The Fossil Fighters series makes its move from the DS to the 3DS. Japanese gamers have been playing it for over a year, and now the rest of us can see what the fuss is about (except for European players who have to wait even longer!).  Lengthy waits and delays aside, how does Fossil Fighters: Frontier stack up?

Fossil Fighters - title screen
The start is admittedly slow, save for an amusing introduction reminiscent of 80’s cartoons.  Seriously, the catchy jingle (also used in the trailer) fits the whimsical premise very well – what kid doesn’t love dinosaurs!?  Young and old alike will find the tune stuck in their head, even if older gamers don’t want to admit it.  Getting back to the game proper, once things get past square one its theme, colorful settings, supporting characters, and overall atmosphere establish a game that’s family friendly, even in spite of the steady combat.  Yes the dinosaurs will battle, but that makes up only a portion of the experience.  As a warden your goal is ultimately to maintain peace  in the world’s fossil parks and keep them secure.

Fossil Fighters - RacingBefore battles can begin you must first engage in exploration.  This involves driving buggies around the various parks, giving the game some open world vibes.  The buggies are customizable, and can be upgraded extensively via the garage .  They’re also used for time attack races.  Some of my favorite moments involve simply driving around, searching and trying to fill in the sizable maps.

Excavation involves digging up fossils at numerous sites.  It makes good use of the touch screen, and a balance of speed and delicacy is needed.  Valuables like gold or jewels can also be excavated and sold.  There’s even seemingly useless discoveries like droppings. One thing I dislike about this process though is how the game can interrupt and force you into a fight, cancelling out your efforts! Thankfully this doesn’t occur too often.

Fossil Fighters - RevivalLastly, thanks to the technological study of fossil energy, successful excavation means the fossils can be revived via a formula and participate in frequent combat.  The whole experience is a process (and a sluggish one at first) and though it may feel repetitive if experienced at great lengths, there’s certainly sufficient variety to enjoy shorter play sessions.  The various elements tie together quite smoothly.

Fossil Fighters - PNMWith a detailed tutorial, easy to navigate central hubs, thorough help desks, touch screen maps, hints, and more, this game is very accessible.  It flows well, and has a steady offering of side missions to complement the main story.  The controls function fine and are easy and intuitive, especially while exploring and excavating.  Battle sections have various menus that new or inexperienced RPG gamers may find complex, but they’re easy enough to get comfortable with.  Overall however I’ve found the combat to be somewhat of a mixed bag.

Fossil Fighters - BattleOf the three major gameplay areas, combat can be the most repetitive depending on how you play.  Lack of audio-visual diversity aside, it just gets tedious if grinding at length to level up.  You can select auto-fight to let the computer take over but it’s still a slow process that’s not satisfying.  Watching the cpu and your teammates going through their menu commands for the turn based fights is something that would benefit from a bit more speed. Speaking of your teammates, the “Paleo Pals” aren’t always the smartest.  They definitely struggle at times when it comes to prioritizing.  Each have their own pros though, and there’s a good number introduced as the story advances, so you’ll surely find ones that are most advantageous to team up with.

Fossil Fighters - chattingCombat is much more enjoyable in the daily tournaments.  They don’t overstay their welcome, and success lets you earn cash and buggy parts you can’t normally purchase.  The schedule changes daily, and is a strong asset to the game’s replay value.  There’s also gym training, where you can practice with the different elemental types of Vivosaurs, and see which super shots you like best.  The latter allow you to increase attack power, recover some health, and more, and are a key factor when battling.  You can view the fossils you excavated for fighting in the “Fossilary”, and it’s enjoyable to see your collection expand.

Fossil Fighters - VivosaurVisually the star of the Fossil Fighters’ show is the Vivosaurs.  The detailed textures and copious amounts of vivid color on the various creatures are the sort I’d imagine reading about in Calvin and Hobbes.  Both goofy and alarming, I appreciate the embrace of imagination.  The 3D effects add some nice depth, but ghosting (at least on my standard XL model) meant I played it more often in 2D. The park locales in America, Europe, and Asia offer diversity, and are large in size.  Overall the graphics aren’t fantastic, but they’re respectable nonetheless, and certainly a sizable step up from the DS. The same can be said for the game’s soundtrack.  With the exception of the opening number, none of the tunes are especially memorable, but there is good variety.  The compositions are solid, and not the sort that will make you want to mute your system.

Fossil Fighters - AR Bonus BuggyThere are some nice 3DS extras in Frontier.  AR support (too often neglected) includes taking 3D pictures. You can also visit the Fossil Fighter website and get special and Bone Buggies not available otherwise. Nine are currently available, and more are coming soon – take advantage of them!  StreetPass lets you train against visiting Vivosaurs and power up your own.  There is multiplayer support for both online and local as well – the latter unfortunately requires each player having their own copy of the game.  A shame as the co-op gameplay sounds like lots of fun.

Fossil Fighter - Pure NintendoOverall I’m quite enjoying my time with Fossil Fighters: Frontier, even if the start was slow in parts.  The dinosaur theme is a strong one for an Adventure RPG, and the game’s production values are good.  So long as it’s experienced in shorter bursts, I think the game has a great deal to offer.  Fossil Fighters: Frontier is a grower that can keep you busy for a long time, even once you’ve finished with the main story.

Fossil Fighters - banner