Review
Fossil Fighters: Champions

By Jorge Figueiredo - November 28th, 2011

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A long time ago, I swore to myself that I would never play “collect-and-battle” games. The likes of Pokemon and Monster Rancher seemed like endless grinding to me, and I thought that those types of games would be a waste of time. Then, I started writing for Thumbs, and playing games I never imagined. Eventually, I ended up playing the very games I promised myself I never would – and I sort-of liked some of them*. Fossil Fighter Champions (developed by Nintendo SPD, Red Entertainment, M2, and Artdink) adds to the “love” side of my love/hate relationship with the genre.

In FFC, you pit your creatures (in this case, called vivosaurs) against other vivosaurs. So far, this is the common denominator among the genre. However, the catch is that you attain new creatures by digging for their bones, cleaning them, and then bringing them back to life. I’m sure this DS title has some of you interested now.

The story starts off with your character and his friend having an interesting encounter in the wilderness with a vivosaur. Just in the nick of time, one of the world’s best “Fossil Fighters” shows up and helps you save the day. Eventually, you both end up participating in a large tournament hosted by the very same guy that saved your bacon at the beginning of the game. Fossil Fighters from all over the world bring their vivosaurs to the island to do battle. The winner will be crowned champion and will receive a prize cherished by all. The story in and of itself feels like a typical story from this game type. I wasn’t pleasantly surprised with something new; however, I was not really disappointed either. Movement about the island is fairly straightforward as well, and comes with the usual trappings.

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Familiar, cute story. Run-of-the-mill graphics.

The acquisition of your fighting force is done (for the most part) as a multi-stage process. You start your journey by hunting for fossils in specially-designated parts of the island. Using your sonar, you will locate objects underground and will dig them up using your digging tool. Digging correctly will result in useful objects (fossils, gems,etc.); these objects will be encased in rock and must be taken back to the cleaning centre. As you attain more money (some of which can be from the sale of gems and non-donated fossils), you can purchase better sonar, better digging tools, and more storage for carrying fossils (your are physically limited to a carrying a small number at the beginning). This part of the game is not really all that difficult; it is probably the most tedious part of the game; however, you are moving about which makes it somewhat engaging.

Once you are done collecting fossils, you bring them to the next stage of the process: the cleaning centre. It is here in the cleaning centre that you extract the fossil from the rock. Carefully chipping away at it and drilling with a micro-drill, you wear away at the rock, being careful not to damage the bones (you can access a single x-ray image that disappears over time to help you out). The less damage the bones accumulate during the extraction, the better the quality of the vivosaur. You require a head to revive one of the creatures – the other parts can be added on later and help your vivosaur to level up. As with the finding of the fossils, better tools become available once you have enough scratch to afford them.

The battle portion is also pretty interesting. You create a team of up to three vivosaurs and you can actually change their position on the field to take advantage of their strengths (and consequently, compensate for their weaknesses). Some vivosaurs have effects on others on the team, so it is worth seeing how the different creatures mesh. I found the battles relatively easy (which was not really a big deal), making this a fun game for a younger audience to try without getting too frustrated. Still, having a good strategy is important; you will be rewarded with victory for maximizing your squad.

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Going up against this guy is like bringing a knife to a gunfight.

While the searching and the fighting are both solid components, I found them to be somewhat run-of-the-mill; there is nothing really new here compared to games that have come before – and this includes the graphics, sound and music. In all honesty, I found the cleaning of the fossils to be the most addictive part because it was the most different and fun; I constantly tried and retried the same fossils to see if I could get a perfect extraction**. Once in a while I would find a “fault line” and completely chip away massive sections of rock perfectly***.

If you are looking for something different to try (but don’t want to wander too far out of your comfort zone, genre-wise), this game might be for you. It has enough similarity with other titles to make it easy to pick-up, and enough that’s different to be novel and somewhat amusing. Multi-player “match-ups” and downloadable vivosaurs also come into play, as well, adding a bit of online goodness to the mix. Of course, nothing beats that perfect extraction.

* – Seriously, nothing makes the time fly faster on public transit than these games.
** – Protip: perfect extractions rarely happen when you play on public transit.
*** – Once I got 100 points with two taps. True story.

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