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Ufouria: The Saga
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Hashire Hebereke
Hebereke no Oishii Puzzle
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Hebereke's Popoitto
O-Chan no Oekaki Logic
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by Federico Tiraboschi - August 20, 2015

The early 90s were a period when every software house, from the famous to the obscure, needed to have some sort of mascot to represent them. Sega had Sonic, Capcom had Mega Man, SNK had G-Mantle. Even Sunsoft joined the list with probably the strangest of all: Hebe, some sort of super-deformed albino penguin with tiny eyes and beak, wearing a blue beanie hat. It's name is derived from "hebereke", which means more or less "drunkenness" in Japanese.

Hebe and his bizarre friends starred in a variety of games, ranging from platformers to puzzle games, an on-foot racing game and even an early example of multi-player brawling several years before Nintendo's Smash Bros. series. They nonetheless had the same settings in almost every instalment, which were apparently a retelling of the same basic story.

Since the Hebereke series was so incredibly Japanese in every respect, only a few games left their country of origin. According to Arcade-History.com, Sunsoft of America blocked the distribution of original games from its Japanese sister company after obtaining the Looney Tunes license to hasten the creation of tie-in games. Even after Sunsoft of Japan took control of the American branch, they never managed to push the series' popularity in the West any further.

The characters were designed by Uchimich Ryoji AKA "Ucchii", who was also credited as designer of the first two games in the series. Ucchii also made a series of yonkoma (four-panel comic strips) starring his characters for Family Computer Magazine from 1996 to 1998. Their sound bites in all the games after the first one were provided by Megumi Hayashibara, Shigeru Chiba, Mika Kanai and Norio Wakamoto, who went on to become hugely famous and influential voice actors in the anime (and, to some extent, gaming) industry.


Series' Recurring Characters

Hebe / Bop-Louie

The main character, a penguin who was turned into some sort of snowman in overalls in the Western version of the original game. He's not very fast and unable to swim, but he's the only one that gains the ability to climb on walls, and he can detach his head as a special attack. Being a penguin/snowman doesn't even help him walking on ice. For the supposed protagonist he sure isn't good at many things, but he is the only one who can beat Ufouria's final boss.

O-Chan / Freeon-Leon

In the original version, O-Chan was apparently a cutesy, spoiled girl dressed in a cat costume, but Uforia turns her into a comically inexpressive dinosaur. Her new name hints to her special ability, temporarily freezing enemies into ice cubes to be used as stepping blocks. Her affinity with ice manifests in the unique ability to walk fast on frozen grounds.

Sukezaemon / Shades

A ghost in a funny hat and cool sunglasses who speaks in an antiquated manner with the voice of none other than Norio Wakamoto. Being a ghost, he can make big floaty jumps, but he's the slowest and still unable to swim. Has a bizarre ability where he whacks himself on the head with a mallet to pop his eyeballs out of the sockets, which then chase after enemies. Probably the most neglected character in the original game.

Jennifer / Gil

Despite the name, this dopey humanoid angler fish was male even in the Japanese original. He's slow on land but can not only swim but also walk fast underwater, and his special ability lets him spit explosive nuggets to blow up certain obstacles. Later redesigns make him rounder and more in line with other character appearances.

Utsu (Utsujin)

An extraterrestrial (seemingly an alien cat) who is a tough boss in Hebereke, first sending his spawn/clones while he's on his UFO and then attacking with a laser guns, becoming invisible every now and then. He's probably a wannabe invader, but looks and sounds too goofy (Wakamoto wasn't yet typecasted as charismatic tough guys back then) to be effective.

Unyoon

A space pirate (?) with some kind of Devo helmet, this creature is also Hebereke's last boss. Not much more is known about him.

Pen-Chan

A shy, nervous little person wearing a penguin suit, or so it seems. She (he?) started as a common enemy in Hebereke and then became an opponent and playable character in later games.

Bobo (Booboodori)

A mother bird with the voice of a male chain smoker. In Hebereke she was a NPC who sent you on a quest to find her missing egg and then transported you around the game world. In later games she fights you whenever you go through her nest.


Ufouria: The Saga / Hebereke (へべれけ) - NES, PlayStation, Mobile, Wii Virtual Console, 3DS Virtual Console, Wii U Virtual Console (1991)

European NES Cover

Japanese Famicom Cover

Hebereke, the game that started it all and made Hebe Sunsoft's mascot, was named in the Western world with a pun on "UFO", "utopia" (or "euphoria"?) , and "four" as in the number of playable characters, plus the meaningless subtitle "The Saga". The plot is mostly nonsense in both the Japanese and Western versions, involving distortions of time and space. The latter version simply states that Bop-Louie's friends fell down a crater and found themselves in a strange new world. He follows them down and, whenever he finds them, must beat them in a fight because they're amnesiac. At that point they will join him, becoming selectable in the sub-menu.

Comparison between the two versions of the game.

The game follows the open world exploration formula popularized by Metroid, so finding the abilities of your friends and using them is mandatory to go further and uncover new areas of the game world, for example by swimming, climbing on walls and so on. The wackiness is apparent in some mostly useless but funny ability, such as Shades' ability to crawl on the ground in a way that some enemies mistake him for one of them.

Even in an extra-dimensional alien world, the various environments are fairly typical of NES platformers of the time: grassy lands, frozen caverns, solid clouds, mines with lava and the obligatory mine cart, and a huge tree. Enemies are much more bizarre and include waddling hooded heads, crows that drop 16-ton weights on you (their poop in the original version), frog statues spawning little frogs, crazed clowns, disembodied mouths that crawl around on their tongues and whatsits with Mickey Mouse ears. Jumping on them turns them into colored balloons called "Popoons" that can be thrown at other enemies: these balloons are the only way to beat the bosses, identical big-headed humanoids whose appearance changes accordingly to the area they are in. For example, the one in the frozen caverns has a black Santa suit, the underwater one has goggles, and so on.

Often Hebe and friends need to find special abilities to proceed, in addition to a world map, life containers and some more or less useful trinkets. The ultimate purpose of the game is to find three keys that open the door to the final confrontation with Unyoon. Those keys are in possession of three guardians found somewhere in the world. They are a cat hiding in a barrel, circled by a white orb with a face, a knight in armor which is revealed to be a cat upon defeat and a UFO-riding spaceman that is supposedly an alien cat.

Behind the bizarreness there still is a very good and solid game, with a few glitches here and there but conceived and developed in a competent way. The only downside are some annoying puzzles (namely, freezing enemies with Freeon's breath to pass over dangerous areas) that require to continuously switch characters via the menu. The graphics and character designs are pretty good but the soundtrack is fantastic, with that trademark Sunsoft sound. Some themes are very intense or epic-sounding, and would make this adventure seem the grand saga the title hints at, if the sprites weren't so goofy!

Ufouria became a cult classic due to its rarity. It was only available in a very small amount in PAL territories and it became officially available in the US only almost 20 years later, when it was added to the Wii's Virtual Console catalog on August 23, 2010. However, it is the PAL ROM running at 60hz, so the music is sped up. It was already re-released in Japan in the compilation Memorial Series Sunsoft Vol. 5 (2002) for the PlayStation, which also included [rʌf] World AKA Journey to Silius. In 2003, Sunsoft teamed up with the developer Space Out to remake most of the Hebereke games for mobile phones, including the very first one.

Hebereke (Mobile)

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  • Uchimich Ryoji

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Ufouria: The Saga (NES)

Ufouria: The Saga (NES)

Ufouria: The Saga (NES)

Hebereke (Famicom)

Hebereke (Famicom)


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Additional Screenshots


Hebereke's Popoon / Hebereke no Popoon (へべれけのぽぷーん) - Arcade, SNES, Mobile (1993)

Japanese SFC Cover

European SNES Cover

This game takes Ufouria's premise to create a blatant Puyo Puyo clone with Hebereke characters and Popoons instead of Puyos, which are almost identical anyway. The only real difference is that you have to match three balls instead of four, and garbage blocks (character heads) are destroyed by putting one Popoon of the same color near them.

The very rare arcade version tells a story similar to the first game: Hebe finds himself again in the strange world and meets his former friends who need to be beaten, plus other enemies. Every time one of them is defeated, they become a new selectable character, with their own special moves and garbage block patterns. Special moves mess with the opponent in every thinkable way, including forcing the Popoons to drop at high speed, obstructing the visuals and inverting the controls. The final boss is not Unyoon anymore, but a shadow clone/evil twin of Hebe for some reason.

Hebereke no Popoon (Arcade)

The SNES port removes the most interesting feature, the ability to play as different characters, but adds a 1-vs-1 mode and Elimination Mode, which is structured as a tournament in which up to 8 players (human and CPU-controlled) can take part. For some reason the score is reset to zero every time a new match starts, it doesn't even keep track of total points.

One of the music tracks is a techno piece suspiciously similar to 2Unlimited's "Get Ready For This" (even more so in the SNES version). This is the first game where the characters are voiced, and, while it's funny at first to hear Hebe and O-Chan's sugary voices, Sukezaemon's refined speech and Jennifer's manly grunts, the sound bits are repeated too many times and quickly become annoying.

There is not much more to say, apart from the fact that the title is pretty hard even at lower difficulty levels, the same problem that Puyo Puyo had in solo mode since the computer already knows how to perform big combos.

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Hebereke's Popoon (Super Famicom)

Hebereke's Popoon (Super Famicom)


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Additional Screenshots


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Next Page >>>

Page 1:
Ufouria: The Saga
Hebereke's Popoon

Page 2:
Hashire Hebereke
Hebereke no Oishii Puzzle
Sugoi Hebereke

Page 3:
Hebereke's Popoitto
O-Chan no Oekaki Logic
Other

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