River King: Mystic Valley - Review  

Fishing for Pleasure
by Anna Marie Neufeld

Less than 20 Hours
+ Easy to fish
+ Steady progression
- Shallow story
- Lack of variety
Click here for scoring definitions 

   It's time to wake up, sister...but she slumbers and nothing will wake her up. The good news is she can be awoken by a potion made with a scale of the River King. Grab a rod and some bait, because it's time to catch the most elusive fish in the pond. For those looking for a break from the epic battles and save the world plots, an interlude with River King: Mystic Valley should be just what is needed for some rest and relaxation. Though the game won't be universally popular, those who do give it a shot will find that although it's not a very good game, it's not a total waste either.

   The fishing system used has been simplified greatly from previous River King titles, both in difficulty and complexity. The game is played with a mix of controls and touch screen, though it can be played entirely with touch controls if the player chooses. To fish, the player needs to bring out their fishing rod, point it towards a body of water, and cast; these actions are either performed by touching the desired location or by pressing the A button. For shorter casts, the player can touch the A button/screen again before the full arch of the cast. In order to find where the fish are, watch for the shadows and shoot towards them -- too close, and the fish will be scared away. Once the float is in the water, the flow of the current may move the bobber. Fish will nibble at the float, and once it sinks underwater, tap or press A to switch to the reeling. It can either be a hit, successfull hit, or special hit; how well the fish has been hooked will determine how easy it will be to reel in the catch.

   Once the screen changes, there will be two bars at the bottom of the touch screen; one is the player's energy and the other is line tension. Reeling in a fish is done by drawing circles in the centre of the screen. If the fish fights, rub the screen on the opposite side of where the fish is pulling to bring it back into line; which motion needs to be performed will be shown on the top screen. To keep the fish on the line, there must be a delicate balance between too little and too much pressure. If the line becomes slack, the fish will run away, but if there is too much pressure the result will be the same accompanied by the loss of the lure used. The player must also watch their stamina, as it depletes as fish are fought. As the player increases in skill, the energy bar will increase. It can be refilled either by sleeping at home or by eating food. While it may sound difficult, it's a simple process that is easy to master and keeps the game light and fun.

Reeling Reeling a Fish In

   There are a total of eight baits to tempt the shy fish with, and an equal number of rods. Not all bait works with each type of rod, so it's good to have a selection on hand. To obtain new gear, the player must obtain fishing points in one of two ways. First is simply by fishing, as each fish is worth points for bringing it out of the water. From there, fish may be turned in to the local professor in batches, with the number required depending on the rarity of the fish. Purchases can include one use bait, reusable bait, rods, food to recover energy, and items which attract rare fish. Permanent items, such as a fish attracting drum and rods are more expensive than temporary items and lures.

   Aside from inanimate tools, the player will meet three friendly monsters during their travels, each with their own unique ability. Though they start as small slimes, they will grow through four phases, and their appetites are monstrous. Feed the companion fish and they will grow, but they're picky eaters so make sure the right fish are fed to them for optimal growth. As adults, each will gain access to their special skill: the Kitsune will heal the fisherman, the tanuki will break rocks blocking prime fishing spots, and the raven will fly to places a human can't walk to. Their help is imperative to completing the challenges of the game.

   The music of the game is not bad, merely dull. It's good fishing music, being very relaxing and easily slides into the background. The visuals aren't bad, but they could have easily been done on the previous generation of handhelds; little effort being made to make the game look solid is a tradition the River King series follows. However, just because previous entries in the series didn't look spectacular doesn't mean this one should slack off.

   It should be noted Mystic Valley does take a departure from previous entries in the series, in that it's significantly easier than previous River King entries. This is great news for those looking to explore the series for the first time, but for veterans of the series this dive into simpler fishing mechanics may be frustrating. Difficulty aside, new or old players will find the game sweet and short, taking no more than twelve to fifteen hours to complete. Players interested in completing their fishing manuals may fish as much as they like even after the River King has been caught.

   The localization is typical Natsume fare. The translation is well done with the exception of items acquired, which are preceeded with the ambiguous "a(n)" regardless if the item begins with a consonant or a vowel. It's not a major detraction, just one of those niggling imperfections that seems entirely unnecessary. The menus are easy to navigate with the touch screen and all important information is readily available at all times. It's a simple game that doesn't demand much, but what is there has been put together into a nice package.

Map Seeking More Fish

   The story is simple: catch the River King and cure one little sister. However, there's competition for the legendary fish from another boy and his sister, so the player will need all their resources, tangible or not, to net the big one. Within the eight zones the player will traverse there are smaller stories which all link together to form a larger tale. While mostly shallow, the story itself plays out smoothly and gets the job done. The originality follows the same route: shallow but perfunctory. There isn't much that sets aside this title from other River King entries -- while this won't be a detriment to those trying out the series for the first time, the "same old, same old" vibe will ring true to series veterans. Like much of this game, what will please or frustrate will depend upon the player's experience with the series.

   River King: Mystic Valley is a nice interlude from serious RPGs with heavy plotlines and frustrating mechanics. It definitely isn't a game for everyone, but for those looking for a change or fans of the series will definitely want to check this one out. It won't make any waves and it's much simpler than it needs to be, but thankfully its charm does overcome its flaws.

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