Natsume has become one of the top dogs for releasing simulation role playing games over the years, most notably being the successful Harvest Moon series. There is another series that has been in Harvest Moon‘s shadow that many gamers aren’t aware of that is wildly underrated. The River King series has been around six years longer than the more popular Harvest Moon series, originally in Japan under the name Kawa No Nushi Tsuri. Although the series has been released for practically every Nintendo console and handheld there has only been four North American releases of the series.
The first installment of the series is titled The Legend of The River King, which was released on the Game Boy in 1997 followed by a Game Boy Color release in 1999. The Legend of The River King had a Harvest Moon-esque storyline about a young boy who must catch the elusive guardian fish to save his sister from a mysterious illness. The game featured two different modes, Fish mode and Raise mode. Choosing Fish mode will let you play out the story mentioned above which features some RPG elements and unique monster battles. Choosing Raise mode allows you to raise and care for your very own pet fish and watch it grow.
The series returned to the Game Boy Color in 2001 with The Legend of The River King 2. A big new feature that was incorporated in the sequel was the ability to link with other River King 2 players and even Harvest Moon 2 players and trade fish and other items. The Legend of The River King 2 also featured more than 60 different species of fish and several new areas to explore.
While the first two River King titles received very good reviews, the next two installments of the series had a very mediocre reception. In 2006 Natsume switched things up and released River King: A Wonderful Journey on the Playstation 2. Although there was some new features such as four different characters to choose from, the game featured fishing mechanics that were too simplistic and a more linear storyline than the previous titles. The next River King title and last to be released in North America was River King: Mystic Valley for the Nintendo DS in 2008. Mystic Valley featured a similar plot to the original, with a young boy trying to rescue his sister who has fallen into a never ending slumber. Mystic Valley received much of the same criticism as A Wonderful Journey, with a very limited amount of areas and extremely simple fishing mechanics.
With the success of the Harvest Moon series it is uncertain if we will ever see a return of the River King. With the fishing features in the Harvest Moon titles it seems the need for a River King game has become redundant. There was even a fishing storyline in Harvest Moon: Save The Homeland for Playstation 2 that resulted in one of the nine possible game endings. While it is uncertain what the future holds for The Legend of The River King one thing is for certain: it was one of the most underrated and entertaining simulation games ever released. If you want to try the game out for yourself and don’t have a Game Boy Color handy don’t worry, The Legend of The River King is available on the Nintendo 3DS eShop for $4.99.