Before Sega Bass Fishing on the Dreamcast, I confess to being sceptical of the value of custom controllers. After all, you have to pay extra for the hardware, so it had better be worthwhile, and every light gun I've purchased has failed to provide much entertainment value relative to its price tag. Sega Bass Fishing changed all that.
I don't know if I would ever have considered playing this game. Sure, I used to go fishing with my dad when I was very young, but it was more about taking a boat out into the Solent than actually catching anything. I enjoyed snorkeling and scuba diving more than fishing - you get to see a whole new world underwater; a truly breathtaking experience.
My wife and I stumbled upon the game by virtue of a demo disk for the Dreamcast. (Let no-one doubt the commercial value of distributing demos! Nintendo - I'm talking to you!) We had fun with the demo, although it was tremendously short (about 90 seconds of play, as I recall). But we came back and played it over and over again. Eventually, it became apparent we were enjoying the demo so much we had to buy the game, and at that point the decision to buy the fishing controller just followed naturally.
Best buying decision in my gaming life. You see, Sega Bass Fishing was a fun game, but played with the fishing controller, it was enormous fun. The sort of fun that you can actually see in a photograph (if I had time I'd dig up some photos of my friends playing) - smiles, laughter, excitement, relief, fiero... this game delivered the goods.
To understand why the game is fun, you have to see that playing the game is like the challenge of fishing, but with the beauty and exploration of diving. Your camera view switches to underwater after you cast, and you get to see your lure moving through the depths. Best of all, you get to see the fish respond to your lure - this is superbly interactive. There's nothing quite like adding a little flourish to your reeling; a little jerk to keep a big bass interested. Getting into the rhythm of your deep crank, as you alternately reel fast, then slow to let it drift... The fish is interested. It's coming closer. And then, finally, they bite down and the battle is on.
You reel as fast as you can, but not too fast because the line can easily snap. You feel the tension as the rod vibrates. It gets tense. People watching shout encouragement - it's that kind of experience. You fight with the fish; you move the controller like it was a real rod, because you've been sucked into the illusion. Sometimes you land your catch easily - and it transpires that it was a trick of the camera that it looked so big. "Ooh, small one", the voice over declares. Sometimes you get there a little easily, but it's still satisfying. "Okay, an average size - good job!" Sometimes you have a titanic battle which culminates in your finally landing this giant monster bass, which your fisherman struggles to lift skywards. "This one's Huge!" the voice over gasps.
And that's not to mention the wonder of the popper (reeling in pounds and pounds of fish in just a few minutes), or the games of cat and mouse when casting with the grub, or the struggle to make the rubber jig work.
I loved many games on my Dreamcast, but few have such cherished space in my memories, because few games provided so much fun to so many people. Sega Bass Fishing changed the way I feel about custom controllers, because it changed the experience of play. It enhanced the mimicry of the experience immeasurably to have a rod and reel to play with. Peterb's praise of Guitar Hero shows echoes of the same enhancement. If the Nintendo Revolution can make its new controller fulfill roles of mimicry in the minds of its players, this alone could enhance the play value of its games.
If anyone reading also has fond memories of Sega Bass Fishing, either on the Dreamcast or in the arcades, I encourage you to share your experiences in the comments. This game deserves to be remembered.