The Long Reign: is SEGA Bass Fishing Still King?
Sega Bass Fishing has been around for a long time - since 1997 - and has appeared on a long list of platforms, ranging from arcade machines to consoles, and more recently, on Steam. How has it managed to hang on for so long? Let's take a look.
Showing its Age
The very first thing I realised when I started SEGA Bass Fishing was that the game very much looks like it came from 1997 - right from the initial configuration screen. Playing an older title can be a jarring experience; sometimes I'm never quite sure how I managed to make out what was happening in the heavily pixelated and simplistic graphical presentation. Luckily, this game isn't one of those titles. Despite the obvious age, it's still more than playable.
One of the limitations of an old game is the scope and level of environmental detail, and this is true here. The areas that I actually got to fish in are very confined. The underwater environment is sparse, and it's immediately obvious that all of the graphical demands went into the rendering and animation of the fish. Coupled with this is a lack of collision detection with underwater objects - line, fish and lure can all pass through ‘solid' objective without consequence.
Some of the Fish AI before they're hooked on is a little suspect, or at least hampered by the rather limited animation. Sometimes they seem to get stuck in a loop of lunging at and missing the lure.
Release Date: 01/12/1997
Available on: Windows, PC Download
Play the Game
The Struggle is Reel
The quick time event that is reeling in a fish is the tensest part of the game. There’s a rather sensitive line tension meter that needs to be kept in the green and, while having to pay attention to that, the game also issues commands at a fairly rapid pace.
The fish AI, despite my complaints earlier, is dramatically better once a fish is hooked. Unlike other fishing games I’ve tried, like Let’s Fish and Carp Fishing Simulator, the struggle of bringing in a fish in is much more true to life - despite it being more of an arcade game than a simulation.
Getting into the higher rankings is a real challenge. I was dead chuffed with one of my rounds, I’d managed to catch over 30lbs of fish! And yet, I found myself disappointingly languishing in 25th place.
In a nod to simulation, the weather has an effect on the behaviour of fish - and it makes choosing the lure a more considered decision. If it’s raining, I found better success in the morning stages with a surface lure. Hotter stages required using one that could drop to the bottom where the water is cooler - the temperature and depth are displayed on the HUD.
When this game was developed, SEGA were still one of the premiere studios in the world, and the production quality that went along with that is evident. The game has a fully-fledged soundtrack, it has that well-rounded feel of one crafted by experienced designers who know how to challenge a player without putting them off or letting the game quickly become stale.
I’ve encountered very few glitches or bugs - in fact I’m struggling to recall a single one. The Steam version runs at 60FPS and has support for my obscure 21:9 resolution without producing a hideously stretched image. There are a lot of brand new releases that don’t manage that!
The tournament format that SEGA went with ensures that there’s hours of gameplay. The rounds are challenging without dragging on. They captured the spirit of a tense, arcade-sports game perfectly; adding just enough of the realism from simulation to create an engaging experience.
Lack of Feedback
SEGA Bass Fishing does have one great weakness though. There is a consistent lack of feedback.
This is most evident when struggling with a fish. I’m told to move the rod left, so I press the left arrow key. The fish is already pulling my line in that direction, and the meter barely responds - so I’m just left to guess that it’s worked. I’m not told how long I should hold the key down for, and I’m not shown that my rod has moved.
The lures have an inconsistent response to commands when they’re in the water. Sometimes pressing an arrow key results in an instant reaction, sometimes there’s a very small movement, and sometimes the key has to be pressed several times for anything to happen at all. Sometimes there’s a delay when pressing a reel key, and sometimes there isn’t.
Fish can escape the hook despite the line tension being in the green. I’m not sure if this is something that I’ve caused, or if it’s a random chance. Either would be fine, but there needs to be a way to relay it back to me.
All of these issues could have been resolved by having a fixed ‘player cam’ in a small window in a corner of the screen, with animations that correspond to my commands - so I can tell what effect my button presses are actually having.
Despite its age, SEGA Bass Fishing is still a competent fishing game in what is a sparsely populated genre. Old games that were developed by experienced studios are often still good games, and suffer less from dated graphics and mechanics. I’d rather play this game over the current version of Carp Fishing Simulator or browser games like Let’s Fish - because it feels much more like a game than either of those titles.
Play the Game
Sega Bass Fishing is developed by Sega.