Ufouria: The Saga 2 revives a retro gem

It's almost like I'm feeling intense pleasure & excitement

07 March 2024
by rawmeatcowboy 4
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Right from day-one with the NES, I was a SUNSOFT kid. Blaster Master, Batman: The Video Game, Journey to Silius, you name it. While the likes of Capcom and Konami were the big-name third parties back in that day, SUNSOFT was quietly putting out banger after banger as well. Solid gameplay, unique mechanics, and killer soundtracks were all hallmarks of SUNSOFT’s early work, locking me in as a lifelong fan.

Being such a SUNSOFT diehard, I felt incredible anger when Ufouria: The Saga didn’t come over to North America. I had been keeping an eye on the game through magazines and was shocked that SUNSOFT only brought the title to the NES in Europe. That frustration stayed with me all the way up to the Virtual Console release of Ufouria: The Saga, which finally let me enjoy the mini-Metroidvania well over a decade after its original release.

While SUNSOFT went practically dormant after the 16-bit era, we’re slowly-but-surely been seeing the company resurrect itself. Things really started to pop off again when Inti Creates and SUNSOFT teamed up for a Blaster Master revival, and that paved the way for SUNSOFT to take a crack at bringing back some of their other I.P.. That momentum brings us full circle, right back to Ufouria: The Saga, which has gotten a sequel 33+ years after its initial release. Thankfully, that incredibly grueling wait has been, for the most part, very much worth it.

The original Ufouria: The Saga was honestly ahead of its time for the most part, giving us a very solid and considerably expansive Metroidvania for the hardware. Metroidvanias weren’t new back in 1991, but we certainly weren’t calling them by that name, and core elements of the genre were still being figured out. Ufouria: The Saga basically took what Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest tried to do and refined it to a considerable degree. Ufouria: The Saga 2 continues down that path, but in an era where Metroidvanias have been very well established.

A performance I could do without...
A performance I could do without...

Ufouria: The Saga 2 has a few main hooks to its gameplay, some of which are tried-and-true, and others that add in some unique wrinkles. On the retread side of things comes yet another Metroidvania map to explore, the same cast of characters as the original, upgradeable abilities that open new paths, and of course, platforming. Anyone who’s played even a single Metroidvania will no doubt feel at home with these aspects of Ufouria: The Saga 2, but it’s the fresh ideas sprinkled throughout that will intrigue.

Whereas Ufouria: The Saga gave players a standard map to explore, Ufouria: The Saga 2 has a map with the same overall locations, but with areas that will vary in layout each time you enter. Think of it akin to how Dead Cells works. While Dead Cells takes you through the same themed hubs, the stages themselves are procedurally generated. Ufouria: The Saga 2 does just the same, but throwing that idea into a full-on Metroidvania feels quite special. If you don’t know that mechanic before you jump into the game, it can be a pretty wild thing to experience when you first revisit a region.

Just like any other Metroidvania, Ufouria: The Saga 2 will have you revisiting areas time and time again for exploration and to collect things like money, Utsu-cans (drinks), and early on, different characters. Doing this in other Metroidvanias can sometimes feel monotonous depending on how many times you have to make a trip back, but Ufouria: The Saga 2’s randomized approach keeps the experience lively. You never quite know what kind of layout you’re going to get, and while there’s not a massive variety overall, there are more than enough tweaks and alterations to keep you entertained during the game’s 2-3 hour playtime.

You’ll definitely spend time tracing your steps back to previous regions, as there are a ton of different things you’ll need to do in each one. The first order of business is getting the band of four main characters back together, each of which has a unique ability. Again, the quarter of characters in Ufouria: The Saga 2 are the same as the original, and the mechanics they presented the first time around return for this sequel. You’re able to swap between these characters with the press of a shoulder button, bringing them out when you need someone who can swim, sink, float or so on.

A furry, penguin and ghost walk into a bar
A furry, penguin and ghost walk into a bar

Returning to areas to scrounge up coins and Utsu-cans will be a major part of the adventure as well, as you need both of these in order to progress. Coins and cans are used to unlock new abilities through vending machines, with the main one in your home base offering unique upgrades and enhancements you won’t find anywhere else. If there’s ever a time when you’re feeling stuck, it’s likely because you haven’t found enough Utsu-cans for a vending machine refresh, which should result in a new item that’ll help you push on ahead.

While you’ll need a LOT of coins as you make your way through Ufouria: The Saga 2, the game gives you more than enough opportunities to gather them. You’ll see them scattered all throughout levels and enemies will drop them when they’re butt-stomped, but there are other unique ways to gather copious cash. For example, each time you revisit an area, the game will give you a different challenge to complete, and doing so will net you bonus coins. These are rated one-to-three stars in difficulty, and they amount to things like not getting hit, completing the stage within a time limit, and so on. The only penalty for not completing these challenges is losing out on extra coins, so you only have to tackle them when you see fit.

Another interesting way the game offers a chance at coins comes from your party of four. While there’s only ever one active player on the stage at a given time, the other characters are scurrying about off-screen to find treasures. Should they happen to find something of note, they’ll announce it with a text bubble that pops up, along with a special sound effect and button prompt. If you hit the X button before the prompt disappears, you’ll be treated to some extra coins. It’s a neat little feature that not only keeps your coin count growing, but it also gives you another mechanic to actively or passively participate in.

While it’s certainly nice to have your party members chiming in to help out and say hello from time to time, Ufouria: The Saga 2 sure likes to show you how chatty this cast is. After every item purchase you make at a vending machine, you’ll get a little cut-scene showing you some sort of interaction. Sometimes it’s an explanation as to how items work, but it can also be a little skit meant to make you chuckle. The idea, in passing, is a fun one that keeps you engaged with the other characters when you’re not using them. The problem is that for me, the cast was a bit too talkative. There were definitely little moments that made me smile and were endearing, but other conversation sections felt like they hindered momentum, if only for a minute or two.

Still safer than Spirit Airlines
Still safer than Spirit Airlines

Outside of that small gripe, there really isn’t too much to complain about with Ufouria: The Saga 2. There are no doubt some who’ll be disappointed with the game’s difficulty, or lack thereof. There’s even an item you can buy that supposedly ups the difficulty, and while it does add in more enemies and more challenging placements, you’ll still get a “platforming 101” experience. Platforming doesn’t have to be hard to be enjoyable by any means, but it would have been nice to see things ratcheted up another notch…or three.

While Ufouria: The Saga 2 might lack in challenge, it’s absolutely oozing with charm. Much of that comes from the visuals in Ufouria: The Saga 2, which are a real joy to behold, as they utilize a style similar to what we saw in Yoshi’s Woolly World. SUNSOFT recently revealed that they actually hand-crafted characters, enemies and sets in real-life before building the game, much like Nintendo and Good-Feel did for Yoshi’s outing. This gives the game an incredibly light, jolly feel that makes seeing everything from new locations to character animations that much more entertaining.

The same attention to detail was paid to the game’s soundtrack, which is yet another standout of the romp. Pretty much every tune here comes straight from the original Ufouria: The Saga, but they’ve all been reorchestrated with a whole new set of instruments, giving them a much punchier, energetic feel. For someone who absolutely adores Ufouria: The Saga, hearing the main theme revamped was enough to bring a tear to my eye, just as many of the other memorable tunes did. Whoever tackled the soundtrack here did an excellent job staying true to the original while injecting new life into the timeless tracks.

If Ufouria: The Saga 2 shows how SUNSOFT plans to revisit their library of games for new installments, I’d say the future is bright indeed. Whatever teams exist at SUNSOFT now, along with partner studios they pair with, clearly understand what made SUNSOFT’s titles great. While Ufouria: The Saga 2 may feel quite familiar to those who’ve played the original, I think that’s exactly the right approach when you’re reintroducing an IP 30+ years after its last installment. It may not be as innovative as it was back in the day, and it might not break the mold in today’s busy market, but what’s offered here is still done extremely well.

Hmmm...Reese's Peanut Butter Cups or Milky Way Midnight...
Hmmm...Reese's Peanut Butter Cups or Milky Way Midnight...

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with a largely painless, yet deeply amusing Metroidvania that keeps the adventure light from beginning to end. With so much out there now and so many deep games to play, Ufouria: The Saga 2 can be a really nice respite from it all. From the appealing visuals to rock-solid gameplay, toe-tapping soundtrack to silly cast of characters, Ufouria: The Saga 2 is a lovely return to form for this friendly foursome.

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Comments (4)

bentetris

3M ago

Why did they use the same characters but replace their iconic names? I can't abide by this change. Give me back Bop-Louie and Freon-Leon!


ngamer01

3M ago

@bentetris

They threw out the English localization in favor of translating the Japanese version. They still had a English name for the Hebereke series and couldn't lose it, so we got Ufouria 2.

Funny thing is Ufouria 1 is getting an enhanced port, but the entire English localization is thrown out for the translated Japanese version. Ufouria 1 is being re-released as Hebereke: Enjoy Edition.

That's not to say Bop-Louie and Freon-Leon would be gone forever outside rereleases of the original Ufouria (and not Hebereke: Enjoy Edition). Maybe Sunsoft can bring those US-specific characters back as secondary characters to Hebe's group or just as easter egg characters in future Hebereke games.

Edited 3 times

rawmeatcowboy

3M ago

@bentetris

I mean, I have to admit that Bop-Louie is a much worse, but MUUUUUUUUUCH better name. I wish I were named Bop-Louie!


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