Version tested: PlayStation 2
Despite the attention of an over-zealous father, sitting by a river freezing our nuts off never really appealed. Even worse, sitting in a leaky boat in the middle of the night, fearing for our lives; surely this is as close to madness as you can get? And what's this? Sega's made a third Bass Fishing game? Are we missing something?
As you know, fancy peripherals brighten up even the dullest games, and anyone who had a Dreamcast couldn't fail to be intrigued by that fishing rod peripheral. The fact that we now have fishing rod controllers for two separate formats is either worthy of small celebration, or means we deserve to be locked up for semi-worrying behaviour. The sight of grown men whirling round a pretend fishing rod is the stuff of every woman's nightmares. Probably.
Lock your doors! Abandon shame! Let's fish!
But if you can lock your doors and have no shame, then maybe a spot of mindless fishing fun in front of the TV isn't such a ludicrous proposition. This time you can even indulge in two-player split-screen fishing, with the usual claims of "smarter AI" and "ultra-realistic graphics". Um, well, more of that later.
If you're familiar with the arcade or the Dreamcast versions then it's fair to say that not a whole lot's changed. The basic "gameplay" of old remains largely as it has been for the past four years, and arguably the visuals remain rooted in the past too. So what's in there to, cough, reel you in?
For a start, there's a fair few gameplay modes to get stuck into; Free Fishing allows you to just get your rod out, choose which part of Lake Eagle you'd like to visit, set the month, and fish leisurely, with a roll-up poking out of your mouth, a tub of writhing maggots and a wireless tuned to Radio 4. Ok, we lied about the last bit(s), but you get the idea. Along with the Training mode, this gives you some grounding in honing your fisherman skills, before taking on a human or CPU opponent or entering the Tournament mode.
For the noobs, the training takes care of all elements of how to become the next John Wilson (whose house I ended up living in, fact fiends), with boat operation, selecting the right type of lure, the act of casting, hooking the fish, and, scarily, how to fight the fish, all dealt with. Yep, these buggers are Ninjas, given half the chance.
Losing the will to live?
Jumping into the game, the first task is to position your boat in spot where you think the fish might be lurking, which, depending on the time of year, could be hugging a structure (such as a bridge), in the depths or basking in the top water. Choosing which kind of lure is all important here, as the weight, size and colour will all have an effect on whether the fish will be interested. Non-fishermen will probably be losing the will to live at this stage, but it's important to pay attention to the basics of good fishing practise or you'll be doomed to failure, as fish after fish swim by disinterested.
Once you've got your lure sorted, and set your casting position, you simply hit X to cast your rod, and hit one of the four directions to perform various types of casts (overhead, backhand, sidearm and pitching) at a part of the lake of your choosing. At this point the game switches into an underwater view and you slowly reel in your line (tap R1, or better still actually reel it in if you have the aforementioned Thrustmaster peripheral), in the hope that Billy Bass and his friends are up for biting. If you can tempt the hungry beasts into action - normally by being careful and taking your time reeling the line back in - the game warns you that the fish is approaching, at which point you either mess it up by being too hasty, or you stab L1 to hook it. A Line Tension bar appears on the right side of the screen, the rod/pad vibrates like crazy and some dramatic rock music kicks in to inject some urgency into the proceedings. Then it's up to you to reel the blighter back to the boat without snapping the line or letting it off the hook, making sure to slacken the tension if it's struggling too hard, while being mindful not to let it get away. It's stirring stuff, and luckily you'll be piling up a decent haul in no time.
Whether you then feel confident enough to enter the tournaments is up to you, but once you're against the clock it's a whole different kettle of (clears throat… dramatic pause) fish. To start with you have three characters to choose from, each with their own set of stats, comprised of Casting Distance, Fighting Technique, Sight, Catching Technique and so on, with the curious ability to change their clothes, sunglasses, hat, and even boat colour. Those crazy Japanese developers, eh? Four tournaments await you, starting at Amateur level before progressing to World Classic, with third place in each event unlocking the next. The Data Book keeps a track of the various fish you catch, and your performances along the way, and for what was originally an arcade game, there's a fair simulation slant to keep the real fans happy.
Rotting fish, circa '99
Graphically, however, it's a tad disappointing. Back in '99 when the Dreamcast was streets ahead of the PSX, we were impressed with the slick, crisp visuals, despite the generally murky surroundings and samey looking fish. Fast forward to the present day and for all the world it looks like the same game, and is undoubtedly a straight port of a game originally destined for the sorely missed Sega machine.
Despite the obvious advantage of split screen-battles, the game really remains much the same too, although this will only be a major factor if you own one of these games already. It's a curious gaming experience, and strangely enjoyable, even if, like us, you haven't got even the faintest interest in fishing. Add a rod into the equation and the novelty factor is even greater, but like so many Sega games of arcade origin, there's only so long you can glean enjoyment out of doing the same thing again and again. But without wishing to sound like an aquatic version of Saint and Greavsie, that's fishing.
5 / 10