(gif by Steve over at obscurevideogames)
Space Fishermen (Land Ho!, 2002) is a game that I learned about from the obscurevideogames tumblr. I saw these super enchanting gifs of the game and wanted to try it myself, but it took me a long time to end up buying a copy of the game. I found one for about $20 or $25 AUS on eBay and holy moly, this game is fantastic. It might actually be one of the best games on the PS2.
The title of the game kinda speaks for itself: you're a fisherman, in space. (You can choose from three characters: a woman named Swallow, a kid named Masabo, and a buff dude named Diver. Diver's the one in the gif.) You start out catching small fry fish in a pond called Kids' Pond, and every successive fish you catch doubles as a lure. So the more fish you catch, the more lures you get, and the more lures you get, the more fish you can catch. You can sell the fish for cash, but your lures remain in your inventory, so there's almost always more progress you can make. The ultimate goal of the game is to catch all the Nushi, or "big ones," from the various planets. If they sound like boss fights, it's because they absolutely are.
Actually, this game could be considered entirely boss fights, since each encounter with a fish can potentially be an intense, exhausting workout. You have to pull on the fish with the left analog stick to build up enough power to shock and stun the fish, twirl the right analog stick to reel them in, and move both analog sticks in tandem during quick time events. Some of the "big one" fights can take five or more minutes, though, which means at the end of it you're probably pretty sore! I've really put my old PS2 controller through its paces with this one.
In that sense, the game reminds me a lot of Gitaroo-Man: it's blisteringly hard sometimes, but it really pushes you to learn a lot about the systems of the game. For instance, I've been working on one fish for a half hour at least, and I'm slowly getting closer and closer to beating it. It's part memorization and part exploration, for sure, and at least part of that is due to me not knowing Japanese, but a lot of the game is surprisingly intuitive. For instance, you can identify which fish are which on the radar due to which bait they gravitate towards and the intensity of the vibration when they nibble. The bigger the shake, the bigger the fish!
One last thing: the music in this game was composed by Soichi Terada (composer of Ape Escape), AKA Omodaka. One of the songs is his incredibly catchy instrumental version of Honjou Oiwake. It's a really incredible score and I recommend it a lot!