Ace Angler: Fishing Spirits Review – An Angler Out of Water

    Title: Ace Angler: Fishing Spirits
    Developer: BNE Entertainment
    Release Date: October 28, 2022
    Reviewed On: Switch
    Publisher: Bandai Namco Entretainment
    Genre: Simulation

Fishing. This seemingly mundane activity has been represented in various forms through various video game media, both in RPGs and even arcades. I mean, Zelda, Final Fantasy, and even the long-forgotten Mii Plaza had a fishing StreetPass minigame. So let’s see if Ace Angler: Fishing Spirits can bring something interesting to the genre.

Ace Angler: Fishing Spirits is the adaptation of a rather popular Japanese arcade game called Tsuri Spirits, which was released in 2012 and is still very popular in the territory. This time, your destination is the big aquarium-themed amusement park Marine Medal Mania; players can create their avatars and enjoy a selection of attractions and minigames alone or with friends.

ace angler fishing spirits screenshot 5
The models remind me of Animal Crossing if I’m being honest.

Let’s go through the attractions, starting with Ace Angler Plus. By “inserting” a currency known as Medals, you can utilize a selection of Rods, which you can then use to reel in some fish, each of which has a different Medal reward attached. You can then use those to upgrade your Machines, which will do various things, such as adding new stages to the rotation. These can vary from locations that are direct inspirations from other Bandai IPs and even some stages where certain types of fish are more common.

The only problem is that the original arcade game has a fishing rod-like controller. Although at the same time, there is an accessory known as the Rod-Con (not to be confused with the Fishing Rod from Nintendo Labo), the game explicitly states that it is not sold in the Americas. The Joy-Con’s revolutionary motion-sensing capabilities are the closest thing we get to a fishing rod, and I say that in the most excellent way I can.

If you’ve played any game that expects precise movement detection, you probably know what to expect here. To reel in the fish, you have to twirl the controller as if it were a fishing rod, with…mixed results. The game thrusts you into the action and expects you just to know the right timing to zap fishes with the Electric Bolt ability, so sometimes you can waste over two hundred medals without catching a single one.

There are some alternate control methods, such as holding the A Button or spinning the control stick while in Handheld Mode, but whether you will actually catch one depends on luck. Sure, that makes this mode more faithful to its arcade kin, but the complete lack of tutorials was a huge downer, and I felt like I had to suck it up and pray to the RNG gods.

Ace Angler: Fishing Spirits screenshot.

But before I ramble on further, let’s move on to the next mode: Shark Fever. Similar to another arcade of the same series, this one has you throw Medals to make the ones inside the machine drop. If one drops inside the basket, a slot machine will spin. Next, match three symbols, giving you a random special effect that will add more Medals to the machine or help you drop them easily. You might sometimes even trigger a fishing challenge, and if you successfully reel in the target, you’ll earn a plethora of Medals.

Next up, Legend of the Poisoned Seas, or as the game calls it, the Story Mode. Here, you’ll take the role of an Angler who will help the duo of researchers, Minato and Nagisa, avert a world crisis caused by the mutation of several fishes on Earth due to a mysterious poison. All the stages are basically like the arcade portion, but instead of a gameplay loop, you’re challenged to a mission that you must clear within the time limit. Clear it fast enough, and you’ll be awarded Medals and…a currency called Tickets. But wait Tickets?

ace angler fishing spirits screenshot 2

Ah…yes. That’s right; the game has a gacha system! Here, you can use Tickets or Medals to spin the machine and obtain a random type of fish added to your own personal aquarium. There are over 260 types to collect, and the more you fill up your encyclopedia, the more you expand the location. You can then visit and read various facts about the fishes you’ve caught and show them off to your friends.

Tickets can also be obtained through various in-game achievements, and any duplicate fish you get will be converted into spare Medals based on their rarity. Furthermore, you can buy the fish you haven’t cataloged yet using a terminal located on the side of the machine. Still, I’m going to be completely real because it’s a matter of luck if you’re going to catch the big fishes that give massive amounts of medals; this is admittedly a very inefficient way to do it because one entry can be as much as 1500 Medals. For comparison, five pulls on the Gacha Machine will cost you around a third of that, or 500 Medals, so pick your battles, I suppose.

ace angler fishing spirits screenshot 3

If you want to get your friends together and see who can catch the most fish, the game has local and online play support, with the latter located in the Online Ultimate Angler Competition mode. In online matches, you’ll earn stars for each one you win. Still, there’s no penalty for losing, making this mode repetitive, and… it’s deceptively complex because when the going gets tough, it becomes almost nigh impossible to tell where your fishing rod is amid the plethora of players trying to catch a big Monster Class.

And finally, the last mode of the game: Ace Angler Party, a collection of twelve different minigames, each with its own Mario Party-esque instructions. Some of them are pretty fun, and you can also challenge yourself against the CPU and earn some Medals–albeit a small amount. If anything, this is more of a party game mode, and the minigames are all rather fun…perhaps more than the other modes if I’m being honest.

Aside from the minigames, there are also fishing competitions where you can set to who can get the heaviest fish, the highest class, and even…which fish makes the best sushi? Yeah, no. I’m not kidding. There is a bizarre mode titled Sushiro Competition, which is based on a real-life sushi restaurant chain in Japan. It’s silly and cute, and there’s even one for the takoyaki chain Gindaco which has you catch takoyaki balls instead of octopi. However, I wonder how many people will fully understand these because it feels more like a glorified ad for those chains than anything else.

ace angler fishing spirits crocodile minigame

Ace Angler: Fishing Spirits has a charming and cute appearance to it, and it can provide some decent time-killing, but it feels so much out of water outside its home country, honestly feeling more like a companion title for those who already were fans of the arcade game and wanted to try out the experience from the comfort of their home.

It can be entertaining, but you’ll probably want to play something else once the novelty wears off a year later. Due to the catering of this particular audience, the fact that there are no signs of this arcade cabinet ever coming West in an official manner, and the fact that a good chunk of Ace Angler: Fishing Spirit’s game modes are a matter of luck rather than skill makes this just a very frustrating game overall unless you aren’t bothered by the randomness of it.

Score:
6.5/10
A review copy of the title was provided by the publisher for review purposes

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