There are games that make you work for every little thing, be it additional characters, modes, equipment, accessories, and customization options. Instead of being able to jump in and enjoy the game, you’re left wondering how much effort you need to put in to do exactly what you want. Arc System Works and Aksys Games’ Family Fishing is a perfect example of how to give people everything they could possibly need immediately without over encumbering them.
It’s a delightful surprise. After all, Family Fishing is an all-ages, eShop exclusive for the Nintendo 3DS. You don’t expect too much from something that only costs $5.99, but this fun for everyone endeavor lays things out in a rather brilliant manner.
It starts in the main menu. Right away, Arc System Works wants you to begin enjoying the game. You can go with a Quick Start, which will assign you a character and opponent, then send you into a five minute fishing battle where the competitor who catches the boss or has the most points at the end wins. Start Game lets you choose between Campaign, Free Battle, and Survival modes. Once you decide what you want to do, you choose with who. There are eight playable members of this fishing family, each with their own skills, ready to go. There are five locations available and three different fish and rival difficulty settings if you go to Free Battle. The Campaign is the one mode that decides settings and opponents for you.
Family Fishing‘s only flaw is a lack of communication. The game tosses a player into a mode with no instructions as to how it works. It’s more like a fighting game than fishing game, in case you’re curious. First, you cast by pressing A when you feel there’s enough power to send the lure to a fish you’d like to catch. You hold the A button to reel a fish in, once it takes the bait. The fish will fight back by moving left and right in the pond. This movement sends “attacks” at you, which decreases the health of your rod. You can counter attack and unleash your own hits to the fish’s health by moving your pole in the same direction as the fish is currently moving. Letting up on A when it’s getting too angry, expressed by an icon over its head, reduces its damage level. Once it’s reeled in, you’re given points for the catch.
Getting points allows you to engage in the only form of unlocking in the game. In each Family Fishing round, the player and his or her AI opponent start on relatively equal footing. Each character has his or her own starting rod, equipped with a lure to catch small fish. Points are earned from each catch and can be spent in the in-match shop on purchases. There are nine rods, five lures and ten single use items that can influence a character or catch. It works because it gives the person playing a sense of purpose. You’re earning better equipment, each with its own ability, at presumably the same rate as your rival. Points add up quickly, with even a small fish being worth 25 points. Since the cheapest lure and rod are each priced at 10 points and no equipment is over 100 points, it’s possible to get everything you need within the first half of a match.
All of this helps keep a game like Family Fishing engaging. After all, this isn’t a title where people will want to spend hours earning all the equipment, visiting every location and fishing as every character. Maybe they’ll want to catch every fish, since it does keep track of them in a collection, or complete the Campaign, but it’s not a game that demands a commitment. Arc System Works knows what you want, gives it to you and leaves you to decide how long you want to stick around.
To be honest, it’s a lesson some bigger games should heed. Animal Crossing: amiibo Festival is a perfect example. It shares the same audience as Family Fishing. Both cater to younger players or those who aren’t very familiar with games yet. While one adjusts accordingly by presenting people who might not have the longest attention spans everything at once, the other locks away content until it’s decided people have played enough to earn it.
This means Family Fishing is a surprisingly admirable little game. It isn’t perfect, but it doesn’t have to be. Arc System Works gets people in, gives them what they want and lets them do what they please with it. People who stop by to enjoy five minutes of fishing every now and again will appreciate that.