It’s colourful, it’s loud, it’s Japanese and it’s all just a little bit crazy. It’s Hebereke’s Popoon for the Super Nintendo.
You know when you see that guy walk into a lamppost. You shouldn’t be staring at him hitting the post, and you should definitely not enjoy watching him do it. But you still get a smile across your face and a small snigger creeps from your lips as you watch him face plant that lamppost. That’s what this game is like.
It’s everything you should’t like in a game. Yet it’s one of the most frustrating, satisfying and outrageous games I have ever had the fortune of playing.
Hebereke’s Popoon (Hebereke no Popoon in Japan) is one of those strange breeds of puzzle games that combine the puzzle element with a combat system. Other notable games from this genre are the Puyo Puyo series of games, which were initially released a few years prior to Hebereke’s, and the Puzzle Fighter series of games. All of which share many common concepts.
It’s interesting to note that only a few of the Hebereke’s series of games have ever been released outside of Japan. With most, if not all external releases, been in the PAL regions. There are mentions across the Internet on various forums and personal blogs that Sunsoft US have stated that they simply didn’t get the releases from the Japanese HQ. As far as I can tell the only game that was intended for a US release was Hebereke (Ufouria: The Saga as it’s known outside of Japan), which was the first game, released on the NES. But then axed for some reason that I couldn’t be bothered to read. It may have had something to do with pixies not sprinkling enough dust around.
Anyway back to the review.
The game is played by combining blocks of three or more Popoon’s in diagonal, horizontal or vertical lines. This causes the Popoon’s to disappear and a character block to be dropped on your opponents screen or on your screen if done by the other player/character. Depending on the block combo’s you get is to what, depending on your character in the vs. and two player mode, special attacks are unleashed. From more character blocks to be dropped, new Popoon’s to be dropped faster to even freezing the opponents screen for a set period of time.
The main aim of the single player, story game is to get Hebe out of the strange world he has yet again found himself in. Oh-Chan, the first of the crazy characters you come across, promises you that she will tell you how to get back if you defeat her. No surprise then that when you do defeat her you just move onto the next character, Sukezaemon, otherwise it wouldn’t make a very exciting game. And this is how the game continues throughout the story mode.
While written with some nice dialogue and some nice portraits of the characters, the actual story is all a little bit too flimsy. And defeating one character only leads onto the next one. So as you could probably imagine it gets a little repetitive with no actual replay value once you complete the story mode.
However the VS and Elimination games modes is where the game really shines. These modes put the game into a whole new light and the more competitive nature of the game comes through.
The VS mode is just against the computer or a second player. This follows the same rules as the single player game but just without the story line. Each player, or player and CPU, picks a character and the select a starting level. This is more akin to a handicap system.
The Elimination mode allows up to eight people play the game. This is done by alternating controllers between players based on who wins what match. However if you can’t find eight people to play with, or want a real challenge, then the cpu will play the unassigned slots. All players will be assigned the same handicap at the start of each round in an attempt to make things a little fairer.
Overall then this game is rather fun. It’s bright, it’s vibrant and it’s raucous. While the story mode has a nice charm the first time you play it, it certainly becomes boring after repeated play. However the VS and Elimination modes offer a different challenge and keep the game fresh and replay value up. The sound on this game is great and it features a great soundtrack with nice incidental effects such as characters spouting Japanese phrases and nonsense when you remove blocks or get combos.
Certainly a great game to play when you have some friends round and the beer gets flowing (and you really want to start screaming at your TV in unison with 7 other people – Ed). Especially on the elimination mode. But if you’re not the sort of person to play this with friends then there is more than enough on the single player side to keep you entertained for a long time.
A great game if you’re into the whole puzzle fighter scene. Just be aware if you’re a collector though. This game never saw a release beyond Europe and Japan making it rather difficult to get hold of. I was lucky in finding it in a thrift store near where I live.
I give this game a four out of five star rating. It would have got five stars if it weren’t for the lackluster story mode.