I have played and enjoyed fishing games in the past. I played The Black Bass on the original Nintendo every time I went to a particular friend's house. I've heard the tale of a fishing rod controller for Dreamcast that people enjoyed, though I've never been able to play it. The Black Bass franchise has now spawned 16 releases over the last 16 years. I know fishing can be digitized and made into a fun experience from the first iteration, but have not tried many of the games since then.
In the 3DS outing, you start as a simple youngster out to fish on a local lake, but can enter tournaments for fun and cash prizes. A local store owner offers you tips and deals on rods and lures. After you get the hang of shore fishing at your local pond, you can work your way up to wading out in deep water or purchasing a boat for the mid-lake experience.
Tournaments are realistic in comparison to real life: taking place over three days, you are given from sunup to sundown to make your catch to weigh in against the competitors. You go to the shop to prepare, picking your line, lures, and other equipment. Once you begin fishing, you use the developer's "Real Rod System" by flicking the 3DS as you would cast a rod, and the gyroscopic motion truly reacting to your nuances, much like how WiiMotionPlus nailed the little flicks of your hand in Wii Sports Golf. The slightest twist to my cast would change the direction of the lure. You can fish throughout the year and throughout multiple seasons, with weather effecting the location, species, and behavior of the fish. There are also online leaderboards to battle your way through.
If you manage to attract a fish, another flick of the system sets the hook. Twisting the unit left or right against the fish's movements and pulling up to add force all factor in wearing the fish out. If the fish is a fighter, you'll see them jump through the air to try to get away from you. After the battle, you place the fish in your livewell, and from there you can put your fish up for weighing in the tournament, sell them to purchase more fishing supplies, or create stamps of them for permanent record.
While Super Black Bass 3D is not your average twitch game, made for short sessions as most handheld games are, it can serve the purpose of fishing simulation well. If you have a nice lazy afternoon and wish you could be fishing but can't, this kind of game is right up your alley. I have a few qualms about it that I feel need to be mentioned
Characterization: The game puts some interesting looking people in front of you, but doesn't do much with them. For example, the fishing shop owner looks like he is going to be a big support for you, but basically functions as a menu screen. The announcer for the tournaments is very colorful looking, but doesn't do any more than the announcers at the Nintendogs tournament. When creating your character, you get to put in a name and choose "Boy" or "Girl." With only two options, character customization is at a low.
Use of 3DS features: I liked the Real Rod System once I got used to the nuances of it, but the first throw was kind of scary. Even though the system gave me plenty of warning to hold on tight to the 3DS, with my first cast I heard a painful CLICK, as they don't notify you to hold the hinge solid. The casting feature's basic motions for overhead casting can be taxing on the 3DS hinge if you aren't careful. Also, while the 3D functionality is well implemented, a lot of the gameplay is done while pulling and pushing the unit around, something that never bodes well for the glassesless 3D feature. While fighting a fish that isn't needing tugging or simply drawing my line through the water, the 3D effect looks very good, but at those crucial times when I wanted to see the action, my screen got fuzzy as I left the system's sweet spot. Third, I feel the game could have taken much more advantage of the system's buttons. Many aspects of navigation required a button tap to change to another set of options to use only a couple of the buttons, while the others remained unused. At it's current setup, I feel the game could be tweaked to be operated on a Game Boy Advance. With the Real Rod System, I felt that an obvious intuitiveness would have been a Circle Pad spin to reel in the line, but a simple A button press is used. There's even a picture after the line is set on the touchscreen showing the rod and a button with an A on it taking up the screen, but not even a tap on that screen reels in, simply the A button alone. Plus, the Real Rod System is very close to holding a real rod, I will say that, but when I cast a rod, I one-hand cast, or am holding onto a pole, not a five inch wide square brick I have to monitor a hinge on, so it never felt 100% right.
Super Black Bass 3D is part of a long-running franchise. The series fills the particular niche of the fishing afficionado video gamer. Anyone who fits that mold is probably already aware of the series and what they're getting into. If you are outside of that circle yet intrigued, be prepared to have traditional fishing-level patience with this game. It has some flaws, but once overcome, can provide a decent experience. Hopefully some of these points can be ironed out in the next iteration of the franchise. Super Black Bass 3D releases April 2nd, but you can click the link below to preorder on Amazon.