Reviewed: September 27, 2004
Reviewed by: Mike Gonzales
Release Date: August 31, 2004
Just when you thought fishing games weren’t going to get any better than Sega’s Bass Fishing, those crazy kids at Atlus Software ship their latest, Pro Fishing Challenge, the only fishing game to date that has dared to take on Xbox Live. And while the game is indeed a healthy chunk of simulation and does require a fair amount of knowledge in the sport, the game offers fun gameplay and longer replay value previously unseen in Xbox’s fishing titles.
Pro Fishing Challenge offers 4 huge, realistic lakes full of fish eager to be caught. Well, I use the term “eager” pretty loosely since each of them have there own eating habits and feeding schedules. That’s right, Atlus’ new game is a sports simulator, meaning it’s not all about the arcade flash like previous titles. In fact, this game is pretty deep when it comes to making your catches and you’ll have to read the pages of info stashed away in the tutorial to truly achieve greatness. However, once you’ve done the research and know your stuff, you’ll have no problems boating and fishing your way through the games gigantic lakes.
The controls are simple and sometimes fun to use and their unique above-water fishing is something I hope to see again. Also, the game’s much appreciated online play means you can not only advance in the single player career mode, but compete online in four different types of matches or just kick back in the free fishing mode, chewing the fat with other fisherman improving their skills.
On the other hand, I’m sad to say PFC doesn’t make any improvements to the genre’s presentation department, a facet that has kept many good fishing games much more boring than they should be. I’d love to say that I felt like a professional fishing badass, but the game’s lack of virtual television coverage had me feeling like my efforts had gone un-rewarded. So for that reason, this hardcore fishing-sim falls short of must-buy status, which is a tough realization, considering it’s only thirty bucks.
The first thing you’ll need to do in Pro Fishing Challenge is customize your character. The game offers plenty of options here, as you’ll be able to choose your player’s shirt, shorts, face, skin, etc. And despite the fact that’s its depth pales in comparison to Tiger Woods, I suppose it is nice to see character creation in a fishing game.
After your character is complete you may then choose to play the single player mode or over Xbox Live. The single player mode will automatically begin with a lengthy tutorial, teaching you everything you need about using the controls along with some tips to help you with your technique. This allows Atlus to display their simple control system that is neither complicated or innovative, but proves to be effective and comfortable. One thing I especially liked was the use of the right trigger to reel in your catch. It felt like I had to be gentle and cooperative with the fish or I’d end up losing the battle.
Unfortunately, after you get used to the control system the game seems to be like every other fishing game, except with more reasons for you to lose your fish. Some hard-core fishermen might appreciate this level of difficulty, but for the most part it’ll probably end up just steering the Live crowd away. Being the first Xbox Live fishing title, you also would expect to see some innovative media format that really pulls you into the game, but instead it’s the same old story. Make a big or a small catch and it’s just back to casting all over again. Maybe some audio would improve the dull experience, but the “reviewable” version Game Chronicles received did not have any sound whatsoever. Ouch!
Visually PFC looks good, especially considering the size of the lakes, but the game really does seem to look like ever other game. The only thing that would really tip you off as to which fishing game you’re playing is the new above-water reeling. Instead of previous titles that zoom in on the fish, this game keeps you guessing from the first bite. I liked this new format. It felt a little more realistic not knowing what was on the other end and if your fish got away, you’re left wondering if that was “the one.”
The characters, however, only add to the simplicity of other fishing titles by feeling like virtual Barbie-dolls. Sure, you can choose your character’s vest and hat color, but where’s the facial shaping or even weight and height specifications? This is the year 2004 and I think a sports game that focuses on one player, like golf or fishing, could focus on more than mere clothes and hair color. Not to say these characters look bad, but they seem to appear more like a first generation Xbox title, rather than a recent release.
Well, like I said before the version* we received had absolutely no sound. Looks like someone didn’t pay their Dolby bill.
I’m very pleased to finally see a fishing game come to Microsoft’s great online service and since PFC is the first game of its kind to do this, the replay value is much greater than that of any single player fishing game. Unfortunately, the use of Xbox LIVE is really PFC’s only extra appeal. Once you set that aspect aside, you’ve really got the same old fishing game with more accessory options and harder fish to catch. I think Atlus has a promising future in the realm of online fishing simulators, but they will really have to strive to add something new to the genre in order to succeed.
I have to say Pro Fishing Challenge really had me excited at first. The game’s new above-water struggle and online capabilities bring something new to the Xbox, but after that, we really have the same old fishing experience we had on the Dreamcast years ago. I hate to say this, but without an innovative improvement in the overall presentation of the genre, like detailed character customization or an ESPN-style TV element, we’re just going to be wasting our time and money. So despite the low price of $29.99, only hardcore fisherman eager to take their skills online can truly appreciate this game. Otherwise, just stick with the classics.
*Editor's Note: While it is GCM's policy to review only retail copies of games Altus assured us that our non-retail review copy is the same code that is in the retail box.