Review – Ace Angler: Fishing Spirits
I want to meet whoever is responsible for deciding which Bandai Namco games are released in the West, and I want to shake that person’s hand. From out of nowhere, Bamco has decided to release its weirdest and most Japanese crap for Western Switch owners, and I’m so glad for that decision. Ultra Kaiju Monster Rancher wasn’t perfect, but it was so weird, I was playing it out of sheer amusement. Somehow, Bamco outdid itself a mere days later, with the release of what’s possibly the weirdest and most Japanese game they have ever released: Ace Angler: Fishing Spirits. Considering the fact this is the publisher behind Katamari Damacy, that says something.
Ace Angler: Fishing Spirits comes from the people at Racjin. You might be wondering why I’m dedicating an entire paragraph to talk about a Japanese studio you have never heard of, but there’s a reason for that. Growing up with a Nintendo 64, we didn’t have a sheer amount of third-party games at our disposal, but Racjin was responsible for some of the most cherished cult hits for the system, namely Bomberman 64 and Snowboard Kids. They have managed to survive for all these years, and that alone is really amusing. But enough talk about nostalgia, let’s get weird(er).
I have reviewed a few fishing games this year, but none of them feel at all like Ace Angler: Fishing Spirits. The reason is that this game barely feels like a fishing simulator at all. Sure, you cast rods, you catch fish, you buy bait and so on, but Ace Angler: Fishing Spirits almost feels like a pachinko slot machine first, fishing game second. It’s an enhanced port of a Japan-only (obviously) arcade game, where you’re told to catch as many fish as possible in order to acquire coins. The more coins you get, the better rods you can afford during your current run (yes, casting a line costs coins), and the more often you can use a shock attack that stuns fish, letting you catch them more easily. Rinse and repeat, in a nearly lunatic pace, until you’re done for the day.
This game is pure sensory overload. There are tons of fishing showing up onscreen at any given moment, polluting the top-down view to a nonsensical degree. You’re not just fishing bass or tuna: you can catch a freaking kraken, a mutated white shark, a manta ray, and much more. It makes no freaking sense, and that’s for the best. Given how the controls are not exactly well-explained (and the optional motion features, while fun, are super tiresome due to the game’s pace), making everything more absurd is good enough to make the pros outweigh the cons. Ace Angler: Fishing Spirits is the perfect case of the sheer weirdness of its premise being enough to keep you glued in front of the screen out of sheer amusement.
Ace Angler: Fishing Spirits is full of modes, but some of them are quite boring. Two of them stood out: the main Ace Angler mode, with the aforementioned lunatic catching arcade loop, and a story mode of sorts, where you’ll be traveling across the globe ridding the planet’s water from pollution by… catching fish. Yeah, it makes no sense, but again, amusement. Play this nonsense out of amusement, folks. There are even some cutscenes where your character, an Animal Crossing reject, interacts with some scientists with some dumb dialogue, just for the sake of it.
I haven’t even mentioned that besides the core gameplay loop of catching fish in a pachinko-like pace, you have an entire hub world to explore. You can spend the coins you’ve acquired in any other mode in this hub world, mostly on gacha mechanics. Don’t worry, the game features zero microtransactions and you’re showered with coins, so don’t run away from Ace Angler: Fishing Spirits just because of them. By spending coins in this gacha machine, you can unlock fish to populate a gigantic aquarium, Animal Crossing-style.
That is Ace Angler: Fishing Spirits‘ end-goal of sorts: collect coins to collect fish. You can’t populate the aquarium with the fish you catch during the main game, which blows, but that wasn’t an issue. As previously mentioned, you are showered with coins from left to right (you can even get some by answering some trivia quizzes), so populating your private aquarium with a whale shark isn’t a hassle.
This is Ace Angler: Fishing Spirits in a nutshell: it’s pure, cathartic, and an unapologetic sensory overload. It’s pure nonsense. It’s a game that doesn’t excite with its visuals and overexcited sound design, but it’s so bizarre you will keep on playing it out of sheer amusement. There isn’t anything else like it on the Nintendo Switch or any other console. Despite the inclusion of motion controls, it’s best enjoyed in portable mode, where you can play it for short bursts. Bursts that are enough for you to catch twenty-five mackerels, ten sharks, and one golden mutated manta ray large enough to destroy Okinawa, but the point stands. Ace Angler: Fishing Spirits is game that solidifies “Japan” as a genre of its own. Keep on delivering the weirdness, Bandai Namco. I’m down for anything.
It isn’t the most visually exciting of games, but it’s cute and it runs at 60fps during gameplay sections.
This is not realistic fishing at all. It almost feels like a mixture between fishing and pachinko. Mechanics are simple and occasionally addictive, but poorly explained. Motion controls work well enough, but given the pace of the game, they become tiresome after a while.
There is a shocking amount of over-excited voice acting… in Japanese only, of course. There’s so much of it to the point it’s exhausting.
Fun Factor: 7.0
Ace Angler: Fishing Spirits is weird. Truly, it’s super bizarre. At times, I was playing it out of just not understanding the sheer amount of sensory overload onscreen. It is a very repetitive game with a lot of (non-monetized) gacha mechanics, but it is indeed fun in short bursts. It’s also jam-packed with content.
Final Verdict: 7.0
Ace Angler: Fishing Spirits is available now on Nintendo Switch.
Reviewed on Nintendo Switch.
A copy of Ace Angler: Fishing Spirits was provided by the publisher.