Sayonara Umihara Kawase PC Review
Slowly but surely, more and more Japanese publishers have come to embrace Steam’s digital haven for PC gamers, with big name companies like Square Enix, Bandai Namco and Tecmo Koei periodically porting more and more of their titles from console to PC. While this has proven lucrative for publishers, PC gamers have had to deal with the mixed quality of these ports, often featuring limited resolution options and other barebones game settings that would normally be standard for modern releases.
Sayonara Umihara Kawase, which was originally released on handhelds (first on the Nintendo 3DS, then an expanded version on Playstation Vita, the latter of which this PC release is based on), is yet another PC port that is promised to feature visual improvements and gameplay enhancements, but falls short on delivering a PC port that meets the bare minimum standards. On the one hand, developer Natsume kept true to its promise of running the game at 60 frames per second, though the increased framerate is hardly noticeable compared to the silky smooth Vita version, and offers no benefit at all to the gameplay. The other new gameplay feature is the ability to save and upload replays to the Steam Workshop, a welcome feature that is sure to be a hit with the time trial crowd.
But as far as visual enhancements go, the PC version of Sayonara brings some minuscule improvements that come with bigger caveats. For one, the game features a fixed resolution option, a decision that was no doubt an attempt to hide the game’s low quality textures, which were fine on a handheld but would not look as flattering on a big screen or monitor. Speaking of which, the game also features black borders on all four corners on the screen, an unnecessary eyesore considering that the Vita version took up more space when played on a Playstation TV. Fortunately, NeoGAF member Durante has stepped up with his trademark resolution wizardry and whipped up a hotfix that allows for custom resolutions and other much-needed enhancements. As appreciated as Durante’s efforts remain, this fix also comes with a rather steep price: increased load times between stages. Whether or not this is a tolerable compromise depends on the player, but it also brings to mind how Natsume failed to fix the one feature that would have improved the original game tremendously: the ability to instantly retry stages from the start. As is the case with the original, players are only allowed to instantly retry failed attempts in a stage only after they’ve cleared them once. Once again, only players dedicated to improving their score, finding all of the alternate exits or collecting all the hidden backpacks will benefit from this arbitrary unlock.
As unfortunate as all that sounds, Sayonara’s gameplay is still unchanged from its handheld release, and every bit as fun and polished. Utilizing a unique gameplay mechanic rarely seen outside of Bionic Commando, the goal of each stage is to guide the titular Umihara safely through every obstacle, platform and grotesque fish monster to find the exit. Utilizing the fishing rod as a makeshift grappling hook takes a little practice, but the tight physics and whimsical Japanese set pieces make for an entertaining platformer that carries a refreshingly nostalgic throwback to classic 2D games.
While Sayonara Umihara Kawase’s PC debut is stripped of typical PC gaming options (and as an additional bummer, the original Super Famicom game, which was included as a bonus in the Vita version, was removed so it could be sold as a separate downloadable game), the core game is still charming both visually and mechanically. If Steam is the only resource to experience this game, it’s still worth checking out, but those who own a PS Vita or PS TV should consider that the definitive platform instead.