I think we can probably all agree that the breakout character of 1999’s Sonic Adventure was Big the Cat. Forget the high-adrenaline speed stages, the races and the treasure hunts; controlling an obese purple feline with a fishing rod, against all odds, proved to really be the thing that made the game tick.
Well, it’s taken SEGA 17 years to realise it, but it seems they too have caught on to the fanbase’s near-constant clamouring for Big to have his own game – the cries of derision when they instead announced Shadow would be having a starring role in 2005 still echo in one’s ears – as today has seen the release of Big’s Big Fishing Adventure 3 for essentially every system under the sun. I don’t want to say this prematurely, but let me level with you: I’m thinking GOTY material, right here.
As soon as you boot up BBFA3, you’ll notice a few changes Sonic Team have made to the beloved Big formula. This time around, as you don the familiar bait and tackle and head off in search of the estranged Froggy, you’ll not only be using a fishing rod, but a variety of firearms as well. Of course, the guns were the element of Shadow’s adventure that went down the best with the target demographic, so it’s only logical they’d bring them back. Sadly not returning, though, are the motorcycles, but if the game’s current sales projections of 2 million copies are anything to go by, it’s safe to assume a fourth instalment may be in the works.
BBFA3 features a surprisingly deep morality system which presents you with a series of choices a la Epic Mickey; do you fish for Froggy from the riverbank, or that precarious ledge nearby? The emotional gravitas that comes with some of the heavier decisions you’re obliged to make really have an impact on the route the game’s complex narrative takes – which, incidentally, follows Big as he attempts to recapture Froggy after he is brainwashed by a cult; a clear instance of SEGA tying in some contemporary themes, which I really appreciate – as well as an inevitably emotional response from the player.
Fair warning: the part of the game where you must decide whether to abandon Froggy in favour of a lure upgrade or ammo refill will bring on the tears. If they made Oscars for video games, this would be a prime contender.
Visually, the game’s a joy, using the same graphical powerhouse engine that rendered Big’s blocky fur in such meticulous detail back in 1999. The visuals really haven’t aged at all, and Big’s wide-eyed, unblinking stare is as charming now as it ever was. The game also features gorgeous 3D environments and hubs, which, in a genius carry-over from Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric, are almost totally uninhabited, and these will necessitate several retrievals of your jaw from the floor, such is their grandeur and majesty; including several unique, as-yet unseen game locales such as a desert, a forest and an icey tundra. SEGA are breaking boundaries with this level design in the most pioneering way possible.
And don’t worry, Bigites; Jon St. John, now renowned as equally-famous game character Duke Nukem, returns to voice Big in his simply inimitable fashion, thus expanding his resume of high-profile, prestigious VA roles. One can only hope that his harmonious partnership with SEGA continues long into the future.
There really isn’t any other way of describing Big’s Big Fishing Adventure 3 as anything other than sheer, undiluted perfection. SEGA already had my expectations set insurmountably high with the advent of the irrepressible Sonic Runners, but they have somehow not only surpassed them, but have actually, through the truly transcendent game design on display here, evolved me as an individual. I came in a believer, and exited a Bigliever. I only hope that my humble urging, and praise of this spectacular title will encourage you to do the same.
Sonic Team, I salute you.