Developer: Arc System Works
Publisher: Aksys Games
Release Date: 11/19/2015
When I think about Arc System Works, I automatically think of the fighting games that they develop, such as BlazBlue, Guilty Gear and Arcana Heart. I don’t think of them as a developer who makes quirky little family-oriented games… only it turns out they’ve been making those kinds of games for a while now and I’ve just never noticed. Well, until recently, when I discovered they’d developed a fishing game (one of my favorite genres) published in the US by Aksys, and I was sold.
Family Fishing joins Family Bowling, Family Kart, and Family Table Tennis on the 3DS. The reason behind the name is that all of the games center around the same family in each game. This is kind of sweet if you think about it; the family does everything as a group, or at least way more than my family ever does. Then again, most of my family reunions would probably look closer to one of the Arc System Works fighting games rather than a pleasant afternoon bowling.
Considering Family Fishing is developed from a company well known for their fighting games it’s not surprising that there’s a lot of similarities between Family Fishing and their other games. From the main menu you can either go to a menu of game modes or just Quick Start a fishing battle immediately. If you go to the game modes you get to choose from a Campaign mode, which functions just like if you were playing a fighting game single player ladder mode, you take on each family member in increasing difficulty until you beat them all. There’s Free Battle, where you select the family members facing off and the stage. Then there’s Survival where you face off against different family members one right after the other until you are defeated.
Graphically the game is bright and colorful and looks like a cartoon. The fish are well detailed examples of the fish they are meant to represent and they do a good job at providing a number of different looking stages even though it all has to be centered on a body of water. The background music is fast paced and energetic and the sound effects work well.
The fishing itself is really interesting, there’s a really crazy risk/reward scenario that plays out. What happens is each character is set at opposite ends of a pool of water with fish in it that swim in schools or patterns. In this competition the player tries to catch more fish than the computer AI. Each character starts out with specific equipment, a fish pole, a lure, and sometimes an additional item. They’ll also each have a special ability. Once the game starts the goal is to catch fish, duh, but each fish grants different points. Smaller fish give less than larger fish, etc. In order to catch the larger fish you need to spend points on better rods and lures, or on bait to lure them to you, or on items to mess up the other player.
If a fish bites on your lure healthbars show up on the screen for the player and the fish. Reeling the fish in also send glowing attacks down the fishing line to take down the health of the fish. The fish will fight back sending glowing red balls back up the line, which can be negated by moving the rod in the same direction they’ve turned in, or you can counter attack by pressing up when the fish makes the turn sending bonus damage down the line. If their healthbar drains they’ll be easy to reel in, if the player’s healthbar drains the rod and lure are lost.
On top of all that there are Boss fish for each arena. They function like the golden snitch in Quidditch, catching it give a lot of points and immediately ends the round. Whoever has the most points wins however so it can be worth it while the computer is fighting the boss to still fish as hard as possible and still pull off a victory.
There’s whole layers of risk/reward in here. Do you spend points on items to mess with the other player knowing that those points might be the difference in a win or a loss? When to use the special ability, to go after the boss or try to catch the larger fish first, all while battling the clock. It makes for a weird meta-fighting game where you’re competing with the other character but indirectly, while actually fighting fish and resources to see which one of you planned better. It’s a really clever way of doing things and makes it feel completely unique as a fishing game.
It’s so good that I couldn’t help but wonder what it would be like to play this against another person. While the computer is fun to play against the AI isn’t as sneaky or clever as another human might be. Sadly there’s no multiplayer modes whatsoever. Which is slightly understandable since the shop screen pauses the game and since it’s such a vital element any multiplayer game would feature a ton of both players pausing the action which would get in the way of the game. But it really feels like this is the kind of game that would be amazing as a multiplayer game and the omission of any such modes feels like a missed opportunity.
Balance wise the game does get harder in the campaign mode only the computer AI never seems to pull out all the dirty tricks it could do, so while it gets to be a decent challenge it doesn’t ever feel too tough. In exhibition style fishing fights there’s an option to change the difficulty to low, regular and hard. Which again is where multiplayer would’ve really shone for this type of game.
Short Attention Span Summary:
Family Fishing is a fun, intense and unique take on the traditional fishing game. So much so that my biggest problem with the game is that there wasn’t more of it or the option of multiplayer.