Released in 1994 for Super Famicom, Umihara Kawase features the eponymous girl and her fish hook trying to reach doors in increasingly difficult fields while avoiding fish walking around. Yes, fish walking around. It can be beaten in less than ten minutes, but there's dozens of different ways to reach the ending credits, and impossible to see all of the fields in one playthrough. Plus some doors take a lot of knowledge about the game physics to reach.
A sequel, Umihara Kawase Shun (Shun meaning something being in season - in the English translation of the 3DS game, it's given the name Umihara Kawase Seasonal), was released for PlayStation three years later. It had fields that required even more intricate tricks with the hook, a shorter and springier line and... commercials. Yes, there were actually commercials inbetween some fields, from a company producing fishing supplies. In 2000, Umihara Kawase Shun Second Edition was released. It contained five new fields and some bugfixes, but most importantly, it replaced the commercials with artwork of Umihara.
Following that, the series stayed quiet for eight years, until Umihara Kawase Portable, a port of Shun, was released for the Playstation Portable in 2008. While at first welcomed, upon release it was found a huge disappointment due being riddled with bugs, and due to a change in physics but the fields staying the same some doors were rendered impossible to reach. This had to do with the port being developed by a different studio altogether, and was so bad that a boycott was called.
Fans did not have to be without their portable fix, however - in 2009, Umihara Kawase Shun Second Edition Kanzenban (kanzenban meaning "complete version") was released for the Nintendo DS. Not only was it a far better port, it also included the original game and had some extra fields. This port was overseen by the original programmer of the game, and the original artist contributed with new artwork. It has been recieved with great praise.
A brand new game in the series, developed by Studio Saizensen, for the Nintendo 3DS was released in 2013, titled Sayonara Umihara Kawase appearing on the American eShop in March 2014 as "Yumi's Odd Odyssey", the first game to leave Japan. It was released on the European eShop as well, but under its original title, in April 2014. It was released again for the Playstation Vita in April 2015, with a few changes from the 3DS version of the game. All three games were also released on Steam in 2015. An Android port named Sayonara Umihara Kawase Smart has since been released.
An installment for the Nintendo Switch, Umihara Kawase Fresh!, came out on April 25, 2019 for Japan and Asia, and July 9, 2019 for the rest of the world, with a PC port on Steam released a year later. Instead of the level-based structure of previous titles, Fresh! changes things up by being a Metroidvania with mission-based gameplay. Unlike the previous games, it also features a story that consists of Kawase visiting Kingness, a land that's very reminiscent of the town that she had gone to in her dreams. After getting a job as a part-time chef and delivery girl at the local restaurant, she soon learns of the land's history, namely the castle floating above, the dark caverns below and the plague of monsters that torment the townsfolk. And it also includes Cotton from Fantastic Night Dreams Cotton and Curly Brace from Cave Story as Guest Fighters.
A Spin-Off, Umihara Kawase BaZooKa!!, released on May 28, 2020 for PlayStation 4, Switch, and PC via Steam both in Japan and worldwide. It supports English, Japanese, Chinese (Traditional and Simplified), and Korean language options, and got both a physical and digital release. While the engine for Fresh! is reused, it's a Platform Fighter/rubbering battle action game with support for up to four players in online multiplayer, and also a stage clear-style cooperative element. Alongside characters from previous games, there are also Guest Fighters from both Studio Saizensen and Success' library of games, such as Fantastic Night Dreams Cotton, Doki Doki Poyacchio, Youkoso Hitsuji Mura, Ring Dream and Akai Ito as well as new original characters. And a YouTuber.
There is also a manga, but it does not seem to have very much to do with the game.
As well as all this, its characters have also appeared as playable fighters in Blade Strangers, another game from Studio Saizensen. Relatedly, Kawase became the 20th character revealed in the crossover puzzler Crystal Crisis, as well as a Guest Fighter in Superlative Night Dreams: Cotton Rock 'n' Roll.
The games provide examples of:
- Anti-Climax: Alright, the game has no story whatsoever, but there is nothing that even remotely hints that you are close to the end of the game. You merely enter a door, identical to every other door in the game, and the credits start rolling. A little less so in Sayonara, as every ending field is also a boss field.
- Buxom Is Better: Umihara's character art in most of the games, though nowhere seen in-game
- In the Retro Game Master episode centered around the SNES game, the character designer himself gives Arino an illustration of Umihara cheering Arino on. Arino's reaction to the illustration upon further examination has him asking if she actually has that large a bustline.
- Crossover: Fresh features Cotton from Fantastic Night Dreams Cotton and Curly Brace from Cave Story as playable characters.
- BaZooKa!! also has characters from the aforementioned Fantastic Night Dreams Cotton as well as Doki Doki Poyacchio.
- Dub Name Change: The American 3DS release of Sayonara is named Yumi's Odd Odyssey, with Umihara subsequently renamed Yumi.
- Epunymous Title: The name of the game and its protagonist is the abbreviated form of a Japanese proverb, "Umi no sakana wa hara ni, kawa no sakana wa se ni abura ga notteiru." Translation
- Excuse Plot: The reason she goes around facing down walking fish? She's a traveling sushi chef gathering ingredients. This seems to only appear in the American translation, however.
- Giant Enemy Crab: Field 56 (SFC). Slightly smaller but still giant in relation to the human characters crabs appear as bosses in Sayonara too, and this time you drop persimmons on them.
- Grappling-Hook Pistol: Well, not a pistol. Just a rubber line and fishing hook.
- Hammerspace: As mentioned above, her backpack.
- Interface Screw: The HUD itself, situating itself pretty much right in the middle of the screen. While it's not totally obtrusive, it can prove to be a bit distracting at times. The only game in the series that spreads the HUD out closer to the borders of the screen is Umihara Kawase Portable, but, uh... yeah. Sayonara also keeps the HUD at the edges and lets you select what elements of it you even want appearing.
- Mix-and-Match Critters: Fish with legs.
- Mook Maker: The buckets. To a lesser extent, the sharks.
- Nintendo Hard: This game has a learning curve. It's very sharp. Shun is even less forgiving. Also, you start with ten lives.
- No Plot? No Problem!: There's no explanation for anything. The manga doesn't seem to make sense out of anything either. Averted with Fresh, which has an actual story.
- Older Than They Look: Upon first seeing her SFC sprite, one would probably assume Umihara is still in her single digits. Her Shun sprite makes her look a little older, though not by much. She's actually nineteen - in Sayonara, she's become 20, and looks more her age.
- One Hitpoint Wonder: Most enemies kill Umihara at the slightest touch. Good thing there's...
- 1-Up: In the form of Umihara's pink backpack. In Sayonara, the backpacks become collectibles that you unlock things by collecting, but acts as one-ups in Survival mode.
- Platform Game
- Recurring Boss: A giant tadpole that lays eggs that hatch into tiny frogs appear at least twice in each game, Shun even having one field where there's two of them. Fighting them is somewhat different in each, in the original you have to avoid things until it jumps into the sea, in Shun you can exit the boss fields if you manage to reach the door and in Sayonara you have to cause damage to it. Sayonara is the only game where you can't face it twice in the same playthrough, as every boss field is an ending field.
- Respawning Enemies: Nearly everything, except for the octopuses and bosses. Sayonara mostly lets enemies stay dead.
- Rod-and-Reel Repurposed: While the title character's fishing rod can catch the curiously terrestrial fish, it can also be thrown to cling to platforms like a Grappling-Hook Pistol.
- Spikes of Doom
- Sprite/Polygon Mix: Shun has the stages built out of polygons while everything else are sprites.
- Squashed Flat: Can happen in the original SNES game and the Playstation Vita version of Sayonara Umihara Kawase if Umihara (or any of the other characters in the Vita game) is standing on a moving platform while it moves into a ceiling.
- Timed Mission: Every field has a time limit. There's also a global timer, and the longer you play the game, the more likely is it that you will reach an ending field. Field 28 (again, SFC) is only possible to reach this way, after having played for 30 minutes.
- A number of bosses are also like this, as all you can do is dodge until the exit door becomes available.
- Sayonara has a regular field where you avoid/fight regular respawning fish enemies until the door appears, a rare appearance of a non-boss field with that kind of time limit.
- Unmoving Plaid: The moving blocks in Shun are like this.
- Wake-Up Call Boss: The tadpole from the original SFC game is literally unbeatable unless you have a good enough grasp of the physics and game mechanics to realize you can hang safely underneath the platform the battle takes place on, then pull yourself back up once it's safe, and the skills to actually execute this. Each boss in Sayonara can be this is you're used to the bosses from the previous games, as you have to actively cause damage.