reviews\ Feb 9, 2003 at 7:00 pm

Fisherman's Challenge - PS2 - Review

Konami has had a long and loving obsession with the sport of bass fishing as seen in its previous sport fishing titles like the Fisherman’s Bait games for the PSOne.  In the long lineup of sports titles, fishing games haven’t completely captured the attention of American gamers but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re not appreciated when one good fishing title does come along.   So dust off your favorite tackle box and pick up your best fishing rod because the fish in Fisherman’s Challenge are sure biting.


There are three modes in this fishing game: Tournament, Variety and Free Fishing.  The Free Fishing mode allows gamers to jump right into the fishing and has them choosing the conditions (time of day, weather, etc.) as well as the location.  Tournament, on the other hand, puts gamers in the role of a professional Bass Angler (you have five fishermen to choose from--two females and three male) and puts you in the middle of a yearlong tournament for the championship.  Tournaments start early in the morning and you are given enough time to catch as many fish as you can before the final weigh-in.  If you win tournaments, you are awarded year points (you must be placed on the Top Twenty lists, though) as well as prizes (such as new tackle).


Variety mode offers a nice variety of fun game modes; some of them can even be played with a second player.  Total Weight, for example, has you competing for the highest total weight of five fishes before the timer runs out.  Race has you racing from three specific areas within the designated lake to catch a fish from all three spots before the timer runs out.  Guardian Spirit is a two-player game that has you and a friend (seen in split screen) competing to catch the Guardian Spirit fish.  Battle is another multiplayer game where a players try to catch fish that weighs more than the one your friend caught in order to move the “battle gauge” to your opponent’s side to win.


Thankfully the controls were made easy, as you will see from the very start of the game as you freely drive your boat to the spot you think is good.  Gamers have complete control over what kind of lures to use without worrying too much about bait (you can purchase new lures in the Fishing Shop) and are used accordingly depending on the situation or area.  Once a lure is in, a fish mood lens appears on the lower right-hand corner of the screen and gives gamers a peek into the fish’s mood (e.g. his interest in the lure, how active it is or how hungry the fish might be). 


The second the fish goes for the lure, the game goes into an intense fighting game.  Reeling the fish in requires you to watch your Tension Meter (too much tension and your line breaks) as well as the Hook Meter (it shows you how secure the hook has been sunk so follow the arrow indicator).  The fish also puts up quite a fight that even Ernest Hemingway himself would have been impressed by and dragging it will definitely tire a gamer out.  Once the fish has been reeled in close enough to the boat, you can land the fish.  Believe me, this is not an easy feat at all.


A visible improvement from the Fisherman’s Bait games, the graphics in Fisherman’s Challenge are far crisper with wonderfully smooth textures.  The 3D environments you get to fish against are just many of the game’s visual highlights, especially those lakes complete with roaring waterfalls or lush vegetation.  The anglers themselves also look good and move realistically as they cast their reel in or attempt to bring a fish out of the water.  And the best part about this--and will no doubt be a fishing fan’s favorite feature--is that the fish are so nicely detailed that you can make out what type of bass just happened to take your bait.  Watching them struggle on your line is just the most satisfying sight to see.


The sound is clearly stifled in this game and it’s mostly for the obvious reason . . . after all, does anyone expect to hear loud noises and constant chattering in the sport of fishing?  The sounds you do hear in this game come from your boat’s loud motor, your reel casting out into the water and outdoors background sounds like birds chirping or the waterfall in the distance.  Once a fish takes your bait, however, you’re treated with an unseen announcer’s excited phrase “Fish on!”  The only music you’ll find is when you’re speeding along the lake or in the menu selection screen and its all mostly instrumental cheesy rock riffs.


As far as fishing simulators go, Fisherman’s Challenge is as true to the sport and astonishingly fun without surrendering the realism.  Be warned, however, this game is really not for everyone.  If you have the patience of a real fisherman then this game will be considerably entertaining, otherwise stay clear if you’re a gamer that just can’t stomach the waiting game. 


#Reviewer's Scoring Details

Gameplay: 8.0
With its simplistic control scheme, the game will have you driving your boat to an isolated spot and have you casting out your bait in no time.  There is nothing complicated about this game since it is just a matter of casting your line, hooking the fish, reeling it in and watching your fisherman proudly dangle his catch with a satisfied grin on his or her face.  My only complaint is that the PS2 controller makes reeling in a fish a really exhausting task . . . if only there was a fishing controller like the kind the Dreamcast use to have.


Thanks to the fish mood indicator, you can pretty much guess what a kinds of fish react to a particular lure.  This is also a game that makes use of environmental elements such as time of day and weather patterns.  When it rains the temperature of the water changes and the fish are affected by it.  Bass tends to feed at dusk and dawn, which will put them near a sand bar where they come to prey on the smaller fish.  Certain months also play a hand in how many fish you can catch (September is a good month to catch hungry fish, for example).


Graphics: 8.2
The environments in Fisherman’s Challenge are certainly finely detailed enough that they do look so inviting.  Each setting instills the peace and tranquility that comes with this particular sport and gamers will certainly find the swaying branches from the distant trees or the beauty of the sky near dusk wonderfully enchanting.  The game also has one of the best water effects.  Its beautiful how the water surface ripples and sparkles or how murky it looks when the lure is deep in its depths.


As for the fishermen (and women), they’re rendered quite nicely and are wonderfully detailed.  Still, they are not as impressive looking as the bass that are so beautifully rendered that you can tell what kind of fish it is.  If you know your fish, you can tell from the graphics whether a Spotted Bass or a Rainbow Trout is at the end of your line. They even look great trashing to break free of your line.


Sound: 7.5
As far as the sound is concerned, don’t expect much noise to be found here.  The soundtrack in this game is composed of Van Halen-like rock riffs that is found in the menu selection screen as well as when you move your boat along the body of water or when you’re struggling to reel a fish. 


The sound effects, on the other hand, are far better than the rocking soundtrack.  You’ll hear you surroundings whether its rainfall or the rustling of leaves with the breeze--depending on the weather.  There is no commentary in this game, although there is an announcer that chimes in when a fish takes your bait and you’ll even hear your fisherman voice his or her disappoint with a broken line.


Difficulty: Hard
You’ll never guess from just watching the sport, but fishing is a difficult sport if you don’t know what lures work the best or how to reel in a fish without the line breaking.  This game hardly loses its realistic feel even with its arcade-like gameplay.  And, startling enough, the fish AI are remarkably as intelligent as real fish in that they do not often fall prey to every lure they encounter.


Concept: 8.5
Konami certainly knows how to take elements you might not think would make for a great game and reshape them enough to make them addictively fun.  Just as it did for the dancing genre (Dance Dance Revolution, anyone?), the fishing genre is given an arcade-styled boost.  And, unlike the Fisherman’s Bait games, there are many modes of enjoying this game.


Multiplayer: 7.6
Variety mode is not only fun but it also offers multiplayer action for up to two players.  Seen in split screen fashion, two players can play against each another in two different game types like Battle or Guardian Spirit.  The most entertaining of these multiplayer games is Guardian Spirit, which has you and a friend attempting to catch the oh-so elusive Guardian Spirit fish.


Overall: 8.0
Fisherman’s Challenge is one of the best fishing simulators available on any console so far and, with its addictive gameplay, gamers will have a good time reeling in the fish.  Still, thanks to its tranquil setting and realism, this is a game that requires some patience . . . but when the fish start biting, its arcade-styled action cannot be beat.


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