|System: DS||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Marvelous Entertainment||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Natsume||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: April 29, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1 (2-4 Online)||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
As you can see, there is a lot to do in River King: Mystic Valley. In fact, I expect fans of the series as well as newcomers who are interested in Harvest Moon, Animal Crossing, Pokémon, and the like to find the game quite engaging. I, on the other hand, was not so impressed. The biggest reason is because the fishing mechanic is so simplistic that the core component of gameplay feels monotonous and boring. Honestly, the fishing in River King is only slightly deeper than it is in Animal Crossing: Wild World. You'll simply chuck your lure out, wait for a bite, and then tap the screen to set the hook. Once you have a fish on the line, there's nothing to reeling them in. Players just have to spin the stylus around in circles and wait for the fish to swim to the surface.
Later on in the game, playing fish becomes a bit trickier, but not enough to make it any more compelling. For instance, fish never go on a run. They may go to the left or right or increase the line tension, but these scenarios simply have you touch the opposite side of the screen or lift up the stylus entirely. This makes fighting fish rather humdrum and seriously hampers any sense of fun or accomplishment.
What complicates things a bit is the acquisition of items to help you attract certain kinds of fish. Some of these items are reusable and others are immediately expended. Even still, the items don't make gameplay any more fun. They just make it more likely for large and rare fish to check out your hook. Thus, you'll have to slog your way through hour upon monotonous hour of "nerfed" fishing just to advance the story. Along those lines, the three mini-games you'll eventually unlock are called Bean Washing, Weed Cutting, and Wall Tickling. I don't know about you, but I like to spend my leisure time much more judiciously!
One outstanding feature of River King is the ability to connect to friends and unknown players across the globe with the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection. Connecting wirelessly allows players to participate in tournaments against humans rather than the standard A.I. competitions held by your rival Manato. Random online tournaments aren't the only connectivity option you have. You and your friends can get together and play local multiplayer tournaments as well, as long as everyone has their own cart (River King doesn't support single-cartridge download play). Technically, the online services work very well. Unfortunately, you're still going to be saddled with the same boring fishing experience. Additionally, a few minor issues hinder your ability to quickly enjoy an online tournament.
For example, you can't take any fish you have in your basket while going online. This means you'll have to get rid of them by feeding them to your pet. If you have a few rare fish you've been collecting to get the card, you'll either have to abandon them or collect the rest before you go online. Being slowed down like this is a really annoying problem. Furthermore, you will not be able to bring any pets with you, and you'll have to go stocked up with your own bait and tackle. If you forget to load up on goodies before heading into a tournament, you'll have to make do with the judge's Plain Bait.
River King: Mystic Valley seems to be somewhat of a fall from grace for the series. Many of the franchise standbys are still here, and the addition of pet training is a nice extra layer. However, this is a fishing game at its heart, and it is plagued by an overly simplistic control scheme. Thankfully, the graphics are cute, and the sounds of nature are soothing. If you are a fan of other Natsume games, then you will likely enjoy River King: Mystic Valley on the DS. However, the majority of players should leave this title on the store shelf.
CCC Lead Contributor / News Director