Sega Marine Fishing (DC) Review

Games based on fishing have always been at the bottom of the totem pole in terms of respectability, somewhere below Pong clones and FMV games, and only slightly above Tamagotchis. It would be hard to say this is an unjust state of affairs, because the very concept of fishing as a video game is fundamentally dumb.

For anyone who’s never had the experience of engaging in real life fishing, it goes pretty much like this; you painstakingly carry a pole, tacklebox, ice chest, and baitbox to a designated location, usually a grimy dock or litter-strewn riverbank. Mexicans and elderly men are always present, women are never present, and the sun is always hotter and brighter than during any other activity. Then you clumsily set your hook with whatever bait you’ve chosen, cussing and saying blasphemies as you do so. Finally, you throw your line out, and proceed to doze off and get sunburned in complete silence for the next several hours. You’ll drink about ten beers an hour on average, but somehow never get drunk. Under no circumstances should you reel in your line, because you’ll get snagged on every possible rock, and discover that your bait has been replaced by seaweed. You will neither catch nor see a fish, or any other aquatic beast. It sounds like complete misery, but it’s actually quite therapeutic, in the most ritualistic and absurd way possible.

Most fishing video games emulate this experience fairly accurately (sans sunburn), and ten times out of ten, the “sport” becomes something horrible in translation. Dull, frustrating and boring. Just awful.

But for rich people who own sea-faring yachts and human slaves, the experience of fishing has absolutely nothing in common with what I’ve just described. For the wealthy, fishing involves catching fish – massive ones – and lots of em. If a rich person somehow ends up catching less than a quarter ton of flapping tuna, marlin, tarpon, barracuda, or whatever else, it’s not a sign of a slow season, but rather a disappointing five minutes. For these prodigal sons of the sea, there’s almost never a moment when they’re not reeling in a trophy-sized fish, and Sega Marine Fishing portrays this experience with great accuracy.

The game is simply filled to the bursting point with charm. Most prominent is the unique Dreamcast fishing controller, which is absolutely essential, and should be in every gamer’s collection, if for no other reason than having one of the most ridiculous devices ever invented (and a pre Wii motion controller, which, perhaps insanely, can be used to play Virtua Tennis). Gameplay is simple, but can get fairly intense. Most of the challenge comes from fighting with the fish, as you struggle to maintain the proper level of tension, while your aquatic adversaries try to do the exact opposite. Too much tension and the line will break, too little and your hook can slip out. This pretty much boils down to knowing when to reel fast and when to let up, all the while taking care to point the fishing rod in the opposite direction to where the fish is trying to go. It’s usually pretty laid back stuff, but battles with a 350 pound hammerhead can be sweat-inducing affairs, as you play this delicate game of tug o’ war.

This is all well and good, but there’s another feature which elevates Sega Marine Fishing to near Tetris levels of addictiveness. As you catch fish which meet certain parameters, you gain items for your massive three million gallon aquarium. These items not only include fish, but also a huge assortment of environmental objects, from common rocks and buoys to ancient ruins and sunken vessels. Unfortunately you can’t swim freely through this tank, but a variety of preset cameras will float you past all the sights. In addition to items for your aquarium, you also gain better and more specialized baits, which can then be used to catch even more monstrous fish. Far from being a simulator though, you don’t need to know squat about fishing to do well. It’s pure arcade goodness, with a mere sprinkle of depth to give it longer legs. Those looking for a more comprehensive fishing experience would be well-advised to check out Sega Bass Fishing 2, also for the Dreamcast.

The thing that really makes the game so irresistible is it’s relentless sense of optimism and fun. Even the small fish you catch feel like triumphs, and every time the game compliments you on your reeling action, you can actually physically feel your eye twinkle. I suppose that’s what it’s like to be wealthy, and Sega Marine Fishing is as close as most of us are ever gonna get to experiencing that lifestyle for any extended period of time. It’s a hard game to turn off, and when you do there’s a noticeable “come down.” It feels like going back to the docks.

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~ by Krooze L-Roy on January 14, 2009.

4 Responses to “Sega Marine Fishing (DC) Review”

  1. Thanks for the relevant comments.

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