I have a weakness for cute anime things, especially if it looks like it’s from the 80s or 90s. While I had heard of the Japanese Umihara Kawase series, I’ve never been too big into importing. All of the games have passed me by until the most recent Nintendo 3DS release, which was localized under the name Yumi’s Odd Odyssey.
Something that has stood out about the franchise even since it’s original 1994 Super Nintendo release is the visual style of the games. While the characters are cute little chibi girls, the backgrounds instead take a more realistic look. Paper doors, cross walk lights, wine racks, faucets, rubber ducks and tons of other everyday objects sit in the background often not even placed logically. Sometimes a paper wall will just float in the backdrop for no particular reason. The fish enemies fall somewhere in-between realistic and just goofy looking. They wobble around on their legs and have big buggy eyes. This is all set to a soundtrack that feels like it’s out of the 16-bit era with a whimsical and relaxing vibe to it.
The aesthetics create a strange and surreal environment, yet it doesn’t feel out of place given the game’s structure. There’s no story outside some brief character bios, nor an overarching world. The game is based off a simple stage select screen. Each stage is a small self-contained box the player must navigate through.
Merely running and jumping on platforms won’t get you far. A fishing lure is your main tool for traversing the levels in Yumi’s Odd Odyssey. After throwing the lure in one of eight directions, it will attach to a surface. You can then swing across gaps or simply hang in the air. I often hear the series get compared to Bionic Commando because of this mechanic. However, Yumi’s Odd Odyssey offers much more freedom of movement when you’re attached to a surface.
When hanging from the fishing lure, you can retract and extend your line. It may not sound like much but the speed you generate from doing this is ridiculous. You’ll start bouncing around with only the lure keeping you from flying off in some random direction. Let go of the lure and off you go, hopefully not to your death.
Yumi’s Odd Oddsey is all about controlling the speed and angle at which you launch. The lure mechanics can feel unpredictable at times as there’s a ton of factors in how fast and what direction you’ll go. Even so, it still feels heavily reliant on the player’s skill and timing.
Early on you’ll have to start throwing your lure mid-air to swing from one surface to the next without ever touching the ground. All of the platforms and interactive elements have a distinct look to them, so you’ll never find yourself accidentally trying to latch onto background elements. Once you master the basic mechanics, you can start doing some advance techniques like wrapping a lure against an object to get a specific angle or to further increase your launch speed.
You’re not constrained to the set paths the levels seem to lay out. If you can use the physics to get to the end another way, the game’s totally okay with you doing that. Don’t feel like dealing with spikes today? Swing yourself across the bottom of them, or try to throw yourself over the entire spike pit. The only barriers you’ll meet are the borders of the level and your own ability to pull off these feats. There are later elements like icy surfaces you can’t lure onto, but those have their own uses that you can take advantage of.
There are 50 levels overall, though you have to find secret doors to access most of them. The levels can be completed in less than a couple minutes. Actually completing them is the tough bit. Don’t be surprised if you spend hours impaling the adorable little characters on spikes or having them drown at the bottom of the ocean. Surprisingly, it doesn’t really come off as frustrating possibly due to the relaxing nature of the soundtrack.
I hope interest in Yumi’s Odd Odyssey starts to bloom over time. From what I can see, there’s not much of a conversation going on about the game. It definitely deserves some attention after having to wait two decades to premiere outside of Japan. It’s only available digitally on the eShop in North America, so it has a limited reach. $20 might seem a little steep for such a simple looking game, but the depth in the gameplay absolutely makes up for that.