UMIHARA KAWASE BAZOOKA!
By Mark "Demius" Bronneberg on December 10, 2020
Umihara Kawase is a quirky action/ platform series staring a sushi chef Kawase Umihara who has become lost in a world of surreal salt-water and fresh-water creatures (thank you Wikipedia). Why do I say thank you? Well, mostly because I really had no idea what I was getting myself into when I accepted this indy game review. Apparently the first game released on SNES in 1994. BaZooKa! Is the 5th game in the series and focuses less on story and platforming and more on competitive fighting. I reviewed the game for Nintendo Switch, but it is also available on PS4 and PC.
Normally this is the part where I elaborate about the story, but since I never played an Umihara Kawase game I went in blank. Sadly there is no introduction or story elements whatsoever in BaZooKa. I believe this is more a 'party game' for fans of the series. You can choose between 22 unique characters, but I have no idea who they are. Since I am an aspiring writer for videogames let me tell you what my view of the story in this game should have been. Dozle is a Japanese pro-gamer and the main protagonist for Umihara Kawase BaZooKa! After he won the Japanese championship in Super Smash Brothers once again, he decided it was time to settle down, find a wife and create super gamer babies. Finding a wife is difficult for Dozle, seeing as how his only skills are fighting games, Call of Duty rocket launcher battles and Fishing. He decides to combine these skills to catch fish and fire them into unsuspecting females with his enormous BaZooKa, hoping this is the way to make them 'fall' of the platform, onto him (I'm not kidding, that's really his plan...)
So, with this "great" idea lodged firmly in his head, he takes his trusty dog Pochi with him and ventures into the world of Umihara Kawase, an all-female school, in which he's bound to shoot that one dream girl. Once he enters the playground he finds himself surrounded by 20 beautiful girls, some of these girls (like Lucina) are even wearing his favorite cosplays (Morrigan from Darkstalkers). He falls in love immediately. The one thing he forgot is that most girls don't like to be hooked by a fishing rod, hit with fish, or sucked into a BaZooKa and fired unto random fish that inexplicably wander the school areas. This is where our love story transforms into a survival horror game, where you control Dozle and Poshi into evading all the crazy females that are out for your blood and the occasional overgrown fish boss monster that crosses your path.
The basics of the game are not too difficult to understand. You have little maps (side scrolling 2D platforming) where you can move around, shoot your rod to suck balls or monsters into your BaZooKa and fire them to deal damage. You can double jump or hook your rod into any surface on the map to drag yourself to that surface. This way you can use many trick jumps to reach high platforms and stuff. Tougher enemies require more damage and when you hook your rod in them, it takes a while before they are stunned and can be sucked into your BaZooKa. Be wary not to be dragged into enemies that are not stunned, because this will inflict damage to yourself. The game has a few different modes. Challenge mode is the single player mode where you have 4 worlds with each 10 maps, the last one being a boss fight. These challenges are fun to take on by yourself in Single Player or with up to 4 friends in Friend Mode. I played trough the game Single Player, but I believe this game can be a lot of fun with some friends and some beers playing together! Besides Challenge Mode there is Battle Mode, in which you can fight locally or on the internet against random opponents throughout the world. I mostly found Japanese opponents, and let's just say I'm not very good at competitive play...
Each character has 2 normal and 1 special skill. My favorite character was Lucina (I'm sorry, I Like curves). Her normal skills were to shoot cornflake-lasers while standing or while flying in the air! Yes she can fly! Well, at least as long as she has 'energy/mana'. Her special is summoning a black hole which sucks in your opponents and damages them over time. Besides the skills you can fire your fishing rod. Each character has different stats, some have long rods, some have short rods. I liked the fact Lucina's are very big... I mean her rod is very big, long, euhm... never mind. She can hook platforms easily and she can also keep her distance while hooking tougher enemies. You can jump twice, the double jump dealing damage if you hit an enemy. Key to dealing more damage is making combo's with your BaZooKa. If you hit at least 3 enemies, the bullet will drop a sparkly ball. Which you can suck up again to shoot to more enemies, this 'preserves' the combo. I reached 14 hit combo with ease this way and it was quite fun to try and rank them up.
I must say that I found the game to be quite hard. Maybe I'm not cut out for action games, but it was a lot of trial and error finding out how I could best tackle each challenge. In challenge mode you start with 3 lives and have to grab 3 golden coins to advance to a next level. The really big fish mostly drop these coins. At level 10 of each 4 worlds you encounter a boss. These boss battles provide a lot of challenge. The sound effects suit the game perfectly. The graphics are also good, I liked the 2D art style. The game also runs great. Even the online play was fine. In my opinion it is a missed chance that they didn't incorporate more of the art into the game. I love it when you use your special skill and there is a temporary big portrait of your character on the screen. A little bit of backstory or menu where you can read about previous games and who these characters are would have been appreciated.
Don't buy this game expecting a huge story or big single player mode. The game does provide a good challenge if you are into action platformers. It has a lot of charm and is probably a blast to play together or against friends at a party. If you are into action games, like platformers and competitive online play. You will be right at home with Umihara Kawase BaZooKa!