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November 17, 2017

Fossil Fighters (Part 5)

Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5

The plot is over, now we can see what else there is to do in this game. As it turns out, there’s enough post-game content to keep one very, very busy.

What happens when a game is barely unused for Let's Plays:
I have to rely on poorer videos. Bleh.
First off, by beating the game, you unlock two new dig sites: Coldfeet Glacier and Parchment Desert. Coldfeet Glacier is a very large area, and when digging you may find an abominable snowman coming out of the ice. There’s a side-quest about this guy. If you ask Richmond about it he’ll say that the creature loves berries. Buy berries, give them to the creature. Afterwards, you can buy a mask of the creature at the shop, and if you wear it the next time you encounter the creature, it’ll give you a free rare fossil, with red bones in it.

"Yes, you need the seeds. Yes, this desert is too hot for the
radar. Yes, in spite of it working deep inside a volcano.
Don't question, you wanna play the game, yes or no?"
Parchment Desert is also a very large area, although for some unfathomable reason, the radar doesn’t work in it, so it’s impossible to dig fossils. Someone says that it’s because of the unbearable heat of the desert, but I call bullcrap on that. We went into a goddamn volcano for the story, and the radar worked in there, when we were walking near rivers of lava, and now you tell me that this desert is even hotter? That’s stupid. To cool down the desert, you must buy four oasis seeds at the shop, and plant them in the area. Each seed is mighty expensive, but apparently it’s worth it for all the powerful vivosaurs that can be revived from fossils in this area.

Speaking of the shop, if you have yet to buy every upgrade, now you have plenty of time to do so.
"Today's Special"? I could go for Dino Cakes right now.
-Your case can be upgraded to contain up to 64 fossils, although you need to pass by every preceding upgrade first (16, 24, 32 and 48 slots).
-Your sonar must be upgraded in order to detect two more fossils for each vivosaur (meaning that until you do, you can unearth at best half of the fossils to fully boost a dinosaur), stop detecting non-fossil rocks (a pain in every player’s goddamn backside until they do), and increase the scope of your radar in order to spot fossils more easily.
-You will need the stronger drill and hammer tools in order to free some fossils within the 90-second time limit. Without them, it’s almost impossible to get a good score on some fossils to be cleaned. They go for 25,000g each. Start looking for those jewels!

Of course, that is not all you can do. One common post-game element in a Mon series like Pokémon is the ability to fight, once again, some of the opponents you’ve met throughout your journey. In Fossil Fighters, that’s the case. King Dynal and Raptin, to name two. Saurhead as well. Various others, scattered around Vivosaur Village, some which appear at the hotel after you’ve beaten the game. It would be pretty tedious to list them all, but it’s pretty cool to see them with improved teams and get a real fight. Oh, and if you’d rather go kill Guhnash again, it’s possible. Dr. Diggins will build a “paradox-free” (as if that was possible) time machine that will send you back to just before the big fight against the beast’s brains, so that you can get some much-needed experience and increase your vivosaurs’ levels. Said boss can also be fought with all three brains upped by three levels, to 11, like a true final boss battle.

I wished I could just "drop" these.
I mean, I can, but I wished the game
never had them in the first place.
Not in the mood to fight? Well, you can just go and complete the vivosaur dex. Keep digging! One side-quest here occurs past Chapter 4, after you’ve met Nick Nack and gained the ability to find black fossils. Nick collects fossilized dinosaur droppings. Poop, if you prefer. And it’s ALWAYS found in the black fossils, which should normally contain red fossils or precious stones. Nope! Here, have some actual crap instead! The upside is that, with every tenth fossilized poop you bring him, Nick will give you a stone containing a big jewel, but it stops after the thirtieth, yet past that point you’ll STILL find stupid poop in black fossils, and those sell for a single gold coin apiece. It would be more valuable to sell the black fossils containing them… except you cannot tell what’s in those, what if you end up selling a black rock containing a red fossil?

Pah! Come back when it's 805.

But of course, the big task for all collectors out there is to gather every single vivosaur fossil. The ‘Dex here contains 114 species, most of which are based on dinosaurs, raptors, and other various other reptilian animals of the era with scientific names that I can’t be bothered to look up. Paleontology was never my big interest. This game does make badass creatures out of the various extinct species, though. It includes a few mammals, actually, like mammoths and sabretooth tigers. Where can you find all of these species?
-Revisit each dig site, including pay-to-dig and secret areas. Most vivosaurs can be found and revived that way. Keep in mind to look in the Digadigamid, every possible path in Bottomsup Bay and the sunken pirate ship, every path in Mount Lavaflow, every new area opened in Rivet Ravine and the mines – including a secret tunnel available only once you’ve beaten the game. Also go back to the BB Base, the secret island (into the crashed Dinaurian ship), and complete the side-quest allowing you to find fossils in Parchment Desert as well.
-Four vivosaurs can only be obtained through Donation Points. Any time you clean a fossil with a final score lower than your best previous score, the fossil will be donated to the Fossil Center, netting you anywhere from 3 to 5 new Donation Points. You can then use those to buy those vivosaurs, always guaranteed to be red fossils. Each vivosaur’s fossils all cost the same amount. Stego (50, total of 200), F-Raptor (75), Ptera (100) and Compso (200, total of 800) can be gathered this way. Compso’s the best of them all and a valuable ally for the last part of the game.
-One vivosaur’s fossils must be bought from Medal-Dealer Joe, the one who was stealing medals from other people in the first chapter of the story.
-Vivosaurs numbered 101 to 114 are special. #101 (Dinomaton), #102 (Duna) and #103 (Raptin) can be obtained by reviving all previous 100 vivosaurs. Yes, you can then use the dinosaur forms of the Dinaurians!
Yup, you can literally own Dynal if you want.
-Some are obtained through battles. Defeat King Dynal again to obtain #104, his vivosaur form. Find and defeat the BB Bandits once more to earn #105, Frigi, the power machine used by their boss Bullwort earlier. #106, Igno, is obtained by defeating Saurhead in three matches in a row.
-Guhnash’s three brains, #112 to #114, are gathered by using the time machine and going back to fight the stronger version of Guhnash, as a bonus boss. If you want to know how big these things are, they’re each 59 feet tall, which if compared to Pokémon, makes each of them taller than Wailord, the longest Pokémon.
-Last but not least, #107 to #111 are special chick vivosaurs. Literally five chickens, one of each primary type. It was possible long ago to get them by connecting to a channel on the Wii, but then the wi-fi connection was lost. Nowadays, the only way to get them is to bring every visosaur from #1 to #100 up to Level 12, which is very long for a single vivosaur – so imagine doing that for all 100 of them! All I can say is, good luck!

Well, that’s everything, at last. Five parts, and now that its entirety has been discussed, I can say I’m actually quite glad to have this game. The concept is not unique (Spectrobes also had its creatures in fossils that you had to clean up to revive the monster inside), but the story and combat system complement it well.

You guys still don't scare me.
First, the story: It’s actually pretty decent. Of course, according to some fans, this game is about the Dinaurians and nothing else, but they tend to forget the BB Bandits. It only makes sense that crime would eventually become a common thing on an island reuniting rich people taking part in an expensive activity that involves reviving dinosaurs to make them fight in arena matches! It doesn’t make nearly as much sense that the boss of the BB Bandits would also be the chief of the local police. As I said before, reaching the top of the command chain takes years and years. I could buy that Bullwort was tempted by the insane amount of money the Dinaurians promised him in order to find the tacky idols, but that’s grave unprofessionalism, not to mention he went mad with power as soon as he was given a Legendary vivosaur.

Surprise time travel plot!
The latter portion with the Dinaurians is also very interesting, especially in the many twists. It manages to avoid most plot holes, and even brings surprising Chekov’s guns. Who would have thought that the fossilized sandals were foreshadowing? Still doesn’t make sense to me that Dr. Diggins, when checking the secret island and the crashed ship, never stumbled upon his own writings carved in stone or the human-shaped rock in the ship the first time he visited it, though. It felt like they kept trying to up themselves at every turn, ending in a final boss fight against a giant planet eater. I do enjoy that the latter half of the plot also involves Duna struggling with her newfound respect for humans, trying to convince her kind to leave us alive, all before the climactic final battle.

The overall plot is decent, but I really, really hate the dozens of useless twists and turns that it puts us through. This story contains a LOT of padding, and it’s annoying. You’re constantly sent off to do stuff in various dig sites, usually minor things like talking to one NPC halfway across the dig site, and sometimes you have to go back to the village for no really important reason. That’s the biggest flaw I can see about it, really. On the opposite end, I love the character-based jokes, which add a lot of comedy, usually by playing with your expectations. 

Now, the gameplay. I’ll divide this in three parts: Seeking, cleaning and battling. Fossil-seeking subjects you to the random number god, much more so than any other part of the game. As explained higher, over 90 vivosaurs can be found on the field, with four fossils for each. It’s really all down to luck and revisiting every single area in order to find everything you’re missing. Much like in Pokémon, there are few guides as to where each vivosaur is, and unlike the Pokédex you won’t get to pinpoint a vivosaur’s location after meeting it in battle. On top of that, while Pokédexes of later Pokémon games try to put their Pokémon in order of appearance in the player’s normal progression, from Route 1 to Victory Road, here you cannot rely on that to help you. The numbered order of vivosaurs doesn’t follow the order of the dig sites you find. It makes using a guide all the more important, especially for the last lousy few ones you’re missing. Thank God for Wikis!

The game will also rarely tell you about all the places that open over time, especially in post-game, so you need to explore. And go back. And dig, and dig, and dig, and diggety-dig. Then we have the matter of jewels in regular rocks, which will ALWAYS have a Fossil Fighter showing up to duel you over it, no matter how low or small the jewel is. And black stones, which usually contain red bones, but may also contain better jewels (although, thankfully, you usually won’t have to duel someone to get them) or, worst of all, literal dino poop.

Yess! It's a head!
Fossil cleaning is surprisingly addictive, and it’s both greatly enjoyable and greatly infuriating from time to time. Cleaning jewels and (urgh) poop is very easy and fast, their stones being usually pretty weak. You’ll rarely harm the jewel inside. Black fossils are more of an annoyance since you cannot see through them with an X-Ray (and you cannot upgrade that, either), but the reward is usually worth it. Again, unless you get poop, which is the bane of every Fossil Fighters player in existence once they reach that part.

We're also forced to clean up a lot
of things for plot reasons, even stuff
that should't need cleaning.
As for every other fossil, there are many factors to take into account: One is the hardness of the stone. Large chunks will disappear with a single hit of the hammer on the weakest ones, potentially harming the fossil inside. Meanwhile, some other rocks are very tough and will take a lot of hits to break, even with the upgraded hammer. Oh, and let’s not forget that while you can drill away from the start on most rocks, black ones must be hammered at all costs, even the weaker ones. Pray to God if there’s a tiny speck of black left right next to an uncovered area, and breaking it, necessary to get a 100% score on it, would instantly harm the fossil! Thankfully, most of the time you can just lay off the fossils already cleaned to the useful KL-33N robot, and if it studied you cleaning enough fossils it will clean them up (except the black ones) up to a score above 90%. However, if you’re a perfectionist, you will probably try to get every fossil up to 100% (or 125% for black ones), and perfect scores can be difficult, almost impossible, for some of them. Some fossils have awful shapes, like the one that is multiple rows of rock, and the hammer inevitably reaches between the rocks to break part of the fossil. Pray if you get a black one like this! In short: addictive, often annoying, pretty fun, and it’s very hard to get a perfect score on any fossil.

The battle system has a lot of little elements that keep them
never too easy, especially the boss battles.
Finally, combat. The system in Fossil Fighters is interesting, although it has drawbacks. It’s usually better to keep using weaker moves since they require less FP, and be sure to use the more FP-expensive ones only if you’re certain to hit. Status effects do various things but are hardly explained in-game. The Escape Zone (EZ) is good if the vivosaur in your Attack Zone (AZ) is low on HP, but you must always remember which vivosaur will replace it if it’s knocked out – usually the one on the top Support Zone (SZ). Speaking of which, some vivosaurs are better fits to be in the AZ, others are useless outside of an SZ. Overpowered vivosaurs placed in the SZ will negatively affect the one in your AZ instead of boosting them – similarly, some vivosaurs with weaker overall stats and attack power are too weak to really be worth ever going into the AZ, since they cause drastic stat increases to your own attacker or stat decreases to your opponent’s attacker.

Decreasing attack by 90% means a vivosaur
with an attack of 30 is reduced to 3.
Also, a surprising number of vivosaurs change these stats in an insane fashion – I recall one that gives a full 99% boost to your attack vivosaur’s defense. There’s also Compso, which decreases the opponent AZ vivosaur’s attack AND defense by 90%. That’s a lot! King Dynal’s vivosaur form decreases all of your vivosaur’s stats by 77%, if it ever ends up in a Support Zone on its side. Frigi and Igno, the Legendary ones, will cripple your own AZ vivosaur if they wind up in a Support Zone. There are also some attacks that are very annoying, such as special moves that shove your AZ monster into the EZ, forcing one SZ vivosaur into the AZ. And if it was your weak one that is useless in combat… have fun! The most evil of these moves might be Guhnash’s Whirling Displacement, which will ALWAYS shuffle around all three of your vivosaurs, usually putting you at a disadvantage.

Also kudos to these two commentators, who always show up
when you battle. They make a lot of commens, although the
more special ones might slip under your radar since they
happen in very precise situations.
The whole game looks great, whether it’s the exploration part, the detailed locations, the 3D models of the characters walking around, or – most impressive of all – the 114 vivosaurs’ models in combat and their attack animations. Fossil battles are a treat to watch. The music’s pretty great too, although it seems to be missing from dig sites, probably since it could be too loud to let you hear your radar detecting a fossil.

All in all, it’s a very good game, addictive and fun. Its flaws are many, but in the end it’s a very enjoyable experience. If you want to see more or play the newer titles, we have Fossil Fighters: Champions, also for the Nintendo DS, released in 2010 and featuring new gameplay mechanics such as actual goddarn evolution. Oh, and zombies. The last one, Fossil Fighters: Frontier, on 3DS, which overhauled the entire system from the previous two. But if you want to play through the original one, look for it. It’s actually pretty great. I can’t say it won’t frustrate you at times with pointless necessary plot quests, the randomness of the fossils found, and the odds of picking up vivosaur poop, but it’s overall a lot of fun.

This was a huge review! I need something small, something quick. Not that there are tons of those for the Wii… We’re almost in December? Ah, okay, sure, let’s go with Just Dance 2016.

November 13, 2017

Fossil Fighters (Part 4)

Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5

Well, it's a good thing this alien tech is very easy to
use, even by humans!
Duna, who’s actually an anthropomorphic alien dinosaur, and another guy from her species, broke into the lab and stole the tacky idols, and turned Rosie into an animal. Richmond and Diggins have watched the encounter on security cameras, though, and are discussing it as the hero, Nicolas, and Rosie show up. She attacked the male Dinaurian and stole a pendant from him. Diggins presses the button on the pendant while Nicolas is nearby, and the two get transported onto the alien ship.

Thankfully, by a crazy twist of circumstance, the Dinaurian guards we encounter all think we’re just Dinaurians who forgot to turn off their holographic human disguises. The two heroes were near the teleportation field, so they quickly go back to Earth. If we want to sneak aboard, we’ll need an actual disguise… and because this is a land of weirdness, a mere mask will apparently do the trick. No fake tail, no body paint, naw… Just a mask. Dr. Diggins suggests we ask Saurhead, the other Master Fighter, for two of his many dinosaur head masks. However, as you can guess, he’s not gonna hand them over without a fight.

Could you imagine fighting the same champion 5 times in a
row in any ither game?

A fight? Five fights, to be exact! One team for each Vivosaur element. He’s difficult, but not impossible. As a reward, he takes off his own mask, revealing what’s beneath: …Another mask. Oh, he Kakashi’d us! And he does it again to give us a second mask, revealing that he wears many, many masks at the same time. I may rage at many plot elements, but a lot of character-based jokes and twists can be pretty funny, I’ll give this game credit where it's deserved.

November 10, 2017

Fossil Fighters (Part 3)

Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5

Let's not waste any time with an intro, there’s a lot of content in this game and a long storyline, so we’d better focus on that. We complete another Level-Up Battle, with a cleaning test and three fossil battles, with the boss being Nick Nack. We’re now a Level 5 Fossil Fighter.

"Tripmon"? Who's that?
...Oh right, the nickname of the guy doing the Let's Play
I'm picking these images from.

You can now take a seminar that will let you dig out dark fossils, black fossils with a shell so strong they must absolutely be broken by the hammer before you can drill around the fossil, unlike regular fossils for which the drill can be used from the start. Dark fossils are rarer but contain red bones, which add 25 points to your final cleaning score – thus making a Vivosaur much stronger. Oh, also, you cannot inspect a dark fossil with the X-ray, so you can’t see what you’re gonna get before you hammer into it. These are fun, but for a later side-quest, you’ll find dinosaur poop in there. Good for that one quest, annoying every other time, because I wanted a fucking red fossil, and all I get is literal crap.

I want to say some very particular
4-letter words right now.

Remember how I mentioned that the black rock had to be broken by a hammer first? Well, if you’ve got a tiny speck of black rock left around shattered stone, you still cannot drill that tiny piece away. Gotta hammer at it and, if your fossil was very clean aside from that one bit, expect to lose a lot of completion percentage when the hammer inevitably breaks the fossil around the black speck. That’s annoying as Hell.

That’s not even getting into fossil hardness, and how some fossils will take dozens of hammer hits to crack while some will shatter with a single smash of the weaker hammer. hat also applies to black fossils rocks, by the way. Worst part being, you can never tell until you’ve used the hammer once!

Even though the early-game jewels aren't worth fighting over.
Oh, speaking of fossil digging, you know what’s bullcrap? When you dig out a jewel rock, there is ALWAYS a Fossil Fighter showing up to battle you over it. That’s the equivalent of having to fight a Trainer every time you’d get your hands on a pearl or any other item that sells for a lot of cash in Pokémon. What’s worse about that? Sure you get a nice diamond or emerald or pearl to sell, but the battle itself gives only ONE point of experience, no matter how hard it was – and those get harder as the game progresses. It’s annoying to go through a fight like this and get barely any experience.

Upon leaving the hotel on the next day, we are told by an officer to come to the police station, where we learn from Chief Batholomew Bullwort that Rosie has been kidnapped, and the letter they received asks Nicolas to “bring the idols to the Park Area dock”. Might as well save that girl once again…

November 6, 2017

Fossil Fighters (Part 2)

Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5

As we enter Knotwood Forest, we meet Holt, one of the helpful guys in Vivosaur Town. He says that he has upgraded his radar to spot previous undetectable fossils, and that he has widened the scope of said radar as well. Hey, stop flashing your fancy upgrades in my face, you just make me want them more! Unfortunately, one big area is closed off due to some adventurer disappearing past that point. We, ahem, bribe Dr. Diggins with sweets, and he gives Nicolas and Rosie a card that will let them pass through, to investigate the matter and retrieve that Fossil Fighter. 

I don't think I dig-adig their language.
The Forest is also home to the Digadigamids, an ancient tribe who lives around a pyramid. Sounds like a weird set-up, no? We meet the Digadig tribe, along with their chief who's also their shaman. We're told that a key was stolen from them, and the robbers used vivosaurs, meaning only another Fossil Fighter can stand up to them. Oh, and Rosie, who has been following us, is staying behind because the tribe’s chief and shaman decided to grant her the gift of Digadig speech, and she fainted. Geez, some sidekick she turns out to be.

If you two knew who I am, you'd be the ones running away
right now.
Inside the pyramid, we meet some guy dressed in purple, a lackey that peppers his phrases with “BB”. Weird. After defeating him, we meet a bulldog who trains vivosaurs. Oh, and we battle him. So dogs can be smart enough for that? The dog flees and, in the next room, we meet a long-nosed guy also wearing the purple uniform. Methinks we got our evil Team for this game! You can cross that off the list of tropes taken from Pokémon. We defeat the guy, but he activates a trap that sends us one floor below. Down there, we meet Nevada Montecarlo, a Lara Croft type of adventurer who has apparently fallen in the same trap.

Hero retrieved! Quest complete, hurrah!

We get out of trouble by digging around and finding an ammonite creature shaped like a key. Yes, really. And it works! It doesn’t even open the door, it brings out a ladder instead. Getting to the pyramid’s treasure room, we encounter the woman who leads this group. She introduces the three of them: Rex, Snivels and Vivian, the BB Bandits! Hm… I wonder what these initials stand for… Probably nobody we’ve met yet. They flee and trap the heroes in the treasure room, but of course the Digadig left instructions to save anyone who gets trapped in there, so we use that to find a secret tunnel. Oh, and somehow this leads back at super-speed directly at the entrance of the pyramid, allowing us to stop the BB Bandits in their tracks. What are the odds?

November 3, 2017

Fossil Fighters (Part 1)

Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5

This is the end of an era, folks. Mark this date in the history of Planned All Along, as we are turning towards the future. I know it’s a solemn way to approach this, but it means a lot to me. When I began working on this blog, I had a structure: A GBA game – 2 DS games – a Wii game – A Virtual Console or WiiWare game – a Top 12 list. Eventually, I ran out of GBA games and replaced them with movie reviews in 2014. Then I switched up the formula some more when I added TV shows to VGFlicks, removed one DS game, and then I finally added Steam game reviews.

Today, I review my final Nintendo DS game. It’s been a long run. I still have plenty of Wii games, but I can finally say I’ve played through everything I had on the DS side of things. Starting with the next cycle of reviews, DS games will be replaced by… 3DS games. Yeah, yeah, not much of a difference in the long run, but a switch to the next-gen console isn’t just a small event.

However! Before I get there, we have this final game. Since closing the book on a console is a major and rare event for Planned All Along (it last happened in 2014), I wish to end on a strong note, with a longer review. Ending with a bang, you could say. The game? Fossil Fighters.

There’s something that is commonly referred to as the “’Mon” genre. It refers to games mostly comprised of RPGs, in which your task is to collect characters and creatures and use them in battles. It was codified by the Pokémon franchise, which still runs strong and is still the greatest example of the genre. Speaking of, this type of RPG is defined by various elements:
Yep, Rick and Morty parodied the whole genre, using
various Mortys as the "Pokémon" to collect, train and fight.
It looks pretty fun.
-A large and varied selection of creatures to pick from, all of which can level up and grow stronger through training and dedication. Usually the creatures have tio be found or caught, and can also evolve;
-Tons and tons of special moves and abilities, making each creature feel unique in how they act in battle;
-The end goal of “catching them all”, which players are free to do – or not, as these games also put a lot of emphasis on battle for those who aren’t interested in merely getting a full collection;
-A story that features either a competition or a tournament, a struggle against an evil organization, a mystery surrounding the paranormal origin of the creatures being collected… or a mix of either of these;
-And a large world to explore, in which the creatures are scattered and you often need to actively look around to find what you’re looking for.

Today’s game checks all of the items on this list, and throws in a lot of plot points reminiscent of Pokémon for good measure. Fossil Fighters is also part of a sub-genre in which you must find the creatures you want and then go through a process to “unlock” them, instead of simply catching them in a ball.

Dig for your monsters! Why not?

How about we start?