Umihara Kawase Bazooka! (Nintendo Switch) Review

By Rudy Lavaux 11.11.2020

Review for Umihara Kawase Bazooka! on Nintendo Switch

The Umihara Kawase series is certainly a niche one. It began on Super Famicom, then followed on PS1 with a sequel, but those didn't leave Japanese shores for a very long time and were somewhat obscure even on their home turf. However, in recent years, we've had the privilege of seeing releases in the west with Sayonara Umihara Kawase, a revival of the franchise for Nintendo 3DS released in North America as Yumi's Odd Odyssey, then ported to PS Vita among others in an updated form. Then in 2015 the first two titles got ported to Windows, and finally we got Umihara Kawase Fresh!, first on Nintendo Switch in 2019, then on PS4 and Microsoft Windows earlier this year. Nevertheless, the fanbase, even if it has grown more in recent years, remains a modest one. This latest release, Umihara Kawase Bazooka!, throws most series conventions and expectations out the window in favour of a radically different style of game.

The signature gameplay element in the Umihara Kawase series is that titular character, Umihara Kawase, travels through dreams inhabited by giant aquatic creatures and progresses through levels using her fishing rod to attach herself to any surface, dangling from the rubber like line to launch herself between platforms, all while trying to unravel the maze of levels with multiple exits, and get to the end of the game before a time limit to get the best possible ending. In some of the sequels, there may be other playable characters added to the mix, but the aforementioned were the defining traits of the series, which have given it its fanbase. Umihara Kawase Bazooka! on the other hand only really retains the fishing rod and line mechanic and general aesthetic and enemy roster. But that's about it.

The goal of the game here is to travel through 40 "single screen" levels, 10 per "World", collecting coins by defeating waves of enemies. Meeting a target amount of coins moves the player to the next level and the tenth level of each world is a boss fight where coins are earned as the boss's HP dwindles. It is a very arcadey experience where the main goal is not speed, but to get a good score for finishing each world in one sitting, which can then go onto an online leaderboard. In essence, this game is somewhat reminiscent of games like Bubble Bobble, where the player has to defeat all enemies in a single screen level before moving to the next and so on, and the main draw is to get a good score.

Screenshot for Umihara Kawase Bazooka! on Nintendo Switch

Heck, the original 1983 Mario Bros. would be a fair comparison, especially since they have mutliplayer in common, although the level design here varies quite a bit more. An important part of the experience here is the roster of playable characters. Of course Kawase is present, with her late-teen appearance of more recent games featured prominently, but also 21 other characters, like Cotton from the shmup series of the same name (in two forms, no less). Some of Kawase's friends from past games make a comeback, like Emiko from Sayonara Umihara Kawase or even obscure characters like Piaa from the 1998 PS1 game Doki Doki Poyatchio or... a Youtuber by the name of Dozle!? Weird! Each one is reasonably different enough from the others that players may want to try out different ones to check out their strengths and weaknesses, and decide for themselves which is the best to score lots of points on each of the 4 worlds.

For example, each has a unique special attack, like casting electric beams or firing a big laser ahead of them. The way these attacks behave can be good for certain types of enemies that may otherwise be hard to reach for another character. The way these characters control can vary a lot too. Some characters, like Kawase for example, can create food items such as burgers to replenish their health, while others have no such convenient way to restore theirs, but may jump much higher or simply be stronger or more agile. What they all have in common, though, is the basic action of the game.

Screenshot for Umihara Kawase Bazooka! on Nintendo Switch

Gameplay involves casting their fishing line at an enemy and reeling it in. This stores the creature and transforms it into a Bazooka projectile with varying properties like travel distance, size or bounciness, depending on the enemy type. At the end of it, the goal is to take out enemies as efficiently as possible, ideally chaining combos to make coins appear faster, scoring more points and avoiding reaching the time limit on each stage. The game presents itself in 2 different modes. The main mode, Challenge Mode, is the one described up to this point. It can be experienced by one player, or in Friends Mode; where up to 4 players cooperate on the same console. Lastly, in Rival Mode, the goal is the same but friendly fire is a thing so players can both cooperate to progress while also rivalling each other for the best score out of up to 4 players.

Challenge Mode has no online connectivity but Battle Mode does. This is essentially a kind of Smash Bros. type brawler using the gameplay of this title. There's a Battle Royale style of fight where the last player standing wins, and a more interesting Star Match where players fight for possession of stars, not unlike a certain Mario Kart battle mode in fact. Battle mode has a lot of potential for multiplayer fun, but sadly the online mode was all but deserted when we tried to get into it, so potential buyers may want to consider this more as a game to offer their friends to play together locally when they drop by.

Screenshot for Umihara Kawase Bazooka! on Nintendo Switch

This rounds up pretty much all the game has to offer, which at its starting price is quite expensive for the type of content, in this quantity. The action itself is easy enough to comprehend, especially after checking out the convenient "How To Play" section of the game, since there's otherwise no tutorial and this plays like no other game out there, really. Beyond all that, the game looks fine, if not groundbreaking, and just at home on Switch. It runs flawlessly in both docked and portable modes (the contrary would have been outrageous), the characters' little voice clips don't get too annoying over time and the music is cheerful and more than satisfactory.

The lasting appeal of this however will be very dependent on the type of player considering its purchase. Fans of arcade style single-screen platformers should really consider it as it is very much a dying genre and this offers a good representation of it, with likeable characters to boot and a quite unique gameplay. For anyone else, however, recommending it is somewhat difficult as this is not the kind of game that everyone will immediately like. In fact, even fans of Umihara Kawase may find that this is just too different from the rest of the series to justify the plunge, putting Umihara Kawase Bazooka! in an awkward position; especially at its awkward launch price. It is even more strange that a far more "core" game in the series didn't get a physical release on 3DS while this one on Switch does. Go figure!

Screenshot for Umihara Kawase Bazooka! on Nintendo Switch

Cubed3 Rating

Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10

Umihara Kawase Bazooka! is a niche title in a niche genre featuring a niche franchise. As arcade-style single-screen action-platformers go, this is a good one with a unique gameplay so fans of that sort of thing should go for it if they can swallow the steep launch price. Anyone else though, including fans of said franchise may have reason enough to be on the fence as this is definitely way different from the rest of the series. This is a rather unique game that will appeal most to score chasers and not the core speedrunning fanbase of the series, although one could imagine speedrunning this all the same of course. There is a demo available but, at time of writing, only on the Japanese eShop for some reason. Players still on the fence with a Japanese eShop account may check it out and decide for themselves.

Review copy provided by ININ Games




ININ Games

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now    Also on Also on Nintendo eShop


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