Back in April this year, cult platformer Sayonara Umihara Kawase + made its way to Steam and the PSN store as a digital download, much to the delight of fans of this semi-obscure Japanese series. Yet the title mysteriously disappeared from both Steam and PSN this morning with no explanation. Visiting the game’s Steam page, for example, redirects interested buyers back to the Steam Store’s main page. It’s as if the game had never existed at all.
A report from the 11th of this month by Gematsu, however, reveals some of the backstory into Umihara’s disappearance. Publisher Agatsuma Entertainment, who acquired the series in 2013 and also developed the Code of Princess series, announced in a press release that collapsing administrative conditions had lead to the company’s financial instability. The company disbanded on the 11th, and will completely liquidate in March 2016. Umihara’s departure from digital distribution platforms seems to be one unfortunate consequence of Agatsuma’s dissolution.
No word has been given on whether rights to the Umihara license are being given to another company.Owners of the game are still able to play the game, however.
Umihara Kawase is a 2D platforming series that, until Sayonara’s 3DS release back in 2013, was exclusive to the Japanese market. Umihara Kawase began its life in 1994 on the Super Famicom, which was followed by a PlayStation sequel titled Umihara Kawase Shun. The games follow a young girl named Umihara, who has somehow become trapped in a surreal dimension of abstract environments and gigantic sea creatures. The series is notorious for its deceptively difficult gameplay; tranquil music and genial wildlife belie a difficult-to-master rope swinging mechanic that Umihara must use to traverse each stage.
Umihara Kawase is also notable for being a very early predecessor to the independent game development movement that began around the turn of the 21st century. The original 1994 game was an independent collaboration between several developers and a publisher named TNN. The series also offers in-game timers and the ability to record and watch replays, which was unusual even by the standards of other games that offered tools for speedrunners like Super Metroid and Alien Soldier. In spite of Umihara’s accomplishments, the series did not make its way stateside until Sayonara’s 2013 release, which was re-titled Yumi’s Odd Adventure.
However, many gamers had been exposed to the series beforehand through emulation technologies. Umihara’s reputation overseas is bolstered by its appearance on Japanese TV Show GameCenter CX, in which host Shinya Arino travels throughout Japan to play various video games.
Sayonara Umihara Kawase was developed by most of the original Umihara staff and was published by the late Agatsuma Entertainment. It introduces two new playable characters to the series, each with their own unique attributes. The game is somewhat easier than its predecessors, as the previously-limited Lives resource is now no longer a factor int he main game. Players can unlock a Survival Challenge, though, which gives the player only three lives to complete the game, similar to previous Umihara titles. The game’s challenging rope physics have returned as well.
Though fans of the Umihara series must bid sayonara to its latest installment on Steam and PSN, the game (and the rest of the series) still seems to be available for purchase through the Humble Bundle. Those interested in trying out the series might wish to do so as soon as possible, for there is no telling when the Humble Bundle set might also disappear into the nether.