Sega Bass fishing makes me smile. It certainly won’t make everyone smile, but as a huge Sega fan, going back to Sega Bass Fishing immediately reminds me of Sega at its creative peak. No, not the MegaDrive era, I’m talking about the mid-to-late nineties when Sega were consistently releasing hugely inventive arcade-style, peripheral-based videogames. These games were often home to the kind of imagination and daring that the company was once synonymous with – the kind that has so rarely been seen in recent years. Given the collapse of the Dreamcast and the ever dwindling arcade scene, these gems are becoming a truly rare commodity, so it’s great to see this kind of game getting a second chance on XBLA.
Originally released in arcades back in 1997 and later ported to the ill-fated but much loved Dreamcast in 1999, Sega Bass Fishing is, rather unsurprisingly, an arcade experience from top to bottom. An Original Mode does pad out the package to a certain degree, but this is primarily quick fire gameplay at its finest. It might not have a great deal of depth, but as a pick up and play experience, it’s absolutely fantastic and, let’s be honest – it’s infinitely more enjoyable than actual fishing. In fact, I would go as far as to say a personal interest in fishing is of absolutely zero significance when taking into account whether or not to pick up this game. If anything, you’d probably enjoy it more if you’re not a fan of fishing – actual anglers might well be put off by the over simplification of their beloved past time.
Despite widescreen presentation and improved resolution, this is the exact same game that was released on the Dreamcast over ten years ago…..well, nearly the same anyway. The fact is, Sega Bass Fishing was meant to be played with Sega’s utterly bonkers, but nonetheless fantastic, fishing rod peripheral. At a time when Sega were banging out hugely inventive peripherals for the Dreamcast at an alarming rate, Sega Bass Fishing’s rod controller stood out as one of the more zany and successful examples of the time. While still perfectly playable with a traditional controller, there’s no doubting that the overall experience is at least partially diluted by its absence.
Even without the rod controller though, Sega Bass Fishing is a great deal of fun. The controls couldn’t be simpler with basic gameplay made up of choosing a cast point and tactically reeling in your bait with a combination of quick movements and sudden twitches in an attempt to lure in the many fish at each location. Once you have a fish snagged, the game goes into battle mode in which you have to carefully reel in your fish without breaking the line while fighting against its movements by dragging left and right on the analogue stick. The mechanics are extremely simple but they are water tight (no pun intended), making catching any size fish a highly entertaining experience.
Still, as much as I enjoy Sega Bass Fishing and its classic arcade gameplay, not everyone is going to be as big a Sega fan as I am. For many, Sega Bass Fishing will prove a rather repetitive experience while others will be unlikely to get past the charming but undoubtedly dated visuals. To put it bluntly – if you are a fan or arcade gaming you’ll find a lot to like here, but if not, it’s probably best you skip this one.
For those who do take the plunge, Sega Bass Fishing offers up an Arcade Mode which, while challenging, offers up infinite continues and can subsequently be completed in well under an hour. Beating your previous best and trying to lure that monster fish does provide incentive to go back, but you’re unlikely to spend too much time here. The meat of the experience comes in Original Mode. This mode takes the four locations from Arcade Mode and adds some basic weather effects and a day/night cycle for some much needed variety. This mode delivers five tournaments, each one made of three separate events. It’s not going to last all that long, but again, this is an arcade game at heart and should be approached accordingly. There are different lures to try but honestly, other than the way they move through the water, their actual effect on gameplay is relatively limited.
Presentation-wise, your appreciation will once again depend largely on your affection for Sega’s bold colour scheme and the classic arcade style audio/visual design that runs so strongly through every aspect of the game. By today’s standards, Sega Bass Fishing isn’t a pretty game but the solid, chunky visuals are extremely charming and the audio design is the kind of English-through-a-Japanese-filter that you only find in classic arcade games. The resolution upgrade and widescreen presentation does give the game a little more polish than was afforded to Sega’s other Dreamcast classic releases, but be warned, the still menu and level screens are some of the ugliest you are ever likely to see and the animations throughout are extremely limited.
As much as I love Sega Bass Fishing, I appreciate that many gamers won’t feel the same way. For every gamer who sees classic Sega audio/visual design and addictive arcade-style gameplay, there will be another who sees little more than blocky, dated visuals and over simplified gameplay mechanics. Sega Bass Fishing makes me smile, but be warned, it might well make you frown.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Microsoft Xbox 360 code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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