Holy Umbrella - Dondera's Wild is an interesting game that would never have ever been considered for release in North America back in the 1990s due to its quirky humour and story-first, action-second gameplay. Though certainly not as heavy as most RPGs, this game is very text heavy considering it is a platformer and would likely have scared off most companies that would do localizations of Japanese games. This game is comparable to Zelda II - The Adventure of Link in terms of gameplay, though the difficulty level is certainly less in this game.
The game starts off with the hero running home in the rain, when he happens upon an umbrella sitting on the street. Thinking that he lucked out and would be able to get home without getting wet, he picks up the umbrella and gets transported to another world! He immediately encounters the Dondera Tank, which gives him a good wallop. The hero is saved from the tank by a wanderer named Kilorn and a plump bird, Bonto. They tell him of the evil Emperor Dondera, who intends to take over the world. The Princess at the kingdom of Thurgical holds a mystical power that seals a great evil away. Due to the seal weakening, the hero with the Holy Umbrella must defeat the evil in order to return to his own world.
The bulk of the gameplay consists two parts. The story is mostly played out in overhead town scenes where you can interact with NPCs, search for hidden treasure and powerups and buy items. The action scenes are side-view platformer levels, riddled with enemies and obstacles typical of games like Zelda II and Super Adventure Island II. In fact, this game is a lot like the later in terms of graphics, sound and gameplay. The hero wields the Holy Umbrella that is upgraded throughout the game to turn the enemies into various objects that can be thrown (i.e. ice blocks, homing balls). During the adventure, the hero also picks up powerups that allow him to float with the umbrella, dash, climb up walls, and hit enemies on the descent of jumps (by pressing down). In addition, by pressing the L and R buttons, you can switch to other characters (primarily Bonto and the girl, Saki), who have abilities that the main hero does not. Bonto can fit in small passageways and do double jumps to reach high platforms. Saki can do wall jumps and slide through low passages. Near the end of the game, the use of the other two characters becomes less significant.
In terms of control, Holy Umbrella does not have many issues. Jumping took me a bit of getting used to, especially to master the running umbrella float. There is a particular boss near the end of the game that requires you to jump off the heads of a couple of enemies to hit, which is not always the easiest move to perform because it requires pinpoint accuracy. Sometimes getting into narrow passages with a double jump by Bonto is not easy to perform. Enemy hit detection is not an issue, and platforms are never in spots that are hard to reach.
The difficulty level in this game is moderate, though it is simplified greatly by the fact that there is no lives counter. Most of the levels are relatively short and can be beaten the first or second time by an experienced player. There are a few enemies that can cause your controls to reverse or poison your character, but generally the potions that cure these ills are unnecessary (except in one level where they abound). Currency is distributed plentifully throughout the levels, so it generally is not an issue to have enough money to buy potions. Boss battles can be tricky when you first encounter them, but they have predictable attack patterns. Since you have unlimited lives, you can memorize the patterns and beat them without getting hurt. Powerup upgrades are hidden in levels and in objects in the overhead sections (search everything!).
Graphics and Sound
The graphics in this game are colourful, but not terribly detailed. Most of the effort in this game was to make the portraits of the characters when they talk. The characters are fully animated when they speak, and can be quite humorous. There are only about 10 different kinds of minor enemies throughout the game (usually the enemies are variants of the helmeted goomba-like creatures). The characters and enemies are well animated in action scenes, though the people in the overhead scenes suffer from "walking without moving" syndrome. The game has very anime-style artwork, so if that does not appeal to you, you might want to look at a different game.
As for the sound and music, it seems pretty typical of other SNES action-adventure games. The music theme generally suits the situation the hero is in. The town music is fairly peaceful, while the level music generally has an upbeat, adventurous tone. None of the sounds in the game is grating, but it isn't exactly Beethoven here.
Of course the reason why I reviewed this game is because of the efforts by Aeon Genesis, who did a full English translation of this game. This game is full of a lot of anime-style humour and a quirky story, so it is probably not surprising that it didn't make it out of Japan. The fan translation does a great job of conveying the humour, and aside from a couple of instances of text overflow, did not have any noticeable issues. This game is very story oriented, so a poor translation would have ruined this, and Aeon Genesis deserves props for their work!
Holy Umbrella is a novel platform adventure game that should be enjoyed by anime fans and fans of RPGs and side scrollers. If there is one complaint about this game, is that it is quite short (unless you try to find every last extra heart, defence and attack powerup, it is easily beatable in 4-5 hours). The quirky storyline can get pretty silly at times, but is fully of unforeseen twists. I have purposely left out a lot of the story elements so as not to ruin it for potential players. People looking for a challenging game might not like this game as much, as there are plentiful powerups and unlimited lives. This game is definitely worth a play-through, but don't expect it to have a lot of replay value unless you want to collect every single powerup.
|© Evan G. This site made by a Canadian, and fueled by beer. Do not use material on this site without permission.|