Bio Miracle Bokutte Upa
  • Genre:
    • Platformer
  • Developer:
    • Konami
  • Publisher:
    • Konami
  • Released:
    FDS
    • JP 04/22/1988
    Famicom
    • JP 02/26/1993
Score: 75%

This review was published on 01/20/2017.

Bio Miracle Bokutte Upa is a side-scrolling platform video game developed and published by Konami for the Famicom Disk System and Famicom. It was originally released for the Famicom Disk System in Japan on April 22, 1988, but later got a cartridge release on the basic Famicom on February 26, 1993, also in Japan. If you don't know, the Famicom Disk System was an attachment to the Famicom, the Japanese version of the Nintendo Entertainment System, which allowed it to play games on special floppy disks. This was done by Nintendo as a way to cut costs, as cartridges were rather expensive to manufacture at the time. The Famicom Disk System didn't do so hot, though, so it never made it outside of Japan. Similarly, Bio Miracle Bokutte Upa never made it outside of Japan in physical form, either, though it did eventually get a digital release on the Wii's Virtual Console in North America and Europe in 2008. At any rate, this game is surprisingly good, although perhaps that shouldn't come as a surprise, considering it was made by Konami back when the company didn't suck.

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The title of the game roughly translates to "Bio Miracle: I'm Upa." Unsurprisingly, Upa is the name of this game's protagonist. What is surprising is the fact that Upa is nothing more than a baby. I don't mean that in the metaphorical sense, either; he's literally an infant. He's no ordinary baby, though, as the "Bio Miracle" part of the title is probably in reference to Upa's incredible intellect and super strength, making him a biological miracle. Upa is the prince of a magical kingdom and the most recent in a line of courageous warriors. During one lazy afternoon, Upa broke an urn containing the spirit of an evil goat-like demon known as Zai. In a swift bit of wickedness, Zai absorbs the souls of all the adults in the kingdom and kidnaps all the babies except for Upa. Along with Zai, the urn also contained a fairy, who gave Upa a magical rattle upon being freed. It's now up to Upa to use the mystical rattle to save the other babies and defeat Zai.

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Because Upa is just a baby, he hasn't quite mastered the ability to walk yet, so he crawls around everywhere instead. He has, however, mastered the ability to jump. In fact, he can jump quite high, putting fright even to the likes of Mario. However, if Upa falls from too great of a height, he'll clumsily land on his back, briefly stunning him. It's actually possible for Upa to walk if he acquires a bell power-up, which also increases his speed, jump height, and makes him invincible, but all of these benefits only last for a short period of time. The status of Upa's health is represented by a row of hearts at the bottom of the screen, with each heart counting for a single hit. Milk, usually broken out of blocks with Upa's face on it, restores his lost hearts should he be injured. He starts off with only two hearts, but can increase his maximum up to five by getting heart power-ups, though he'll go back to two after every world and if he gets a Game Over. Speaking of, Upa loses a life each time he dies, eventually culminating in a Game Over once he loses them all, which boots him back to the beginning of the current world. Thankfully, there are unlimited continues.

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Pressing the B button will cause Upa to rattle the aforementioned magical rattle. Bonking enemies with this sacred rattle will cause them to inflate like balloons and slowly float away. When enemies are in this balloon-like state, they act as moving platforms, allowing Upa to hitch a ride on them. The ride won't last long, though, because the ballooned enemies will pop after a while. Alternatively, Upa can touch the ballooned enemies to push them around, causing them to bounce around the screen at high speeds. If a ballooned enemy is pushed into a regular enemy, then both will be defeated. However, similar to Koopa shells from the Super Mario Bros. games, if a ballooned enemy rebounds back to Upa at high velocities, it'll hurt him. Ballooned enemies get pushed in different directions depending on the angle Upa touches them from, so he must aim carefully. This whole ballooning process is the game's main innovation, and it's pretty cool.

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There are seven worlds in all, and each one is further divided into three stages. A fair amount of the worlds are food oriented, such as a sweet candy land featuring sticky popsicles Upa will get stuck on, a hearty vegetable world filled with levitating lettuces, and a world constructed entirely out of cheese and other dairy products. There's even a stage where Upa eats through a giant cake, allowing him to move in all four cardinal directions. Not everything's about food, though, as there's also a school themed world made out of pencils and rulers, a world within a computer where everything's upside down, and a Lego fortress. You've also got some more traditional environments, like ice stages with slippery floors, and water stages where Upa will dawn an adorable scuba diving mask as he swims underwater. Like the first Super Mario Bros. game, you tap the A button repeatedly to ascend while underwater, and you've got infinite air. The stages will test your rattle abilities, often forcing you to use infinitely spawning enemies as platforms to reach higher ground. Due to their variety, the stages are quite fun, but they do get a tad unfair towards the end.

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Bosses will appear before Upa at the end of most stages. Upa's rattle has no effect on bosses, so he has no way of directly harming them himself. As a result of that, the only way to damage bosses is to turn nearby enemies into balloons and then push their bodies into the boss. You'll always have an unlimited supply of enemies, as the bosses will either spit them out endlessly, or they'll simply wander into the arena continuously. While there are certainly a couple of bosses, you tend to encounter the same basic pig boss for most of the game. They do change this encounter up on you by placing the pig boss in increasingly more difficult rooms, however. You'll often have to get a bank shot on the boss using the inflated minions, which is rather tricky. Some of the different bosses include a giant seahorse fought underwater, or a walrus wearing a top hat that slides towards you. Having more unique bosses like these would have been nice.

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Oddly enough, this game has countless similarities to Super Mario Bros. 2. For instance, the aforementioned cake eating stage is reminiscent of the sand digging sections in the desert world of Mario 2. Then there's the reoccurring pig boss, which resembles the reoccurring boss from Mario 2, Birdo. There's also a snake boss that breathes fire, suspiciously similar to the one in Mario 2, except it only has one head. Plus, the entire concept of pushing ballooned enemies into the boss to damage it is, in itself, reminiscent of how you throw objects at bosses to beat them in Mario 2. There are also some vertical stages that have wraparound, like the big tree stages from Mario 2. Not everything is similar to Mario 2, though, as there's a stage similar to the castle mazes from the first Super Mario Bros. where you must take the correct path to move forward, otherwise everything keeps looping until you run out of time. Whether these similarities were deliberate or not is anyone's guess, but they are numerous enough to make one wonder.

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While the Famicom and Famicom Disk System versions of the game are mostly identical, there are some minor differences. The biggest difference is the sound. You see, the Famicom Disk System had an extra audio channel available to it, which allowed for more notes to be played in the music. Due to that, the soundtrack had to be remixed to function in the cartridge release. Despite having fewer notes, the music from the regular Famicom version is arguably better than the Famicom Disk System release. Additionally, the Famicom version has an Easy mode that makes it so Upa takes less damage and starts out with more lives. Another benefit to the cartridge version of the game is that it doesn't have any load times. Ultimately, it doesn't really matter which version of the game you opt to play, but the Famicom port provides a slightly more pleasant experience.

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Konami is best known for creating such classics as Contra and Castlevania, but the company has a ton of other neat properties that don't get the same level of recognition. One of those is the Goemon series, which was popular in Japan, but obscure everywhere else. Even obscurer than that is Upa. While Upa has made cameo appearances in various other Konami games, he wasn't fortunate enough to get any sequels. It's a sad tale, because Upa's game is both fun and innovative. The graphics are also pretty good for a game originally made in 1988, plus the music is decent. If you get the opportunity, give Upa a try.

Word Count: 1,548

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