Woohoo! It's finally arrived on the store shelves. For fishing game fanatics like me, it couldn't have come at a better time. This game goes hand in hand with the fishing controller; although, they are not sold as a single package. With that in mind, realize that the review of this game is based on its control with the "reel" controller and not the Sega standard gamepad.
The object is quite simply to catch bass. Two lakes are available at the start of the game in each you will be given a choice of three spots to fish from. The bass range in size from between 1 and 20+ pounds. If you are in the mood to catch some big bass, there are several modes available to you. The practice mode enables you to travel to any of the six to eight fishing spots at the two lakes and fish at your own leisure. The arcade mode is based on a quota of weight that you must catch in order to advance into the next round (ending with a lake which houses nothing but the largest bass). Don't have any fear of time running out on you, for you are allotted an unlimited number of continues which place you exactly where your game left off, even in midcast. In the arcade mode you are also able to set the difficulty ranging from landing fish, time allotted, and minimum weight requirement to advance to the next level. The option which you will no doubt spend the majority of your time playing is the original mode. In this mode you are placed in a tournament. The tourneys are set up in morning, afternoon, and evening shifts; each consist of a four-minute time limit. The number of actual days in the tourney varies as you progress as well as your rules and minimum weight requirements (for example, in the second tourney you're unable to keep any fish under three pounds). In each shift (morning, afternoon, and evening) you are required to land as much weight as you can. At the end of each shift, you will be given a ranking out of the fifty fishermen in the tourney. At the end of each day (three shifts), the top five spots are awarded points. Obtaining these points is a must if you expect to qualify for the next round of the tourney. There will be a brief award ceremony for placing in the top five after each day, and ultimately after each tourney; that is, if you are proficient enough to earn top five honors.
Your first experience while actually fishing will be choosing a lure (done by using the four available buttons atop the reel controller excluding the start button). You begin the game with several lures, and as you progress in the game, you are awarded more lures. Each lure must be controlled differently to obtain maximum efficiency. Your selection ranges from top water baits, to ground-roving grubs, and everything in-between. An excellent added feature can be viewed if you simply let the game sit after the title screen is displayed. Roughly 30 seconds after viewing the screen with no controller input you will notice that a lure tutorial is displayed. Here you can see firsthand how to properly use all of the lures. The display is a real-time movie of the lure in motion and the controller inputs which make it react. You see a hand gripping the reel controller, while snapping, reeling, and jerking each lure in exactly the same manner as you are required to do so. After a few games, you'll find that this tutorial will help you out a great deal. It is having command over your lures that will ultimately lead to your landing big bass. The fish react very realistically to your bait. Move it too fast and they may not venture to catch up to it, leave it still and they may completely lose interest. After some practice you will be able to determine how each lure is supposed to be manipulated. It is great fun to reel in your bait, then yank the pole upward while watching your lure react in a proper physical manner. The second biggest factor to landing the big ones is finding the hot spots. Although you're only able to fish in a limited area, in each area you will see that big fish tend to huddle together (under docks, in caves and so on). Find a hot spot, know your lure, and you'll be on your way to landing ten-pounders on a consistent basis.
Once you have selected your lure...cast away! This is the first time you'll be rewarded for purchasing the fishing reel controller. When casting, simply raise the reel then lower it in a casting motion, and watch your on-screen counterpart do the same. Once in the water, it's time to shake, rattle, and roll. Using top water baits requires you to jerk the reel left and right, as well as up and down. Other baits require similar motions and different reel speed techniques. Do this correctly, and you'll have a fish hooked in no time. Once a fish strikes, you must snap the reel controller upwards to firmly set the hook. You'll know you've done this properly when the word "Fish!" is displayed across your screen. Once he's on, you'll notice the rumble pack shaking; thus, signaling to you that it's time to reel him in at a speed that won't allow the tension of your line to become too taut and snap. During the reel-in, you will be commanded to turn your rod left, right, up or down;thus, effecting the path the fish will take to your boat. However, these rod commands have to be input via the analog pad atop the reel controller. Simply jerking the reel left or right will have no affect. This bothered me at first, but once you get a feel for it, it is truly not a problem. The reel itself feels a little loose and turning it very quickly can be awkward, but all in all its a great peripheral. Like anything else, it takes a little getting used to. Your hand may hurt a bit after the first few games. Don't worry though, if your an avid gamer you're surely aware that you grow "Sega muscles" ( I adopted this term after countless hours of NHL94 for the Genesis but you know what I mean, right? Whenever you get a new peripheral or play too long, your hand hurts for a bit until you've adjusted to its design and/or your new playing regimen).
All this being said, this game is far from perfect, and being a ported arcade title it shows its lack of depth in many ways. By far my biggest gripe is over the Load/Save options. Dreamcast owners are now accustomed to the auto save and load features, yet they are not included in this game. Also the save files for records are not separated from the save files from tourneys. On at least two occasions plan on accidentally erasing your diaries (log of fish caught). Planning on entering a tourney? Great, you better not have any friends that would like to do so as well. This 50 block VMU save file only houses enough room for one tourney. Every time you play, you must remember to load from the backup memory in the options screen. Simply loading to start a continued tournament will do nothing for maintaining your stats and records. So it's at the options screen that you must start and end every game. It's not only a pain in the ass, it's difficult to figure out. It's hard to explain just how this save system works, but it's easy to see how it diminishes the game's replay value.
Aside from the load/save, there are several other areas that need to be addressed. Load times are frequent and excessive. The game lets you catch bass, and only bass. Add a few other species, and I might never stop playing. Another problem is the way that fish don't actually pull the line out. When you land a big one, and he starts on his way in the opposite direction, the line doesn't move outward. Your line footage reads the same, and you're line is able only to decrease in length and not increase. I can't tell you how much it "feels" like the fish is pulling, and running with the line; however, the line meter never goes up. This may not sound like that big of a deal to you, but trust me, if it were added it would do wonders to the game's fun factor. Reel 'em in, then let the fish swim out, reel 'em in , they let 'em swim out...now that's fishing! Not to mention that the absence of this detail means the complete absence of a "drag" feature. You certainly won't have to worry about your line's test or your drag setting--both are nonexistent.
Want some more bad news? The fish rarely, if ever, snap the line or come off the hook. You'll find as you progress in the game, only the biggest fish that are very far away from your boat will have the ability to jump off the hook during tournaments. I was hoping to see a bit more of that, but again this IS an arcade game ported to DC after all. The lack effort Sega put into its added options is certainly apparent.
More needed features? The ability to cast at any given length instead of always a set distance. The ability to roam freely throughout the lakes or AT LEAST 20 more stationary scenes from which you are able to fish from. As it stands now, the game offers roughly eight, not nearly enough. More lures, more fish, more rods and reels (only one is offered), and the addition of a test rating on your fishing line. After playing some of the PC fishing sims, this game didn't even come close in terms of options. I can't say that I expected it to though. I knew it was an arcade port. I only wish they'd have taken just a bit more time to make this game one of the best ever. Bass fishing is an arcade game, I'll say it once more. It is NOT a fishing sim (however with a little work it would be DAMN close).
Graphically this game shines. The Naomi engine is a godsend to arcade lovers. All of the scenes are extremely detailed, as are the fish. The fish are done so well it's simply amazing. Looking at them, you are able to see their scales, soft bellies, and gills; and you're unable to see a hint of polygonal work. Everything about these fish is rounded, no staggered corners whatsoever. Details on the lures are equally delightful without a hint of polygonal work. What impresses me the most is the water. Views both above and below the surface appear perfect. Switching between the two, you will notice everything from glare, reflections, muddy water, and filtered sunlight. Beneath the surface of each lake lay rocks, tree trunks, and an occasional crayfish or turtle. Again all of these details are done to near perfection.
The audio in this game is good, although I don't quite know what they were thinking when they did the voiceovers. Where the heck is this announcer from? Hearing him practically yell at you to "turn the rod left" becomes somewhat aggravating. The voice of your fisherman though seldom heard is good for a laugh upon pulling in a small fish. To hear the womans' sigh of disgust or the male's , "oh no!" will surely bring a smile to your face. There are a good amount of voiceovers; however, in the audio department it is, once again, water affects that shine. While reeling in your top water "popper" lure, the sound of it skipping over the water is near perfect. You'll hear everything from this to jumping fish with near perfection. The music is average, but at least its not annoying. There is an option to turn the background music off if it does bother you. I'm just glad they didn't throw "in your face" tunes into the eclectic mix of songs you'll be hearing.
Had it not been for the quick port from arcades, this game would have been one of my all- time favorites. It is extremely playable and very fun. I'm hoping that with the release of the reel controller (it seems to be doing well) other companies will try to capitalize on the peripheral. Perhaps by this time next year, we will be treated to a Bass Fishing 2, or a third parties' attempt at the fishing genre. We now have the peripheral, let's hope that companies back it up in a big way. This genre has existed in console gaming since Activision's attempt for the Atari 2600. It's come a long way since then and shows no signs of slowing down. Now that we have a reel, let's pray that a true fishing sim comes our way soon. Should this occur, I'll surely be the first one to reel it in.
The following is a condensed review of Sega Bass Fishing.:
The look of this game is top notch. High polygon counts add to a rounded look. Great water effects. Fish and lures also look stunning.
A few voiceovers and again some nice water effects. The announcer accent is a bit odd, and he can be a bit too demanding. The music is subtle and neither adds nor takes away from gameplay.
This is tough to rate,because the action of actual fishing with the reel controller is near perfect; however, there is a severe lack of playable options the biggest of which is the extremely poor save/load features).
This is another tough one to rate. While Bass Fishing will only be your main focus for a short time, the genre lends itself to extended play over many months. When you look at your games, and you really don't feel like getting too involved in a game of NFL2K or Phantasy Star, fishing will be a title you'll pick up again and again.
With a little work in some areas, this title could have easily hit the 90's. It's great fun to play, and the act of fishing is quite realistic. Although it's hampered by a lack of depth in just about every area you can imagine. Don't get me wrong, this game IS fun, very fun in fact. It simply could have been amongst the top three Dreamcast titles if a bit more time had been taken in its port. If you plan on purchasing this game without the reel controller, don't bother. The addition of this peripheral is part of what makes this game a winner. The downfall, of course, is it puts an $80 price tag on the game. Costing this much, Sega Bass Fishing is fun enough to be worth it; however, just barely.
Review By: Jonathan Licata