It is said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery; if that is the case, Pokémon should be very flattered by the release of Fossil Fighters, the Red Entertainment-developed and Nintendo-published title that saw release in August of this year. Fossil Fighters undoubtedly shares many similarities with Nintendo’s popular collection series, yet still has a few features that do enough to allow it to carve out its own niche. That said, how far you delve into the world of Fossil Fighters will ultimately depend on how much enjoyment you derive from playing games that heavily involve monster collection and dueling.
Fossil Fighters places you in the role of a young man who travels to Vivosaur Island via boat. This island is a place where dinosaurs, termed in game as 'vivosaurs,' exist as fossils and where able trainers can resurrect them to fight battles. After entering your name and hearing more about what Vivosaur Island has to offer, you will eventually meet Dr. Diggins, Vivosaur Island’s resident guru. Diggins gives you your first fossil, but you will eventually learn to excavate more fossils from the ground via sonar, as well as how to clean said fossils with specialized tools. Afterward, you will then be sent on your way to fulfill your dream of being a top-quality fossil fighter.
As in Pokémon, your journey in Fossil Fighters will give you the opportunity to meet interesting characters who will serve to either help or hinder your progress. You will come across rivals, foes who seek to use fossil fighting for their own nefarious ends, and individuals who will provide services to you in exchange for various favors. You will also learn secrets about the island and yourself that go far beyond the simple act of fossil fighting and excavation.
Similarities to Pokémon aside, Fossil Fighters does bring some new ideas to the table; one example is through its fossil excavation process. Once you find a fossil, you then have to engage in a minigame where you use the stylus to hammer away the rock that the fossil is contained in, and then drill away any excess grime that is surrounding it. Success in this endeavor is measured by excavating the fossil both intact and before the time limit. It is an interesting idea that goes beyond the simple collection aspect that is set forth in Pokémon and similar titles.
Another unique aspect of Fossil Fighters lies in the vivosaurs themselves. Ideally, to revive a sufficient set of vivosaurs for your army, all it would take is to go out and locate an adequate supply of fossil heads to make that possible. While the head is considered vital for you to obtain vivosaurs, the game places a premium on locating fossils that contain said body parts, such as arms and legs, in order to strengthen the attributes of your monsters.
Setting your vivosaurs against the competition opens up an interface that shares characteristics with Pokémon’s group battles; however, it distinguishes itself due to its emphasis on position and placement. At any given time, you can place your vivosaurs so that they avoid receiving any damage from attacks, or move them to the forefront to make it that much easier to strike their foes.
The game’s audiovisual presentation, much like the Pokémon series, aims for a style that is clearly youthful, with hand-drawn visuals and simplistic sounds of vivosaur cries. The game is technically proficient and runs without any signs of difficulty. The conversations that occur between the main character and the individuals that he meets are orchestrated in text, with word bubbles and symbols used to play out various emotions.
In the end, it is very difficult to discuss Fossil Fighters without observing the many similarities that it has to Nintendo’s Pokémon franchise. While it does have aspects that distinguish it from that seminal title, the fact remains that Fossil Fighters is Pokémon with a dinosaur skin. It is a competent title yet it does not do enough to establish its own identity.
Fossil Fighters is rated E (Everyone) by the ESRB for Crude Humor and Mild Fantasy Violence.