Dinosaur King DS
Sometimes a game comes along that defines a genre, and you get a plethora of lesser games following in its footsteps, attempting to emulate what made the original game so great. Sadly Dinosaur King isn’t one of those genre defining games, but it is one of those that comes in the aftermath of such a game, that being Pokemon in this case. Yep, Dinosaur King is a Pokemon clone, but coming from Sega, a developer of some repute, it’s not without expectations of its own.
The story of the game is pretty straightforward. You play as on of a couple of kids who work for an organization called D-Lab, who are dedicated to researching dinosaurs. D-Lab has made this incredible invention that can bring back dinosaurs from the dead using their fossils, the Dino Shot. But the villains of the piece, Alpha gang, led by the nefarious Doctor Z, seeing an opportunity to take over the world using dinosaurs, bust in to D-Lab and steal one of the Dino shots. It’s up to you to battle against Doctor Z and his band of children (doesn’t this world have any child labour laws?) to recover the Dino shot and put an end to the plans of Alpha gang. This will take you all over the world, teleporting from one continent to another, to take on Alpha gang’s latest scheme to build their dinosaur army and take over the world. Pretty much standard fare for an anime, which unsurprisingly is the source material for this game, so be prepared for spiky haired kids, beautiful girls, and over the top villains.
The game is presented, for the most part as a top-down perspective RPG. Quite standard for DS games of this type, and you guide your character around using the D-pad and interact with various characters using the A button. So, you’ll wander round the environments, solving puzzles, gathering information, that sort of thing, but it’s not long before you are facing off against the Alpha gang in battle. This is where the format of the game makes a change, both in presentation and style, instead of guiding a sprite around a two dimensional world you switch to full 3D showing your dinosaur battling that of one of the Alpha gang’s minions. This all looks very impressive, but unfortunately the battle system they have chosen for the game is way too random, being based on the classic game of rock, paper, scissors, with the winner getting to make an attack with their dinosaur. To begin with the method of combat isn’t too bad, as you’re given hints to what move your opponent will be using, making the combat quite easy. But as you progress through the game these hints become fewer and far between, meaning you just have to pick one and hope for the best later in the game. This can be incredibly frustrating when you have to replay a boss battle over and over, through no fault of your own.
It’s a real pity they’ve messed up the combat system so badly, because apart from that the game is of a very high standard in all other departments. How you collect your dinosaurs is really nicely done, in particular digging up fossils and taking them back to the nearest D-Site office for cleaning, using the DS’s touch screen, and conversion for loading to the Dino shot. The puzzles and quests in the game are pretty good too, never being too difficult to work out what you’re meant to be doing, a good thing really considering how frustrating battles can be. And if you do get stuck, you can always communicate with the D-lab for a recap of your current mission, one of the Dino shot’s many functions. The teleporter is another function of the Dino shot that is very handy, allowing you to instantly jump back to a continent’s regional base, the D-site, without any need for tedious backtracking.
The presentation of Dinosaur King is excellent too. The majority of the game may be just sprites moving around a 2D background, but it’s all nicely presented and detailed, giving a good representation of the areas you’re exploring. There’s plenty of animations of the characters, which are lifted straight from the TV show and nicely done, helping to immerse fans of the show. But the real star of the game, graphically at least, are the battles. Eventually there are a multitude of dinosaurs at your disposal all of which are presented in glorious 3D, with some great battle animations too. There’s a good range of varied music, and loads of nice little fanfares and jingles for when you do something right. Menus are all very easy to navigate, and you get a good range of options at your disposal, including wireless multicard play with a friend, and the option to trade dinosaurs online using Nintendo’s wifi network
It’s such a shame that the game’s battle system wasn’t better thought out because it really lets down what could have been a great little game. Otherwise it’s a pretty comprehensive package that could have given Pokemon a run for its money. Dinosaur King is hard to recommend unless you’re a real fan of the TV show, or of course you really love dinosaurs.