Fossil Fighters - Staff Review  

Everybody Walk the Dinosaur
by Mike Moehnke

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Very Easy
20-40 Hours
+ Lots of fossils to dig up
+ Fossil Battles are fun with a little bit of strategy too
+ Compulsion to find more fossils and clean them better
+ Enjoyable, though very goofy, story
- Cleaning fossils is a little temperamental
- Not much challenge
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   Fossil Fighters is a game in which dinosaurs brought back from their own fossils fight each other. That concept may sound silly, but Red Entertainment and Artdink made sure to keep the game lighthearted and entertaining, especially for players who love dinosaurs. Addictive qualities similar to Pokémon ensure that Fossil Fighters is a gripping game to continue playing after the credits roll despite its lack of top-notch aesthetics.

   Before any Fossil Battles can occur, the hero must acquire some fossils and clean them in order to have any vivosaurs (so named because they have been revived, and because they are not all dinosaurs) for use. Acquiring fossils is done by going to an ever-growing number of areas with plentiful buried things in the ground, using the sonar to pinpoint where things are, and digging them out with a quick swing of a pickax. In order to use anything dug out of the ground, the hero must take it back to the only town on Fossil Island and clean it. This is done using the touch screen under the impediment of a ninety second time limit, where a hammer and drill remove the three layers of sediment around a fossil in order to expose it. Points are awarded based on how much of the fossil is uncovered, and subtracted based on any damage done to it. A robot monitors every cleaning performed, and will eventually become very proficient at cleaning fossils dropped off by the player, but it cannot clean anything that has no record.

   The major problem with cleaning is the time limit, which is sometimes overly generous and sometimes inadequate. Some fossils are very sensitive and will start to take damage immediately after the sediment is removed, which necessitates care in their cleaning. Working under a time limit forces haste upon the player, thus causing many fossils to take considerable damage. It is also possible to fail at cleaning a fossil if too much damage is caused. These annoyances are negated because any required cleaning is not difficult, and because excellent performance is not necessary to use the fossils. A large meter that shows how much of the fossil is damaged and/or still needs to be cleaned dominates the top screen, and makes it easy to tell when one can take it easy during the procedure. Fossil cleaning is rather addictive, and despite the overly sensitive fossils it is still tempting to keep cleaning in hopes of getting a better score and thus a stronger vivosaur.

   Once the head of a vivosaur is cleaned, the vivosaur can be taken into combat. A team of vivosaurs contains a total of five, with three taking part in battle and all gaining experience afterward. The vivosaurs' Life Points increase constantly with the experience given by battle, though their statistics will increase far more dramatically if their other parts (body, arms, and legs) are cleaned and integrated along with just the head. The hero's contribution to battle is the Fossil Points used for all attacks. They accrue at a constant rate that is contingent on the hero's story-determined Fossil Fighter level.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it: Remove all dirt covering that rock. Your mission, should you choose to accept it: Remove all dirt covering that rock.

   Combat itself is a turn-based affair with a few strategic points. The three vivosaurs in combat occupy one of four slots: the Attack Zone, the two Support Zones, and the Escape Zone. In the Attack Zone a vivosaur has access to the enemy's Attack Zone and Support Zones for offensive purposes, but can be afflicted with status ailments. The two Support Zones can strike the enemy Attack Zone (usually with reduced strength), and lend whatever their Support abilities are to the battle. Some vivosaurs reduce the enemy's Attack Zone statistics, some enhance their own Attack Zone's attributes, and some reduce their Attack Zone's capabilities. Unless it is already occupied, the player can switch the Attack Zone's current occupant to the Escape Zone, where it cannot be attacked and will instantly recover from status ailments. The Attack Zone must be occupied at all times, so one of the Support Zone vivosaurs will take that position. Elemental affinities are also at play, with earth, wind, water, and fire vivosaurs each having a strength and weakness.

   Battles are not completely random, but most of the time they will occur when fossil hunting. All jewel rocks and some fossil rocks come with a Fossil Fighter needing to be beaten off in order to claim the prize. There are also people standing around the environments who will gladly pit their team against the hero's. When the enemy is significantly weaker than the player, as is unfortunately common when passing through previously explored areas, combat is not so stimulating. However, when battling adversaries against whom the player is fairly well-matched, combat is very entertaining. Some minor tactical ability is needed and the AI proves fairly good at varying its patterns.

   Initially the story behind Fossil Fighters appears to be nothing more than the hero (named by the player) journeying to Fossil Island where he aspires to become a Master Fighter. Joined by various characters to make up for his own muteness, primarily a fellow Fossil Fighter named Rosie, the hero will begin to encounter the not-at-all sinister BB Bandits. These cartoon villains are around more for amusement than to inspire dread, but the later antagonists are not so silly. The game's plot gets rather outlandish in later chapters, but never takes itself very seriously and has a quality Nintendo translation to keep things entertaining.

Spinax should target YOU to make something else come out of your mouths! Spinax should target YOU to make something else come out of your mouths!

   It is possible to make Fossil Fighters challenging by switching the vivosaurs around, but no mandatory battle will be difficult if one uses the same team all game. Vivosaurs will reach their maximum power easily, and none of the enemies in the storyline can compete successfully against that strength. Getting a complete list of vivosaurs is far more challenging since many of them are rare. Blazing through the game can probably be done in less than twenty hours, but at almost any time the story can be ignored to go hunting for fresh fossils. Finishing the main story opens further areas to explore, so the game need not end after vanquishing the scourge threatening the world.

   Each vivosaur has a separate animation for each of its attacks, and for being struck. That gets repetitive, but considering the number of them in the game, it is understandable. The human characters look all right for the DS, save that their facial expressions are fixed. Balloons over their heads that show pictures to convey emotions are used, but the blank look and limited animation of every character shows a little laziness. As for its audio, Fossil Fighters has enjoyable music that will fade from memory quickly. It sounds good while the game is playing but lacks staying power.

   Fossil Fighters does not have top-notch graphics and sound or a big name to call its own. Its quality lies in entertaining battles and having many addictive things to do. Its prominent use of dinosaurs is also a plus. The urge to collect more vivosaurs and test them in combat is strong, and will stimulate many hours of play beyond what is required simply to complete the story. Red Entertainment knows what it takes to make a good game, and Fossil Fighters qualifies as another worthy title from it.

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