Ufouria: The Saga

Ufouria: The Saga / Hebereke (へべれけ) - NES, PlayStation, Mobile, Wii Virtual Console, 3DS Virtual Console, Wii U Virtual Console (1991)

This entry is part 4 of 9 in the series Hebereke

Hebereke, the game that started it all and made Hebe Sunsoft’s mascot, was named in the Western world with a pun on “UFO”, “utopia” (or “euphoria”?) , and “four” as in the number of playable characters, plus the meaningless subtitle “The Saga”. The plot is mostly nonsense in both the Japanese and Western versions, involving distortions of time and space. The latter version simply states that Bop-Louie’s friends fell down a crater and found themselves in a strange new world. He follows them down and, whenever he finds them, must beat them in a fight because they’re amnesiac. At that point they will join him, becoming selectable in the sub-menu.

The game follows the open world exploration formula popularized by Metroid, so finding the abilities of your friends and using them is mandatory to go further and uncover new areas of the game world, for example by swimming, climbing on walls and so on. The wackiness is apparent in some mostly useless but funny ability, such as Shades’ ability to crawl on the ground in a way that some enemies mistake him for one of them.

Often Hebe and friends need to find special abilities to proceed, in addition to a world map, life containers and some more or less useful trinkets. The ultimate purpose of the game is to find three keys that open the door to the final confrontation with Unyoon. Those keys are in possession of three guardians found somewhere in the world. They are a cat hiding in a barrel, circled by a white orb with a face, a knight in armor which is revealed to be a cat upon defeat and a UFO-riding spaceman that is supposedly an alien cat.

Behind the bizarreness there still is a very good and solid game, with a few glitches here and there but conceived and developed in a competent way. The only downside are some annoying puzzles (namely, freezing enemies with Freeon’s breath to pass over dangerous areas) that require to continuously switch characters via the menu. The graphics and character designs are pretty good but the soundtrack is fantastic, with that trademark Sunsoft sound. Some themes are very intense or epic-sounding, and would make this adventure seem the grand saga the title hints at, if the sprites weren’t so goofy!

Ufouria became a cult classic due to its rarity. It was only available in a very small amount in PAL territories and it became officially available in the US only almost 20 years later, when it was added to the Wii’s Virtual Console catalog on August 23, 2010. However, it is the PAL ROM running at 60hz, so the music is sped up. It was already re-released in Japan in the compilation Memorial Series Sunsoft Vol. 5 (2002) for the PlayStation, which also included [rʌf] World AKA Journey to Silius. In 2003, Sunsoft teamed up with the developer Space Out to remake most of the Hebereke games for mobile phones, including the very first one.

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