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Welcome to the Ace Angler Aquarium and Arcade Amusement Park!

On 09/23/2023 at 10:08 AM by Cary Woodham

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There’s a fishing game in Japan by Namco called Ace Angler, and you view the screen horizontally to the ground like you’re looking into a fishing pond.  It’s pretty popular, and I think I even played it once at Round 1 arcade here in the US, or at least an imitation of it.  And now you can play a home version of the arcade game on the Switch with Ace Angler: Fishing Spirits.  It was available digitally in the US last year, but I imported a physical copy of it because I’m a freak about stuff like that.  But the game is entirely in English so there’s no language barrier here.  I asked for it for Christmas, but since imports can sometimes take a while, I actually didn’t get it until around Easter this past year.  And I finally got around to playing it recently.  The cool thing about the Switch game is that they made the arcade game like it has its own amusement park and aquarium.  So it’s like a cross between a Namco Museum game (albeit for only one arcade game) and Animal Crossing.  You even create your own avatar that looks like something out of Animal Crossing, and since I like the aquariums in those games, as well as Namco Museums in general, this game really ticked off a lot of boxes for me!  The game says it’s Ace Angler’s 10th anniversary, which I didn’t realize it had been around that long!  But anyway, let me take you on a tour guide through the Ace Angler Aquarium and Arcade Amusement Park found in the Switch Fishing Spirits game!

Marine Medal Mania

This is the hub area where you make your little dude run around and pick what you want to do.  We’ll go over each of those things on this blog.  You can also select to do those things via a menu if you don’t feel like running around.  But there are a few things you can do in the hub area as well.  You can pick up medals scattered about.  These medals let you buy things and play the games, so you’ll want to collect a lot.  In the hub are these cartoon fish mascots that you can talk to and they’ll sometimes give you a quiz question.  They could be about the rules of the arcade game or fish facts in general.  So the game could even be considered somewhat educational.  If you get the question right, you can earn more medals.  But don’t worry if you get it wrong, you can try again right after to pick the correct answer.  I never found myself in a situation where I ran out of medals to play the game, so that’s good.

Over the past year that the game has been out, they’ve released some free DLC that you can check out in the hub area as well.  There is one guy you can talk to and he’ll show you different real life aquariums in Japan, as well as where they are and what they are known for.  If you catch certain fish in the arcade game, you can even unlock T-shirts for your avatar to wear that are based on real life uniforms the workers wear at those aquariums.  Too bad they only feature aquariums in Japan, as I think it would’ve been cool to have US aquariums as well.   There’s another guy in the hub world that lets you read the Ace Angler manga as well.  Yeah apparently there was an Ace Angler manga in Japan.  They’ll make a manga out of anything.  Surprisingly, even the manga is in English!  You can use medals to buy more pages to read, and there’s some kind of challenge in the game related to the manga as well, but I haven’t figured that last part out yet.  Anyway, that’s about all you can do in the hub world proper, so now let’s take a look at all the attractions!

Ace Angler+

This is the main mode of the game, and the one that’s most like the arcade game.  You view the action like you’re looking into the top of a small fishing pond, and aim your line so you can snag a fish by looking at its shadow.  It’s a lot like fishing in Animal Crossing, really, except a bit more arcadey and action based.  You can pick more powerful rods to catch better fish, which cost medals.  You can also press a button to use a thunderbolt to shock the fish on the line to stun it so you can catch it easier.  But that costs medals, too.  You can unlock stages, both realistic and imaginative, as well as catch real life fish and made up ones as well.  It’s an arcade game so it’s OK to be a little imaginative sometimes I think.  You’ll be able to catch golden fish, Kappa monsters, dragons, robot fish, and more.  But again, a lot of the fish are in real life as well.  I reviewed a mobile version of this game a while back as well and you can read that here if you like.

Aside from the aquarium fish and manga, there are some other DLC promotions they’ve had in this mode, too.  They act like bonus stages where you try and catch special characters.  One lets you catch a mascot character from a Japanese Takoyaki chain restaurant called Gindaco.  I tried to see if they had one of these restaurants near me, but the only ones I found in the US were in California.  I’ve eaten Takoyaki before, it’s just breaded octopus rolls.  I even tried to make it myself once.  That was interesting. 

Another promotion is based on The Encyclopedia of Unfortunate Animals.  This is a popular book series in Japan where they show facts on animals, and focus on evolutionary traits of those animals that are oftentimes not very useful.  It’s very popular and even spawned a movie in Japan recently.  I read one of the directors of that movie used to work for Namco, so I think that’s how this promotion got started.  Anyway, in the game, when you catch certain fish, you’ll get an illustration of them and related facts in an in-game book.  So again, another example why this game is somewhat educational.

The last of the crossover promotions is my favorite.  Namco is pretty good about putting other characters from their games into other titles, and in this one you can play a stage where you try to catch Don and Katsu, the drum characters from Taiko no Tatsujin/Taiko Drum Master.  They’ll be dressed up in different fish and nautical costumes.  It’s weird, but in a way it makes sense since both Ace Angler and Taiko no Tatsujin are popular Japanese Namco arcade games.  Anyway, those are all the special promotions in the main game.

Legend of the Poisoned Seas

This is the single player Story Mode.  The waters in the world have become so polluted that fish are starting to mutate, so it’s up to you to catch them and find out what’s going on.  You play stages where you must do certain things like catch a certain amount of fish, a certain weight, or a type of fish.  Or you might have to compete to catch the most fish with other CPU opponents.  You go to each stage via a map screen, but you can’t attempt the next stage until you finish the one you’re on, so that can be a bit annoying if you’ve hit a bit of a roadblock.  Sometimes this mode shows you real life pictures of fish with facts to go along with them, so again, somewhat educational of a game here.  The Story Mode isn’t much, but at least they added another extra thing for single players to do.

Online Ultimate Angler Competition

Here is where you go if you want to play with others online.  Unfortunately, since the game has been out for around a year, there aren’t very many people playing online anymore.  So I didn’t get to check this mode out very well.  Sorry about that.

Ace Angler Party

This is a mode for up to four players where you do motion based mini games, and they’re all based on fishing or other nautical activities.  Some of the games aren’t as good, and it reminds me of all those Wii shovelware motion control mini game titles.  But at least it’s not all there is in this game, and there are lots of modes here.  You can even play single player here, too.  I’ll briefly go over each of the games you can play.

Goldfish Scooping!

This is based on a popular Japanese festival activity.  Just aim your net over goldfish and raise up the controller to scoop them up for points.

Harpoon Hunt!

It’s basically a shooting gallery with fish cutouts, and reminds me of something you’d see in Point Blank.

Shark Escape!

This one reminds me of those chase sequences in Crash games where you’re running towards the camera.  Here you are being chased on a jet ski by a giant shark and must avoid obstacles.

The Fast and the Focused!

Everyone casts a line, and the one who pulls it up first when the bobber goes down wins.  It’s just a reaction time test, really.

Fish-ful Thinking!

They give you a name of a fish and you must try and catch the right one for points.  This one is hard because you really have to know your fish!  I like that the backdrop is of an underwater classroom!

The Big Haul!

This one plays like the regular fishing game except you are using nets so you don’t have to cast them in.  So it’s an aiming challenge.

Turtle Tops!

You know those battle top Bakugan toys?  Well this is like that except with spinning turtle shells.

Dinner Time!

Aim your controller left, center, and right to feed fish to hungry dolphins for points.

Gator Panic!

You know how I said this game is like a Namco Museum for only one game?  Well technically there’s two.  Gator Panic is an electro-mechanical whack-a-mole style game featuring alligators, and it was made by Namco back in the late 80s/early 90s.  It’s been pretty popular and I’ve seen it in nearly every arcade I’ve been to since then.  Chances are you’ve seen it too. Namco has updated it and revised it several times, probably to use better technology and/or cheaper parts.  They’ve even released a fairly new version of it back in 2020, and there’s also a LED screen version, too.  There have also been a few spinoffs, like one where you hit crabs called Cracky Crab, or one where you hit dinosaurs called Dino Bonk.  In some areas, the game is known by other titles like Wacky Gator or Whack-a-Croc.  You can also play other video versions of this game on other Namco console titles like Point Blank and Namco Museum Remix.  And now you can play it on the Switch here, although the motion controls make it go off center pretty easily.

Careful What You Fish For!

You get a pool of fish to catch, but one of them is the wrong one and the first one to get it loses!

Fishing For Gold!

Catch golden fish to get the most gold.

Tuna Race!

You are on a back of a motor boat catching giant tuna.  Waggle the Joycon fastest to reel it in and win.

Ace Angler Aquarium

This is where you go to view the fish in your aquarium, and is one of the reasons why I got this game.  The museum in Animal Crossing, especially the aquarium, was one of my favorite parts of the game, so it’s cool they put that here.  Each room is based on one of the stages in the game, and they house all the fish there.  You unlock more rooms when you have enough fish in the aquarium.  The graphics in this mode are almost as cool as they are in the Animal Crossing aquarium, too.  When you look at the fish, you can view facts on each one.  They include the fantasy fish you can catch in the game, as well as extinct dinosaur fish.  So the game will tell if the fish is real, extinct, or just made up for the game.  So again, another way the game is educational.

My only problem with the game is how you get fish for the aquarium.  You’d THINK you would just catch the fish and it would automatically go there, like in Animal Crossing.  But no.  There is a giant gashapon machine in the aquarium lobby, and you must use medals or tickets you earn by completing achievements and wheel spins to unlock fish.  Just seems like an unnecessary step to me, but maybe they did it that way for some gameplay reason.  You can buy the fish separately, handy for getting those stragglers, but it costs a lot of medals to do that.  But this problem also makes the back half of the game really slow going, and as of this writing I only have two more things to unlock.  I hope I can do it soon!

I’ll list each of the rooms you can go into, but I won’t describe them all.  Notable ones in the fantasy department include an area with prehistoric extinct fish, a shrine for dragons, and a futuristic area with robotic fish.  Makes me think of an aquarium for Darius bosses!

Coral Reef

Blue Hole

Deep Sea Ruins

Sunken Ship

Ocean Abyss

Rocky Stretch

Frog Pond

Poison Flowerbed

Primordial Sea

Dragon King’s Palace

Secret Deep Sea Base

Dragon’s Den

My Character Center

It’s the equivalent of a theme park gift shop.  Here is where you go if you want to edit your Animal Crossing Village-like avatar, and you can use medals to buy new clothes for them.  There are shirts, pants, costumes, hats, glasses, backpacks, and fishing rods for you to hold as you walk around. More become available as you play the game.

Lucky Roulette

Every 30 real world minutes, you can spin this wheel to earn extra medals or tickets to use to get new fish for your aquarium.  And after every five spins, you can earn bonus medals or tickets as well!

Shark Fever

You know those coin pusher games you find in arcades?  Well that’s what this is.  Use your medals to try and push more medals off the edge so you can play more.  You can also drop these balls with sharks and things in them to activate a slot machine for more winnings.  It seems like a mode where you go if you don’t have anything you want to spend medals on, really. And I’ve never been big into those coin pusher games anyway so I haven’t messed with this one much.

And those are all the attractions!  Thanks for going on this tour with me.  If you like arcade style simple pick up and play (but not very realistic) fishing games, or if you enjoy the fishing and aquarium parts of the museum in Animal Crossing, then you might want to check out Ace Angler: Fishing Spirits!  I think you can download a demo of it on the Switch as well.  I have to say this is now my favorite fishing game, although it really didn’t have much competition.  Have you ever played this game or the arcade version? Let me know in the comments section!  Later!  --Cary




09/23/2023 at 10:49 AM

I loved the museum in Animal Crossing too! This sound very cool. I'm going to check it out next time I'm on Switch. 

Cary Woodham

09/23/2023 at 11:45 AM

There's a demo you can download if you want to try it out first.


09/29/2023 at 09:31 AM

Oh cool! I try that. Too bad I can't use the Nintendo app to download games like I can with the Xbox app. They should add that. 

Cary Woodham

09/30/2023 at 06:12 AM

I don't even have the Nintendo app on my phone.  Sounded pretty useless to me.

Hey speaking of cool aquarium stuff:


09/30/2023 at 09:27 AM

The only use I have for it right now is to remind me of my friend code when someone asks for it, which is seldom. I wish it did more. I use my Xbox App every darn day. 

If that Nintendo event comes to the Aquarium near me in Philly, I'll go to it. Sounds fun. 

Cary Woodham

10/02/2023 at 03:53 AM

I don't see why they wouldn't put that Animal Crossing event at more aquariums.  It's just a bunch of cutouts and fact overlays they could easily implement.


10/06/2023 at 09:32 AM

Yea, I was hoping for more interactive things between game and aquarium, but it seems it's a pretty lean experience. 

Cary Woodham

10/07/2023 at 10:50 AM

Which is why I don't feel bad that's it's only in Seattle.  But I still kinda want to see it. :)


09/30/2023 at 05:38 PM

Dude! That is a full-featured fishing game!

Cary Woodham

10/02/2023 at 03:53 AM

It does have a lot of features.  But keep in mind that it's a very arcade-y fishing game and not very realistic.  I'm OK with that, myself, but I feel like I should warn people about that.


10/06/2023 at 09:34 AM

Is there an aracade cabinet version of Ace Angler? I saw a table-top game rendered in the digital game. I think it would be really cool as a real-world arcade game. 

Cary Woodham

10/07/2023 at 10:50 AM

Yes, Ace Angler originally was an arcade game.  I've played it at Round 1.


10/07/2023 at 11:11 AM

Oh neat! I have a Round 1 near me too. I'll have to check it out. 

Cary Woodham

10/07/2023 at 11:31 AM

It's a smaller machine than what you might think, so keep that in mind.  It just looks like a tabletop arcade machine with fishing poles on it.

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