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Developer:
Natsume
Publisher: Natsume
Platform: PS2
Release Date: March 21, 2006

by Jason Ferguson




Fishing is fun, right? Unfortunately, mosquitos, mud, ticks, and the blistering heat of the sun arenít so fun. Wouldnít you much rather play River King: A Wonderful Journey instead? Yeah, me too. If lighthearted adventures are what you like, then the company that brings us Harvest Moon has another hit for you--only this time your adventure takes place on the shores of lakes and streams rather than on the farm.


A legendary fish, known as the River King, has recently been seen swimming in the water near a small fishing village. Wouldnít it be great to catch such a fish? Your adventure starts with you choosing a character, each of which want to catch the River King.


The four different characters have their own story behind them and want to catch the River King for a different reason. Each character also has slightly different starting stats, including HP, and starting bonuses, such as extra bait or a better fishing rod. The four different characters add some potential replay value to the game if you really like it, giving you a chance to see how each of their stories go.


The game is pretty straightforward, but there are a good amount of things you can do. For the most part youíll travel throughout the land, fishing in nearby lakes and streams. Fish that you gather can be sold for cash and help you to gain experience to level up.


Your fishing journey will consist of more than just waiting for fish. Youíll also hunt treasure down, enter fishing competitions, seek out recipes, and enter cooking competitions. Youíll also encounter townsfolk that will send you on little missions, such as catching a fish for them or catching a fish of a certain size.


The water is clear, making it easy to see the fish swimming around. When youíre near water and see some fish swimming about, simply hit L1 to pull out your rod, or go into your menu and select ďfish.Ē Make sure to have your rod equipped with some bait. Next push X to cast your line, using the analog stick to determine the direction. By holding X longer, youíll cast your line further. When you see a little splash, then you know a fish is nibbling on your line. By pushing X at this time youíll go into an underwater view. Then simply continue holding X to reel in. Although, if the fish starts to turn away, you have to let up in order to prevent the line from breaking. If a fish does get away, youíll lose HP. Keep going like this and youíll catch yourself a fish!


Itís pretty simple and easy to learn, making this a game that pretty much anyone can catch on to. If you've played Dark Cloud, then you can expect a somewhat similar experience in River King when it comes to fishing, although the fishing here is more detailed. Sitting around waiting to catch a fish can be a little bit boring, but if youíre fishing in a good spot, you wonít likely have to wait for long. Donít just sit around and wait for fish to biteÖ travel around and look for a good spot. Itíll make the game less dull and help you catch more fish. My one complaint with the fishing process is that after youíve got a fish, you then have to put away your pole, go to your menu, put more bait on your pole, get your pole back out and cast your line back into the water. This seems like a tedious process that should have been handled with a lot less hassle.


Throughout the game youíll gather recipes, which will allow you to cook the fish that youíve caught. Fairly early in the game youíll also learn how to swim, which will allow you to travel to some hard-to-reach places in order to fish.


Thereís a fairly wide variety of fish available in the game, and a handy guide in the manual describing which locations each type can be found in. There are also different types of bait, poles, and lures that you can buy at local shops. As you progress through the game youíll uncover new areas to fish, with all-new types of fish filling the water. Youíll even occasionally encounter some woodland creatures that try to steal your fish. If you answer their trivia questions correctly, you wonít have to worry about them.


Unfortunately, thereís isnít a lot of direction in the game. Youíll sometimes wander around not knowing what to do or where you need to go in order to progress the story. Youíll have to make sure to talk to pretty much everyone you see, and make sure to do anything they suggest. I wasted several hours wandering around the town after not picking up on a hint I was given.


Your three main skills are swimming, fishing, and cooking, all of which can be improved with experience. After catching fish, you can either keep them or throw them away (regardless, you gain experience). Youíve only got so much room in your basket for fish, but as you progress you can get a larger basket with more room. Bait can be purchased or found using a net or shovel. Looking for bait is an EXTREMELY dull process, but can save you some big bucks if you find a lot.


Youíve got a handy little journal that will keep track of information for you, as well as a record book that will track your fishing records. So when someone says ďI caught a fish THIS big,Ē you can actually check.


The graphics are extremely dated, but they have a certain cartoonish charm. The best-looking part of the game is probably the water, but itís not exactly amazing either. Or even good. Itís sometimes a bit difficult to find where the land stops and the water starts, which becomes annoying because you always get people yelling at you telling you not to go in the water when you accidentally step in. Once you learn to swim, though, itís not a problem. The camera is unmovable and frustrating, sometimes making exploration a bit more difficult than it should be. The sound isnít up to modern standards either, and can even be a bit annoying. Still, this is a budget title, so you canít really expect huge production value here. And you arenít wasting much money if it turns out you donít care for the game.


This isnít the first River King game. There are a few GBA titles in the series as well. So if you like this title, you might want to search store shelves for those as well. Or if you think River King is for you but lack the PS2 to play it on, go for the GBA versions.


If you like games like Harvest Moon, or you enjoyed the fishing portion in the Dark Cloud series, then this is a fun little game just for you. While itís far from perfect, itís a delightful adventure that both casual and hard-core gamers can enjoy. Just donít expect anything epicÖ


Final Grade: 63%


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