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Sayonara Umihara Kawase + review for PS Vita


Platform: PS Vita
Publisher: Agatsuma Entertainment
Developer: Studio Saizensen
Medium: Digital
Players: 1-2
Online: Leaderboards
ESRB: E

Don’t be fooled by the busty-looking lady featured on Sayonara Umihara Kawase +’s logo on the PlayStation Store: this isn’t yet another pervy Japanese game getting randomly localized on the Vita. In fact, apart from the fact it features a female protagonist, it’s hard to think of anything that Sayonara Umihara Kawase + — which will henceforth be referred to as SUK SUK+ Sayonora, because no way am I repeating that name more than I have to — has in common with the smutty likes of Senran Kagura or Criminal Girls. It’s just a simple story about a young female sushi chef on a quest for the perfect ingredients.

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Okay, so that’s also basically the plot of Senran Kagura: Bon Appetit and Sorcery Saga: Curse of the Great Curry God. But still, where those games relied on titilation and weirdness, respectively, Sayonora is all about a girl using her indestructible fishing lure to fight off mutant fish-people as she traverses a land of…uh…okay, it’s pretty weird, too, come to think of it.

Here’s a difference, though, that doesn’t have a “but…” attached: Sayonora is basically a slightly updated SNES platformer that looks and plays like a slightly updated SNES platformer. The graphics look like every stereotype you can think of from the early- to mid-’90s: (literally) blocky terrain, bright colours hailing from all points on the spectrum, and rudimentary 3D models that move in a way that’ll look familiar to anyone who ever played the very first Donkey Kong Country games. Technically, I know, Sayonora on the Vita has roots that extend as far forward as the first PlayStation and the PSP, but really, it’s basically a straight line from the SNES to this.

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Unfortunately, the same can be said for the gameplay. To quote Wikipedia:

“While the controls are simple and responsive, an uncompromising physics model means that graceful control of the game’s swinging techniques will not come immediately. Out of this, though, comes great scope for advanced techniques through full utilization of the physics. Perfect execution of techniques such as the one- and two-step rocket jump are required both in later fields and for those who intend to improve their field completion times.”

Or, translated into simpler, more realistic terms: Sayonora’s ambition slightly outstrips its reality. It expects you to be able to pull off all kinds of crazy moves, but it doesn’t control fluildly enough for that to happen. While the game has no problem handling the simpler tasks — like firing your lure at enemies, or making simple jumps — when it ups the difficulty to include things like diagonal shots or jumps around ledges that require perfect precision, it’s not really equipped to do that. Admittedly, back when the first game was originally released, those kinds of crazy expectations were par for the course, but today, the limitations — particularly since you have to use the D-pad rather than the thumbstick — are a lot more apparent.

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Of course, in Sayonara Umihara Kawase+’s defense, it’s hard to judge design choices from decades ago by today’s standards, regardless of how updated this game may be from the SNES/PS1 original. It stays true to its original self, and even if the end results of that are a little spotty, it’s still a solid enough game for anyone in the mood for an old-school platformer.

Grade: B