Ufouria: The Saga 2 (XSX) Review

At the time of this article, it is the beginning of March 2024, but I can already comfortably exclaim that Ufouria The Saga 2 is going to be one of my top games of 2024.

Don’t be surprised if you never heard of Sunsoft’s Ufouria The Saga. Released only in Japan and European at the end of the NES’s lifecycle, the only way American players had access to this cult favorite was through a release on Nintendo’s Virtual Console service which has long since shut down. Those lucky enough to play the original were treated to a delightful Metroid-ish quest filled with charm and friendly personality.

Surprisingly, over 30 years later, Sunsoft choose to revive this forgotten and neglected series by making a genuine sequel that stays true to the original’s roots, essentially just making everything bigger, better, and more streamlined. Fans will strongly appreciate the care that went into continuing the NES version right down to the visual style, gameplay, and even soundtrack. At the same time, newcomers will be treated to one of the most downright wholesome, humorous, and charming Metroid-ish platforming gameplay that has been released in a long, long time. Do not fret if you never played the original as this sequel easily stands on its own. In fact, it might even be better to start with this sequel, then go back and play the original NES version to see the similarities in reverse.

So what is Ufouria and why is it so gosh darn good? There is actually so much that it is difficult to find a place to start.

Beginning the quest as this cuddly penguin character, the player eventually recruits the help of three additional friends, each with a unique set of abilities. For example, the penguin eventually gains the ability to climb walls. The cat fellow can swim on top of water and isn’t affected by ice. The white ghost has floaty jumps to clear long gaps and the frog can easily swim through water. This team of four, hence the “four” in Ufouria, then work together to reach new areas Metroid-style. All characters can jump and use the standard, nonviolent yarn ball attack and butt stomp.

As for story, a no-good enemy has spread goop all over the land and it is up to this team of four to stop him. Besides using the yarn balls to destroy the goop, players will need to collect a bunch of items and even put together a spring-powered spaceship to reach the final area. In other words, the goofy plot matches the gameplay perfectly as it never takes itself seriously to humorous results. Even the dialog between characters is chuckle worthy. I don’t want to spoil anything here, but I laughed out loud when characters broke the fourth wall and had a big, dumb smile on my face throughout the three-hour quest. It is just funny when characters fall asleep when talking, complain that the main bad guy disorganized a bedroom, and how the dialog boxes themselves are literal bead art. In fact, characters talk amongst themselves when venturing through each area. They ask that the player switches to them so they can play and will even reward the player which gifts if you can tap the “Y” button fast enough. These little interactions are wonderful and add another layer of detail as to why this game is filled to the brim with pointless, but oh so welcomed, allure. 

This sequel implements simple Metroid-ish gameplay but does it with its own ruleset. The entire game is connected through one cohesive map, but each area is very small.  In fact, it only takes 1-2 minutes to clear each section of the map. While this might sound limiting on paper, it plays perfectly and wish more games took this bite-sized approach. However, each area has a few different layouts and initially confused me. For example, when walking through the early open plains area, I thought I was losing my mind because I didn’t remember any of this when I had to backtrack through this same area. After venturing back and forth a few times, it finally hit me that the game rearranges elements of each area through a few different templates, making it seem like you are platforming through a new area each time. Not to be confused with a roguelite, but this rotating landscape is exciting, making it seem like a new 1-minute stage each time.

Along the way, players will earn thousands of coins and will need to collect a set number of bottles in each area. With enough bottles, new items appear within the vending machines. These items are then purchased using those coins and they allow access to new areas of the map. It is a satisfying loop, giving players reason to collect everything and stomp every enemy to earn enough cash.

In addition to being so charming, the main reason why this sequel is so enjoyable comes from two important game design choices: short stages and an easy-going difficulty. The map and character dialog found in the hub world also points the player in the right direction should you get lost or forget where you need to go because you have not played in a few days. And even if just exploring, it only takes a minute or two to reach the edge of the area in which the player can fly back home with fast travel thanks to the help of the bird from the original game.

Mindlessly exploring also has benefits as the player can always use more gold. Since the stage design swaps layouts, the player will need to optionally replay stages in the post-game anyway. The easy difficulty also should be praised. While I did die a few times, it was my fault for causing error being hasty. Instead, the boss battles are never worrisome. Encountering the common bad guy is never a chore. And checkpoints, should you perish, only sets you back a few seconds at most. This is a game that minimizes frustration and always keeps the experience pleasant, simple, and easy going at every moment… which is actually a refreshing game design choice in 2024.

The overall presentation is also dripping with friendly personality. The fuzzy diorama visuals are not only a direct call back to the adorable spritework of the original, they are loaded with these goofy expressions that really make this game what it is. For example, moving platforms have faces on them. As they are floating in the air, they are sad and sleeping. But when you jump on them, their eyes light up and generate an enthusiastic smile as if they are thrilled you are stepping on their head. The stupid little dances that the characters perform at the end of the stage is even more adorable than Kirby’s patented dances. Even the simple cutscenes, like when the characters are flying back to the home base, can make you laugh. This is a game that knows exactly what it is doing and is all the better for it. These tiny details are the reason why I couldn’t stop smiling while playing this game. Butt stomping the vending machine looks cartoony and gives the player a secret coin. The attacking yarn balls are stored under the main character’s bed. The pooping bird returns from the original NES release and players are rewarded with an Achievement for interacting with it. The big googly eyes of bosses and enemies are just funny. Even the soundtrack mimics the visuals perfect. At the same time, the presentation is a callback to the original. Fans will recognize the returning enemies, environmental props, and even the collectable items. Everything presented has a purpose and has been created with care.

My only complaint is minor. It takes about three hours to see the credits roll but takes about double that to find/unlock everything in the game. Meaning, the post-game grind is rather steep as everything in the vending machine carries a high price. However, since players will need to replay stages numerous times to find all the secret collectables, I actually didn’t mind the grind. Again, this is due to the brief stage designs, easy difficulty, and constant charm.  And just to avoid any potential disappointment, no, the original NES game is not playable in this sequel.

Wholesome, genuine games like this simply are not released these days. The developers created a true-to-form sequel that plays like a late gen NES game only without the NES era difficulty.

I just want to make something very clear. Ufouria The Saga 2 is a pure delight, through and through. This game is a big deal and needs to be celebrated accordingly. I am so happy to say this is a Japanese developed, caring sequel that is one of the most endearing gaming experiences I have had this console generation. Personally, I never thought Ufouria would get a sequel, let alone one that surpasses the outstanding original. I do not think I can recommend this game enough and having this sequel release in 2024, over 30 years after the original, is a cause for excitement.

Sunsoft has been rather quiet game studio over the last decade, but this sequel generates enthusiasm and excitement for their future. What comes next from this fan favorite studio? A return of Blaster Master? A new Aero the Acro-Bat? While the world waits to see what’s next, be sure to also check out the re-release of Gameboy’s Trip World through Limited Run.

SCORE: 9.5/10

Also Play: the Blaster Master Zero series

Don’t Forget About: Gimmick! Special Edition

Wait For It: Chameleon Twist 3

By: Zachary Gasiorowski, Editor in Chief

Twitter: @ZackGaz

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