Fossil Fighters is a Nintendo franchise that not a lot of people talk about. Starting out on the DS, the game was touted as a Pokemon-like experience using Dinosaurs (known as Vivosaurs in the Fossil Fighters universe). Fossil Fighters: Frontier is the third game in the series, and the first on the 3DS. This being my first game in the series, I didn’t quite know what to expect from the Fossil Fighters franchise. With a quiet release of the game from Nintendo keeping my expectations a bit low, I ventured into the world of Vivosaurs.
Fossil Fighters: Frontier starts out with the cheesiest 90’s cartoon-show like intro ever seen in a game. This intro song makes the classic cheesy SEGA songs from games like Daytona USA look like the finest pieces of music ever heard, which is saying a lot. I did manage to find some charm in it though, as it actually helps set the pace for this lighthearted game. The story isn’t going to captivate you, but it does enough to keep you plugging along. Playing as a newly recruited “Warden”, you must travel to various areas of the world enforcing laws, helping people, and helping other Wardens. The characters you encounter are all over the top and a bit stereotypical, but they are charming enough.
The dialogue in this game also sets the tone for the game, with a heavy emphasis on easy to digest and somewhat juvenile writing. Obviously this game is geared towards a younger audience, but some of the jokes were a bit cringe-worthy at how elementary they were. There are a couple interesting story arcs, but it plays out much like a classic “Saturday morning cartoon”, which can actually be a draw for a bit of nostalgia.
Fossil Fighters: Frontier has you visiting a variety of “parks” in different areas of the world. Each area has a distinct style both visually, in terms of characters, and of course, in terms of what Vivosaurs are in the region. To traverse a landscape, you have a buggy in which you can roam the area you are in. The buggy can also be upgraded with various parts, such as fast engines, upgraded tools for digging up bones, and more. Much like a Pokemon game, collecting and battling Vivosaurs is the meat of the gameplay, but to get to that point you have to dig up some Vivosaur bones.
Digging up Vivosaur bones is a sort of mini-game that is a key gameplay element. Scanning the area with your buggy will reveal fossil locations, and choosing to dig up the bones enters you into the mini-game. With a time limit (that can be extended with the aforementioned buggy upgrades) you use your tools (which also can be upgraded) to dig up the bones in a set amount of time. You have to be careful in not hammering the bone too much and damaging it, but you also must clear out a certain area of the bone within the time limit to successfully attain it. If it is your first time digging up a bone of the specific Vivosaur it is, you will “revive” the Vivosaur and he will join your army. By attaining additional bones of the Vivosaur, you will unlock more abilities and level them up as well. Although the mini-game does tend to wear thin on you after a while, the hopes of upgrading a Vivosaur with a new bone always keeps you “digging” for more.
In Fossil Fighters: Frontier you battle several different types of enemies: from free-roaming Vivosaurs to rogue people in regions to tournament competition. Battling is easy enough by using element-based Vivosaurs against opposite ones (for instance, water against fire, much like Pokemon). Along with your Vivosaur are your “Paleo Pals” Vivosaurs, which are other Wardens from various regions. You eventually have 2 Paleo Pals and your Vivosaur which allows for your team to have 3 Vivosaurs at a time.
The battling itself is actually pretty strategic. Aside from the element base, your move list depends on the amount of fossils you have for the Vivosaur you are using. When you attack, or your opponent attacks, you have a brief window of opportunity to use items to bolster your attack, regain some life, and more. Also, the moves you use on the opposing Vivosaur can impact their positioning. For example, if you are fighting an air-based Vivosaur and use a certain attack, you can bring them to the ground which makes them more vulnerable, which adds a nice strategic layer to the combat.
Keeping with the “designed for younger gamers” mentality though, you can actually “auto battle” and have everything done for you, although I’m not entirely sure why this would be beneficial. The game also offers local and online battles with competitors which adds some replay value to a game that already has a good bit of content in the way of collecting Vivosaurs.
Graphically speaking, the game is a bit of a mixed bag. When traveling in your buggy in the various areas, you may encounter some slowdown, and the environments are a bit boring. The Vivosaurs themselves however look fantastic, and have great animations and unique characteristics that make them stand out from one another. All of the hub cities are distinct and look fantastic too, but since you do spend most of your time in the field, you don’t really get to appreciate them as much as you should be able to. The audio department is fine, aside from the terribly cheesy intro song, and all of the Vivosaurs sound great. There is no voice acting eithe, but that’s probably a good thing in this game.
All in all, Fossil Fighters: Frontier surprised me. It’s not a hard game, it’s not a memorable game, but it’s very solid. Collecting fossils may become a bit monotonous at times, but battling Vivosaurs always feels fun and fresh. The graphics are a bit lacking in certain areas, and the game is geared towards a younger audience, but there is a good bit of fun to be found in the game. It’s curious to why Nintendo didn’t decide to market this game harder, as it could have been a decent seller for the 3DS. If you are looking for some easy fun, and enjoy dinosaurs, Fossil Fighters: Frontier is a solid pickup: just don’t expect it to challenge you.