Remember when you were a kid and after you saw "Indiana Jones" for the first time, you wanted to be an archeologist? You thought it was all bullwhipping and discovering ancient treasures in lost ruins, but after a trip to the local natural history museum, you found out the harsh truth is that it's more akin to cleaning dust off broken shards of pottery with a tiny brush. The transition from Fossil Fighters to Fossil Fighters: Champions is similar, draining nearly all the fun and adventure out of the experience and leaving you with just the boring and repetitive work that destroys one's very soul.
Champions once again tasks players with digging up the fossilized bones of "Vivosaurs," cleaning them and sending them into battle against one another. The turn-based, team-oriented battles fall easily in line with Pokémon and other monster battle games, right down to the teams of three and elemental-based affinities. There's nothing new to see here, as combat is driven through tapping commands on the touch-screen and waiting to see how many points of damage your dinos manage to cause. Gamers looking for more involved or complex combat will be sorely disappointed.
The Fossil Fighters hook has always been discovering rocks in the various fields and then bringing them back to town to crack them open and find out what sorts of prehistoric monsters are housed inside. Using a combination of hammers and drills, players are tasked with exposing and cleaning each fossil under strict time constraints in order to revive new fighters. Cleaning is a fairly intricate procedure that requires a deft touch, as the initial power of each monster is tied directly to how deftly you cleaned their bones. A perfectly preserved skull will give you a leg up in leveling up your creatures and creating a powerhouse team, while badly damaged bones will yield beasts that require a lot more work to bring up to snuff. It's a clever nuance that requires players to carefully weigh speed versus thoroughness.
The major problem is that the cleaning aspect of the game is mostly unaltered from the original Fossil Fighters, so its novelty wears off exceptionally fast. Once in a while, you may find special fossils that require you to clean both sides, or giant fossils that are so large they require scrolling the screen, but these additions feel mostly superficial and don't do much to add to the experience.
Furthermore, even though each creature has four distinct body parts that must be tracked down and integrated to fully power them up, there isn't enough variety between the bones to make the cleaning process feel any fresher. Numerous hours are spent in the cleaning process, and there simply isn't enough variety or excitement to make the process entertaining. While complete newcomers may be taken with the cleaning mechanics, returning players will most likely grow bored within the first few hours.
The game's plot doesn't impress either, opting for a generic "tournament gone wrong" story complete with staid caricatures of good guys and the blatant Team Rocket rip-off that shows up to ruin everyone's fun. Don't forget the rich kid who shows up thinking people are nothing more than objects but eventually learns the power of friendship; you've got to have that guy. Normally in situations like this, I'd recommend you simply skip over the plot and get back to the gameplay, but as we've already established, it's not really a more compelling option.
There are moments when the game seems to realize just how cliché it is and tries to break the fourth wall through the dialogue, but merely winking at the fact that you're being predictable doesn't excuse it. In a game desperate for something to keep players interested both the gameplay and story elements, Fossil Fighters: Champions fails to deliver.
The one bright point in the title is the manner in which it portrays the monsters. Rather than going for hyper-realistic dinos, the creatures are colorful and more cartoonish. In addition to standards like the Tyrannosaurus and the Triceratops, the game also branches out and includes snakes, saber-toothed cats and even some vaguely Dodo-like creatures to round out the cast. All of them look great, and it's plainly evident that the team in charge of creating and animating the monsters took a great deal of pride in their work. It's just too bad their gusto didn't rub off on the other members of the staff.
Fossil Fighters: Champions is too derivative and too stuck on the source material to really stand out. Instead of bringing us something clever and entertaining, we're instead saddled with what feels like leftovers from the first game. None of the few new inclusions really add much to the experience, and the old-school turn-based battles are as boring as it gets. While I was a huge evangelist of the original Fossil Fighters, I can't summon up the same love or adoration for this game. It's an absolute disappointment in practically every respect.
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