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Game Review

Ufouria: The Saga Review

Europe PAL Version

Posted by Marcel van Duyn

Easy Mode Metroid

The original Metroid was a ground-breaking game for its time, but it feels incredibly dated to anyone playing it for the first time now. The lack of a map makes navigating the seemingly endless identical corridors way more annoying than it should be for newcomers, whereas those who know the game inside out can beat it within an hour.

Ufouria takes heavy inspiration from the first Metroid, as you navigate a large world consisting of multiple areas, finding new abilities along the way to help you reach extra items and even more locations. Originally released in Japan as Hebereke, it stars Sunsoft's original mascot, Hebe, who, along with some other characters in the game, was made to look slightly different for the western release.

It's one of only three games in the series released outside Japan, and curiously enough, none of those three were released in North America, only in Europe and Australia. Ufouria is the most infamous of the bunch: it's one of the rarest NES games around and a complete English copy can go for hundreds of dollars on auction sites, if you're lucky enough to even see one of them.

Hebe, now known as Bop-Louie and resembling a snowman more than a penguin, has somehow ended up in a strange world with all three of his friends missing, so naturally, he sets out to find them. Although the general idea is very similar to Metroid, there are very few ability-granting powerups to find in Ufouria. Most of the new areas can be accessed by locating your friends; each has their own special skill they can use to great advantage, which means you'll have to switch between characters as the situation calls for it.

Although it might sound cumbersome that this has to be done by going into the menu (thus pausing the game) and then selecting a character, it actually brings a good deal of strategy to the table. If you're playing as a character who can't swim and you somehow manage to tumble towards a body of water, you can quickly pause the action and swap in a character who can. You'll mostly be playing as Bop-Louie, as he can run faster than the others, but each of his friends must be used at least a few times in order to beat the game.

The characters are initially defenseless save for a stomping attack and the ability to pick up and throw strange balls dropped by defeated enemies. You'll have to find one hidden treasure per character in order to let them use an actual attack, which is done by standing still and holding a button for a while.

Metroid could get frustratingly hard, but Ufouria is quite easy-going. You'll quickly locate a map and a compass which will point out the location of every single special item, and you can collect a bunch of (respawning!) medicine that can be used at any time to restore 50 health, as well as Water of Life that fills every single one of your life containers, provided you've found them. The bosses are relatively easy, following a usually simple to figure out pattern, and it's not until the final boss that you'll really ever be in any true danger. Even he's easy with maxed out life though!

Should you lose all your health, you'll be sent back to the first area of the game with no further penalties — all items you've collected will still be in your possession. You can be given a password at any time, but with the Virtual Console's suspend feature this is kind of pointless now. The game is about three to four hours long for first-timers and there should practically never be a time where you get stuck, as the map will get you out of any pickle.

The graphics and sound are some of the best on the NES, just like almost all of Sunsoft's NES catalogue. The whole game looks not unlike a cartoon and the music is very catchy.

Conclusion

Although it might be a bit on the easy side, Ufouria is a great example of a third-party developer beating Nintendo at their own game. It does just about everything the original Metroid did, but better, so if you love Nintendo's action adventure series you'd do very well to check this one out.

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User Comments (65)

#2

said:

Absolutely love this game =D.
Now i wish i had a Wii _.
[formerly user Gunzelino, now user Edesto]

KaiserGX

#4

KaiserGX said:

At the beginning I thought this was going to get a bad review. Please come to US!

Majora

#5

Majora said:

I love it: really good and fun game. Maybe a little short, but not too easy to discover all hidden treasures.

And for me Super Mario Bros. 2 (USA) is another big inspiration for this.

EdEN

#6

EdEN said:

Hoping for an "import" release of the game over here. Definitely worth the extra 100-200 points needed for that.

Link79

#7

Link79 said:

Cool! Another Nes game I missed out on that gets a second chance with the VC. I'll be checking this one out for sure. I always hated how hard and frustrating Metroid was. A similar game that's easier sounds good to me.

Kevin

#9

Kevin said:

Wait a minute...Sunsoft has actually made an easy game? Nice.

WanderFan91

#10

WanderFan91 said:

Is it really that good? Awesome. :) Once I fix the internet connection of my Wii (which I should've done long ago), I may download this game (when it comes to the US). :)
Great review, Drake. :)

ogo79

#12

ogo79 said:

awesome
i was youtubing this game when i realized this review was up

nakki

#13

nakki said:

Yes, excellent game! I'm considering bying this one - even though I have this on NES. This one has great music!

Draygone

#15

Draygone said:

If this wound up becoming an import title in America, I wonder if this is the version we'd get. Personally, I'd rather have a penguin than a snowman. Penguins are much cuter.

Knux

#16

Knux said:

Looks good, but I never knew this game existed. Let's hope this comes to the American VC.

Stuffgamer1

#18

Stuffgamer1 said:

@Draygone: I'd rather have the version that's in English.:P

Im-port! Im-port! Im-port! Have we gotten even ONE European Import title yet? They've gotten American Imports, but I can't think of any games we got from them. Well, this would be a great start, if nothing else!

WanderFan91

#19

WanderFan91 said:

@Stuffy - there was this game called Super Fantasy Zone on the MegaDrive which was released in Japan and Europe the first time around in 1992, and then in 2008 it became available on the VC, as an import for America.
That's the only game I can think of.

iAlias

#21

iAlias said:

I would like to try it, but if there was a demo it would be as long as the game!

WaveWarlock

#22

WaveWarlock said:

I check out some of it's Youtube Videos and it actually pretty cool. The music is definitly pretty rad in it's own right. But I honestly don't feel too interested in getting it because of the easy difficulty. Starfy for the DS was the last game I just beat and THAT was ridiculously easy. I love games to be challenging and rock 'intense' hard for the most part.

WanderFan91

#25

WanderFan91 said:

@Stuffy - I haven't downloaded the game yet, but, I think so. Although, I'm not really sure there's much language in a game like that.

Sean_Aaron

#30

Sean_Aaron said:

Hmmm, I may check out the Japanese release; it's a platformer so I'm not too excited, but the animation and audio are fantastic - it seems that Sunsoft really pushed the NES further even than Nintendo did!

Adamant

#31

Adamant said:

"it's one of the rarest NES games around and a complete English copy can go for hundreds of dollars on auction sites, if you're lucky enough to even see one of them."

That's somewhat of a stretch - Americans have a tendency to exaggerate the rarity of something not available right there in their back yard, and are seemingly too dumb to look in the right places. PAL games are obviously not THAT commonplace on the American-centric ebay.com, which spreads the word that the game ITSELF is rare, which means people become willing to pay higher prices than normally for it.
The game isn't really much rarer than your average PAL game, you just need to search for it in places that largely deal in PAL games.

Zach

#32

Zach said:

I think I'd enjoy this if it came out in the United States and if I had $6 burning a hole in my pocket, I might buy it. Another enjoyable review from you, thank you for putting the work into it that you did. I liked reading about the game's history a bit - even if Adamant is right and it's not as rare as you made it out to be. And I don't think that Americans are just too dumb to know the actual rarity of something - I'm more inclined to think that eBay sellers try to hype up how hard to find what they're selling is. Maybe some fall for it more than others, but Americans exclusively? Well, I don't mean to come off offended, don't worry, I'm just responding to the comment. Anyway, nice review, thanks for writing it!

Adam

#33

Adam said:

The review says that character switching brings "a great deal of strategy to the table," with the example of switching to a character who can swim when there's water, but that seems much more like common sense than strategy, haha.

Sounds like a fun game though! I hope it makes its way over here.

Adamant

#35

Adamant said:

"And I don't think that Americans are just too dumb to know the actual rarity of something - I'm more inclined to think that eBay sellers try to hype up how hard to find what they're selling is. Maybe some fall for it more than others, but Americans exclusively?"

From what I've seen, Americans in general have a tendency to only look for things in American stores, American flea markets, America online auction sites... and when the game pops up so seldom in these places, they write it off as "extremely rare" without considering the fact that the game was never actually released there, and if they want to find it, they might want to search in places where it was actually on sale in the first place. They're wrongly seeing the explanation to "I can't find it" as "it's hard to find" rather than the correct "I'm not looking for it in places it can be expected to be found".
Since the English-language internet is largely dominated by Americans, these things spread and are accepted as facts.

theblackdragonAdmin

#36

theblackdragon said:

The problem is that they are not facts, Adamant. If we stem the spread of such misinformation by not parroting it when opportunity arises, perhaps people will stop believing it without question.

On a somewhat related note, you do realize Marcel (a.k.a. Drake) is located in the Netherlands, yes? :3

Adamant

#38

Adamant said:

"On a somewhat related note, you do realize Marcel (a.k.a. Drake) is located in the Netherlands, yes? :3"

Yep. As I mentioned, these myths are so common online that even Europeans, who should've known better, just accept them as straight facts.

Vinsanity

#41

Vinsanity said:

Really hope this finally - FINALLY - comes to America now. Even if only 10 people buy it. This and Mr.Gimmick are some of the best games ever put on the NES, and we never got either. C'mon Sunsoft - put 'em out there and show the world your retro game chops! People still only think of Blaster Master when they hear you (or your awesome NES Batman games), and frankly, you gotta show these gamers what for. Games like Ufouria and Gimmick are classics too!

Also, there aren't enough great NES platformers on the VC besides Kirby's Adventure and the Mario stuff. Bio Miracle Bokutte Upa is okay.

roguetrip

#42

roguetrip said:

I'm playing it now but i'm stuck! You liar! lol (not on VC though)

I have no idea how to use my compass with the map. I have 3 of the characters, the penguin, the horned lizard and the ghost looking fella but I can't find the special attack for the horned lizard :(
Also have the Eye of insight and also don't know what thats for. Off to find a walkthrough I guess. Just another reason why I never cared for 8bit games.

JDesensitized

#43

JDesensitized said:

Gimmick, Ufouria, and Journey To Silius. Three NES classics I've always wanted to own, but could never get my hands on.

Here's hoping that if they release Gimmick!, it'll be the superior JP version. (There's no JP text, so that shouldn't be an issue)

zane

#46

zane said:

Now onto Mr. Gimmick (marvelous game) and kick the usedgames market in the head :D

JohnWalrus

#47

JohnWalrus said:

I like the colorful landscape. I still prefer Metroid's Alien-esque suffocating metal corridors...

Betagam7

#48

Betagam7 said:

Interesting that this is perhaps the first time that NA gamer's will be paying extra for a 50hz PAL "import". I'm presuming the game has not been altered in any way to make it run in 60hz for our NA cousins.

Or could it be that the game is automatically sped up in the manner of NA C64 releases?

Can anyone confirm?

Betagam7

#49

Betagam7 said:

I downloaded the game, it does have borders, quite large ones, at the top and bottom but also oddly has a third border down the right hand side of the screen, I'm wondering if this has anything to do with the partial optimisation hinted at in this article:

http://www.giantbomb.com/sunsoft/65-19/

Could the implementation of the vertical border be done to effectively reshap the screen back into how it would have looked originally and if so why not just spend time removing the original borders?

Puzzling. It will be really interesting to see what shape this arrive in as a NA import.

Rensch

#50

Rensch said:

This game is fun. It seems rather easy though. But it still is great fun to play and nice to look at. Think of a cross between Metroid and Super Mario Bros. 2 and that's what you get.

Vinsanity

#51

Vinsanity said:

I wish more amazing, charming NES games came out on VC. Stuff like this, Mr.Gimmick, Crystalis...even Whomp'Em, NES Strider, Demon Sword and Power Blade and stuff. Needless to say I'm thrilled to see Ufouria here! And legally, for the first time in my country (I've only played it on emulator before...and I didn't play much because, lets face it, that's a horrible way to play console games)

The early 90's NES games were so, so polished and just instantly fun; there are a lot of games approaching the caliber of, say, Kirby's Adventure. And they're all just 5-6 bucks! They're the best value on the service, easily. And yet, there are so few of them that are worthwhile and AREN'T the big Nintendo first party franchises.

EdEN

#52

EdEN said:

@Vinsanity: Whomp'Em and Little Samson are the ones I'm looking forward. Oh and Clash at the Demon Head. Those would definitely go into my my VC collection at launch.

JohnWalrus

#57

JohnWalrus said:

Glad this game came out. Makes me want to run out and buy a Wii Points card right now.

StarDust4Ever

#58

StarDust4Ever said:

Hmmmm... I may have to show my support to Nintendo VC by downloading this. First decent release in months ;)

nice_shirt

#61

nice_shirt said:

I'm so hungry for anything Metroid-ish rite now that I may have to download this tonight!

EarthboundBenjy

#65

EarthboundBenjy said:

I own this game on the NES but I never beat it until today... I just sat down, committed to just play it until it was done, and then did that. Two or three or so hours later, and I would say it was a very worthwhile experience indeed, :D

I only got stuck once, inside the dark room area. I couldn't find the lightswitch and didn't really want to explore every cracked block because breaking them takes foooorreeevvvveerr. :( I think that this one room is the game's biggest flaw because it's just pointlessly tedious. Everything else in the game is awesome.

I love how every enemy and character in the game has a sort of "mentally-handicapped" expression on their face. It gives the game a strange personality indeed.

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