Fish or die!
Competition is the driving force behind every video game. Gamers will do whatever it takes to be the best in the knockdown, drag-out quest for geek glory.
In their infinite wisdom, Sega figured that maybe that's what's been missing from the fishing genre. Competition! Can a fishing game with competition actually be interesting? Yes, but not in Sega Bass Fishing Duel, essentially a port of Sega Bass Fishing 2 on the Dreamcast. The competition bits come out fine, but the port and presentation turn out to be a sewage-marinated stinky boot.
Unlike the Dreamcast, the PS2 doesn't have a fishing controller, so the dual stick is your only option. The Right analog stick acts as the reel, but you don't have to wind it circularly to reel in a fish. Slightly pushing forward translates to lightly turning the reel; shoving the analog stick to the edge results in a rapid reel. It works fine I suppose, but doesn't hold a candle to the fishing controller. I can't believe I actually want a fishing reel controller, but suffice to say a fishing game isn't quite the same without one. Without the controller, it seems even more pointless.
Once the fish has been reeled in close enough to the boat, the last step of catching the fish must now be done via a timing exercise. Tapping X at the right time within a broadening yellow meter will successfully net you the fish.
That pretty much covers the basics, but there's more in here. Sega Bass Fishing Duel lets you take a break from fishing and drive around your little boat. The boat is limited to pre-set boundaries and most unfortunately, you can't crash it into anything or go scare a flock of peaceful geese. Boating is nothing more than a method of getting from point A to point B and hope there are more fish there.
Overall, it feels like the population of fish has gone down since previous fishing efforts, especially considering your increased mobility. Guess it's global warming or something. At any rate, you can often just find fish by staring the water long enough.
Sega Bass Fishing Duel gets its name from the ability to fish against other players. If you don't have a friend on hand, you can compete against one of the computer-controlled digerati. You might compete to catch a specific fish or a set total weight of fish. With a human opponent, the screen is split and each player takes his shot at a good old-fashioned fish off.
This is probably the best thing Sega Bass Fishing Duel has going for it. If you have a buddy who's really into fishing, you could have some fun fishing against each other.
It's clear that this port wasn't really handled with the deftest touch. Whenever you make a selection in the game, whether between a choice of bait or designing your custom character, the screen image wavers slightly. Simply changing your character's outfit can lead to a hefty load time. Environments come out jaggy and boring. The water looks bleary and drab in flat colors. There are some reflections of light, but it lacks realism. Sometimes a refraction filter cuts in, blurring the fish, but it looks sloppy.
There are even times when the fish just droops in still water, blankly staring at the bait. If they added some gill animations or made the water tread animation more plausible, the fish would seem more realistic, particularly when there are two fish right next to each other both emptily staring away. Why aren't they noticing each other and getting into a fight or kissing or ANYTHING? These are indeed soulless creatures of the deep.
If they really wanted to make a fishing game cool, they should translate the fish you catch into some kind of reward. Why do I keep fishing again and again in Animal Crossing? Because it makes me money. Points, money, character improvement - whatever. Reward me for catching these fish, darnit!
How cool would it be if you could sell off all the fish you've caught, mosey your way to the jewelry store across the docks and then lace your character all up in ice and bling-bling? You could be the baddest mother on the Upper Westside of the lake. Seriously, a real time fishing game with a small local town of fish buyers and competing fisherman would actually be interesting. Throw in the ability to hit someone with a fish and you might have the world's perfect fishing game on your hands. I'd keep playing a fishing game like that.
Instead, I get to play more arcade ports like this one. The Dreamcast fishing games came out much better, odd as it may sound, especially with the fishing controller and the native Naomi code instead of this haphazard port job. If you really, truly want to be playing a fishing video game, go back to your Dreamcast. Better yet, for some real competition, wake up really early, grab your buddy, and go fish.