raycarter's Fossil Fighters: Champions (Nintendo DS) review

Good Enough I Guess

The main character attacks the dino with his pickaxe. Not Phi-Beta-Kappa....

The introduction video already indicates that Artdink and company took a serious look at their first Fossil Fighters game and decided that the game needed a graphical upgrade. I admit that for all the cuteness and charm exuded by the first game the graphics weren't exactly a strong suit. In FFC however there seems to be some effort to add detail. The animated portions of the game, first of all, have a cartoony style and they look very crisp, leaving them to be the graphical high points of the game. Character models especially received a boost thanks in large part to a more diverse color palette. Before your playable character simply had a mono-color t-shirt, pants, and a hat. Now you can see the individual parts of the outfit, like the pockets, the gloves, the sleeves, with a lot more clarity. Environments also received a nice touch up. Colors are much more pronounced and again more detail was given to its separate elements like the buildings, potted plants and the park seats. It is much harder for me to talk about, however, the sound track. It is just "meh" to me, lacking either the strong emotion of other hard-hitting RPGs or the cuteness and charm that we heard in its prequel. There is not much to remember per se in the soundtrack. That being said, FFC's presentation improved ten-fold because of the graphical improvements.

The animated cutscenes are bright and colorful.

I know I am probably the only one who will admit this, but the prequel's storyline was bizarre and very well done. FFC does not replicate the charm and insanity of its predecessor's plot but it still has a rock solid (if maybe a bit cliched) story to keep its players mildly interested. The premise starts out in a familiar fashion; you are a Fossil Fighter who travels to an island to compete in the Calisteo Cup. Once there you amass a group of revived dinosaurs called Vivosaurs and you are on your way. Throughout your adventure you have the following acquaintances. Stop me if you heard of any of these character types before:

- A well-meaning but very cowardly fellow

- A girl who hides her face with a mask and exudes false bravado

- A cold, emotionless loner

- An organization of bad guys who want to stop the tournament for reasons unexplained.

That being said the story does an OK job in fleshing out who these characters are, and how through some personal ordeals they change for the better. It's not the most original tale to be told, and it can't compare to its predecessor's story, but FFC can do much worse.

If you played the previous game or any Pokemon game (the series that inspired the original formula for the first Fossil Fighters) then you should know what to expect. You move around certain hub areas that have all the basics for your character, such as stadiums (where you fight), item shops, and a fossil-cleaning room (more on that in a moment). Outside the hubs are the exploration areas, where you can dig around for fossils and fight other Fossil Fighters. I'll get more into fighting later in this review.

Quick! Point out who is the cold loner of the group!

You can then take the fossils you find and bring them back to the fossil-cleaning room, and upon cleaning them sufficiently through a Trauma-center-inspired minigame you either receive a new Vivosaur, or a part of a pre-existing vivosaur (like arms and legs) that you can add to a 'saur that you already have to boost its stats slightly. Though there are a small number of side quests your character always has a main quest to follow. Once that quest is done (which usually means stopping the baddies) you return to the stadium, and play in one round of the tournament (this is your quintessential boss battle). Once that's done, rinse and repeat until the end of the game, which will take roughly 15-20 hours.

Again, it has a very similar feel to the first game, and that might be the most glaring shortcoming of the game. Granted there are some nice additions in FFC. One feature I like is that there are some fossils you can dig up in which you can actually evolve a dinosaur into something more potent. There are also some gimmick fossils to clean, such as really large ones that contain 1 large Vivosaur. However for the majority of the game you are digging, cleaning, fighting. At least in a game like Pokemon Ruby you have the diversion of Pokemon contests, but there is no such option here. Thankfully cleaning fossils is still fun because it requires some skill (don't try to hammer the fossil too hard or you'll break it) and beneficial; better cleaned fossils yield better Vivosaurs statistically.

The commentating isn't as funny as the first game's.

Combat keeps some parts from the first game but also changes other parts. You still have to make the decision whether to use your Fossil Points (otherwise known as action points that you get once per turn) for smaller, weaker attacks or to save them up for one large assault. What changes though is that you need to be wary of your Vivosaurs' positioning. Because your Vivosaurs' attack strengths depends on how far or near they are to their targets you need to change your Vivosaurs on a 6 square hexagon grid to maximize damage output (putting a melee Vivosaur near its target, for instance). Again it is nothing special and it does not require a high IQ. But opponents can punish you if you don't know what you are doing.

I write a lot about how sequels are supposed to improve things from their predecessors, whether it's expanding a strength or addressing a weakness. FFC actually does tackle some issues (like improving the presentation) but it feels too familiar for me to call the sequel a noticeable step forward. That being said it still maintains the first game's moderately solid standards, and there is still some fun to be had in a game (like in the first game). If you want to play a Pokemon clone done right, this game might fit the bill.

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