Review: Legend of the River King (3DS eShop / GBC)

Nothing smells fishy here

Natsume is mostly known for its Harvest Moon games, but what you might not know is that there is another long-running series from the same developer - in fact, its first game predates the first Harvest Moon by 6 years. Legend of the River King is one of only four games in this series released outside Japan, and it's now been re-released on the 3DS Virtual Console. How does it fare these days?

Although it might seem like a simple fishing title, there is more to the game than meets the eye. You don't just hop in a boat and go fishing - there are actually several RPG elements at play. Alongside these elements the story is fairly wacky - your sister has fallen ill, and you must find and catch the Guardian Fish, which supposedly has magical healing powers, to cure her.

Of course, that's not an easy task, and you'll have to catch many other fish and talk to people to find out where the Guardian Fish is located first. Being the main part of the game, catching fish is also not very simple; you'll have to buy and use various different rods, hooks, lures, tools and bait to get specific fish, all of which naturally cost money.

On top of all that, the riversides are crawling with monsters. Thankfully, monster battles are a bit different from usual RPG fights - after selecting attack, a little fist will begin appearing in different places on the screen. Simply press the button when it's over the enemy to deal damage, but don't take too long or it'll speed up. It's recommended to fight a number of battles throughout the game, as gaining experience will increase your health, which will let you cast your lines out further, row across rivers faster and, of course, give you more life in fights.

Once you're fully geared up and ready to catch some fish, you'll find that it's actually quite similar to fishing in 3D Zelda games. Simply cast out your line and wait for a nibble - the screen will then change to an underwater view and you'll have to attempt to reel in your catch. Just like in the Zelda series, simply reeling in constantly won't always do the trick - try to only do weak pulls, waiting until the fish gets tired before reeling it in all the way.

Graphically and musically, this is kind of similar to the first few Pokémon games, though with the rather neat addition of ambient sounds that play while waiting for a bite. At the time of its original release, it was released for both Game Boy and Game Boy Color - it's the Color version on offer here, so you'll also be able to enjoy a nice, colourful game world, instead of one made up of various shades of black and grey.

While this game is quite enjoyable, there is one fairly annoying flaw - it eventually comes to an end. And that "eventually" will actually come pretty fast; it's not terribly long, so it'll be over before you know it. After beating the game, you'll unlock a special fishing area which features every single fish in the game, a nice place to throw some lines if you want to fill in your list of fish.

Conclusion

Legend of the River King might be a short ride, but it's highly entertaining while it lasts; there's not really any other fishing-focused RPG out there, making the series pretty unique. Its Game Boy Color sequel was also released worldwide, so perhaps we'll see that on the 3DS Virtual Console too, someday.