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King Salmon: The Big Catch

Genre: Sports Developer: Hot B Publisher: Vic Tokai Players:Released: 1993

Fishing and video games don’t seem like they overlap very much, yet somehow multitudes of fishing games are released on nearly every console. Few have managed to make much of an impression on the gaming market as a whole, but some of them do have a certain niche quality for gamers who understand the appeal of the simulation genre. The fishing games are some of the most overlooked games on the Sega Genesis, yet somehow there were five of them released for the system. I’ve dabbled with all of them to a degree, and King Salmon comes out on top.

The game benefits from its rather sparse arcade aesthetic. Instead of being a straight simulation, the developers opted to implement a simple leveling system, giving the game almost a bit of an RPG feel. The player has the ability to gain levels along with points in physical strength, stamina, and technique. The more fish you catch, the more you level up, and the bigger, the better. You can choose line length, depth, and pick from a small variety of lures such as spoons, spinners, and plugs, all of which can be changed from the menu if your setup isn’t catching the fishes’ attention.

You start off the day at seven a.m. and finish at four p.m. You start fishing around Vancouver Island and gradually work your way up to the Kenai River and challenge the world salmon record.  In the wide area view, you are shown the whole available fishing area. Once you find a suitable spot, you then zoom in to the main view, where you can begin trolling. Most of the game is spent trolling, which means steering your boat around a small section of water with the lure trailing behind. Schools of surface minnows will pop up sporadically and the aim is to maneuver your lure near them. Groups of shadows will appear close by, usually salmon looking for a feast. When your lure flashes red, you set the hook and start reeling in (otherwise known as hitting C repeatedly).

The arcade aspect I referred to is primarily in the way the game handles catching the fish. Many times, it will present you with a problem such as your line being caught on driftwood or the hook not being set. It will then give you a multiple choice to pick how to proceed. The problems and answers are fairly basic and should be obvious to anyone who’s ever picked up a rod, but they show a spark of creativity that really makes the game unique. In addition to this, you must master the art of reeling quickly and evenly without breaking the line. It’s challenging, but rather addictive once you get into it.

Graphically, the game is not very pretty. The black and white menus look like something off of a DOS game from the ’80s, and the in-game fish and character images would be at home on the NES, but they have a certain charm to them. King Salmon wasn’t trying to blow gamers’ collective pants off graphically, but it gets the job done nicely. The “overworld” song is actually very nice and watery-sounding (though it repeats so often, you may tire of it) and the battle themes are suitably intense.

All in all, I think King Salmon is a great bargain purchase if you’re curious. It’s got kitschy style, great music, and fun gameplay. And unlike a lot of old fishing games, you can actually find and catch the fish! It’s pretty common, so pick it up! It’s one of the best fishing games on the Genesis – for whatever that’s worth.

SCORE: 7 out of 10

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