Umihara Kawase (series)

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Umihara Kawase
Umihara Kawase Coverart.png
Developer(s) TNN/NHK SC
Designer(s) Kiyoshi Sakai
Composer(s) Masahito Nakano
Atsuhiro Motoyama
Shinji Tachikawa
Platform(s) Super Famicom, Microsoft Windows
Release date(s)
  • JP December 23, 1994
  • WW November 2, 2015
Genre(s) Platform game
Mode(s) Single-player

Umihara Kawase (海腹川背?) is a series of platform games, starring a nineteen-year-old Japanese school girl, Kawase Umihara (海腹 川背 Umihara Kawase), who has somehow become lost in a world of mutated salt-water and fresh-water creatures. She wears her school uniform along with a bright pink rucksack. The Umihara Kawase games' main distinction are their tranquil fish and bird infested worlds and the rope physics, which defines the gameplay.

The name is written as four kanji characters: umi, hara, kawa, se meaning sea, belly, river, back. This is an extraction from a Japanese kitchen idiom "Sea fish are fat in the belly; river fish are fat in the back.".

The protagonist was first seen in the eponymous Super Famicom release of 1994 and later the sequel and re-release of Umihara Kawase Shun (海腹川背・旬 Umihara Kawase Shun; shun means "in season") for the PlayStation in 1997 and 2000.


The game was an independent collaboration between developer Kiyoshi Sakai, illustrator Toshinobu Kondo, and several others.[1] It was published by TNN, "Think about Needs of Notice for human being".


The game world of Umihara Kawase is constructed from a set of interconnected levels known as fields. Each field connects to one or more fields deeper within the game via doors.

Fields are enclosed areas containing a number of static and moving platforms, ladders, spikes, enemy sea-life and one or more exit doors. The doors are often positioned in hard to reach places and it is the player's goal to plan a safe route to one. Each exit door in a field takes the player to a different field, and the goal is to find a safe route through the fields and arrive at a final exit door (at which point the credits scroll and the game is over). Each of the Umihara Kawase games contains multiple routes through the fields and multiple final exits. Using shortcuts and optimised door routes can allow the game to be completed within minutes in the hands of a skilled player; however, enjoyment of the game typically lies not in merely making it to the first or easiest final exit door, but in exploring the game's many routes and mastering the challenging rope physics.

The Umihara Kawase games have simple controls. The protagonist is able to run, jump, climb onto ledges, climb ladders and, crucially, throw her fishing line. When thrown, the fishing line will hook onto nearly all surfaces within the games. When the line is firmly hooked onto a surface or an enemy fish the line is able to take her weight. From here Umihara is able to swing between platforms, lower herself down to other ledges and swing herself up to higher ledges. Due to the flexible nature of her line she can also catapult herself great distances by stretching the line to breaking point. The line can also be used to stun fish and reel them in, and once reeled in Umihara will store them in her rucksack and score points in doing so.

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.

The games contain 1ups in the shape of Umihara's pink rucksack but no other collectibles are present.

Umihara Kawase contains a total of 49 fields of which four are exit fields and six are boss fields. The game makes good use of the SFC's colour palette for digitized photographic backgrounds. The rope physics sometimes strain the Super Famicom's CPU, leading to slowdown, but this is rare. The game permits saving speedruns, establishing such play as a principle feature of the series.

Umihara Kawase Shun[edit]

Umihara Kawase Shun
Developer(s) Jackpot
Publisher(s) XING
Platform(s) PlayStation, Microsoft Windows
Release date(s)
  • JP February 28, 1997
  • JP January 1, 2000 (second edition)
Microsoft Windows
  • WW November 27, 2015
Genre(s) Platform game

The move to a 3D side-on game world with the PlayStation launch of Shun opened up the fields to more complex layouts using a great deal of angled and jutting blocks. The move to a 3D game world was not universally welcomed, however, as it decreases the ease with which the player can identify the exact point in space where platforms begin and end. Slightly adjusted line physics (the rope is shorter, but more elastic and springy), along with no presence of slowdown, are the other main notable changes from its predecessor.

Umihara Kawase Shun ~second edition~ Maruan Series 1[edit]

The second edition was launched almost three years after Shun at a lower price as part of the Maruan series and contains some notable changes. This release contains five additional fields taking the total to fifty five. The game's cut-scenes have been replaced with scrollable, static art of the protagonist, however, due to the removal of all Mitchell branding. The defunct Japanese magazine TECH PlayStation Extra contained three new fields in each of its June, July and August 1997 issues' demo discs, along with guides to complete them.

Umihara Kawase Portable[edit]

Umihara Kawase Portable
Developer(s) Rocket Studios
Platform(s) PlayStation Portable
Release date(s)
  • JP March 27, 2008
Genre(s) Platform game
Mode(s) Single-player

Although another re-release of Shun, Umihara Kawase Portable nevertheless disappointed fans[2][unreliable source?] and critics[3][4] alike on release, due to a bug-ridden physics engine, which differed in crucial aspects to its predecessors. Further criticism was leveled at the new visual perspective, which sometimes interfered with play. On July 14, 2008, it was announced that the game would be coming to U.S. under the title Yumi's Odd Odyssey,[5][6] however, this release never came about. It would have been the first Umihara Kawase game to have been released outside of Asia.

Umihara Kawase Portable was not developed by Super Famicom and PS version developer, Kiyoshi Sakai, instead being developed by Rocket Studio. Many Japanese fans felt anxious about Umihara Kawase Portable prior to release, and were disappointed and angry afterwards.[7][unreliable source?] Accordingly, they protested Marvelous Entertainment sales agency and Motion Bank, and staged a boycott.[8][unreliable source?]

Umihara Kawase Shun ~second edition~ Kanzenban[edit]

Umihara Kawase Shun ~second edition~ Kanzenban
Developer(s) Genterprise
Platform(s) Nintendo DS
Release date(s)
  • JP October 29, 2009
Genre(s) Platform game
Mode(s) Single-player

A DS Umihara Kawase compilation was released on October 29, 2009. Both the SFC and PlayStation games are present, along with some extra levels, and wireless exchange of data is also supported.[9] The development of the port was overseen by original designer/programmer Sakai Kiyoshi, with additional artwork from Kondou Toshinobu.[10] The DS port has been far better received by fans of the series than the PSP port, as it is a much more faithful conversion.[11]

Sayonara UmiharaKawase[edit]

Sayonara UmiharaKawase
(Yumi's Odd Odyssey)
Developer(s) Studio Saizensen
Publisher(s) Agatsuma Entertainment
NA Natsume
(3DS version only)
Designer(s) Kiyoshi Sakai
Toshinobu Kondo
Programmer(s) Kiyoshi Sakai
Platform(s) Nintendo 3DS, PlayStation Vita, Microsoft Windows
Release date(s) Nintendo 3DS
JP 20130620June 20, 2013
NA 20140320March 20, 2014
EU 20140424April 24, 2014
PlayStation Vita
JP 20150423April 23, 2015
NA 20150421April 21, 2015
EU 20150430April 30, 2015
Microsoft Windows WW 20151006October 6, 2015
Genre(s) Platform game

A third game in the series called Sayonara UmiharaKawase (さよなら 海腹川背?, literally "Farewell Kawase Umihara") was announced in March 2013, likely a response to the more successful Nintendo DS compilation release of the first two games. The original staff were involved in its development. The game includes a cast of playable characters including a younger Umihara Kawase, her 20-year-old self, her future descendant named Yokoyama, and her childhood friend Emiko. The gameplay is similar to past games. It was released in Japan on June 20, 2013 for the Nintendo 3DS.

The game is also planned to be released outside of Asia;[12] it will be the first game in the series to do so. Natsume confirmed that they will release the game in North America game under the same title they originally planned for the PlayStation Portable release: Yumi's Odd Odyssey.[13] It was later confirmed that Agatsuma Entertainment are to publish the game themselves for the European market under its original Japanese title, unlike the North American release.[14] The game was eventually released for North America and Europe exclusively as a Nintendo eShop downloadable on March 20, 2014 and April 24, 2014 respectively.

The 3DS version was eventually ported to the PlayStation Vita as Sayonara UmiharaKawase Chirari (さよなら 海腹川背 ちらり). This version also in included the first game on the series from Super Famicom. The game version was published by Agatsuma in Japan in both physical and digital format, while American and European releases were digital only on PlayStation Network. Agatsuma also dropped the Yumi's Odd Odyssey name, calling it Sayonara UmiharaKawase + in western releases on its release in April 2015. A version for Microsoft Windows has also been announced for October 2015, in addition the previous two titles in the series will also receive ports.[15][16]

Other media[edit]

  • Umihara Kawase Hyper Technique guidebook (ISBN 4-7962-0273-0. Publication: 29 March 1995).
  • Stray Sheep Volume 5 - Happy Angel (Toshinobu Kondo Personal Works). This edition of the Japanese illustration magazine contains works by Toshinobu Kondo, many of which are of Umihara Kawase (cover included).
  • Umihara Kawase Shun Capture Guidebook (ISBN 4-900700-37-1. Publisher: T2 Publishing Co. Ltd. Publication: March 31, 1997). Full colour guide book includes gameplay basics, enemies, field maps with routes and "Toshinobu Kondo presents" artwork section.
  • Umihara Kawase Shun Perfect Guide Book (ISBN 4-88199-337-2. Publisher: Shinseisha. Publication: March 1997). Full colour three part techniques section, monochrome field maps and guide.
  • TECH PlayStation Extra CD-ROM magazine. The June, July and August 1997 issues (SLPM-80100, SLPM-80108, and SLPM-80117) of this Japanese publication contain 3 new fields each along with information on techniques required to complete them.


External links[edit]