Thursday, June 4, 2015

Fossil Fighters: Frontier - First Impressions

It took me until now to get around to firing up the game, even though I got it with my New 3DS.  The game is more or less what I was led to believe it was from the eShop description.  I played the entire introductory portion of the game, up to the point where you can travel to other regions.  This took about two and a half hours, some of which was derping around, but I stayed focused for the most part.

In a nutshell, you drive around in your vehicle, called a Bone Buggy, and dig up dinosaur fossils.  You then revive these fossils to create what the game calls Vivosaurs.  Vivosaurs have elemental affinities (Water > Fire > Air > Earth > repeat, plus Neutral) and attack abilities, and you use yours to fight other Vivosaurs.

I'm actually kind of surprised.  For a game whose ESRB rating is E-10 (Everyone 10 and over), the game sure throws a lot of stats, indicator symbols, and mechanics your way.  I'm still trying to figure it all out.  It has various conveniences that make me think it was targeted at a younger audience, but at the same time, it's got the complexities of a game meant for an older audience.

Since I'm sure you'd like some examples of the conveniences and the other things that make me think it's targeted at a younger audience, I'll list a few.
  • Each Warden Office is laid out almost identically with regards to critical NPC locations and other things you'll need to interact with.
  • Each explorable area contains several "service stations", which function as fast travel as well as completely refilling your battle items on demand.
  • If someone in the current area absolutely needs to talk to you, they run up to you and stop you in your tracks.
  • Similarly, while the location of your objective is shown on the map, you often can't get anywhere near it before being interrupted by the next event.
  • Each Vivosaur has a few "fluff" stats such as diet (herbivore, omnivore, carnivore), region (where it can be found), type (related to species), original time period, etc., that don't seem to affect anything.
  • On several occasions, NPCs have given me, the player, life advice, such as "always have good manners!".
Yet, to contrast, in battle you have:
  • Elemental types, with the aforementioned strength/weakness circle
  • Stances, with strengths and weaknesses to other specific stances
  • Accuracy, so attacks might not always hit
  • Critical hit chance
  • Status ailments
  • A Boost Gauge that goes up as you do regular moves, and unleashes a special ability when you fill it up
  • Not in battle, but nowhere else to put it: when digging up fossils, if you're not careful you can damage the fossil and this affects the Vivosaur's strength
So, yeah.  It's having a little trouble deciding what its target audience is.

The graphics and music are fine.  I have to give the game a knock, though, for the lack of configurable controls.  There are a lot of different things to do that have unique control sets, but surely the driving controls could have been made configurable.  In addition, I find the fossil-digging controls to be kind of awkward.  You dig using the touchscreen, and pan your view around with pretty much anything else.  It's lacking the ability to zoom in/out, which I find myself wanting pretty much every time I'm digging stuff up.

The game also has some things you can unlock by way of scanning AR cards.  There are 11 in total, and you can find all the AR cards here.  Even though that's the official link, they wouldn't scan for me there, but all of them worked when scanned from this page instead.  No need to print them out, just load up the page and scan them directly from your monitor.  It's a bit finnicky, so be patient and hold your 3DS steady.  From these AR cards, you can get 9 Vivosaurs and 2 Bone Buggies.  This stuff can give you a jump start in the early game if you're having trouble, and later on it's necessary if you're going for completion.

There seems to be a wide variety of Vivosaurs available to find and use, and each has a normal set of fossils and a rare set.  The rare set gives the Vivosaur different skills in battle, and you can swap them out if you have them available.  Battles themselves are turn-based, with up to two AI-controlled allies whose Vivosaurs you can buff during battle but otherwise can't affect them.  Your Bone Buggy is also upgradeable and customizable, and more options get unlocked as you progress through the game.

Overall: It seems like a game without a lot of depth at first, but... so far it's just been a lot of fun.  It does seem a little confused about what its target audience is, but if you can overlook that it's an enjoyable experience.

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