After less than 15 minutes of playing Fossil Fighters: Frontier, I was fairly certain that Nintendo had somehow found a way to tap into my most coveted childhood desires. Here was the absolute perfect video game for the 5- to 8-year-old version of me—the one obsessed with all things dinosaurs, archaeology, and driving around sparsely populated islands in a souped-up 4×4 (It’s a long story). The plot of the game, available for the Nintendo 3DS, involves training to become a Warden, a special type of park ranger who patrols the world’s Fossil Parks, unearthing fossilized remains along the way. These bones can be utilized to create Vivosaurs, which resemble dinosaurs, only with much flashier colors.
The game consists of three different kinds of game play. After creating an avatar, players explore in Bone Buggies, at which point Fossil Fighters resembles a 3-D driving game. There’s a fairly accessible map system showing where to go in order to move the story along, as well as a tracking system that alerts players to buried fossils. The latter leads to one of my favorite parts of the game: attempting to dig up the bones using the 3DS’ stylus and touch screen. Here’s where Fossil Fighters turns into a unique kind of puzzler, as players have 60 seconds to complete the task, while switching back and forth between different tools, such as hammer and a drill. A certain amount of skill is definitely involved, as relying too much on, say, the hammer, can potentially damage the fossils, which in turn, affects the resulting Vivosaur.
While exploring the 3-D overworld, players can also encounter rogue Vivosaurs, leading to the third type of game play: matching up against them using any Vivosaurs they’ve revived (which become added to the player’s stable). All the different dinos have unique qualities, and Fossil Fighters features a points system, which can be used to give them a stronger attack, increased speed, etc., during a round of battle. These points can run out, though, and frequently, a Vivosaur’s abilities must be used strategically in order to avoid a poor end: For example, during my demo, my stable included Lophus, a crested, duck-billed ornithopod who can attack either through charging head-on, or by swinging its enormous backside. While its rear-end attack is incredibly potent, using it would leave Lophus turned around, and therefore vulnerable.
Nintendo’s Fossil Fighters series has been around since 2009, with Frontier being both the first installment for the 3DS, as well as the most customizable entry yet. At the start, players can choose between two different avatars (including, gasp! a girl!), and as the game progresses, they can switch up their stable of Vivosaurs, and even upgrade their Bone Buggy for a model that’s drives faster or carries more items. The game also utilizes the 3DS’ local online play function, allowing players to team up on excavations or multi-player online battles. While there is some slightly risque humor that earns Fossil Fighters: Frontier its 10 and up age rating, the bottom line is with its vibrant visuals, player options, and different types of gameplay, Fossil Fighters has plenty to offer, and enough variation to keep audiences coming back. It’s a dino-mite addition to anybody’s 3DS collection.