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Holy Umbrella: Dondera no Mubo!! (SNES) artwork

Holy Umbrella: Dondera no Mubo!! (SNES) review

"Bizarre humor mixed with an average game."

Holy Umbrella isn't necessarily a good game, but it at least is goofy enough to be memorable in its own way. Boasting a plot seemingly invented by a hyperactive grade schooler who just wolfed down an entire jumbo-sized box of Pixy Stix, this Super Famicom game seems more like a fanciful daydream than anything.

You control a typical teenage boy who is walking home as a storm builds. Fortunately, you find a spare umbrella lying on the ground! Less fortunately, opening that umbrella warps you to a fantasy world where minions of Dondera, the requisite evil emperor, are running amuck. One of them, imaginatively named Dondera Tank, immediately greets your sudden appearance with an emphatic beating. You only escape thanks to the aid of a mysterious stranger.

After nursing your wounds, you embark on a quest to return to your world, which (of course) puts you on a collision course with Dondera and troops. After all, the umbrella you carry is some sort of super magical relic that plays into the emperor's goals for world domination. Hoo-boy, it's hard to even pretend to take this thing seriously! Want an example as to just how absurd things get? Take a look at the plot for one section of the game:

Emperor Dondera and a subordinate decide to sabotage a train that you're taking from one region of the game's world to another. It's a plan that might have worked, except for one tiny detail: the villain is stranded with you and your allies. Dondera whines, begs and cajoles until your party finally consents to let him to tag along. You engage in what might be considered "teeth-clinched teamwork," until finally you reach his next lackey. Then Dondera immediately turns on you, setting up a battle with said lackey.

So, let's recap…

First, your main adversary is reduced to a comic relief buffoon to advance the plot. Then, your party picks up the "stupidity is the only option" trope and runs with it by helping their main adversary overcome a situation where they essentially have him at their mercy. As a weird aside, I'm not even sure I'm being completely accurate when I describe Dondera as a male. Late in the game, you are treated to a flashback that shows his transformation from a lowly research assistant to the megalomaniacal emperor you now know. The old version was definitely male. The one you'll be encountering regularly in the present day not only appears female, however, but often interacts with your main character in the manner of a bratty young girl trying to impress an older boy on whom she has a crush.

I appreciate lighthearted humor in games, but Holy Umbrella feels more like a series of bizarre jokes than it does a proper story. Look past the gags and all you're left with is a threadbare "hero topples villain to return to his world" trope. The total package reminds me of the sort of person who initially seems funny, but then you hang out with them for a bit and realize they're trying way too hard to impress everyone. Any moments of genuine entertainment or wit are a lucky coincidence.

Besides humor, Holy Umbrella relies on elements from multiple genres to distance itself from the crowd. It is essentially a platformer/RPG hybrid. The action takes place in platforming stages, where you fight enemies and obstacles while jumping and floating from ledge to ledge. Then you head to town, which is displayed using the standard RPG top-down view. Here, you can enter houses to talk to people, rest at an inn and buy items. Also, in both towns and action stages, you'll find treasures that award you additional health, or improved attack power or defense.

The RPG stuff is really barely there at all, meaning this is essentially a pure platforming game with a slender skeleton consisting of elements from the other genre. As for the action itself… meh. Your hero picks up a couple allies and you can switch between them with the push of a button. The main guy attacks with umbrellas, while the little bird guy fires a short-range beam and the girl simply kicks the crap out of her enemies using martial arts. The heroes also each have their own skills when navigating stages. The bird fits into small tunnels and also possesses a handy double jump ability, while the main guy's umbrella lets him swing from hooks and float over large chasms.

With a bit more work, those character skills could have formed the basis for massive stages featuring branching paths, depending on which character you prefer to use. Instead, levels are short and mostly linear. Each obstacle calls for a specific character. So much more could have been done with the system. The levels look nice and the characters and enemies are well-animated, so it's a disappointment to be left to navigate short and simple levels that don't take full advantage of the diversity of your characters.

To make matters worse, enemies tend to be fairly easy to dispatch but occasionally they are positioned so that you have to sustain damage in order to pass them. Bosses are more annoying still, often relying on attacks that take up large portions of the screen and thus are tough to dodge. You either must have their pattern down perfectly so you can easily chip away at their health, or you must engage in a frustrating battle of attrition where you just hoping to outlast your adversary before burning through too many expensive health potions. A late-game boss rush, then, was definitely not something I appreciated.

This is one of those reviews where I feel I'm sounding a bit more negative than the game deserves, though. Holy Umbrella has decent 16-bit presentation values, doesn't take itself even remotely seriously and is a reasonable time-waster. It just never flipped that switch from "competent" to "good." With that said, if you're a platformer junkie, perhaps give this one a try. Otherwise, I'd advise passing it up for something a bit better or otherwise more to your liking.


overdrive's avatar
Staff review by Rob Hamilton (September 21, 2015)

Rob Hamilton is the official drunken master of review writing for Honestgamers.

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