The early 90s were a period when every software house, from the famous to the obscure, needed to have some sort of mascot to represent them. Sega had Sonic, Capcom had Mega Man, SNK had G-Mantle. Even Sunsoft joined the list with probably the strangest of all: Hebe, some sort of super-deformed albino penguin with tiny eyes and beak, wearing a blue beanie hat. It’s name is derived from “hebereke”, which means more or less “drunkenness” in Japanese.
Hebe and his bizarre friends starred in a variety of games, ranging from platformers to puzzle games, an on-foot racing game and even an early example of multi-player brawling several years before Nintendo’s Smash Bros.series. They nonetheless had the same settings in almost every instalment, which were apparently a retelling of the same basic story.
Since the Hebereke series was so incredibly Japanese in every respect, only a few games left their country of origin. According to Arcade-History.com, Sunsoft of America blocked the distribution of original games from its Japanese sister company after obtaining the Looney Tunes license to hasten the creation of tie-in games. Even after Sunsoft of Japan took control of the American branch, they never managed to push the series’ popularity in the West any further.
The characters were designed by Uchimich Ryoji AKA “Ucchii”, who was also credited as designer of the first two games in the series. Ucchii also made a series of yonkoma (four-panel comic strips) starring his characters for Family Computer Magazine from 1996 to 1998. Their sound bites in all the games after the first one were provided by Megumi Hayashibara, Shigeru Chiba, Mika Kanai and Norio Wakamoto, who went on to become hugely famous and influential voice actors in the anime (and, to some extent, gaming) industry.
Series’ Recurring Characters
Hebe / Bop-Louie
The main character, a penguin who was turned into some sort of snowman in overalls in the Western version of the original game. He’s not very fast and unable to swim, but he’s the only one that gains the ability to climb on walls, and he can detach his head as a special attack. Being a penguin/snowman doesn’t even help him walking on ice. For the supposed protagonist he sure isn’t good at many things, but he is the only one who can beat Ufouria‘s final boss.
O-Chan / Freeon-Leon
In the original version, O-Chan was apparently a cutesy, spoiled girl dressed in a cat costume, but Uforia turns her into a comically inexpressive dinosaur. Her new name hints to her special ability, temporarily freezing enemies into ice cubes to be used as stepping blocks. Her affinity with ice manifests in the unique ability to walk fast on frozen grounds.
Sukezaemon / Shades
A ghost in a funny hat and cool sunglasses who speaks in an antiquated manner with the voice of none other than Norio Wakamoto. Being a ghost, he can make big floaty jumps, but he’s the slowest and still unable to swim. Has a bizarre ability where he whacks himself on the head with a mallet to pop his eyeballs out of the sockets, which then chase after enemies. Probably the most neglected character in the original game.
Jennifer / Gil
Despite the name, this dopey humanoid angler fish was male even in the Japanese original. He’s slow on land but can not only swim but also walk fast underwater, and his special ability lets him spit explosive nuggets to blow up certain obstacles. Later redesigns make him rounder and more in line with other character appearances.
An extraterrestrial (seemingly an alien cat) who is a tough boss in Hebereke, first sending his spawn/clones while he’s on his UFO and then attacking with a laser guns, becoming invisible every now and then. He’s probably a wannabe invader, but looks and sounds too goofy (Wakamoto wasn’t yet typecasted as charismatic tough guys back then) to be effective.
A mother bird with the voice of a male chain smoker. In Hebereke she was a NPC who sent you on a quest to find her missing egg and then transported you around the game world. In later games she fights you whenever you go through her nest.