Underrated NES games: Ufouria - The Saga

Ufouria (or U•four•ia, as the packaging insists it should be punctuated) is an acid trippy Japanese video game converted for English-speaking markets.

The original game, Hebereke (which means 'drunk' in Japanese) is virtually identical to Ufouria, with a few cosmetic changes and some alterations to the storyline as part of the translation. For now, we'll discuss the English version, and I'll show you a few of the changes in a little while.

You begin the game as Bop Louie, a white snowman-like character with a blue beanie hat. He can walk, jump, and squash enemies if you hold the down button while he's above them. He can't swim, and falls over every three steps if he tries to walk on snow and ice. Over time, he develops a couple of additional bizarre abilities, including his secret power of launching his head on a spring towards enemies, and the skill of suction-cupping up vertical surfaces.

All of the characters are able to throw little face-ball things that appear on occasions when you squash an enemy. They can be used as projectiles against other enemies, and are often the only weapons that will have any effect on the bosses, when you encounter them.

Most of the game follows a Metroid-like approach, wherein you can't progress to another area of the expansive world map without completing the right task and collecting the right item, allowing you to progress. Often, the item you need to obtain is one of the other three characters:

  • Shades is a ghost with a purple wing cap that can leap long distances, and gains the bizarre ability to bash himself in the back of the head with a hammer, causing his eyeballs to chase enemies around the screen. (Seriously. I'm not making that up.)
  • Gil is a kind of lumbering salamander creature that can't walk very well and can't jump very high, but can sink into water, and swim, y'know, properly. Eventually, he can cough up bombs. Because bombs.
He thinks he's found his friend, but he's wrong.
He thinks he's found his friend, but he's wrong.

The enemies range from walking squirts of whipped cream, through birds that drop weights, strange little oriental creatures, wiggling green blobs, statues of frogs and strange grubs. There's not a lot of variety, but the general enemies don't really pose much of a threat, as the majority of the point of the game is problem solving.

The bosses are rather cool. The mid-bosses tend to be gigantic Homer Simpson creatures. Each one is more peculiar than the last, one with its head popping off mid-fight and flying around on a propellor, another in outer space, another underwater. A range of giant-sized cat bosses also exist, including one in a suit of armor, and a puzzler of a boss with a cat in a tube and a strange orbiting white orb. The remaining bosses are, of course, your friends. You must fight each one as you progress in order to knock some sense back into them, ultimately gaining them as playable characters after you've "won" the fight.

One of my favourite elements of the game is the animation. The overall quality of the graphics is so good, they could easily be from an early Super NES game. The only graphical glitch is a column of graphical blocks that flicker on the far leading side of the screen, depending on the direction you're heading, but they're easy to ignore, and not a fault unique to this game.

Speaking of faults, if I must name a few: The game is quite short, and it seems that certain gameplay elements have been tailored (poorly) to make it a bit longer. The characters don't move very quickly, meaning that you simply can't complete the game as quickly as you'd probably like. I feel the game could have benefited from a Super Mario Bros style "run" function when the B button is held down, but I understand that this mechanism would have probably wiped 20% off of the game's duration.

The music in Ufouria is astonishingly awesome, and is full of earworms that'll stick in your head for months. The main overworld theme and boss music are particularly great, but all of the atmospheric music is perfect and suits the game splendidly.

I mentioned earlier that the game was translated from a Japanese game, Hebereke. Here's what they changed:

Shades was known as Sukezaemon, but didn't undergo any changes in appearance. Gil didn't change looks either, but his name was originally........Jennifer.

The only remaining change, and undoubtedly the single most important, significant and life-altering:

I love Ufouria. Ufouria is awesome. It's not easy, but it's not hard. It's about an hour of play all told, so it's a manageable game to bust up any time you feel like completing something in its entirety.