The 3DS is no stranger to fishing games, and neither is Agetec — having made a few bass-heavy titles for the Playstation and Playstation 2 — but Fish On 3D marks the first time the Rabi Laby publisher has cast its line into the pool of eShop anglers. It's an all-bass, arcade-style tournament fishing game, with some solid if unremarkable gameplay, and while it's not going to blow anyone out of the water with looks or charm, there's still some fun here for fishing fans.
Fish On 3D's main attraction is the Tournament mode, which sees you competing in two different tournaments (Amateur and Pro) of five cups apiece, along with a Masters tournament with a single, lengthy cup. Each cup is a timed fishing competition in one or several areas, and as you rise through the rankings — from Iron all the way up to Platinum cups in each tournament — you'll cast your line over ten different locations, from the opening Old Bridge to the Japanese Temple, Port Town, Lodge, and Levee.
Once you hit the water, the gameplay is classic arcade fishing. Starting from an above-water viewpoint, you'll move the boat — not freely, but left or right along a pre-set path — and look for a place to launch your lure. Casting is performed with a simple tap of the 'A' button, and from there the game switches to an underwater view as you reel in the line. You'll have two reeling speeds at your disposal, as well as the ability to jiggle the line with the Circle Pad, as you try to attract the attention of the level's sometimes-scattered bass population.
Incongruous, Sims-like thought bubbles let you know when the fish is close to biting, and once you've hooked one, reeling in a fish is equal parts balancing act and QTE (quick-time event). You'll need to alternate between the two reel speeds to keep a line tension gauge from becoming too loose (and letting the fish get away) or too tight (breaking the line), and at frequent intervals follow voice and on-screen commands to pull the line in a certain direction. It's simple, but oddly engaging, and involved enough that actually reeling a big fish feels like a significant accomplishment. It's here that the controls show a lack of polish, however; they're responsive enough and certainly get the job done, but they don't feel as smooth or as satisfying as in the best fishing games, and it can sometimes be difficult to feel a direct connection between your reeling speed and the tension gauge.
With each fish you catch, or each Tournament you win, you'll acquire a new lure. Along with having different stats and success rates in various weather conditions, seasons, and times of day, each one controls differently and feels distinct: reeling in a crank lure pulls it down from the surface, while spinners — which naturally sink — will rise up as you pull them in. There are 400 to collect in total, and it's a good thing you earn them so frequently, as having your line snap in Tournament mode will cost you the lure you were using at the time. It's a realistic touch that feels out of place with the game's arcade style, and perhaps a little misguided; having a rare lure snapped away from you once is enough to scare you into sticking with the basic tackle from there on out.
Once you finish your first Tournament Cup, you'll unlock the game's three other modes. First up is Challenge, with three missions (Beginner, Standard, and Expert) which take you through three locations per run, as you try to fish out the required Total Weight in each area to move on before the clock runs out. The time limits are quite stringent, and can be frustrating; there's a bit of luck involved in finding where the fish congregate, and throwing your line into barren bays a few too many times at the beginning of a round can mean certain failure. When that happens on the third of three locations and sends you back to the selection screen empty handed, it's more than a little aggravating. Frustrations aside, however, this mode is a welcome shakeup to the structure of the Tournaments, and expert anglers will enjoy the appropriately-named challenge.
Next up is Training Mode, which is the most like the fishing-trip simulators players have come to cherish for relaxing, blood-pressure-lowering fun: simply pick a location, season, time of day, and weather, and then head out to free-fish for as long as you'd like. Our favourite addition, however, is the low-key Exploration Mode. This fun little extra lets you auto-swim through any of the game's locations from a fish's point of view, moving the 3DS' gyroscopic sensors to look around as you float and observe the bass in their natural habitat(s). It's surprisingly serene and a great change of pace from the game's on-the-clock arcade angling.
Fish On 3D takes us back to the arcade heyday in more ways than one, and nowhere more than in the announcer's horrifically cheesy voice acting. Every time you bag a bass in Tournament mode, you'll be treated to an overly-enthusiastic cry of "You've won a new lure!" that would make The House of the Dead's voice cast cringe. For those who take their fishing seriously, having the offscreen MC chime in with a whiney "Come on!" each time a fish fails to bite will annoy almost instantly, but players savvy to the proud tradition of arcade cheese will take it for what it is and smile at the silliness. The soundtrack features a 'local' track for each location (smooth jazz in the lakes, pentatonic pseudo-Japanese jazz for the Temple, etc.), each of which switch to high octane, over-the-top guitar riffs when you've got a lunker on the line.
Graphically, Fish On 3D exemplifies the qualities of the noble bass: it gets by, but it's not very pretty. The backgrounds are mostly static and oddly dreary, with jagged lines and low-res textures the catch of the day. While things look slightly better beneath the appropriately murky water, ugly elements — like the MS Paint-level tension gauge or single-grey-pixel-wide fishing line — draw you out of any possible immersion. There are also very few frames of animation for movement; the boat moves across the water as if it were on rails (and it is), and using the Circle Pad to jiggle the line makes it look like the lure is teleporting from place to place. Still, there are some admirable details — like how different lures hook the fish in visually distinct ways, or the subtle scattering of intriguing items on the seafloor — and the 3D effect works well.
Another welcome inclusion is a surprise StreetPass feature, which lets you trade fishing licenses (player profiles) with other anglers. You can gift and receive lures, select different unlockable "titles" for your card, see the biggest fish someone's ever caught, and even take a picture using the 3DS' cameras to attach to your profile.
A plain presentation and lack of finesse holds Fish On 3D back, and it's certainly nothing new under the sea, but fishing fans will still find plenty to like about this eShop angler. Its focus on timed, arcade-style action will appeal to score-chasing sport fishers, and with tons of distinct lures to collect and lots of different ways and places to fish, there's a variety to the game that stands in stark contrast to its single fishable species. If you enjoy looking at and landing bass, and don't mind the rough edges, Fish On 3D is a decent catch.