The Wii’s life cycle is drawing to a close, but before we move onto its successor, we first need to take the last few journeys with its last few flourishes: The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword is a big one, and there are some other incredible choices to pack in before you think about packing your Wii away for the upcoming Wii U. I’ve got another game you can add to your list: one of Yuji Naka’s creations at that. No, it’s not a Sonic game, and you might actually be surprised at its subject matter. It’s a fishing game. Yes, one of the late and great additions to the Wii library isn’t from an established franchise or a great platformer. It’s called Fishing Resort, and at first glance seems much more like shovelware you wouldn’t give a second look.
But it’s a lot more than that, especially if fishing is one of your favorite pastimes. I’ll admit it’s not one of mine at least when it comes to the real world, but the Wii’s simplification of real-world sports and activities has always been earnest and inviting to me, and I found that Fishing Resort was actually a great little diversion that hit all the high notes – at least, all that it could considering its limited scope.
This budget title is a variable and exciting experience for anyone who’s ever wished they had an entire adventure out of a fishing minigame or a more fruitful offering out of games like Go Vacation. After you choose and customize your own male or female avatar (you can choose from several presets for hair, clothes, face styles, and color palettes) you’re sent on your way to the largest fishing resort in the game’s world – a place people go to relax, vacation, and catch fish. Sound like a paradise to you? It should. The gorgeous and brilliant blues of the waters surrounding each pier, even from the beginning, are inviting and aesthetically pleasing, setting the tone for the rest of the game.
Once you arrive at the resort, a friendly fisherman is down to teach you everything you need to know, including how to cast your line, when to start reeling in your catch, and what to do with the fish once you’ve caught it. All of this is accomplished very smoothly via the same real life casting and reeling motions you make via Wii remote and Nunchuk. Cast the line with the Wii remote, and reel in with the Nunchuk in a circular motion. It can be a trying and tedious process to keep the fish on your line, keeping an eye on the tension required and which direction to hold the remote to ensure you don’t lose your prized catch, but that’s part of what makes the game fun. Think of Sega Bass Fishing, though more refined and whimsical, and you’ve got a good idea of how Fishing Resort plays out. Its precision is admirable, and makes good use of the Wii’s control system, which is the first thing that stood out to me, especially for a more budget-friendly title.
Each fish you take home nets you a set amount of points, which you can then use to go shopping for better tackle. You aren’t simply limited to one generic rod and reel, not in a place where fishing is really the only thing on anyone’s mind. There are varying baits, rods, and reels to pick up and other additional equipment to use, all of which vary in quality. If you choose to stay with your default, gifted tools, then you won’t catch the bigger game. You’ll need to continuously fish and hone your craft to work your way up to the rarer catches, which is a learning experience, but also a fantastic way to sit a few hours and enjoy yourself. Trust me.
You can choose to visit random locations throughout the generously-sized resort, or can return to your hotel’s lobby to check out which quests are up for grabs. Questing and completing these tasks are not only great ways to eat up several hours of your time (it’s very easy to lose track) but will also end up beefing up the in-game aquarium you’re tasked with keeping up, which lends a “tycoon” game feeling to the otherwise relaxing and leisurely fishing adventure. Each fish you catch is showcased in your aquarium, and visitors will come to check them out. This generates revenue, which can be in turn used to improve your aquarium and increase revenue again – it goes in a circle, like in real life, so it’s a driving factor to keep playing both to find rarer fish and to make more money from potential aquarium patrons.
In fact, rare fish quickly become the main drive to continue playing despite the abundance of quests and the desire to improve and sustain the player’s aquarium. Over 200 fish are available in-game to pine over, and many are much more difficult to catch than others, making Fishing Resort a bit of an annoyance for the completists out there, but also a challenge they should happily go after as well. Online competition and ranking was an interesting touch as well, as the “campaign” does not pressure you to go out and accomplish anything specific, and pushes you to be the best out of other players whose nine fish out of each tallying period have been scored and ranked against other players.
Fishing Resort is a game that will inevitably suffer from harsh prejudgments and assumptions that it’s just another lame minigame collection or slapdash cash-in, but it’s a full-featured and entertaining fishing game that is what it is. Yuji Naka has delivered one of the year’s most captivating virtual fishing games ever made, with refined motion-controls that work and are actually fun to lure and cast your valuable catch with. With over 200 fish to collect and online competition to compete with, there’s plenty to keep even the most devout digital fishermen occupied long after the campaign wears thin. It’s not trying to be a game-changer and it hasn’t set out to be the game to play of 2011, but it’s functional and polished, and worth your cash if you’re at all a fan of arcade style fishing or collecting.