|The last time I had fun
fishing in real life was when I lived in Russellville, Arkansas. My father, the biggest
fishing fan I know, with the possible exception of any one of his friends, hooked us up
with oversized sea-fishing rigs to use on Lake Dardanelle and at the dam on the Arkansas
River. We used balloons for bobbers, chicken hearts for bait, and caught catfish that were
upwards of 3 or 4 feet in length. No shit. There's something about the nuclear power plant
and the thermal pollution in the lake that makes them get huge. Eventually we moved to
Idaho, and at 15 years old, waders, flies, worms and trout just lose their appeal.
So I haven't been fishing since. It's sad, and my Dad still goes out as often as possible, but us lazy indoor types find gaming at least as stimulating, and a whole lot less slimy. Now, I've been awake for the past year, at least most of the time, so I understand that fishing and hunting games have become a formidable genre, and there are millions of fans across the country. The surge in popularity of these titles makes sense to me, but what didn't make sense was how many people in the gaming world I had met who said they loved the fishing titles. Everyone I've talked to just loves these games. Needless to say, I was a bit intimidated when I picked up Sega Bass Fishing. I was afraid I wouldn't be able to tap into that enthusiasm. Happily, I was oh so wrong.
It's weird how addictive these games are. Or at least this one. Sega Bass Fishing is a port of the arcade game that has been enhanced with an Original mode where you get to take a more pointed interest in your fisherman. The Arcade mode is very easy to play through. As long as you keep hitting start to continue you can stumble your way through all the levels. Settings range from docks, to bays, to bridges and intake structures. The graphics are very nice, and there are little crawdads and turtles swimming around to make things interesting (although you can't snag them no matter how hard you try, trust me). Weather conditions vary, and you fish at different times of the day, so you get a feel for those finicky bass. There are quite a few lures to choose from, including cranks, jig, spinner, buzzbait, rubber worm, and the ever-amusing popper. The Arcade mode goes quickly, and really just warms you up to take a more active interest in your fishing skills as you pilot your character through the Original mode.
In Original mode you can play as either a male or female fisherperson. You pick a name and register yourself in the tournament. Each tournament has several areas to compete in at different times of the day and in different weather conditions. You compete against some 30 opponents, and you must catch the most fish to win. Actually, you must catch the heaviest amount of fish to win, and there are some big boys out there. It's not unusual to find bass weighing 10 to 12 lbs, and a big old 19 pounder isn't out of the question. The Original mode is very difficult. There is a time limit on each stage of the tournament, so it really is you versus the fish, and those little buggers can be hard to lure in.
Between tournaments you can check personal data for your character. You can see your standings in tournaments, view any trophies or certificates you've won, check out the fish you've caught in your fishing diary, and take a peek at your tackle box. In the tackle box it tells you how to use each lure. As you fish you unlock new lures, and it is essential to find out how these lures ought to be used. As I said before, those bass are smart, and they know if you're using the lure right. Get the technique down and you're almost guaranteed some big hits.
And that's basically it. There's fairly cheesy arcade music playing in the background, and some guy comments about how good or bad the fish you've caught is, but other than that there aren't a whole lot of extras. Just fishing for bass. Sounds boring, eh? Not really. It's truly remarkable how Sega Bass Fishing turns around the skeptics. I found myself really getting into catching the big guys. You throw your lure out there, see a huge monster fish, but some little anchovie butts in and steals the action. So you recast, pull it past big poppa, and he stares it down, completely uninterested. At this point in time, you're cursing the fickle taste of a fish that doesn't really exist, but you're damned determined to bag him.
It's really a strategy game. If the fish aren't biting then you're either in the wrong spot, using the lure poorly, or using the wrong lure. The graphics are nice, but not nice enough to make you want to watch fishing all day. The sound is good, but not great. There is a fair amount of variety, with at least a half dozen places to fish, but that's not what makes Sega Bass Fishing a blast. As with many good video games, you develop a skill set to use and it is rewarding to go through the process of that development. It feels good when that monster bass finally hits your line, and it makes you want to do it all over again.
The biggest drawback of Sega Bass Fishing is that it is nearly impossible to find those fishing reel controllers. Playing the game with the standard DC controller is great, but I can feel in my bones that the experience would be a lot more exciting with the more realistic controller. The second weakest part of the game is just a simple lack of variety. There are only bass to catch, and only a half dozen or so settings to catch them in. I found myself tiring of trying to do the same thing over and over, even though it kept pulling me back to repeat the cycle. I can see how more species of fish and more settings would make a fishing game incredibly addictive and satisfying, but it's not like Sega is misleading you. The name of the game is Bass Fishing, and that says it all. Bass fight hard, jump high, and splash a lot, so it's not such a bad deal. But if you're really more of a flyrod kind of guy, you'll probably be disappointed.
Overall, I can say that there is something to these fishing games. I was skeptical, but Sega Bass Fishing really captured my attention. It is a well designed title that doesn't push limits in graphics or technology, but definitely opens up another dimension of fun. For fishing game fans, I imagine this is a pretty sweet one, and for my fellow skeptics I heartily recommend a rental. You might be very surprised.