Dreamcast Fishing Games: The Ultimate Guide

According to the old proverb, there are two types of fisherman: those who fish for sport and those who fish for fish. I'd like to add a third type to this list. The third type is the fisherman who stands in front of his (or her) TV, with a Dreamcast fishing rod grasped firmly in hand, waving limbs hither and thither in the hope they'll snare an elusive digital trout or silicon stickleback. If you fall in to the latter category, then welcome my friend. Welcome to the Junkyard's ultimate guide to fishing on the Dreamcast. I say 'ultimate,' but I actually mean 'blagger's,' so take everything else herein with a pinch of salt...and vinegar. Tartar sauce is optional.
The humble Dreamcast fishing rod is a peripheral we've overlooked for far too long here at the universe's number one repository for useless information regarding late 1990s Sega hardware™, and that's going to change over the course of the following article. From the actual hardware itself, to the games you can expect to play with the stunted controller, don your waders, fill your flask with Bovril and prepare to drink in a tidal wave of Dreamcast-related, briny and fishy goodness. Imagine eating a jar of whelks through a Dreamcast shell and you'll be on your way, oh salty and weary ocean/canal-side warrior. Let us begin by banishing the angry face of Poseidon from our collective portholes with nothing but harsh language, and examine our weapons of choice...

Rods of Iron
There are three fishing rod controllers available for the Dreamcast, but there are two which represent around 90% of all the rods in circulation (probably - I just made that fact up). These are the Fission from Interact, and the official Sega rod...from Sega and Ascii. I own both of these, so let's take a look at how they differ in quality and features. The third option is called the Rumble Rod and comes from Mad Catz, but I've never seen one in the wild.

The Dreamcast Fishing Controller
The only officially branded fishing controller ever released for any console, the Dreamcast Fishing Controller (also known as つりコントロr-ラ if Japanese is your mother tongue) was manufactured by Ascii and has the code HKT-8700. It contains motion sensors, feedback/rumble functionality and is the go-to peripheral when it comes to Dreamcast fishing games. The fact that it is officially branded means that the build quality is second to none and the thing just works. It just works. There aren't many bells and whistles, but then what would you expect from a fishing rod controller?
The handle is comfortable to hold and the buttons are all easily accessible with a thumb, while the underside features a moulded notch where an index finger just naturally wants to rest. The only issue I have with the official fishing controller is that the reel winder has no resistance or feedback whatsoever - it simply spins and emits no clicks or indication that it is working unless you're playing a game...but then why would you be winding a Dreamcast fishing controller in the absence of a game being on your TV screen?
I don't have the answers to that rhetorical question, but the fact remains - the Interact controller has a clicky winder and the official Sega/Ascii one doesn't. Apart from that, everything else is present and correct: rumble effects, a decent analogue stick, and the standard face buttons (A, B, X, Y) and Start. The thumb stick doesn't have the same concave shape as the Interact one, but I can let that slide on account of the high overall build quality. Unlike the various Dreamcast guns there isn't a VMU slot but I'm struggling to see where a VMU would go anyway - with all of the fishing controllers a separate Dreamcast pad must be connected to the console for VMU functionality to be enabled.  Overall, this is a great controller and if you can find one for a decent price then it's well worth investing in.
The Dreamcast Fishing Controller was available either separately or came bundled with Sega Bass Fishing in PAL territories, and this boxset is now quite sought after due to the low retail numbers. If you see it for a decent price you'd be advised to snap it up. And then send it to me. Thanks.

The Interact Fission Rod
The Fission comes from Interact and holds the title for best literary pun ever applied to a gaming peripheral. See, it plays on the words 'fishing' and 'fission,' a type of radioactive decay during which an atom splits into multiple parts. Quite what this has to do with Dreamcast games I don't know...but it sounds cool and is a play on words not seen since in the gaming sphere. The Fission rod (read that back a few times and an existential penny will drop eventually...possibly onto a box containing a cat that may or may not be dead) is a prime example of a third party peripheral done right.
It's comfortable, light, works perfectly and actually improves on the official offering in some ways. The winder on the Fission feels more robust than the one on the official Sega/Ascii rod and has the added bonus of clicks with movement. This sounds trivial, but the clicks when winding in have less play between them that when winding out, so you get a distinct audio indicator of what the user is doing. In practice it also adds an air of realism to proceedings when you are differentiating between quickly winding a fish in and occasionally letting line out to avoid a break.
The rumble effect is strong, the motion controls are solid...there's not much more to say to be honest. The Fission features the same control options as the other Dreamcast rods, so you get a fairly decent analogue thumb stick, four face buttons (A, B, X and Y) and a Start button.
Another extra feature is the addition of an LED on the tip of the rod which flashes with context sensitivity (mainly rumbling) depending on the game you're playing. Overall, a pretty flawless peripheral and probably the one most Dreamcast owners have in their collections due to its low price and availability.

The Mad Catz Rumble Rod
The only other Dreamcast compatible fishing rod controller I can find any information on is a Mad Catz offering called the 'Rumble Rod.' It is a pretty decent name, but it doesn't really scream 'unique selling point' because both of the other fishing controllers also have rumble functionality as standard. That said, it does offer one unique feature over bother Sega and Interact rods: an extendable 'rod' section that makes it look more like an actual fishing rod. Sort of.
Yep, the Rumble Rod, as far as I can ascertain is a standard third party controller and works as well as the Interact rod, but it comes with a little plastic extension that attaches to the top of the controller so you feel more like you're wading in thigh-deep, crystal clear water in the beautiful Canadian Rockies; and not stood in your fart-filled living room surrounded by empty beer cans, takeaway cartons and dirty socks while that twat next door continually hammers nails into the wall at 3am. Jesus. What is he doing?
The Rumble Rod appears to be quite rare due to the limited sales figures and some opportunistic wank stain arsehole is trying to flog one on Amazon for £200 at the time of writing. Shudder. Interestingly, the Rumble Rod also came out for the Nintendo 64 and I'm pretty sure it really enhanced the system's stable of stellar fishing games. Er...

Contrary to popular belief, I don't know everything about the Dreamcast. I'm a human being with a job and a life and categorically not a robot. To that end, if I've missed a Dreamcast fishing controller please let me know in the comments/on the Facebook group. On to the games...
Quarry
You may have guessed from my choice of language thus far that I'm not much of a fisherman. To be honest, the closest I ever get to the sport is when I go for a run around my local nature reserve and I scoff at (and occasionally throw bricks at) the bearded old men sat in their little tents around the lake, their rods resting on miniature stands and boxes of squirming maggots sitting by their wellington-clad feet. I have about as much knowledge of fishing as I do quantum physics...but I own (almost) all of the fishing games on the Dreamcast so that makes me loosely qualified to spout crap about how enjoyable these titles are when swinging your arms around and making yourself look like a tit. There are a total of six fishing titles on the Dreamcast, and only one of them came to UK shores officially...which is a bit rubbish when you think about it. Even the light gun got more compatible software over here in the UK than the fishing controller, but we shan't dwell on such trivialities. Here's the full run down of Dreamcast fishing games, listed in chronological order...

Sega Bass Fishing
Year: 1999 Developer: SIMS Publisher: Sega Region: PAL/NTSC-U/NTSC-J
The one that kicked it all off for Dreamcast-owning fishing nuts. Sega Bass fishing - or Get Bass if you want to get technical - was released in 1999 and was the first game to use the fishing rod controller. Indeed, without this game there probably wouldn't even be a fishing rod controller...but I digress. An arcade port to the Dreamcast, Sega Bass Fishing sees you assume the role of an angler and you have to catch a set weight of fish before the timer runs out.
The fish come in various sizes and weights, but they're usually categorised as 'small,' 'medium' and 'big.' If you don't meet the weight requirements before the time runs out, it's game over. Graphics are really quite good, with vibrant locations and classic angular characters. It's very 'Sega,' if that makes sense, with catchy music and gameplay that's clearly meant to be enjoyed in short sharp bursts. It can be a bit annoying when you're sitting there waiting for a fish to bite, instantly reeling your lure as the stupid bass just stare at it.
Unlike the majority of the non-sega published fishing games Bass Fishing uses the rod's motion sensors to great effect, meaning that depending on the lure you use, different motions of the rod will make them behave in certain ways. You also need to move the rod as instructed by the prompts, otherwise it's goodbye line and goodbye dinner. Probably. There's no proof that the characters eat the fish they catch, along with some chips, peas and gravy. And don't start moaning about having gravy on chips. That's how we do it in Manchester and if you have anything else...you're wrong.
There are two anglers and three locations to choose from initially, each with a selection of weather conditions and times of day, and the type of lure you select will either help or hinder your progress. A bit like real life, then. As mentioned previously, Sega Bass Fishing was the only fishing game released in PAL territories, and it was re-released with HD visuals  as part of the Dreamcast Collection in 2011.

Sega Marine Fishing
Year: 1999 Developer: WOW Entertainment Publisher: Sega Region: NTSC-U/NTSC-J
A follow up to Sega Bass Fishing, Marine Fishing leaves the crystal clear waters of Lake Paradise behind and heads out onto the open water of the ocean, allowing you to try to catch something that isn't a Bass. Tuna, Barracuda, and even Stingray (not the submarine) are now available to be stabbed through the face with a razor sharp hook! There are 15 different types of fish in total, along with three new locations that have a tropical feel about them, and there's a guy on a boat who has a distinct air of Dogs Bower about him...and if you've never played Blue Stinger that won't mean much to you, but I reckon there's a conspiracy at work here.
Anyway - back to the point. If you've played Bass Fishing you'll feel instantly familiar with Marine Fishing, as it shares a lot of the same aesthetics. Corny voiceovers, bright colourful graphics, and fairly simplistic gameplay with on-screen prompts. You chose an area, choose a lure and then start fishing - it's that simple.
The fish population has been ramped up over the previous game and you won't go long before snagging your first big one, and the high tempo gameplay and on-screen instructions to keep changing the orientation of your rod to prevent a line break, coupled with the tension meter constantly bleeping at you makes for some pretty frenzied reeling. There are some interesting training modes and mini games, and there's also a pretty cool 3D aquarium that you can explore and view all the fish you've previously caught as they swim around in their own private watery prison.
Some of the more interesting (and now defunct) features baked in to Sega Marine Fishing are the network options. The ability to create online tournaments and download tournament sheets is mentioned in the manual, as is a thing called 'Fish Mail,' which looks - as far as I can tell - like a sort of mini game where you would send emails in the form of a fish (?) and the recipient would have to catch it before being able to read it. Quite how this worked, I'm not sure (maybe it used the game engine?) but it's certainly intriguing and not something I'd ever heard of before reading through the manual. In a nutshell, Marine Fishing is basically more of the same and if you enjoyed Bass Fishing you'll most likely enjoy this too.

Lake Masters Pro Dreamcast Plus!
Year: 2000 Developer: Nexus Interact Publisher: DaZZ Region: NTSC-J
This is an odd one. On first glance, the lazy as hell visuals make Lake Masters Pro Dreamcast Plus! appear to be nothing more than a slapdash browser game, but if you look beyond the initial impressions a fairly interesting and entertaining experience can be had. So, first things first - the graphics. Each environment you find yourself in is little more than a really wide photograph that can be scrolled left and right. The thing is, the developers have added an odd ripple effect to the water that looks plain weird.
In some stages, the trees in the background also ripple as if they're blowing in the breeze, but combined with the water it just makes you feel like you might have eaten a bad fishcake. That said, some of the more choppy lakes do feature an undulating camera and with accompanying sound effects it does convey the experience of being on a little boat in the middle of a maelstrom. Not on the same scale as A Perfect Storm or White Squall...but you get the idea. Another odd aspect of the visuals is that the lure is pictured in a little box in the corner of the screen and the viewpoint doesn't switch to an underwater viewpoint once you snare a fish - you just see it in the little window in the corner. On top of this, the rod displayed onscreen looks like something you'd see in a mobile game from the era - a very basic, low res and crudely animated line drawing of a fishing rod that looks totally out of place. It doesn't even move with the tilting of the rod - you have to use the analogue stick. Visual shortcomings and weirdness aside, Lake Masters does offer a glut of options and play modes and the main career/competition mode appears to feature lots of helpful NPCs and tournaments to enter.
The sheer number of options is actually a little bewildering, especially seeing as most of the text is in Japanese, but it's not hard to get into the game with a bit of trial and error. The lakes in Lake Masters - all 18 of them - are spread across Japan and each one has numerous casting points, both shore and boat based. There are so many options you can tinker with it's a little bit overwhelming, from the time of day, the passage of time, the wind, water temperature...and that's even before you get to the rods and lures on offer.
There's a hell of a lot of game here, and if you can look past the visuals and the long periods where literally nothing happens (a bit like real fishing, apparently), then Lake Masters might be worth tracking down. That said, as far as I can ascertain, this is quite possibly the rarest fishing game on the Dreamcast and as such I had to resort to playing an ISO version I downloaded to my SD reader.

Bass Rush Dream: EcoGear PowerWorm Championship
Year: 2000 Developer: Visco Publisher: Visco Region: NTSC-J
Bass Rush Dream is a similar game to Bass Fishing, but leans more toward simulation than the Sega games do. If you're wondering about the slightly comical subtitle, a PowerWorm is a type of lure that was manufactured by Japanese fishing gear company EcoGear. However, a quick look around their website tells me that this particular lure is no longer in production. Just in case you wondered.
The game is pretty good in all truth - the production values are very high with some great presentation and really nice 3D polygonal graphics. The anglers and the environments, both above and below the water are beautifully modelled and the animation of the fish and the anglers is great. Bass Rush Dream is played predominantly from a third person view, and there's some variety in whether the angler is stood on a boat or on the shoreline and there's a fairly wide arc of movement from left to right.
Controls are fine, but its odd in that you have to press the A button to activate the casting meter and then flick the rod in order to make your character cast in time with the meter. Sounds bizarre and it is a little bit cumbersome - especially when you only want to cast a little way because you can see the fish ripples in the water not far from where you're stood.
There are three lakes initially, all with multiple fishing points, and overall I found Bass Rush Dream to be a more than worthy alternative to the Sega fishing titles on offer. Interestingly, Bass Rush Dream also packs a VMU game called Bass Rush Mini (accessible from the main menu and downloadable from it's own little option screen); and it does a fine job of squashing a basic version of the main game onto the diminutive memory device.

Fish Eyes: Wild
Year: 2001  Developer: Victor Publisher: Natsume Region: NTSC-U/NTSC-J
Another game with pre-rendered backgrounds, Fish Eyes: Wild (also known as Reel Fishing: Wild in the US) goes a little bit further than Lake Masters in that it features a fully 3D rendered underwater section. The above water bits are photographs with the odd bit of animated detail thrown in, but once you cast your line into the water, the view switches to a subarea camera and all the polygonal fish are revealed. Fish Eyes: Wild is definitely more of a simulation of fishing than an arcade experience and the game's presentation reflects this.
When you start a game, you begin your adventure (if you can call it that) in a fisherman's lodge, complete with shelves full of books and draws full of fishing tackle. You access the main game through a scrapbook so I guess it's almost like going through a story or diary of different events. This whole section is fully rendered in 3D and it's a really charming way of depicting the whole feel of a day out fishing (erm...I'd imagine, having never been fishing myself).
The actual game is a bit limited by the fact that you can only cast your line in the one frame location you're presented with - there's no scrolling the view left or right - and the fish are really not forthcoming with taking the bait. That said, when they do, more often than not, the line breaks and they swim away regardless of how fast or slowly you try to reel them in.
It does get a bit monotonous after the 10th time it happens and (sigh) I'm yet to catch a single goddamn fish. That aside, and ignoring the somewhat lazy approach to the above water visuals (they really are just static photos), the overall feeling is that this could be a fairly accurate and deep (ha!) fishing simulation and there certainly seems to be a lot of game here. Unfortunately, the only version I have is the Japanese one and the main career mode is pretty text-heavy so my chances of getting very far are prematurely derailed on account of the language barrier. Still, a fairly inoffensive entry and has some nice music too.

Sega Bass Fishing 2
Year: 2001 Developer: WOW Entertainment Publisher: Sega Region: NTSC-U/NTSC-J
It's quite appropriate really, that the final fishing game to be released for the Dreamcast is a direct sequel to the one that kicked the whole genre off in the first place. Sega Bass Fishing 2 (aka Get Bass 2) was released in 2001 and was again developed by WOW Entertainment after the success of Marine Fishing, and while it is still very much in the same mould as the other two Sega-published fishing games, it almost straddles the line between true arcade game and proper simulation. For a start, the main game mode has been expanded quite a bit, with a selection of different championships to take part in and it all just feels a little bit more serious than the previous entries in the series.
The mini games are pretty much gone, but you get a few more locations to fishing in from around a huge lake and the number of options is, once again, pretty impressive. The passage of time can be altered, the month, weather, time of day - they all affect how much success you'll have out on the water. Speaking of being out on the water, one of the biggest changes in Sega Bass Fishing 2 (and an aspect unique to this game) is that you can now freely move your little boat around in the small section of lake that you're fishing in, and you have a little radar that alerts you to fishy shenanigans occurring beneath the tranquil surface of the lake. Once you've found an area you wish to check out, the view changes to the traditional 'over the shoulder' cam and its business as usual.
The actual fishing mechanics are quite similar to those seen in Bass and Marine Fishing, but this time around the fish are a lot more hesitant to bite...so patience is required. Again, a lot like real fishing (I'd imagine). The visuals are really quite brilliant and as a late era Dreamcast game it really showcases some stellar effects not seen in any of the other games I've written about him this article. The way the sun glistens off the lake is subtle, but a brilliant effect; and the way the lake bed is illuminated by the sunlight cascading through the water is a really nice touch. Fish too are well animated and realised and the whole game has an extra layer of quality that pushes it above any of the other fishing titles on the Dreamcast.
As I said, there aren't really any mini games, but you do get to change your angler's hat and sunglasses...so swing and roundabouts. I'd probably go as far as saying that Sega Bass Fishing 2 is the best fishing game on the Dreamcast and that it was the final game to make use of the rod adds a slight tinge of sadness. As I've said many times before on this hallowed blog, if the Dreamcast had survived another couple of years who knows how much better the Bass series could have gotten?

As a non-fishing person, I found this game to be very addictive and highly enjoyable (although I didn't catch may fish...as my screenshots will attest), and one I would highly recommend to even the most casual of Dreamcast gamers. As a footnote, Sega Bass Fishing 2 was actually ported to the PlayStation 2 as Sega Bass Fishing Duel...but at the time there was no fishing rod peripheral available for Sony's console!
Yes, Sega Bass Fishing 2 is, in my humble opinion, the one to get if you can only get one of these games. That said, they all have their pros and cons so hopefully this little guid will allow you to make an informed choice next time you see any of them pop up on eBay.

Bonus Stage
There is another fishing game on the Dreamcast (of sorts), and that game is Sonic Adventure. The Big the Cat sections do allow you to do a little spot of angling, but sadly the fishing controller is not compatible - probably because it hadn't been released at the time of Sonic Adventure's launch. Other non-fishing games that are rod-compatible (to a degree) are Soul Calibur and Virtua Tennis...but they're not really using true motion detection, just the gyroscope readings from inside the rod so waving it around at random will activate certain moves in Soul Calibur and mimic button presses in Virtua Tennis. Still, both are quite fun so give them a go. Just make sure you keep a tight grip on the rod to prevent yourself from throwing it through the TV screen/nearest window or spearing a cat.
So there we are. A complete run down of the dreamcast's flirtation with the noble art of catching fish with a hook on a wire. I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed putting it all together, and if I missed anything please let me know in the comments or join the discussion over on Facebook!

Now I'm going to make like a fish and get outta this plaice. I'm here all week, folks!

5 comments:

DCGX said...

Deep and informative read!

Tom Charnock said...

Thanks for reading DCGX :)

kingmonkey25 said...

Loved this! Breaming with info, not too much text to read through thank Cod. Maybe just needed a few more fishy puns? 'I'm a sole man' *grabs coat* *drops mic* ;)

mistamontiel00 said...

Dope lotsa info cheers much !

Arman Miah said...

nice post