The Wii Virtual Console has been dead lately, and well, Sunsoft has been pretty much dead forever. Seeing these two things revived thanks to this week’s release of Ufouria makes me pretty happy.
Ufouria is a late gen NES title that was due for release in the states but never made it outside of Japan and Europe. It was far along enough that magazines like Nintendo Power had write ups and advertisements for the game. Me personally, I always wanted to try it because I loved Sunsoft games. After nearly 20 years, the Virtual Console and Sunsoft have made that dream a reality. Yes, I know I could have just downloaded a ROM of it, but whatever. I’m legit.
Ufouria: The Saga revolves around four cute Pokemon-like characters (get it? You-Four-Of-Ya) in a quest to return home. The game is very much a Metroidvania title, so exploring, learning the map, and back tracking is the name of the game here. While one character, the Frosty the Snow Man looking Bop Louie, is selectable at first it doesn’t take long to track down the other selectable characters. Of course, each character has their own unique skills (the lizard is the only one that doesn’t fall on his face on ice, the frog can swim, ect) so there is plenty of swapping going on between the four during the game. Eventually though, I found myself almost using Bop Louie and the frog almost exclusively, only going back to the lizard and ghost when I had to.
I found it interesting that for a game done in the early 90s, that Sunsoft had the sense to add arrows that pop up early on in the game to help keep players on track so that they don’t get lost or frustrated. Only after acquiring some key items and the map opens up do the arrows go away. It’s a rather forward thinking move on their part, and it’s something that hasn’t really become a standard in games until somewhat recently.
However as bold a design choice as that is, I’m baffled the game never teaches you how to attack. For the first 20 minutes I thought my character was worthless since I couldn’t harm any bad guys. I knew something was wrong and actually consulted the digital manual included with the game where I found my answer. Holding in “down” while jumping is the only way to stomp enemies. It’s a strange move in an era where we were conditioned by Super Mario that jumping on heads is the way to go. Why throw the curve ball in there? I suppose it adds some skill to how the player attacks, but as good as the game is about explaining what items do what, I’m surprised they missed such a crucial step. Still, fans of Ducktales would feel right at home after they figure out what to do.
That said, the game features a well designed and interconnected map with plenty of incentive to keep playing as the game almost constantly rewards the player with new items and gizmos. While the game does have a certain old school bite in the difficulty department, Game Overs aren’t the end of the world and are more forgiving then they might seem. Once revived the player always starts from the same point on the map, but all of the items acquired are still accounted for and since the map is so tight it isn’t too bad getting back to where you were. The game becomes even more forgiving thanks to the Virtual Console’s save function. If the player so chooses they can write down Mega Man style passwords, but the save function does the job just fine.
As a late gen NES title the game sports some nice, bold, and well animated graphics. However, the awesome Sunsoft soundtrack is nearly ruined by the fact that this is the PAL version converted for the Virtual Console and not the Famicom one, so the audio is sped up more than it should be. Though I never played the original game, I felt the soundtrack was off and doing a bit of research (ie looking on GAF and seeing people talking about it) confirmed my suspicions. It isn’t a deal breaker, just a slight bummer.
For 600 Wii Points some people might find the game to be too short (took me about two and a half hours, a half hour worth trying to figure out the final boss), but for someone that doesn’t want to pay the absurd asking price for the PAL version on eBay, that figure is rather fair.