out others how you’d do so against the fish in challenge mode, or just let the fish take them out. Up to you.
I did have fun with Umihara Kawase BaZooKa, but it honestly feels more like a game for fans of the characters and not so much the series’ inner workings. It reeks of the spin-off title it has. There’s not a whole lot of reason to keep coming back to it either outside of multiplayer.
Buy Now: $29.99 Digital – $29.99 Standard and €59.99 Collectors Edition Physical
*Game Download Code supplied for review purposes