Although the game itself isn't overwhelmingly deep in terms of either fishing strategy or RPG intricacy, the incorporation of a number of Pokémon-inspired gameplay elements lends this easygoing adventure a charm that can't be overlooked.
Have you ever started the day with an urge to dive headlong into a fishing RPG? No? While it may be hard to believe that such things even exist, Natsume has actually been pumping out fishy genre-benders for more than a decade. The company's latest, Legend of the River King 2, is the second such oddity to adorn Nintendo's beloved Game Boy Color. Although the game itself isn't overwhelmingly deep in terms of either fishing strategy or RPG intricacy, the incorporation of a number of Pokémon-inspired gameplay elements lends this easygoing adventure a charm that can't be overlooked.
Legend of the River King 2 takes place in an unknown land that's recently been plagued by earthquakes. One night, during a vicious storm, the goddess Yuki dropped her precious Heaven Jewel, and it fell to Earth, shattering in two. Before she could reclaim it, two evil kings swooped in and gobbled up each half of the stone. Now, the River King and Sea King, the two biggest fish in all existence, plan to unleash a torrential catastrophe upon the world. When Jiro and Taro, two up-and-coming young fishermen, learn of Yuki's plight, they set out to reclaim the stones. What follows is a wacky adventure that mixes fishing, gardening, entomology, character development, and creature battling into a singular game.
Since there are two characters to choose from, there are also two different expeditions to complete: Taro goes in search of the River King, while Jiro seeks out the Sea King. However, since the nonplayer character of the pair (depending on whom you choose to play as) injures himself midway through the adventure, both quests are pretty much the same once you've captured the first king fish. A battery save lets you record two different journeys for each angler, while a link-cable trading system gives you the option of collecting and trading fish, insects, and plants between copies of Legend of the River King 2 or Harvest Moon 2.
At its heart, Legend of the River King 2 is a run-of-the-mill RPG with collecting and battle elements. As such, the joy you'll take from it likely won't arise in response to the game's standard plot development or linear quest goals. Final Fantasy this is not, but the juxtaposition of role-playing and fishing elements brings enjoyment nonetheless. For example, this is one of the few fishing games that incorporates an RPG-style random battle system. At varying points in your journey, agitated insects, birds, and wild animals will attack your character. When this happens, you can choose to beat on them, eat a food item, or run away. A fist-shaped cursor flickers back and forth onscreen to adding a little timing-based challenge in landing punches, while victory yields experience that bolsters your stats. The more battles you win, the more hit points you'll earn, which translates into increased strength and stamina for the game's other activities.
Although the RPG portion of the game is a bit insubstantial, there are plenty of other distractions built into the game to keep you occupied and challenged. Foremost of these is fishing. There are more than 12 different fishing rods in the game, each of which fits into one of three categories: lure fishing, bait fishing, and fly-fishing. Rods also come in shallow- and deep-water classes with varying line lengths. Similarly, a diverse array of lures, bait, and flies lets you seduce any manner of aquatic prey. In all, there are eight lures, eight bait types, and eight different flies to purchase and choose from. Since tackle selection never becomes an overwhelming issue, it generally takes only two or three tries to find the right combination for success in each fishing area.
Unfortunately, while equipment selection introduces a bit of strategy into the fishing experience, the actual process of catching a fish is a tad too effortless. Once a fish takes interest and circles the line, you can choose to tap a button to enter fishing mode or just let the fish escape. If you're using a lure or fly reel, you'll need to keep the lure at the fish's eye level before it'll bite. Otherwise, if you're using a baited line, the fish will bite automatically and proceed to fight. Your job now is to reel that sucker in. When the fish tires, you hold down either button to reel in the slack. When the slack tightens or the fish thrashes, you give up some line and let the catch wander a bit. As the fish tires, you reel again, and the process repeats over and over until you've got your next watery victim sitting tight in the cooler. The previous game in the series, Legend of the River King GB, had a similar fishing interface, but the action was more intense in that release since there was more button mashing involved and fish seemed to vary in vigor.