Game maker Natsume is best known for their Harvest Moon series of farming simulations that have been around ever since the Super Nintendo! They’ve had a few other hit titles, too, like the fantasy farming Rune Factory games. Another one of their less prolific series is Legend of the River King. Now you can enjoy the very first game in the River King saga via Nintendo’s 3DS eShop Virtual Console service. The original was released for Game Boy and Game Boy Color, and it’s more than just a fishing game. It’s probably the world’s first fishing RPG!
Yup, you heard right. Legend of the River King is a fishing RPG! Play as a boy who must set out into the world to catch a legendary fish that has the power to save his sick sister! The gameplay looks similar to the early Pokemon games. Walk around overhead areas and buy items from shops like rods, bait, lures, and other tools. Earn money by selling fish you’ve caught at market. Other characters may need you to catch a certain kind of fish for them to progress the story along.
As you explore areas like streams, lakes, and rivers, you’ll even have random enemy encounters with critters like spiders and snakes! In these simple RPG battles, a fist icon flashes across the screen. Press it when the fist is over the animal to land an attack. You and the enemy will trade blows in this fashion until one of you is defeated. If you lose your health, you’ll be whisked back to the local inn with only one hit point. But if you defeat the critter, you’ll gain experience points and level up. Luckily, random enemy encounters don’t happen very frequently, but just enough to keep you on your toes and to encourage you to stay healthy. You can always run away, but you might drop some of your catch if you do, so be careful!
Of course the main part of the game is fishing, which you’ll do a lot. At any point when you’re near the water, you can cast your rod and reel and fish. Just make sure you’ve got some bait and a hook equipped! When you’re fishing, you can see them in the water. When one of them circles your floater and it changes color, that means the fish has taken the bait and it’s time to reel it in! The game will switch to an underwater view mode where you view the fish as you reel it in.
Unfortunately, it took me FOREVER to figure out the correct way to reel in the fish! I kept losing it no matter how hard I tried. The in-game instruction booklet you can view after pressing the 3DS Home button is good about explaining all sorts of gameplay aspects. They even show maps of where you can catch certain fish. But one thing the instructions do NOT do well is tell you how to reel in a fish. Was I supposed to rapidly press the button or hold it? And when do I do that? I ended up having to start the game over again because I ran out of money buying bait and hooks trying to learn. Then I had to resort to looking at FAQS and videos online, and it still took me a little while to get the hang of it.
Luckily, I’m going to spend a part of this review explaining how to reel in fish, and hopefully it’ll help you all understand better when you play it. When you go into the underwater mode, DON’T press any buttons. Let the fish keep swimming away. Sometimes the fish will keep on swimming until it reaches the bottom of the screen and take your bait, and there’s nothing you can do about that. But most of the time, the fish will get tired and stop swimming after a while. You can tell it has stopped because the tail will cease moving and you’ll stop hearing the ‘swish swish swish’ sound. That’s your cue to hold down the A or B button to reel it in. But when you see the fish arch its back and you hear an alarm sound, let go of the button and let it swim out some more until it stops again. Repeat this process until the fish is reeled in at the top of the screen! It’s easy once you figure out how. Or maybe I’m just a dummy.
The only other problem with this game is one that is common with other retro titles and early RPGs. Sometimes goals and objectives aren’t very clear, for instance. And instead of giving out useful tips about which hooks, lures, and bait are best for catching certain fish and how to use more advanced rods, the non-playable characters in the game spout gibberish like, “I could fish all day,” or, “A good fishing tip is to find the good spots.” Yeah, thanks.
Aside from the main story, there is also a mode where you can raise a fish in an aquarium. Feed the fish, clean out the tank, and watch it grow. Yeah it’s really not very interesting. But if you like quirky and original games, I’d still recommend trying out this game on the 3DS Virtual Console if you can. It’s surprisingly addicting in a simplistic sort of way. Plus it’s a heck of a lot better than some of the other more recent fishing games I’ve reviewed lately. Wouldn’t it be cool if Natsume made a more modern game in the River King series on 3DS or Wii U?
Reading skill is a must for the text in the game, and younger players may need a little help here and there when it comes to learning how to use new rods or reeling in fish. But it’s a great game for younger players anyway because of the simplicity, and may even be considered educational as it teaches about different species of fish. Some might be turned off by the slower pace, though. Violence is nearly non-existent. Even when battling critters, they just disappear when defeated. Legend of the River King is rated E for Everyone.