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Bass Fishing (DC) Review

Background Info

Screens (7)
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 my review of this game is based on its control with the "reel" controller and not the Sega standard gamepad.

Bass Fishing is an incredibly popular Sega arcade title which runs on the Naomi engine. This is essentially identical to the engine of the Dreamcast, so expect a near perfect port. This is Sega's first attempt at what is proving to be a popular genre.

Presentation/Graphics : 90
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 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 most impresses me is the look of 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 lie rocks, tree trunks, and an occasional crab or turtle. Again, all of which are represented in graphical near-perfection.

Presentation/Audio : 85
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" gets somewhat aggravating. The voice of your fisherman, though seldom heard, is good for a laugh upon pulling in a small fish. To hear the woman's 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, even in audio, it is once again water effects 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 it's not annoying. There is an option to turn the background music off but since they didn't throw "in your face" tunes into the eclectic mix of songs you'll be hearing, you probably won't do so.

Interface/Options : 71
The interface of this game is somewhat limited and this seems to be the trouble most arcade ports face. 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 one 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 mid-cast. 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, however, 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 of which consist of a four minute time limit (displayed on screen as four hours of simulated time). The number of actual days in the tourney varies as you progress, as do 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 simply land as much weight as you can. At the end of each shift you will be given a ranking out of the fifty anglers 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, should you be 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.

A real nice 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 first hand 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. 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 you landing big bass. The fish reacts 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, watching your lure react in a proper physical manor. The second biggest factor to landing the big ones is finding the hot spots. While 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.

Gameplay : 86
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 counter part do the same. Once into 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 on in no time. Once a fish strikes, you must snap the reel controller upwards to firmly plant 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, 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 traumatic and snap. During the reel-in you will be commanded to turn your rod left, right, up or down, thus affecting the path the fish will take to your boat. These rod commands, however, have to be input via the analog pad atop of 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 is truly not a problem. The reel itself feels a little loose and turning it very quickly can be awkward, but all in all it's 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 you're 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. Not only that, but the save files for records are not separated from the save files from tourneys. Plan on at least twice accidentally erasing your diaries (log of fish caught). Going to enter a tourney? Great, better not have any friends that would like to do so as well. For 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 butt, it's hard to figure out. It's difficult to explain just how this save system works, but it's easy to see how it diminishes the games replay value.

Aside from the load/save nightmare 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 foot of line reads the same, able only to decrease in length and not increase. I can't tell 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, they swim out, reel 'em in , they swim that's fishing! This is 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, for neither exist.

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 of 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 to fish from. As it stands now the game offers roughly 7, 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 are also needed in this title. 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, as 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).

Replay Value : 80
Although you will be hard pressed to take first in the tourneys, this has more to do with luck than anything else. Rarely, if ever, will you lose a fish once you have it on the line. The game is set up in a very simple manner. It is fairly shallow and has only a slight learning curve. Within two or three days you should know all there is to know about the techniques you must learn if you are to catch big bass on a consistent basis. Add to this the fact that this is an arcade game with little or no effort made in its port, and you have a game that warrants quite a unique replay value. This genre lends itself to good replay value due to its nature, yet it will never sit amongst your favorite games for any duration of time. Suffice to say that in between a heart pounding game of NFL2k and a good night's sleep, Bass Fishing my be the perfect filler.

Overall : 84
Had it not been for the quick port from arcades this game would have been one of my all-time favorites. As it is, 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 next year this time we will be treated to a Bass Fishing 2, or a third party's attempt at the fishing genre. After all, this genre has existed in console gaming since Activision's attempt for the Atari 2600.

It has come a long way since then and shows no signs of slowing down. Let's pray now that we have the reel that a true fishing sim comes our way soon. If so I'll surely be the first one to reel it in.

By: Jon Licata 11/12/99

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