I have a confession: I have a weird little ritual with underwater documentaries. They are my preferred way to fall asleep. I don’t do it often, but I love to turn out all the lights and fall asleep to David Attenborough talking about Vampire Squids and coral reefs and shit. It’s the first thing I imagined when I bought a flat-screen TV. Bias aside, the lowdown is yes; there was a good game attached to all that the title and setting entailed. Ace of Seafood is quite simply, a Japanese indy 3D space shooter set in an open-world style ocean. Your starfighters are aquatic animals (for the most part).
You begin by choosing a creature from a small selection. Various fish, such as the well rounded Salmon, the small, quick and murderous Sardine, or the tanky laser light show that is the Spiny Lobster. I cranked the B 52’s went Lobster. I was given another Spiny Lobster homie, and we set off to dominate the ocean. Someone will indeed go under a dock, and there they shall see not a rock but the dawning of a new Dark Lord.
The core gameplay hook (lol) is that you must go forth and capture reefs. These act as a base where you can heal completely, level up your underwater gang, breed new creatures, and switch up your formation. Some reefs must be fought for, with imposing schools of critters hovering around it. They usually won’t attack till you get too close or attack them, so you’re kind of a giant sea-asshole, but that’s half the fun. This is a game of conquest. For every reef you claim or capture, your max resources and team allotment points go up. This allows you to throw the biggest and worst beasties onto your aqua-squad. You develop said beasties by killing them, which earns you DNA points towards that animal.
The creatures and unlocking them is really what makes this game so interesting and fun to play. Every one of the animals in this game is playable, while the others in your school can be directed as a unit with the face buttons. The D-pad is assigned to your weapons and abilities, such as removing a leg as a decoy or toxic spikes. The combat is a burst of lasers. Like, if you don’t like lasers, stop reading. I’ll admit, it never really stops being funny that fish and hermit crabs are killing a great white shark in an orgy of laser fire, but that’s actually fun and compelling to do.
Now, the camera does have the tendency to become found earthquake footage in tight spaces. The large coral expanse leading down to the Vampire Squid is particularly hard to navigate, especially if you’re a crustacean and have to crawl. This was a nightmare and literally made my whole internal equilibrium and sense of direction vomit and die. So, take a fish down there. Don’t try it as the lobster. It hurts.
With a slow start, this game may frustrate some in the first hour. Fights either feel like the dramatic conclusion to a lifetime grudge between you some random-ass mackerel, or you get instantly torn in half and go look the animal up on Wikipedia so you can look at it’s stupid face and hate it some more. However, I learned that the secret was claiming any undefended reefs and taking the ones I was strong enough to. Pick fights with enemies you know you can beat, stack your school with better fish, and eventually that bastard-ass leopard seal will get exactly what he deserves for biting me to death so many times.
With a plethora of playable creatures (and some battleships, a sub) a vast area to conquer and loads to unlock and customize, this game almost tragically slipped past me! I’m so glad I found this weird, fun little game. If you like 3D space shooters or really weird Japanese games, you’re in luck! This game is a superb example of both of those things.
All screenshots were taken by me via the Switch and my convoluted Facebook method.
Title image courtesy of Nussoft and Playism