Review: Fossil Fighters: Frontier

Did Nintendo unearth something special, or should this series finally go extinct?

By Robert Marrujo. Posted 04/02/2015 07:00 Comment on this     ShareThis
The Final Grade
grade/score info
1-Up Mushroom for...
Vivosaurs and characters are well-designed; Fun battling; Bone Buggies!; Fossil excavation
Poison Mushroom for...
Bland music; Graphics are okay; Battle system needs some tweaks to get to the next level; Difficulty a little too low

Fossil Fighters: Frontier comes frustratingly close to being a great game. The localization is handled well, the design work is solid, and the gameplay is fun and accessible. Unfortunately, that same accessibility comes at the cost of any real depth. The narrative feels shallow, the difficulty level doesn’t rise substantially until the end, and the battle mechanics ride a fine line between simple and mindless. While some glimpses of brilliance make Frontier a legitimate alternative for Pokémon fans, overall it’s a middling game that could have been much better than it is.

Fossil Fighters is about collecting and battling with resurrected dinosaurs called Vivosaurs. Traveling around Fossil Parks in Bone Buggies (more on those in a bit), players guide their character on the path to becoming a Warden, someone who protects the parks with their Vivosaurs. The game has some fun character designs, and the world itself feels wild and open. I especially enjoyed the Vivosaurs themselves. They’re generally menacing and tough looking, and sport some really dynamic colors. The presentation does come across as a little sterile, however, with some flat textures and not a lot of flair. Be warned, however; the theme song for Frontier is… frightening. Imagine the worst Sonic music post-Sonic Adventure 2, mixed with a really bad Saturday morning cartoon show, and that’s pretty much Frontier‘s title track. It’s so bad it’s hilarious, though I don’t know if that’s what developers Red Entertainment and Spike Chunsoft were going for. The rest of the soundtrack is entirely forgettable, generic adventure music.

The Bone Buggies I mentioned above are personal vehicles that Wardens use to travel Frontier‘s ample roads and discover new fossils to revive Vivosaurs. The act of unearthing fossils is played out as a sort of minigame, where players hammer and chisel away at dirt and rock to reveal hidden bones. I had a lot fun picking through the earth, pinging my Bone Buggy’s radar to find new pieces. These additional bones help add new attack moves to their corresponding Vivosaur, so there’s plenty of incentive to keep digging. The player’s Bone Buggy can also be modified and powered up, and it’s a very engaging and unique way of traveling the game map that I wouldn’t mind seeing explored in other games. Seriously, who needs a bicycle when you can drive?

Battling in Frontier revolves around an elemental system of rock, paper, and scissors. Fire, Water, Air, Earth, and Neutral are the five elements in question, each boasting an advantage over another. While that alone would keep battles interesting, there’s another layer added with the addition of Support Shots and Paleo Pals. Support Shots are administered to a Vivosaur in-battle and can enhance certain stats, while Paleo Pals are allies who assist during fights. This all coalesces to form what should have been a fairly nuanced battle system, but the Support Shots aren’t all that intuitive at first, and Paleo Pals do battle on their own, which makes their presence more superfluous than anything else. It is great watching the Vivosaurs go at it, however, with some solid animations to be enjoyed.

One of the biggest issues with Frontier is that it tries too hard to be a kids game. The best all-ages titles tend to live up to that description in the truest way– it doesn’t matter how old the player is, there’s something for everyone. Pokémon, ironically, can sometimes be unfairly lambasted for skewing toward the youngest members of its audience, but anyone who’s spent any real time with the series knows how untrue that is. Frontier, sadly, intentionally aims itself squarely at its younger demographic, and the result is a disappointingly juvenile narrative. For younger players, Frontier will definitely elicit a chuckle, and for those who aren’t particularly concerned with stories in their video games anyway, they too will probably be indifferent to the butt jokes and fluff. For everyone else, though, it’ll take some willpower to keep marching forward.

As I said above, Frontier also doesn’t really offer much challenge until later in the game. A lack of difficulty isn’t always the biggest problem if the gameplay is irresistibly fun regardless, but Frontier‘s battling tends to become too formulaic with no significant strategy or planning needed to barrel through opponents. Though I think the battle system could use a few tweaks to really elevate it, with nothing to keep players on their toes, what’s there is underutilized already because of how easy it can be to win. This is a real shame, because as I said before, Nintendo’s third shot at a Fossil Fighters game is a strong entry in the series, but it aims too low as a game in general. I hate to keep mentioning Pokémon, because Fossil Fighters is very much its own series, but I see no point in halfheartedly emulating one of the ultimate all-ages franchises. Fossil Fighters would only become better if Nintendo made the effort to push the series away from being so determinedly for children. That all said, Frontier is not bad by any stretch, and those wanting to collect something other than Pocket Monsters should consider giving the game a whirl. It won’t knock anyone’s socks off, but it can be a pleasing play if expectations are set accordingly.

Nintendojo was provided a copy of this game for review by a third party, though that does not affect our recommendation. For every review, Nintendojo uses a standard criteria.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Log In 0 points Log in or register to grow your Ninja Score while interacting with our site.
Nintendojo's RSS Feeds

All Updates Podcast
News Comments
Like and follow usFacebookTwitter Friend Code Exchange + Game with Us Join the Team!