How to look even more ridiculous as a video game nerd.
First of all I must confess- prior to reviewing this game I knew almost next to nothing about bass fishing other than that it required a rod, reel, and bait. I have been fishing before, when I was younger, but that was long ago and I never did catch a damn thing. But with the meager, yet essential knowledge that I had, I took on the daunting task of becoming a digital angler (bass fisherman to the layperson). See, I learned something at least.
Bass Landing was developed by Ascii and published by Agetec over here in America. Definitely not a powerhouse as far as game developers go, Ascii's products are usually low key and are found mosly on the other side of the Pacific Ocean.
The purpose of bass landing is to catch bass of course. Are there other fish in the game you can catch? Yes, but being the hardcore angler that you are, you throw them back because you only care about winning the B.A.S. Pro Tournament. Screw fishing for food- we're out to win a trophy!
The huge selling point for Bass Landing is that it's packaged with a specially designed fishing controller. It's basically the reel of a pole without the rod (see picture below). Kind of cool. In the center of the controller is a single analog stick. Radiating around this central stick are all the other Playstation buttons. On the right side of the controller is an actual reel you can spin, imitating real fishing. You hold the controller like a real fishing rod, by the handle at the base of the controller.
What's really great is that casting the line is done like you would reality. You have to cock the controller back and swing it with all your video-gaming might. This is a non-stop source of entertainment for people watching you play. Also important is the fact that the controller vibrates when a fish is pulling on your line.
Considering the controller comes with the game for free, it's a pretty good deal. It's certainly not a high quality controller though. The L and R buttons are miniscule and difficult to press under the stressful situations of reeling in a huge bass. The plastic of the controller is pretty cheap- not the same quality of the standard Sony control pads. The grip is slippery and difficult to hold for extended periods of time. After a few hours of rigorous fishing, my reel now squeaks like a bed in a cheap motel. And if you're a left-hander, forget about it. This controller is for righties only.
The game itself goes to impressive lengths to be true to real fishing. You'll immediately see this from the thick instruction manual and the lengthy tutorials you must complete before you compete. The developers really tried to recreate the actual feel of fishing by including all sorts of reels, weather conditions, reeling strategies, fish, rods, lures, and terrain conditions. This certainly isn't like the fishing games you see in the arcades. You'll actually have to learn something before you can hit the tournament.
The fishing tutorials are intensive and require a good deal of patience, but they are essential in learning how to play the game properly. You'll learn different ways to cast a line, what lures to use, what bait to use, how weather conditions affect the bass, how to drive the boat, and all sorts of other strategies. You'd never think that there was so much to fishing. By the time you pass the exams and the long final exam, you'll be one bad-ass couch-angler.
Naming all the lures, baits, fish, rods, weather conditions, lake conditions, lake terrain, and techniques included in the game would be long and boring, so trust me, they've got it all.
After the tutorials you can choose to either play free-fishing or the tournament. In free-fishing you customize one of the pre-designed lakes and then set off for a fun-filled session of fishing. This is just like heading down to the lake with your dad. In the tournament mode you'll see what hardcore bass fishing is all about. You can enter 1-2 day tournaments at each lake where you're under the gun to come up with the biggest catch. This is the true meaning of sports fishing and the most exciting aspect of being an angler.
There are a lot of great features in Bass Landing. First and foremost, the depth of realism is noteworthy. This will definitely keep all the real fishermen happy. Second, the fishing controller makes the game all the more realistic and will make you the envy of every kid on the block. There are also small perks throughout the game that are satisfying- like seeing replays of your amazing catches and seeing yourself raise up your fish in victory. It's equally amusing to see your humiliated fisherman cup a guppy-sized bass in his hand.
When you first feel the vibration of the lure the game goes crazy. Instead of the cutesy Japanese music that loops while you're reeling and casting, crazy backwater fishing music cuts in that captures the true stereotypical feel of bass fishing. You also have a gruff, country-sounding guide on your boat that shouts out directions on how to pull your line. The fish also act realistically, so you'll really exert yourself pulling in a 16 pound bass. It's actually quite exciting and amusingly stereotypical all at the same time.
This game is far from perfect though. As mentioned earlier the controller could have been designed much better. Also, the graphics just plain stink. This could easily have been a first-generation Playstation game. In fact, it probably was- and Ascii just took four years to bring it to the US. There is terrible polygon breakup in the water, everything looks grainy and pixelated, and all the terrain and models are jagged and rough. It really hurts your eyes to see this game after playing all the recent good-looking Playstation games.
All in all, Bass Landing is an entertaining ride that falls short of coming into greatness. It's a kick to realize you're sitting on your couch with a beer and snacks, pretending to swing a fishing pole. However, the novelty short lived. Sooner or later, hardcore gamers will tire of the bad graphics, their aching hand, and their broken fishing controller. This is a good game for the fishing aficionado who is a casual gamer and is too busy to hit the lake. Everyone else should wait for the fishing game on the Dreamcast or just go and hit the lakes themselves.