Ufouria: The Saga
I’ve been known in the past to complain about games & systems that Australia never got & how much better the Americans (& the Europeans in some respects) have it than us. Yes I am somewhat of a whinger, but let’s look at the history. When I think of games that never made it to Australia I think of:
Final Fantasy 2 & 3 – SNES
Megaman Collection – GC
Cubivore – GC
Megaman 64 – Nintendo 64
Hey You Pickachu – Nintendo 64…
… actually that last one isn’t a bad thing… My girlfriend still has nightmares about yelling into that microphone & having the little electric puffball do either nothing or something else. ANYWAY, let’s save that for another review. As it happens, there were a few English releases Australia did get that the American’s did in fact NOT get. Sounds strange I know. Traditionally games come out in Japan first, then get translated for North America, then if they feel like it we might see a PAL release. That was not the case for Ufouria, which for some unknown reason was released in Europe & Australia, but not the US.
Ufouria is a platformer that is similar to Wonderboy 3. It offers one big world to play in rather than individual levels & includes different areas that only certain characters can access. Seeing the similarities so far? The only real difference is that Ufouria features 4 seperate characters & Wonderboy 3 features changes to the 1 character, but from a gameplay perspective that hardly matters. For those not familiar with Wonderboy 3, let’s have a look at what makes this a great game.
The game starts with Bop Louie (I’ll get to the names later) who has been transported from his homeworld of Ufouria to this mysterious world with 3 of his friends who he has been seperated from. Bop Louie has the ability to bop his head into enemies to defeat them. All the characters start off with one ability, but upgrades for each character are available. For example, later in the game Louie can gain the ability to climb calls.
The first thing Louie needs to do is to rescue his friends. The problem is that when you find one of Louie’s friends they start to attack you. I’m probably giving away part of the storyline here, but each of Louie’s friends has been brainwashed & must be defeated to knock some sense into them & have them join your party. Freeon Leon is the first candidate for some brain wash bashing. He has the ability to swim on top of the water & walk on ice, which will lead you to Shades who can float, then Gill who can swim underwater. You can change characters are any point in the game which you will need to do on a regular basis.
Aside from battling your friends, there are also bosses in the game who each offer a different challenge. While they can be difficult (particularly the one in the submarine) you never feel like they’re impossible to beat.
The music is very boppy & enjoyable. At the recent Ultracade event I got to hear a remix of the main tune which surprised me as I didn’t think the game was popular enough for that sort of attention. Sound effects are your standard Nintendo platform affair, so there’s nothing that really stands out.
The controls are brilliant. One thing Nintendo systems are good at is platform games & this is no exception. All the characters move just as they should. You feel the bump as a character slips on the ice & falls over. You feel the inertia as you slowly start moving in the water & progressively speed up.
Now onto the names. In Japan there is a series of games based on a character called Hebereke. Ufouria is one of the Hebereke games rebadged for the Western market. Not only the names have changed, but the character sprites have been modified from the Japanese original for some strange reason. Bop Louie is actually the “Westernised” version of Hebereke himself. This doesn’t affect the gameplay in any way shape or form however.
To make things even wierder, the Australian & European versions differ slightly. The main character sprites look the same, but the health status & a few other minor things were changed. The bulk of the game is the same, which begs the question: why?
If you have difficulty the handy password option is there to allow you to continue your game. The only problem with this is you always start in the same spot, so if the boss is a fair distance away you have to go all the way back to them, but everything you’ve done up to that point is unlocked.
Overall if you owned a NES but loved Wonderboy 3, this was a great alternative. The controls are outstanding, there is minimal sprite flicker with the graphics & the music is brilliant. So it’s time to be patriotic people. Put your hand on your heart & declare to the world just how proud to be Australian. After all, we got Ufouria & the US didn’t.