Holy Umbrella is an odd game and the type of title that probably had a 50/50 chance of being localized back in the day. With its silly premise and good gameplay it occupies a space reserved for games like Kendo Rage and Mazin Saga. These are solid games that were good but not great but because of their premise were a nightmare to market. While it wouldn’t occupy a greatest games ever list Holy Umbrella is a fun game that I enjoyed and worth tracking down at a cheap price.
If you didn’t know any better you would swear Holy Umbrella was based on an anime or manga. Our nameless protagonist (you name him) is walking home from school one day when it suddenly begins to rain. While lamenting his lack of an umbrella one magically falls from the sky. As soon as it is picked up the umbrella whisks him away to another world. This world is under attack by the Dondera army and the only way for its princess to send him home is to help them stop Emperor Dondera from breaking the seal that guards a great evil.
Ridiculous story aside this is far more story heavy than you would expect from a platformer. While the plot is goofy and the main antagonist can’t be taken seriously it is a well told story full of characters you’ll grow to like, including some of the villains. Even though it was never released outside of Japan there is a fan translation. The Aeon Genesis group has done an excellent job of keeping the comedic tone of the game intact.
Although it bears the appearance of an action RPG with its towns and stat upgrades that side of the game is very minimal. In many ways the structure reminds me of Super Adventure Island II. Towns and other areas of interest are selected on the world map. In town you can rest at an inn, buy a select few items and speak to people to unlock new locations on the map. There are a wide cast of characters and the game does a good job of always pointing you in the right direction and alerting you to missed items.
The real meat of the game comes in its action stages. The hero is equipped with a number of umbrellas with different powers. These change enemies into blocks or orbs that can be manipulated for varying effects such as creating ice platforms, a shield, or multi-directional attacks. He’ll also acquire tools that grant new skills such as dashing, climbing walls, and even walking on spikes. Along for the ride are two more characters who possess their own skills. Bonto can double jump and is the shortest, being able to walk through small passages. Saki can wall jump and is a capable fighter in her own right.
The different characters, the numerous umbrellas and tools are all very nice and add welcome variety to the game. I just wish they were used more often. The level design incorporates all 3 characters abilities very well and if you are smart you can use switching to trivialize certain boss fights. But the levels are so short that it is only a brief taste. The different umbrellas all have varying effects on enemies but this is rarely exploited. You’ll simply default to using the latest addition since it is the most powerful. Likewise the tools hardly ever come in to play outside of floating and running. The various mechanics are implemented well enough but Holy Umbrella lacks that one element that would have made it great.
Overall I found the difficulty to be incredibly easy. Most of the platforming stages are a brief few minutes. Life restoring hearts are everywhere and money is so available you’ll never have to grind. If you do even a little bit of exploring you will find up to eight empty bottles. These bottles can store fullmeds allowing you to cheese your way through the game. You also don’t have any lives; death sends you back to the beginning of the current area with reduced health. The one area that might give you trouble are the bosses. The boss battles in particular are probably the game’s highlight. Not only are they characters in and of themselves but their patterns are easy to learn but tough to master. Even so I imagine no one will have any problem seeing this through to the end.
Despite being a platformer first and foremost Holy Umbrella is actually pretty long. While the individual levels themselves are short there are a lot of them. You’ll revisit certain areas multiple times with a lot of back and forth in towns. There are plenty of secrets scattered around the world but they are wholly unnecessary and will only make you overpowered. Even with the large number of levels enemy variety is limited which makes the game a bit of a repetitive slog. I would estimate most will see the end credits after six or seven hours, which is plenty for the genre.
For a game that I went into with no expectations Holy Umbrella surprised me. While it doesn’t delve deeply into its two halves both are executed well enough to make the game thoroughly enjoyable. A solid game all around and one that has completely flown under the radar. That’s why I’m here to draw attention to this neat little gem