Whenever I think of Final Fantasy, my mind wanders to memorable battles against gigantic foes, getting to explore a fantastic world, and meeting a memorable cast of characters. One thing that never pops into my mind is the idea of fishing. Despite this, the debut Final Fantasy virtual reality title is all about fishing. It’s an odd direction, but it’s also one that is crazy enough to work.
I doubt Monster of the Deep is going to fulfill anyone’s Final Fantasy dreams (although going on a fishing date with Noctis is enough to make me swoon, at the very least), but some really impressive execution has me having a blast through the early stages. Since it uses the PlayStation Move controllers to simulate hands, virtual fishing becomes a very physical experience. Not only was I bringing my right arm back in order to cast my fishing line, I was also having to make circular motions with my left hand in order to reel in any fish that took my bait. On top of that, I had to resist the fish’s attempt at escape by moving my rod around. It results in a very realistic experience, even for a game that has players going up against monstrous demon fish.
After managing to catch a few fish, players are treated to the first story sequence in Monster of the Deep. Yes, even in a fishing game, the grand story elements that players expect from a Final Fantasy game are very much included. A storm starts to occur, and suddenly the once calm lake is filled by a gigantic monstrous fish that darts straight for the player. It’s a startling scene due to how immersive virtual reality can be, and players are ultimately saved by a familiar face in FFXV‘s Cindy Aurum.
Inside the Cabin
One of my favorite things about virtual reality’s current state is that it’s pretty easy to break the immersion by acting stupid. From putting my head through walls to having my arms become 20-feet long due to poor Move tracking, I’ve managed to do a lot of dumb things in VR within the past year. So, when I had the chance to interact with Cindy inside my cabin house, I couldn’t help but attempt to break the game. I’m proud to report that if you go in for a VR smooch (which probably looks more like a headbutt), you are able to see inside her character model, which is completely empty besides a tongue.
Silliness aside, the player’s cabin acts as a hub area between missions. It’s here where players can select story missions, go on hunting quests (which require the player to capture specific fish), and choose to fish recreationally. Oh, and you can choose to take some pictures, which show your character model from a third-person perspective, and reveal a startling lack of muscle definition.
I then went on another story mission, which had me fishing alongside Final Fantasy XV poster boy (and soon to be Tekken 7 combatant) Noctis. Sadly, the game didn’t let me get close enough to smooch him, but I did get to constantly hear him get excited while fishing (which was sort of adorable). My goal was to catch enough standard fish until I lured out the lake’s monster.
I did just that, and then was treated to my first real boss fight. Using a bait and lure isn’t enough against a demon fish, so my character pulled out a crossbow-type weapon. Before I knew it, I was firing at the creature as it swam around, and attempted to attack me. It was an exciting shooting gallery, and after I had done enough damage, I was told to try to catch the monster. Thus, I was back to the familiar fishing, and that ended up defeating the monster. The battle was completely silly, but I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t thrilling.
A fishing game probably wasn’t what most people thought of when they dreamt about Final Fantasy XV in virtual reality, but after playing the opening hours of Monster of the Deep, I definitely understand why the studio went in this direction. The simple acts of casting and reeling are highly satisfying in virtual reality, and the fantasy setting helps make this far more exciting than actual fishing. The story definitely has captured my attention in the early stages, and I can’t wait to see how it unfolds.
Monster of the Deep preview code provided by publisher. Version 1.00 previewed on PlayStation 4 Pro. For more information on scoring, please read our Review Policy here.